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Different types of smoke and the dangers they bring

Tobacco smoke is an aerosol produced by the incomplete combustion of tobacco when smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Temperatures in burning cigarettes range from about 400°C between puffs to about 900°C during a puff.

There are three different types of smoke. These are First, Second and Third-hand Smoke.


• First-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker.

• Second-hand smoke is 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.

First Hand Smoke

First-hand smoke is what a smoker inhales directly from the tip of an unlit cigarette into their lungs. This smoke contains around 7000 chemicals and starts doing damage as soon as it enters the mouth

• In the mouth - The smoke is sucked in and tar particles stick to the inside of the mouth. This causes yellowing of the teeth and these chemicals can cause mouth and throat cancer.
• In the throat - The smoke continues down the throat and paralyses the tiny hairs that are there to filter out particles and stop them from entering the lungs (Which is why people used to believe that smoking helped with a tickly cough!). 
• In the lungs - The smoke enters the lungs, coating them in a fine layer of tar. The chemicals within the tar are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. The nicotine (along with the other 6,999 chemicals) gets to your bloodstream and travels through your body and into your nicotine receptors within 7 to 10 seconds. 
This nicotine gets absorbed into your nicotine receptors and releases dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and the other 6,999 chemicals continue to travel throughout your body being deposited in organs and arteries.

Second hand Smoke

Second hand smoke is smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, and is also smoke that's been exhaled, or breathed out by the person that is smoking. 
There is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke and 80% of it is invisible - You can't smell it, see it or feel it, which means that even if a smoker moves to another room, the smoke can drift through to all areas inside a building and cause health issues.  

Health effects for children

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (for example, coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • A greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Health effects in adults

  • Heart disease - For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels.
  • Increases a non smoking adult's risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%
  • Stroke

Children breathing in second hand smoke resulted in 300,000 GP visits and 9,500 hospital admissions in the UK last year.

Third hand Smoke

Third hand smoke forms when particles from a cigarette or other tobacco-burning device seep into materials like hair, clothes, furniture, carpet and walls, and are absorbed. Nicotine residues will soak into a smoker's skin and clothing even if they smoke outside. The chemicals then undergo an aging process, which changes their chemical structure. Nicotine reacts with indoor air pollutants like nitrous acid to form carcinogens, or compounds that may cause cancer. The gas is then continuously re-emitted back into the air in a process called “off-gassing.”

Efforts to diffuse the smoke, like opening windows or using a fan, don’t prevent thirdhand smoke from forming or keep it from being inhaled, and the residue may give off harmful chemicals for years or even decades. “Thirdhand smoke is not a one-time thing,” Dr. Bechara says. “It’s actually a phenomenon that accumulates over time with increased exposure.” Normal cleaning methods also aren’t effective against the pollutants. Most of the time, replacing carpets or repainting walls are the only options.

Third-hand smoke is a potential health threat to children, partners, friends and family of smokers and workers in environments with smokers.

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