What tobacco products contribute to thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is the chemical residue from tobacco smoke. It is also called “tobacco smoke residue” or “stale tobacco smoke.” The chemicals in thirdhand smoke are toxic to humans, especially children. It can linger for years in dust and on household surfaces. It can also become embedded in carpets, furniture, clothes, and building materials. It is difficult and expensive to remove.

Cigarettes are not the only source of thirdhand smoke. Any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, little cigars, pipes, electronic cigarettes, water pipes (sometimes called hookah or shisha), dissolvable products, and smokeless tobacco products such as chew, spit, snuff, and snus, can be a source of thirdhand smoke. 

Tobacco products are manufactured from the leaves of the tobacco plant. Some of toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke occur naturally in the tobacco plant, others are added or created during the manufacturing process, and yet others form when tobacco is burned.

All tobacco products can leave behind a chemical residue. Scientists most frequently study the toxic residue from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes and hookah. Nonetheless, even tobacco products that do not burn are associated with thirdhand smoke. One study found evidence indicating that thirdhand smoke from vaping was linked to developmental issues when infant mice were exposed. Increased levels of thirdhand smoke have been found in indoor environments where residents used smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and marijuana. 

Do you have more questions about the toxic legacy of tobacco smoke, how it affects human health, and what we can do about it? Learn more here.

Updated: August 2022

Sources:

Chen, H., Li, G., Allam, V. S. R. R., Wang, B., Chan, Y. L., Scarfo, C., Ueland, M., Shimmon, R., Fu, S., Foster, P., & Oliver, B. G. (2020). Evidence from a mouse model on the dangers of thirdhand electronic cigarette exposure during early life. ERJ Open Research, 6(2), 00022–02020. https://doi.org/10.1183/23120541.00022-2020.

Goniewicz ML, Lee L. Electronic cigarettes are a source of thirdhand exposure to nicotine. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015; 17(2):256-258. Published online 2014 August 30. 

Jacob P 3rd, Benowitz NL, Destaillats H, Gundel L, Hang B, Martins-Green M, Matt GE, Quintana PJ, Samet JM, Schick SF, Talbot P, Aquilina NJ, Hovell MF, Mao JH, Whitehead TP. Thirdhand Smoke: New Evidence, Challenges, and Future Directions. Chem Res Toxicol. 2017;30(1), 270-294.  

Marcham CL, Floyd EL, Wood BL, Arnold S, & Johnson DL. (2019). E-cigarette nicotine deposition and persistence on glass and cotton surfaces. Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene, 16(5), 349–354. https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2019.1581366

Sempio C, Lindley E, Klawitter J, Christians U, Bowler RP, Adgate JL, Allshouse W, Awdziejczyk L, Fischer S, Bainbridge J, Vandyke M, Netsanet R, Crume T, Kinney GL. Surface detection of THC attributable to vaporizer use in the indoor environment. Sci Rep. 2019; 9(1):18587. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-55151-5.

Son Y, Giovenco DP, Delnevo C, Khlystov A, Samburova V, Meng Q. Indoor air quality and passive e-cigarette aerosol exposures in vape-shops [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 23]. Nicotine Tob Res. 2020;ntaa094. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntaa094

Yeh, K., Li, L., Wania, F., & Abbatt, J. P. (2022). Thirdhand smoke from tobacco, e-cigarettes, cannabis, methamphetamine and cocaine: Partitioning, reactive fate, and human exposure in indoor environments. Environment International, 160, 107063. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.107063

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