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Keep Your Kid Away from Thirdhand Smoke!

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It's your prerogative to puff away -- but just stay away from me and my daughter.

woman shielding child

Jeanne Sager: Approaching the front door of the bank, I wrap my daughter's hood tightly around her chin and hold her face to my chest. It doesn't matter that we're headed inside, away from the bitter New York cold; I'm not trying to avoid the wind.

It's trying to protect her from the smoke that is making me look like a bodyguard ushering a Hollywood starlet out of jail without the paparazzi getting the faintest hint of her identity. Because even in February, smokers are lined up outside the bank, the mall, the government center -- the self-aggrandizing crew patting themselves on the back for sacrificing so much for their coworkers by moving their dirty little habit outdoors.

Lucky for those coworkers; unlucky for the rest of us who have to use these public buildings day in and day out. A much-criticized New-York-State law actually prohibits smokers from puffing in proximity to public entrances, yet there they stand, forcing me to run pell-mell toward the parking lot holding a 4-year-old whose heft is starting to catch up with her age.

It's not my finest moment. I run like a toddler who's just seen Cookie Monster try to eat Elmo. And that's on a good day -- when I'm not wearing winter boots coated in rubber and lined with a ton of fluff.

But if you'd read the new study on what thirdhand smoke can do to your kids, you would be crazy-toddler-running to your car, too.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was summed up in Scientific American this week, wherein I read that "thirdhand smoke" -- the contamination left behind even after a butt has been stomped out -- is creating "carcinogenic compounds known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)." And how's this for terrifying: The study's coauthor announced that these TSNAs are "the most broadly-acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke."

Couple that with a study in the journal Pediatrics, wherein experts tell us that thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous to our kids. The experts even go so far as to say that "breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of children." What's more, they say that cigarette residues cling to a smoker's clothing and then jump to surfaces they touch inside -- even if they extinguished the cigarette outside.

And I'm supposed to feel jazzed that you decided to step outside to light up?

Stores are finally recognizing moms' buying power with pregnancy-friendly parking and on-premise babysitting. But I can tell them all how to guarantee my business: Put the puffers out to pasture, and make your front door a safe place for my kid.




next: My Advice for Detroit Carmakers
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
SW February 16, 2010, 5:26 AM

I totally agree with you!
When I was pregnant with my first I’d hold my breath when I walked by smokers. If there are smokers around an entrance I won’t go in.
At a relative’s wedding I was holding my son and my dad who was standing next to me decided to light up. I asked him what the heck he was doing, around his grandson and walked away.

B February 16, 2010, 5:28 AM

How about 4th hand smoke? Will that kill us too!?!?

Christine February 16, 2010, 11:11 AM

Has it occurred to you that the “smoke-free” air you breathe regularly contains a plethora of contamanents that will harm you as well. It seems to be everyone feels that now smoking which by the way has been around long before this recent research didn’t seem to have the same effect on previous generations. What about our generation? How did we survive? Now we have to worry about a room and if people smoked in the room days before? C’mon is this a serious statement?

tennmom February 16, 2010, 1:26 PM

It is true that the “pure” air we breathe is less than “pure” but I hear ya about 3rd hand smoke.
As a former smoker, I smell cig smoke from a mile a way. If someone has even walked past a person smoking. I can walk past a smoking area when no one is even there smoking and smell it.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 9:26 PM

My Dad smoked until I was 10, and well I’m still here. Some people take this way to far but I agree with smoking right in front of the door of stores

canuck mom February 16, 2010, 10:03 PM

One buildng I used to work in had the fresh air intakes for its ventilation system near the doorways, so not only did you have to go through the cloud of smoke, but you still breathed it in inside the building. Also, they would always smoke right around the compound of compressed air cylinders, underneath the sign clearly labelling the contents as explosive and mandating that smoking be kept 20 metres away. But then, I guess someone who puts a tube of something so noxious that the best thing they can say about it is that it has Low Tar up to their mouth, lights it and then inhales the fumes isn’t that bright anyway. IMHO.

Anonymous23 October 16, 2010, 11:06 PM

Everyone has rights to speak out their voice to state and make people stop smoking in public place! It is not fair that people has to smell/inhale toxins in the air when leaving a restaurant, theaters, or shopping centers. And especially how women who are pregnant. The fetus didn’t even had a chance to be in the real world and already started inhaling toxins. Oh, and if you are a parent and smokes in the house or car with your children’s present, think about what your doing, your cutting your children’s life short!

Anonymous23 October 16, 2010, 11:06 PM

Everyone has rights to speak out their voice to state and make people stop smoking in public place! It is not fair that people has to smell/inhale toxins in the air when leaving a restaurant, theaters, or shopping centers. And especially how women who are pregnant. The fetus didn’t even had a chance to be in the real world and already started inhaling toxins. Oh, and if you are a parent and smokes in the house or car with your children’s present, think about what your doing, your cutting your children’s life short!

Maneleen December 7, 2010, 6:07 PM

This post is very touching to me. Because I see a lot of parents when they come out of a restaurants, malls, movie theaters, etc, there are always workers out the perimeter smoking, and parents have to cover their child’s nose, so he/she won’t be able to inhale the toxins from the smoke. I’m not a parent, but I know what toxins can do to your body, especially in a very young age. I cover my little cousins noses when we get out of restaurants because the workers always take “smoking breaks”. I want my cousins to have a healthy future, and that is one of the way to help them.

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