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Thirdhand smoke is a toxic residue that sticks to surfaces and objects. People and pets come into contact with thirdhand smoke when their skin touches a surface where thirdhand smoke has collected, when they breathe in thirdhand smoke chemicals that are in the air, and when they swallow residue that are on objects that they put in their mouths. Exposure is most dangerous for babies, children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

On this page, you will find scientific information and first-hand accounts about preventing human exposure to thirdhand smoke. We also provide communication strategies for talking with others about thirdhand smoke dangers.

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Thirdhand Smoke—Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, the New York Times Magazine highlighted “thirdhand smoke” in its annual “Year in Ideas” issue, which takes a look back at the past year through innovations and insights from a wide variety of fields. Since then, teams of researchers world-wide have produced more than 100 scientific studies related to thirdhand smoke, reinforcing and expanding the concerns raised in 2009.

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Physicians Across the US Support Protection from Thirdhand Smoke Exposure

Last month, America’s frontline physicians who provide the overwhelming majority of health care to our nation adopted principles regarding policies to reduce harm associated with tobacco products. The principles recognize that tobacco use harms not just users and those exposed through secondhand smoke, but also those exposed through thirdhand smoke. To prevent exposure to toxic tobacco smoke and its residue, they support 100% tobacco-free environments.

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A woman in Somali posts a flier about the danger of smoking hookah

Recent Immigrants Find Their Mall is Not Just for Shopping

In an effort to educate new immigrants and refugees in their community about the dangers of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and hookah, these women take their message to the local mall and other businesses in Minneapolis. These product not only harm their users, but also their families, friends, and pets through secondhand smoke and toxic thirdhand smoke residue.

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University of California, Irvine, Researchers Show Hookah Smoke Contains Toxic Chemicals

Hookah smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals as regular cigarettes. But because more smoke is inhaled with each puff on a hookah pipe, and hookah smoking sessions tend to be longer, hookah smoke delivers more toxic chemicals to the smoker than a regular cigarette. Like smoke from regular cigarettes, smoke from hookah is a precursor to thirdhand smoke leaving behind toxic residue on clothes and indoor environments.

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An Interview with the Director

Joseph Martin from the Rover Tobacco Control Library at UC Davis, interviewed Dr. Georg Matt, Professor at San Diego State University and Director of the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center, to learn more about thirdhand smoke. Read or listen to their conversation.

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Researchers Find Ways to Help Parents Move Smoking Outside

Indoor smoking generates the tobacco smoke that ultimately becomes thirdhand smoke. One of the best ways to prevent thirdhand smoke is to ban indoor smoking. A new study conducted by researchers at San Diego State University shows that electronic alerts can help parents who smoke remember to “move it outside.”

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Babies and Toddlers at High Risk of Thirdhand Smoke Exposure

Penn State researchers found higher levels of exposure to nicotine than expected in children as young as six months of age. Children who spent more time in center-based day care had lower nicotine exposure. For children who live in homes with high levels of second and thirdhand smoke, center-based day care may offer some protection from exposure.

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