While my family lived in west Texas when I was young, I have many memories of traveling to Oklahoma and Missouri to visit our relatives. The earliest memories are of riding in the back end of the blue and white 54' Chevy station wagon through the summer nights, probably to cover the long distance with cooler temperatures since car air conditioning during those years were "open windows at 60 miles an hour." The night memory was watching the orange flecks of light pass out our parents' windows as their cigarette ashes would slide past the back windows and bounce upon the road behind our car.
All these years later, we have learned how dangerous smoking is for the smoker and how second hand smoke can be harmful. There have been some obvious changes made. Scientific evidence about the health risks of smoking changed all this. People have responded to the changes and accepted them. Some people quit smoking. My parents quit and their ashtrays disappeared from the coffee tables after they moved back to Oklahoma.
Recently when my nephew left the room, his wife spoke seriously about his smoking while we sat at the kitchen table at my parents' home. She felt his smoking was killing her. I listened and wondered how to help.
My nephew is smart and absolutely in love with this woman. She has brought him joy and changed his life in positive ways, none of the rest of our family thought possible. Her fear for her life has presented the challenge for us to help him quit smoking and save her life and most likely his. They have a granddaughter and the latest research and the health impacts for children may add even more weight to his need to quit smoking.
Tobacco use causes 20% of cancer deaths and second hand smoke, which is the smoke either exhaled by a smoker or released from the end of a burning cigarette is what she fears since she knows secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, bronchitis and pneumonia.
I know my parents opened the windows in the car when we were with them, and am sure that my nephew believes opening windows in his truck works but it won't. Opening windows may get rid of the smell; however, it doesn’t get rid of the cancer-causing toxins in the air known now as third-hand smoke the particles and gases left over after a cigarette is extinguished. What Is Third-Hand Smoke? Third hand smoke residue builds up on surfaces over time and resists normal cleaning. It can't be eliminated using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home. It clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding carpets, dust, vehicles ong after smoking has stopped.
Smokers with children or those who live with non-smokers should never smoke inside the home or in their car, and clothing worn while smoking should be washed as soon as possible. If you smell cigarette smoke in a place or on someone, it means you are being exposed to third-hand smoke.
When my brother and I were in the back of that Chevy station wagon third hand smoke was called smoke concentrate and had already been identified as causing cancer in mice.
People can be affected by the toxins in third hand smoke (THS) by inhaling them, by ingesting them (when particles land on food, or on fingers that are then placed in the mouth such as with infants), or by absorption through the skin since skin is not a solid barrier to substances in our environment.
While first-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and second-hand smoke to the exhaled smoke and other substances emanating from the burning cigarette that can get inhaled by others, third-hand smoke is the second-hand smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects, ages over time and becomes progressively more toxic. Re-emission of nicotine from contaminated indoor surfaces in households can lead to nicotine exposure levels similar to that of smoking.
If you smoke, stop. Quitting is the only sure way to promote a healthy future for you and your family. It’s a tough process but can be done. Protect the health of your family and yourself by implementing a “no-tobacco” policy in your own home. Encourage others to do the same. If you work in a business where smoking is still condoned, speak up and share some facts with your employer.
There may be no chance my nephew will quit smoking, but I am certain one day there will be no choice but to quit since facts are facts and love trumps cigarettes.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim