Thirdhand Smoke Harms People Even After Smoking Stops

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

smoke curling around a heart ornament

Thirdhand smoke (THS) is a term used to describe the residual contamination from tobacco smoke that lingers in rooms long after smoking stops and remains on our clothes after we leave a smoky place. It may seem merely like an offensive smell, but it is also indicative of the presence of tobacco toxins. Our fact sheet “Thirdhand Smoke in Apartments and Condos” provides more detailed information on the problem.

Thirdhand smoke consists of the tobacco residue from cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products that is left behind after smoking and builds up on surfaces and furnishings. Tobacco smoke is composed of numerous types of gasses and particulate matter, including carcinogens and heavy metals, like arsenic, lead, and cyanide. Sticky, highly toxic particulates, like nicotine, can cling to walls and ceilings. Gases can be absorbed into dust in a room, carpets, draperies, and other fabrics or upholsteries. A 2002 study found that these toxic brews can then re-emit back into the air and recombine to form harmful compounds that remain at high levels long after smoking has stopped occurring.


Since 2002, further studies have contributed to the growing body of evidence that this lingering tobacco residue has significant health risks. Children and hospitality industry workers are especially at risk for  considerable exposure.  Studies of special note and resources include:


Parents, landlords, business owners and others need to be aware of the health risks of exposure to thirdhand smoke and recognize that eliminating smoking is the only way to protect against tobacco’s smoke contamination.