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Smoking and Children

by Mamapumpkin‏
Posted on 01 February 2012

My mother smokes. For as long as I’ve known her, she has smoked. My brothers smoke and I have also smoked. I’m asthmatic. Is there a co-relation? Who knows? But what I do know is that smoking in front of kids is bad. Almost everybody knows that but what many people don’t know is that if second hand smoke (the inhalation of passive smoke) is bad, then what about third hand smoke? What exactly is third hand smoke?

I know many parent smokers who send their husbands or wives outside of the house to smoke so that the children get affected as little as possible but what these parents don’t realize is that their kids are still getting contact with third hand smoke. Even if you open the windows or turn the fan on full blast, you don’t eliminate third hand smoke. Third hand smoke is the invisible toxic brew of gases and particles that stick onto smoker’s hair and clothes, cushions and curtains, carpets and even timber furniture. This toxic third hand smoke lingers long after second hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue of third hand smoke is heavy metals, carcinogens and radioactive materials that young children can get their hands on and ingest, especially if they are crawling on the floor or just playing around touching things.

It was doctors from a children’s hospital in Boston who came up with the term “third-hand smoke” to describe the chemicals in a new study that found that it did indeed pose risks to infants and children. This study was published in an American pediatrics journal led by Dr Jonathan Winickoff, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Parents think that just because the kids are out of the house, they could sneak a quick smoke or they smoke in the car whilst the kids are in the back and think that if their hands are out of the window with their cigarettes, it’s OK. Unfortunately though, this invisible tobacco toxins are dangerous. Third hand smoke is what you smell in a room after a smoker has been in it, or what you smell in a lift after a smoker enters it. You can smell it and your nose is telling you, there is something wrong here, get away. It is toxic.

A study done on 1500 families showed that the vast majority of both smokers and non-smokers were aware that second hand smoke was harmful to children. 95% of non-smokers and 84% of smokers agreed that inhaling smoke from a parent’s cigarette can harm the health of infants and children but very few were aware of the risks of third hand smoke. Since the concept is so new, researchers asked people if they thought that breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday could harm the health of infants and children. 65% of non-smokers and 43% of smokers agreed with that statement which showed that they acknowledged that there was a risk. However, still most people only have a solution for reducing the risks associated with second hand smoke but not third hand smoke. “Oh, I air the room after I smoke here”, is not good enough.

Clearly, parents need to be educated on third hand smoke in order to pose a strict smoking ban in homes and cars and better still, get their partners to stop smoking altogether. The Government authorities should play a part in spreading the larger health message. By simply closing the door whilst you go out to take a smoke is NOT protecting your kids from the effects of that poison. There are carcinogens in this third hand smoke and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who come into contact with them, what more kids who are naturally more susceptible with weaker immunities. Among the substances found in third hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and even polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander Litvineko in 2006 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko). These compounds are highly carcinogenic. Just imagine your toddler touching the curtain or carpet and putting her fingers in her mouth every day, consuming little by little, the leftovers of her parent’s third hand smoke…….

And as for my mother with cancer who claims that smoking helps her deal with her incredible pain from the cancer, well…..I try to limit the time my kids have at her home, because it is really bad for them. They are my kids and I love them. Do you love yours enough to keep them away from third hand smoke?


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