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Secondhand and thirdhand smoke

  • Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke coming from the burning tips of cigarettes, pipes and cigars, and smoke exhaled by smokers.


    • If you smoke, quit. Ask your health care provider for help if you need it.
    • Do not smoke - or allow smoking - in your house or car.
    • Ask people not to smoke around you and your children.
    • Check on the smoking policies of day care providers or caregivers.
    • Teach your child to stay away from tobacco products.

    Thirdhand smoke is the chemicals left behind after secondhand smoke. It is what you smell on your clothes, hair, furniture or in the car. Thirdhand smoke is also the brown film on the walls.

    Cigarette smoke has more than 7,000 chemical compounds. Research shows that secondhand smoke has at least 69 chemicals known to cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

    Nonsmokers who are around secondhand smoke breathe in the chemicals from the tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke causes death and disease in nonsmokers.

    No amount of secondhand smoke is safe. The Environmental Protection Agency, National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists secondhand smoke as a known cause of cancer in people.

    Children are especially at risk to effects of secondhand smoke, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Secondhand smoke:

  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."
    Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
    First published: 02/01/2010
    Last reviewed: 01/01/2016