Clinical Review

Guidance for the Clinical Management of Thirdhand Smoke Exposure in the Child Health Care Setting



Protect Patients from Thirdhand Smoke Risks

All health care settings should be completely smoke-free. Smoking bans help protect all families and children from second and thirdhand smoke exposure. It is especially important for medically vulnerable children to visit facilities free from all forms of tobacco smoke contamination. CEASE trainings encourage practices to implement a zone of wellness on the grounds of the healthcare facility by completely banning smoking. The CEASE implementation team also trains practice leaders to reach out to all staff that use tobacco and offer resources and support for quitting. Having a non-smoking staff sets a great example for families who visit the healthcare facility, and reduces the likelihood of bringing thirdhand smoke contaminates into the facility. Creating a policy that addresses thirdhand smoke exposure is a concrete step that health care organizations can take to protect patients.

Thirdhand Smoke Resources Developed and/or Used by the CEASE Program

The CEASE program has developed and/or identified a number of clinical resources to educate parents and clinicians about thirdhand smoke. These free resources can enhance awareness of thirdhand smoke and help promote the use of the thirdhand smoke concept in clinical practice.

  • Posters with messages designed to educate parents about thirdhand smoke to encourage receipt of cessation resources were created for use in waiting areas and exam rooms of child health care practices. A poster for clinical practice (Figure 1) can be downloaded and printed from the CEASE program website [42].
  • Health education handouts that directly address thirdhand smoke exposure are available. The handouts can be taken home to family members who are not present at the visit and contain the telephone number for the tobacco quitline service, which connects smokers in the United States with free telephone support for smoking cessation. Handouts for clinical practice can be downloaded and printed from the CEASE program website. Figure 2 shows a handout that encourages parents to keep a smoke-free car by pointing out that tobacco smoke stays in the car long after the cigarette is out.
  • Videos about thirdhand smoke can be viewed by parents while in child health care offices or shared on practice websites or social media platforms. The CEASE program encourages practices to distribute videos about thirdhand smoke to introduce parents to the concept of thirdhand smoke and to encourage parents to engage in a discussion with their child’s clinicians about ways to limit thirdhand smoke exposure. Suitable videos for parental viewing include the 2 listed below, which highlight information from the Thirdhand Smoke Research Consortium.
    -University of California Riverside
    -San Diego State University
  • Letters for landlords and management companies were created to stress the importance of providing a smoke-free living environment for children. The letters are meant to be signed by the child’s health care provider. The letters state that eliminating smoking in their buildings would result in landlords that “Pay less for cleaning and turnover fees.” Landlord letter templates can be downloaded and printed from the CEASE program website [42].
  • Educational content for child health care clinicians about thirdhand smoke and how to counsel parents is included in the American Academy of Pediatrics Education in Quality Improvement for Pediatric Practice (EQIPP) online course entitled “Eliminating Tobacco” Use and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke. A section devoted to educating clinicians on the topic of thirdhand smoke is presented in this course. The course can be accessed through the AAP website and it qualifies for American Board of Pediatrics maintenance of certification part IV credit [40].

The CEASE team has worked with mass media outlets to communicate the messages about thirdhand smoke to build public awareness. The Today Show helped to popularize the concept of thirdhand smoke in 2009 after a paper published in the journal Pediatrics linked thirdhand smoke beliefs to home smoking bans [2].

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