Firsthand smoke is the thing where you smoke the cigarettes yourself and it kills you. Secondhand smoke is the thing where someone nearby you smokes the cigarettes and it still kills you. Well, get a load of thirdhand smoke, mister: It’s the thing where you’re just hanging out in a room where someone else smoked previously, isn’t even smoking now, but they left behind the ghost of their smoking past to wreak havoc on you, today, even months after the fact. It won’t kill you, per se, but it can still mess with your body mass and immune system, or at least the body mass and immune systems of mice, USA Today reported.
In the study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers did a very cool thing where they stuck neonatal mice in cages lined with smoky fabric for three weeks to see what happened. First, they ended up weighing less than the control group of smoke-free mice. The researchers theorize that the lower body weight in mice may be because even thirdhand residue can impact mice’s ability to nurse, or reduce the mother’s milk supply (which is a thing that can happen in people!). Second, the mice experienced inflammation and allergic reactions due to changes in blood cells. These changes persisted for 14 weeks in the neonatal mice post-exposure, and two weeks in the adult ones.
The researchers concluded that thirdhand smoke is particularly bad for babies or children whose immune systems are still developing, and presumably, anyone with a compromised immune system.
The worst part of this is what the residual smoke is up to while no one is looking. USA Today cites a paper from the Respiratory Health Association that found that the cancer-causing agents in the leftover smoke residue still react with the air and ozone, creating new “ultrafine” shitty cancer particles that carry dangerous chemicals.
Actually, sorry, that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that even after hotel rooms and homes are professionally cleaned, there is still measurable nicotine in them months later. So long after you stubbed out your cigarette to move on to other places (to keep smoking) you’re still causing trouble, buddy. Smoke wake!
There is at least one solution: According to the Respiratory Health Association, you can rip out all the carpet and counters and rebuild inside a place that was smoked in a bunch, but that’s kind of a lot of work. Maybe we could start building smokers-only living environments for people who all want to smoke together and like the smoke to be really baked into the experience.
Alternately, we could burn all these former smoker’s havens down, but that would just create more smoke. So what this really means is that there is really nowhere on earth left to smoke anymore. Bad news for smokers; great news for everyone else, including mice.