A new warning

    Often, I find myself bobbing and weaving to get out of the wake of certain people walking on crowded sidewalks in downtown Philadelphia. These people are smokers.

    When I arrived a year ago, I quickly noticed that an inordinate number of people smoke in this town.

    Clumps of folks shivering in the cold outside stores, office buildings and, ironically, hospitals for a tobacco fix.

    It’s not my business if someone smokes unless, of course, I breathe-in the second-hand toxins they exhaled.

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    Well, now comes word of third-hand smoke.

    A study in Environmental Science and Technology Journal says nicotine residue that has settled can become airborne again — to be even more toxic. Tiny particles from third-hand smoke can become deeply embedded in the lungs and hard for the body to expel.

    Temple Family and Community Medicine Professor Paul Lyons says if you can still smell smoke after the smoker has stopped puffing, you’re probably inhaling third-hand smoke.

    As someone who smoked for most of my college career, I know quitting isn’t easy. Learning to play tennis in my senior year meant I had to choose between needing to catch my breath after every point or giving cigarettes the boot.

    I had gotten up to a pack a day thanks to smoking being allowed in classrooms, dorms and even the library. Complaints by non-smokers fell on deaf ears because they were considered freaks of nature back in the day.

    My method for quitting was slow, deliberate and took several months. I began restricting myself to the time of day and the number of cigarettes I could have. By my final Vantage Menthol, the window had dwindled to half-a-cigarette between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m.

    Mark Twain is quoted as famously saying, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

    Far be it for me to judge anyone who can’t kick this extremely difficult habit. But maybe the discovery of third-hand smoke could be an incentive.

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