Third hand smoke and its concerns

Thanks to the initiatives of the Government of India and various non-government organizations (NGO) in context of spreading mass awareness on detrimental impacts of cigarette smoking. Today even the kids are well aware that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. However, another side of the coin shows that these initiatives have definitely enhanced awareness among people, but it would not be correct to say that this awareness has motivated smokers to leave smoking.

What do you breathe?

Concerns regarding smoking are justified on the ground that a smoker not only plays with his own health, but also with the health of everybody who comes into contact with cigarette smoke. Safeguarding the citizens against passive smoking or the exposure to second hand smoke has also been a subject of concern for the government (World Health Organization). The increasing awareness among people about the deadly impacts of second hand smoke and the government’s initiatives regarding putting a ban on smoking at public places is a worthwhile step in this direction. But this doesn’t mean that by not smoking in front of others will protect them from the toxic smoke of cigarette. There is another threat from cigarette smoke; the third hand smoke (The Times of India dated May 30, 2010). An article in the Indian Express revealed that awareness about third hand smoke is very low.

What is third hand smoke?

Third hand smoke, as it is often called, is also known by the names, tertiary smoke and aged smoke. Third hand smoke is the smoke that remains even after months in air, dust, and surfaces of the place where smoking has been done. This fact has been confirmed by Matt (2010) through a study where they concluded that even if the smoker’s home remains vacant for two months in a stretch and is regularly cleaned, third hand smoke still exists in the air and dust, and on the surfaces like furniture, curtains, bed sheets and carpet of that home. Third hand smoke also gets trapped into the hair, skin as well as clothes of the smoker and therefore anybody that comes into contact with the smoker or the place where smoking was done even months ago suffers the exposure of third hand smoke. Winickoff et al. (2008) provided about third hand smoke that this smoke remains long after the cigarette is extinguished.

Who are most prone to the impacts of third hand smoke?

The studies on this subject establish that infants and children are most prone to the dangers of third hand smoke. It is been established that children especially those who crawl on floor have a habit of getting their hands on everything lying on the floor and then putting these hands in the mouth. Roberts et al. (2009) claimed that infants and children are 100 times more sensitive to pollutants as compared to adults. The persons living in multi-dwelling units are also found to be highly prone to third hand smoking. This is because in an apartment kind of housing facility, it is almost impossible to escape from third hand smoke exposure if there are smokers in the neighborhood. Another study conducted by Los Angeles Bio-medical Research Institute (LA BioMed) highlighted the impacts of third hand smoke on unborn babies. The study claimed that third hand smoke negatively affects the lungs development of unborn babies and therefore recommended pregnant women to avoid any such places where smoking has ever been done in recent past.


  • Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute. (April, 2011). “Study finds ‘thirdhand smoke’ poses danger to unborn babies’ lungs.” Retrieved from:
  • Matt, G. (2010). “When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: residential thirdhand smoke pollution and exposure.” Tobacco Control. Retrieved from:
  • Roberts, J., Wallace, L., Camann, D., Dickey, P., Gilbert, S., & Lewis R. (2009). Monitoring and reducing exposure of infants to pollutants in house dust. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.
  • Third-hand smoke can harm your kids.” (May 30, 2010). The Times of India. Retrieved from:
  • Winickoff, J. P., Friebely, J., Tanski, S. E., Sherrod, C., Matt, G. E., Hovell, M. F., & McMillen, R. C. (2008). “Beliefs About the Health Effects of “Thirdhand” Smoke and Home Smoking Bans.” American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • World Health Organization. “Passive Smoking.” Retrieved from:

Ankita Agarwal

Analyst at Project Guru
Ankita is working with the editorial board of Project Guru as a Research Analyst and Writer. With Masters in Commerce and Business Studies, Ankita learned much of what she knows about management through experience. She has previously worked in various financial institutions like Birla Global, HDFC Ltd. and Citi Financial. She is self-motivated and writes for the Knowledge Tank section of Project Guru. She has authored more than 80 articles so far in Human Resources Management, Strategic Management, Finance and Marketing. She likes to pen her thoughts about the latest issues gripping these areas across the world.

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  1. Praise worthy approach to the exposure of problem.But the article would have been more effective if it encircled some protective measures also.

  2. I am extremely interested on this subject matter.
    I had never heard of the term “3rd hand smoke” before hearing a news article evening of 31/05/2014 but I have been trying to tell people for years that secondary (passive) smoke is very bad but also that the smell in clothing and other items was very bad strangely and as usual my comments fell on deaf ears. As usual my warnings are now coming through the media hooraaay.
    I would dearly like to know what types of problems come from 3rd hand smoke. ? Possible gene mutation creating cancers, deformities etc. as I worked in a persons place that stank from lounges impregnated with urine to say the least but biggest concern was the cigarette and marijuana stench. Some days were worse/stronger than others

    • thanks for reading and providing us the inputs! Yes, third hand smoke does leads to genetic mutations, cancers, asthma and other respiratory diseases.


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