As if there already weren’t enough good reasons for kicking the cigarette habit, doctors have found yet another: thirdhand smoke. That’s the term doctors at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston have given to the invisible particles and gases that linger on clothing, hair, carpet, furniture and other objects long after the smoke has dissipated.

The toxic residue — which includes carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials — particularly poses a hazard to infants and young children because they can get it on their hands and ingest it when they stick their fingers in their mouths. The doctors who carried out the study hope that once smokers are aware of this additional hazard, they will take appropriate steps to reduce the risks that their tobacco habit poses to others.

Movements in Japan to curb smoking in public have made progress in recent years, but still lag far behind those in other nations. Most workplaces have restricted smoking to designated areas, as have all train stations. No-smoking taxis have become fairly commonplace in metropolitan areas and it is usually possible to book a nonsmoking room at hotels. Some wards in Tokyo have even banned smoking on streets.

Still, it is next to impossible to find cafes and restaurants that bar smoking, and ones with no-smoking sections remain rare. Even a promising movement by the Kanagawa prefectural government to ban smoking in public areas has, in the face of strong opposition, been watered down to permit restaurants, bars and inns to establish separate smoking areas, and to require restaurants and bars that are 100 square meters or smaller in size — a category that covers 70 percent of such establishments in the prefecture — to merely “make efforts” to create a nonsmoking setting.

Hopefully the Boston study will provide a boost to the movement to curtail public smoking here, particularly if concerned parents make themselves heard with their voices and purse strings.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.