Thirdhand Smoke – What is it?

There is no safe way for nonsmokers to live with someone who smokes indoors.

Many smokers believe that they are protecting nonsmokers from tobacco smoke if they smoke in the car or when they are alone in a room in their house. The truth is that wherever you smoke, toxic chemicals get left behind. These chemicals react with other pollutants in the air and stick to furniture, clothing, carpet, walls, and other surfaces. Later, they can be released back into the environment as dust or gases. Even if you open a window, air out a room, or use a fan or air conditioner, these chemicals stay stuck. In fact, they build up over years, perhaps even decades. That’s thirdhand smoke.

Who is affected?

When infants, children, and nonsmoking adults touch, eat, or inhale substances that have thirdhand smoke, they are exposed to toxic chemicals. These chemicals can cause cancer and other health problems. Children are especially at risk because they may crawl or play on contaminated surfaces.

There is no safe way to smoke indoors. The only way to protect your kids from thirdhand smoke is to make your home and your car 100% smoke free. Scientists are just beginning to study thirdhand smoke, so most of this Web site is focused on secondhand smoke because we know much more about it. The good news is that protecting your kids from secondhand smoke will protect against thirdhand smoke, too. Click for ways to protect the ones you love.