ASH Scotland Development Lead for Children & Young People, Joanne Buchan, blogs for us about third-hand smoke and smoke-free homes.
We have all seen the recent Scottish Government campaign on smoke-free homes, with its clear message that the way to protect children from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke is to take smoking ‘right outside’. We know tobacco smoke can linger for up to five hours, is mostly made up of particles too small to see or smell and travels throughout the home – so that smoking at the back door or at the kitchen window may remove some of the smoke but isn’t enough to protect your family.
It has been a very successful mass media campaign, with increased awareness among both the public and professionals and evidence that simply seeing or hearing these adverts and posters had real impact, with many parents and carers doing exactly as it said – taking their smoking right outside and therefore protecting their children from harmful tobacco smoke.
Perhaps because of the success of this campaign we have also seen increased interest in third-hand smoke (the term for the residual pollutants from tobacco smoke that stick to surfaces and dust). This is also fueled by scary headlines with stories of toxins from tobacco sticking to hair, skin, clothing, toys and furniture.
So do we need new campaigns informing parents and carers of the dangers of third-hand smoke?
In response to these concerns ASH Scotland recently updated its briefing paper reviewing the evidence on third-hand smoke. We find that although there is some evidence of risk due to third-hand smoke, the level and certainty of risk around second-hand smoke is clearly established and far greater.
In addition the best way to reduce exposure to third-hand smoke is a familiar message – making your home smoke-free removes the pollutants which can settle on or stick to clothing, hands and surfaces so addresses concerns over third-hand smoke too.
So for professionals looking to advise families on how to reduce the harm caused by tobacco smoke our message remains clear – making your home completely smoke-free is the best way to protect your family. And with 11% of children in Scotland exposed to second-hand smoke in the home we should focus our resources on that.
For further information or staff training on second-hand smoke please contact: Jbuchan@ashscotland.org.uk