Clinical Review

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



Systems Approaches to Reduce Thirdhand Smoke Exposure

Public Policy Approaches

A clear policy agenda can help people protect their families from exposure to thirdhand smoke [46]. Policy approaches that have worked for lead, asbestos, and radon are examples of common household contaminants that are regulated using different mechanisms in an effort to protect the public health [46]. Strengths and weaknesses in each of these different approaches should be carefully considered when developing a comprehensive policy agenda to address thirdhand smoke. Recently, research on the health effects of thirdhand smoke spurred the passage of California legislative bill AB 1819 that “prohibits smoking tobacco at all times in the homes of licensed family child care homes and in areas where children are present [47].” As well, a recent US Department of Housing and Urban Development rule was finalized that requires all public housing agencies to implement a smoke-free policy by 30 July 2018 [48]. Smoke-free housing protects occupants from both secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure. Pediatricians and other child health care professionals are well positioned to advocate for legislative actions that protect children from harmful exposures to thirdhand smoke.

Practice Change in Child Health Care Settings

Designing health care systems to screen for tobacco smoke exposure and to provide evidence-based cessation resources for all smokers is one of the best ways to reduce exposures to thirdhand smoke. Preventing thirdhand smoke exposure can work as novel messaging to promote tobacco cessation programs. Developing electronic medical record systems that allow for documentation of the smoking status of household members and whether or not homes and cars are completely smokefree can be particularly helpful tools for child health care providers when addressing thirdhand smoke with families. Good documentation about smoke-free homes and cars can enhance follow-up discussions with families as they work towards reducing thirdhand smoke exposures.


The thirdhand smoke concept has been used to improve delivery of tobacco control counseling and services for parents in the child health care context. Free materials are available that utilize thirdhand smoke messaging. As the science of thirdhand smoke matures, it will increasingly be used to help promote completely smoke-free places. The existing research on thirdhand smoke establishes the need for clinicians to communicate the cessation imperative. By using it, clinicians can help all smokers and non-smokers understand that there is no way to smoke tobacco without exposing friends and family.

Corresponding author: Jeremy E. Drehmer, MPH, 125 Nashua St., Suite 860, Boston, MA 02114, jdrehmer@

Financial disclosures: None

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