OPINION | MARIAN EVANS: Thirdhand smoke a growing concern

Thirdhand smoke is a relatively new concept that has gained attention in recent years. It refers to the residual tobacco smoke that lingers on surfaces and in the air long after a cigarette has been extinguished. This lingering smoke can have serious health effects, particularly for children and non-smoking adults who are exposed to it. In Arkansas, as in many other states, there is a growing concern about the dangers of thirdhand smoke and the need for increased public awareness and action to address this issue.

The effects of thirdhand smoke continue to be studied, but research has shown that it can be harmful to human health. The residue from tobacco smoke can contain more than 250 chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens. When these chemicals are inhaled or ingested, they can cause a range of health problems, including cancer, respiratory illnesses, and cognitive and behavioral issues. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one study found that exposure to thirdhand smoke may cause breaks and damage in human DNA. In addition to the health risks, thirdhand smoke can also leave a foul smell on surfaces, clothes and furniture, making it unpleasant and difficult to remove.

While the dangers of thirdhand smoke are becoming better-known, many people are still unaware of the risks. In order to address this issue, it is important for public health officials to increase education and awareness efforts. This could include public service announcements, educational campaigns in schools and community centers, and targeted outreach to high-risk populations such as pregnant women and families with children.

In addition to education and awareness efforts, there is also a need for stronger policies to address thirdhand smoke. This could include laws requiring landlords to disclose whether a property has been previously occupied by smokers, as well as regulations mandating that all rental properties be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated before new tenants move in. It could also include stricter regulations on smoking in public spaces, such as parks and beaches, where thirdhand smoke can accumulate and affect non-smoking individuals.

The dangers of thirdhand smoke are real and can have serious health consequences. While there is still much to be learned, it is clear that action is needed to protect the health and well-being of Arkansas residents. By increasing awareness and implementing stronger policies to address thirdhand smoke, we can ensure that everyone has the right to breathe clean air and live in a safe and healthy environment. It is time for Arkansas, and all states, to take this issue seriously and take action to protect the health of their residents.

If you find yourself addicted to tobacco, call (800) 283-WELL to speak to someone who can help you stop smoking.


Marian Evans, who has a doctoral degree in public health, is the project coordinator for the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

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