‘Third hand smoke’

In the last couple of days, I have seen a number of news sources talking about ‘third hand smoke.’ This refers to the blindingly obvious fact that smokers stink, as do their clothes, homes, furniture, cars, etc. Before the UK smoking ban, just spending a night in a pub would leave your clothes smelling appreciably of tobacco for several days (and often several washes) afterwards. Anyone who has spent a lot of time riding in buses or airplanes will be able to tell you that a heavy smoker can usually be identified from a couple of seats away, even if they don’t happen to be smoking during the voyage. It is similarly obvious that those breathing the rank odour of stale tobacco are probably inhaling some of the toxins that come along with it, as well.

I maintain that smoking is one of the most vile habits a person can have (as well as being a singularly idiotic affront against your own health). Hopefully, the increasingly society-wide rejection of the practice will spread, become more firmly entrenched, and eventually emerge as the worldwide norm.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “‘Third hand smoke’”

  1. Even the term ‘second hand smoke’ is a bit misleading.

    There is only one source of smoke: the cigarette, pipe, cigar, or what have you. Whether you suck it straight from the burning object into your lungs, stand near the object while it is burning, or pick up the deposited solids off an object later, it is all from the same ‘hand.’

    The near-inevitability of exposing other people to the toxins is why smoking is so anti-social.

  2. Third hand smoke! Howabout all those harsh cleaning chemicals and triclosan anti-bacterial soap that pregnant women probably use without thinking?

    I’m sure third hand smoke is less worrisome to your health than walking down a busy street full of exhaust, or eating a pack of microwaveable bacon.

    We often willingly expose ourselves to much worse things than ‘third hand’ smoke. There’s understandably a condemnation of smoking for all kinds of reasons, but this third hand smoke phenomenon seems a bit scare-crazed.

  3. Emily,

    You don’t find heavy smokers unpleasantly smelly?

    I agree that there are lots of health concerns to worry about, but I don’t think toxic deposition from tobacco smoking is trivial.

  4. Well, whether they are smelly or not doesn’t matter so much to me; I have a terrible sense of smell anyways!

    I don’t think toxic deposition from tobacco smoking is trivial.

    Perhaps not, but in a country where we willingly expose ourselves to all sorts of harsh chemicals, hormone and mood manipulating drugs, and ridiculous amounts of sugar/caffeine/alcohol, it seems to be hypocritical for us to pick out the person with the tobacco scent and throw our condemnations at them.

  5. The key difference is that sugar/caffeine/alcohol only affect the person choosing to consume them (not counting secondary consequences, like alcohol-fuelled violence), whereas smokers impose their toxic and carcinogenic chemical choices on anybody who comes near them.

    They are more like people who use absurd quantities of perfume or carry around obnoxious boomboxes than like drug addicts or people who eat nothing but Pop Tarts.

    It’s the whole “your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins” argument.

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