It's surprising how long harmful tobacco toxins linger.

Cigarette smoke leaves a lingering toxic residue in furniture, curtains and on other household surfaces. This residue is called thirdhand smoke. When people smoke indoors it leaves active harmful chemicals in homes and workplaces.

Thirdhand smoke contains a number of toxic cancer-causing chemicals like arsenic, lead, and cyanide. Thirdhand smoke can cling to everything: hair, clothes, dust, furniture, car upholstery, restaurant walls, bowling alley floors... anywhere.

The nicotine in tobacco smoke also reacts with other common chemicals found in indoor air to form new carcinogens. Toxic chemicals continue to be produced on any surface the smoke touches. This process continues over time, increasing exposure and contamination. As reported in the 2006 and 2014 Surgeon General's Reports, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

Who is at Risk?

Children of smokers are most at risk because of the tobacco residue that is present in the dust where smoking occurred. Young children are even more at risk because they are exposed when they put their fingers in their mouths. Other people at an increased risk of exposure are hospitality and industry workers, and spouses of smokers.

Growing Awareness of Thirdhand Smoke

People are beginning to understand the dangers of thirdhand smoke.

  • 23% of adults in Indiana were current smokers in 2014.

  • Nationally, 95% of nonsmokers vs. 84% of smokers agreed that secondhand smoke harms children's health, but only 65% of nonsmokers vs. 43% of smokers agree that thirdhand smoke harms children.

  • Parents who were involved in a tobacco cessation program were more likely to believe thirdhand smoke harms children, but heavier smokers and fathers were less likely to believe thirdhand smoke was harmful.

  • Adults who recognize the danger of third-hand smoke are more than twice as likely to have rules which prohibit smoking inside the home

  • In Indiana, 83% of households were smoke-free in 2015. 91% of nonsmokers had smoke-free homes while only 41% of smokers had smoke-free homes.

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