Letter: Thirdhand smoke a new environmental hazard

Should Temple ban smoking to prevent carcinogens from building up in students’ clothing?

If you ask students what secondhand smoke is, they can easily define it, but if you ask them about thirdhand smoke, they may not know what to tell you. According to a survey distributed among a sample of 204 students at Temple University, 77.9 percent reported that they did not know about thirdhand smoke prior to the survey.

What exactly is thirdhand smoke? Thirdhand smoke is the contamination of tobacco smoke that lingers on clothes, carpet and furniture after extinguishing the cigarette. The term was coined by the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in 2009. It is a relatively new term and public awareness of it is slightly lower than that of secondhand smoke.

Thirdhand smoke is dangerous because the remnants of tobacco smoke that linger on clothes and furniture can react with nitrous acid in the air to create carcinogens found in tobacco products. There is not a way to eradicate thirdhand smoke, so the only solution is create a smoke-free environment.

If Temple University enforces a stronger smoke-free policy, the students will not be exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke. Temple’s current policy states that smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of building entrances, but the policy has not been strongly enforced. It does not help that Temple keeps cigarette butt containers and ashtrays too close to the building entrances. As students and staff are walking by, they are exposed to secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke as it lingers on their clothing.

Thirdhand smoke is harmful to children and infants, as they are more likely to crawl on the floor and eat using unclean hands, thus ingesting the toxins into their bodies. Many children and teenagers walking through Temple’s campus after school in order to get home are also exposed to the toxins. Research shows that secondhand smoke exposure among children and teens can lead to lower test scores. Thirdhand smoke can also trigger asthma among children and Temple students due to the toxins.

As stated in a previous Temple News article, titled “Extinguish campus smokers,” Temple needs to work on becoming a smoke-free campus because it is a healthier choice. Students are already exposed to secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke due to the remnants on their clothing. Thirdhand smoke is just as dangerous as secondhand smoke and students should not have to be exposed to it.

Oye Falode can be reached at ofalode@temple.edu.

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