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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital


Dangers of Second and Third Hand Smoke

Image, man about to light a cigarette and young daughter saying no.

Second and third hand smoking harms not just you, but others around you. Quit today.

By the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program.
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Veterans who smoke tobacco can successfully quit once they identify personal reasons for quitting. Motivation to quit tobacco often increases once Veterans understand the negative impact their smoking has on the people they love.

Most people know that smoking greatly increases their personal risk of developing diseases such as cancer, emphysema and heart disease. However, many are not aware of how damaging secondhand smoke is to others. Research studies show that secondhand smoke greatly increases the rate of ear infection, asthma, respiratory infections and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in children exposed to tobacco smoke. Among non-smoking adults, exposure to second hand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels and regular exposure greatly increases risk for heart disease, lung cancer and even stroke.

The dangers of ‘thirdhand smoke’ are increasingly being recognized. Thirdhand smoke refers to the residue of nicotine and smoking-related chemicals that accumulate on clothing and indoor surfaces (furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets and vehicles).  Thirdhand smoke can cause health problems, especially for children and infants who tend to mouth and touch affected objects and surfaces.  For example, parents who are careful not to smoke around infants and young children still expose children to harmful chemicals through contact with their clothing that has been permeated with tobacco smoke.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following recommendations to protect yourself and your family from second and thirdhand smoke:

  • Quit smoking if you are not already a nonsmoker.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in your car, even with the windows down.
  • Make sure your children’s day care center and schools are tobacco-free (inside and out).
  • Seek out restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking (if your state still allows    smoking in public areas).
  • Teach your children to stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Be a good role model by not smoking or using any other type of tobacco.

There are many good reasons to quit smoking. Improving the health of those we love is one of the best reasons! Veterans who would like to learn more about how to quit tobacco should talk to their health care provider about options and resources to help them quit. Consider participating in the Truman VA Tobacco Cessation program or obtain help through a toll free help-line (1-855 QUIT VET). Veterans may also visit


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