It has been 45 years since the first U.S. Surgeon General report on smoking was released in 1964 stating the proven link between smoking cigarettes and cancer. In those 45 years, we have come to a better understanding of the dangers that tobacco and its use brings.
In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General released another report on the harms of smoking cigarettes. This is the first report that recognizes and emphasizes the harmful effects of second-hand smoke from cigarettes. And a couple of years later in 1988, the U.S. Surgeon General in a report on consequences of nicotine addiction found that cigarettes and other tobacco products are addictive and that nicotine is the cause of this addiction. The report also added that tobacco addiction is similar to the addictions of cocaine or heroine.
Fast forwarding to 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General released another report that stated unequivocally that the “debate is over” — second-hand smoke in any form at any level is harmful to health. This has arguably led to policy changes in many areas of society, including states passing clear air laws that prohibit smoking in indoor public places. That had most of us thinking that it was just a matter of avoiding smoking, and keeping our children away from smokers, then we were probably safe from the toxic effects of tobacco. Just as we thought it was getting safer, and now comes a new culprit, third-hand smoke.
At the beginning of this year, reports of the dangers of third-hand smoke were released. The initial studies claim that after the smoke has cleared from the room, the vapor from the smoke has to eventually settle. And when it does, it coats the walls, ceilings, floors, drapes and even the clothing and skin of the smokers. This nicotine coating interacts with nitrous acids in the environment and results in dangerous tobacco specific nitrosamines. Unvented gas appliances are the main source of nitrous acid indoors, and vehicle engines emit it as well. However, almost all tobacco products on the market today contain significantly high levels of tobacco specific nitrosamines, which are considered to be the most significant cancer-causing agents in tobacco products. The research on third-hand smoke will continue until we get a definitive answer and eventually a report from the U.S. Surgeon General is certain to follow in the near future.
For now, this is another reason we can give to quit using tobacco products in our lives. The Cochise County Health Department Project for the Beneficial Use of Tobacco Taxes (Project B.U.T.T.) offers educational presentations for county residents on this or other topics dealing with tobacco such as prevention, new products on the market, and media literacy. If you are interested in quitting now, you can contact the Arizona Smokers Help Line (ASHLine) at 1-(800) 556-6222. To contact Project B.U.T.T. Call 432-9493.
Jesus Duarte is a Health Educator at the Cochise County Health Department.
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