Cigarette smoke: you may hide it, but you can’t run

Articles
January 12, 2009

Cigarette smoke: you may hide it, but you can’t run

So much talk about the health dangers of first- and second-hand cigarette smoke have failed to mention yet another insidious threat to children and adults who may not even realize they’re being subject to smoke. The newly identified risk comes from third-hand smoke, the term used by physicians at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston to describe “the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing [and skin], not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re drawling or playing on the floor,” reported The New York Times. “Your nose isn’t lying,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of a study published in the current issue of the Pediatrics journal, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you” ‘Get away.’”

So much talk about the health dangers of first- and second-hand cigarette smoke have failed to mention yet another insidious threat to children and adults who may not even realize they’re being subject to smoke.

The newly identified risk comes from third-hand smoke, the term used by physicians at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston to describe “the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing [and skin], not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re drawling or playing on the floor,” reported The New York Times.

“Your nose isn’t lying,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of a study published in the current issue of the Pediatrics journal, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you” ‘Get away.’”

In their survey of U.S. households, just 65% of non-smokers and 43% of smokers agreed with the statement that “breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children.”

Education is needed. While smokers may use fans to clear rooms of smoke, or keep windows open to help smoke waft out, those actions don’t protect health, the researchers suggest.  Moreover, while easy to buy, over the counter products might conceal the smell of smoke, they’re not designed to eliminate the dangers. An Internet search by SupermarketGuru.com showed a variety of products that people say they use to remove smoke odor:
•    Redken Workforce 09 Volumizing Hair Spray, to prevent smoke from getting in the hair
•    Salon Selectives Air It Out Odor Neutralizer For Hair
•    BANISH™ personal smoke deodorizer, a water-based mist that removes same-day tobacco smoke odor trapped in clothes, hair and skin. The spray neutralizes the odor as it evaporates.
•    Febreze, for furniture and carpets
•    Baking soda
•    White vinegar left in a bowl overnight

Retailers who think they might create a merchandising theme around these
items for their customers who smoke could serve them more fully with educational materials about the dangers of cigarette smoke, both to smokers and those who have no choice but to be around them.