Thirdhand Smoke


What is Thirdhand Smoke?

Thirdhand smoke (THS) is the chemical residue left behind by tobacco smoke. When a person smokes in a room, it can leave behind stale odor or turn walls, carpets and other surfaces a sticky yellow. Over time, these surfaces can build up toxins.

Children are at even greater risk than adults because they crawl on surfaces, wash their hands less and are more likely to touch items that have germs.

A 2010 journal article in Tobacco Control concluded:

"...Thirdhand smoke accumulates in smokers' homes and persists when smokers move out even after homes remain vacant for 2 months and are cleaned and prepared for new residents. When non-smokers move into homes formerly occupied by smokers, they encounter indoor environments with THS polluted surfaces and dust. Results suggest that non-smokers living in former smoker homes are exposed to THS in dust and on surfaces."

Key Facts About Thirdhand Smoke

  • Babies and children are at higher risk for exposure to chemicals in thirdhand smoke.
  • Fans or sprays only mask odors, and will not protect people from thirdhand smoke. Odors from thirdhand smoke may become worse by turning on heaters or air conditioners.
  • Smoking outside and away from the home does not completely protect against contamination. Nicotine and tar from tobacco smoke can cling to clothing, walls and furniture for years after a person stops smoking or leaves the room.