Third-hand Smoker

How do you know someone is a smoker if they are not smoking in front of you? You should probably know the answer. Smokers have some cigarette scent on their body, whether on their hair, on their mouth, etc. When you smell it, you have already become a "Third-hand smoker." "Third-hand smoke is tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished," says Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston and author of a study on the new phenomenon published in the journal Pediatrics. Even though you did not actually inhale any smoke, you definitely inhaled some of the smoke's compounds.

Although there is only one published research about this particular new term, The Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children (MGHfC) have published their study results in the January, 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics, discussing how this new health hazard, third-hand smoke, is especially dangerous for children.

According to the study, a large number of people, particularly smokers, have no idea that third-hand smoke—the cocktail of toxins that linger in carpets, sofas, clothes and other materials hours or even days after a cigarette is put out—is a health hazard for infants and children. Of the 1,500 smokers and nonsmokers Winickoff surveyed, the vast majority agreed that second-hand smoke is dangerous. But when asked whether they agreed with the statement, "Breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children," only 65 percent of nonsmokers and 43 percent of smokers answered "yes."

Why are children considered to be more exposed than adults?
The developing brain is uniquely susceptible to extremely low levels of toxins. Babies and children are closer to surfaces such as floors. They tend to touch or even mouth put their mouths to the contaminated surfaces. Imagine a teething infant.

Children ingest twice the amount of dust that grown-ups do. Let's say a grown-up weighs 150 pounds [68 kilograms]. Let's say a baby weighs 15 pounds [seven kilograms]. The infant ingests twice the dust [due to faster respiration and proximity to dusty surfaces]. Effectively, they'll get 20 times the exposure