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Today's Family Magazine

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke – know the dangers!

By Lake County
General Health District

Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure kills about 50,000 nonsmokers every year in the United States.  The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four nonsmokers, which amounts to 58 million people in the United States, are still exposed to SHS.  Exposure remains highest among children, African Americans, persons living in poverty, and persons living in rental housing.  The report also found that 40 percent (or two in every five) of children aged 3 to 11 years are still exposed to SHS.

There are no safe levels of SHS.  SHS contains over 4,000 chemicals with hundreds of them being toxic or known to cause cancer.  Infants who are exposed to SHS have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear infections, and severe asthma.  Each year, exposure to SHS causes more than 41,000 deaths from lung cancer and heart disease among nonsmoking adults and approximately 400 deaths from SIDS.

Thirdhand smoke is also toxic and is the leftover cigarette smoke that clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, long after smoking has stopped.  Research from the American Chemical Society and Mayo Clinic suggests the toxic mix that makes up thirdhand smoke contains cancer-causing substances that could pose a far more serious threat, especially to young children.  The biggest potential health risk is for infants and toddlers, as they are exposed when crawling and putting their hands or toys in their mouths.  Their small size and early developmental stage make them more vulnerable than adults to the effects of thirdhand smoke.  The only way to protect nonsmokers from third-hand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment, whether in your private home or vehicle, or public areas.

Lake County’s public support for smoke-free environments includes Fairport Harbor Exempted Village School District, which was the first in Lake County to adopt a comprehensive 100% tobacco-free school policy.  The Lake Metroparks adopted smoke-free policies at Lake Erie Bluffs Observation Tower, Penitentiary Glen Nature Play Area, Penitentiary Glen Kevin C. Clinton Wildlife Center Yard, Farmpark Showman’s Circle, and Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park Concession Area on April 19, 2017.

What can you do?  Help support 100% tobacco-free environment polices at your schools, colleges and businesses.  Most importantly, support Tobacco 21 legislation that will protect our youth from beginning to smoke too soon.  For information on how you can support policies in your community, please contact Catherine Hewitt by telephone at (440) 350-2442 or via email at [email protected].  If you are interested in quitting tobacco, call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visit