Healthcare Providers May Be Unaware of the Dangers of Thirdhand Smoke

A new study suggests that healthcare providers are not fully aware of the dangers of thirdhand smoke. This has important implications for patients and points to the importance of alerting the public about thirdhand smoke toxicity.

June 15, 2022

By Avery Crosley

A recent study by Dr. Blanca Quispe-Cristóbal and colleagues from Catalunya, Spain explored the knowledge and opinions of healthcare professionals about second- and thirdhand smoke. Their findings from healthcare providers around the world showed that almost two out of three healthcare providers did not know about the dangers of thirdhand smoke toxicants.

Exposure to thirdhand smoke occurs when someone who is not smoking comes in contact with the toxic residue that remains on surfaces and dust long after smoking ends. The researchers surveyed a sample of 233 international healthcare professionals from 24 countries to evaluate their understanding of thirdhand smoke. Over 50% of the study’s healthcare providers had over 15 years of medical experience, all had at least a bachelor’s degree (60%), and 71% were non-smokers. The questionnaire was completed online by healthcare providers and was segmented into two elements: the first part of the online questionnaire explored the knowledge and opinions of healthcare providers regarding thirdhand smoke, and the second part asked questions about personal health, attitude toward smoking, and personal sociodemographic characteristics. Questions included “how much attention do you think thirdhand smoke is receiving in the health care setting” and “have you ever heard of thirdhand smoke”.

There are two key reasons that the authors pursued exploring awareness among healthcare providers. First, providers have direct contact with the public where they are perceived as credible sources of health information. Second, there are well documented negative health consequences from exposure to second- and thirdhand smoke. Thus, the extent to which providers understand the risks of thirdhand smoke exposure directly impacts how much they are warning their patients about exposure. The results of the study suggest that there is a significant lack of understanding about the health risks of thirdhand smoke among healthcare providers. Approximately 65% of participants reported they did not know about thirdhand smoke before the study, and 76% believed that thirdhand smoke does not receive enough attention in health care settings. In addition, the authors report that male healthcare providers had, on average, less knowledge of thirdhand smoke compared to their female colleagues, American healthcare providers were more likely to know about thirdhand smoke than their international colleagues, and physicians were most likely to know about thirdhand smoke compared to nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Although similar studies about the understanding of thirdhand smoke among healthcare professionals have been conducted in the United States, this is one of the first to explore the topic on an international scale. The researchers suggest that there is a need for public health departments and universities to provide thirdhand smoke-related educational materials to healthcare providers because of their lack of knowledge about thirdhand smoke. They also note that it would be interesting to do a similar study with healthcare providers in pediatric settings to compare the difference in understanding and attitude toward thirdhand smoke. Previous studies have shown evidence of thirdhand smoke residue inside high-risk hospital wards like neonatal intensive care units—demonstrating the idea that healthcare workers may not have sufficient information about eliminating thirdhand smoke exposure to their patients. The findings in this study suggest that the gaps in healthcare worker knowledge and awareness about thirdhand smoke suggest that they may not be receiving enough thirdhand smoke-focused training in the health care setting.

Click here to read the research study.

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