Saturday, November 14, 2009

first, second or third

This post is not really inspired by all the research I do on tobacco, but by my leisure time activity last night.

In a way it is a two or three part post on my experience. It involves second and "third" hand smoke and triggers to use tobacco.

Firstly, I conduct or facilitate quit smoking classes and groups as part of my job. Many times smokers wonder about drinking without smoking. The two acts are entrenched for smokers, and it takes some time to separate them. Last week in one of my classes, we discussed what to do when newly quit and going out to drink. Our responses ranged from not drinking, to drinking at a restaurant, to using a cocktail straw, and lastly, having some nicotine gum on hand. Then someone asked me when I had quit, 1/2/97 and if I still had cravings. I do not have cravings in general and I do not have them when I am faced with old triggers.

Last night I was at a bar that allowed smoking. I didn't realize it at first. Because the doors were open, front side and back, the smoke didn't hit me hard. It usually does as I am very sensitive. Seeing a person here or there with a cigarette in their hand was just mind boggling for me. I paid attention though, and No, it did not make me want one. I did not feel like I needed to have a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. I was fine with just the beer!

When I left the bar (two beers in three hours) and sat in my car, then it hit me. I seriously thought, "what is that smell?" It took a minute, but yes, my hair and my clothing had the cigarette smell.

So let me explain the 1st. 2nd, 3rd of it.

First hand smoke is what the person smoking the cigarette inhales into their lungs only. It is a toxic mix of particulate matter that causes or exacerbates numerous disease states and also activates several neurotransmitters in the brain.

Second hand smoke is what they exhale as well as what is emitted from the lit cigarette. (we refer to this as mainstream and sidestream smoke) SHS is deadly and there is no safe level, only lower doses.

The particulate matter I mentioned doesn't just evaporate, it settles on anything in the room where the smoke was exhaled or emitted. That means it settles on YOU> It settles on clothing, furniture, walls, hair and skin. Particulate matter is microscopic. You can not see the chemical residue but it infiltrates lungs and is what we refer to , in total, as TAR.

We have surgeon generals' reports on smoking, smokeless tobacco and second hand smoke. I expect there will be one on the residue as well. Earlier this year, folks at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, in Boston, began calling this "stink" third hand smoke. I disagree with the name, but certainly get the concept.

So for myself, I say this. The night out was FUN. I did have a SHS headache for much of the morning and had to cleanse my skin and clothes of the smoke residue and so for this reason, I do support total public smoking bans.

Believe it or not, the less places a person can smoke, the less triggers they will have when they make their QUIT and the more successful their quitting will be.

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