Going smoke-free in your rentals is important as the dangers of thirdhand smoke are not well-known as toxic chemicals stick to surfaces.
By The Department of Health and Human Services
Tobacco Prevention and Control
The dangers of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke are well-known. Inhaling nicotine and other toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke can cause illnesses like heart diseases, stroke and cancer.
What isn’t as well-known are the effects of thirdhand smoke.
Thirdhand smoke (THS) is the chemical residue that lingers after secondhand smoke has disappeared from the air. While secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke coming off a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by smokers, thirdhand smoke is the mixture of smoke and toxic chemicals that stick to surfaces and become embedded in household materials. These materials include carpets, walls, furniture, and all surface areas that make up your residents’ homes.
Thirdhand smoke lowers the value of your properties by contaminating the carpet, furniture and walls. In fact, a news report from realtor.com revealed that smoking in a home and the resulting damage of thirdhand smoke can reduce property value by 29%.
Creating a smoke-free policy protects your tenants, and your investments, from the costly effects of thirdhand smoke.
Does THS pose a danger to tenants once the home has been deep cleaned?
The short answer: Yes. Thirdhand smoke can linger indoors for years. Despite deep cleaning and renovating, thirdhand smoke can be reemitted through dust and becomes embedded in carpets, furniture, fabric and building materials. Residents, including pets and children, can be exposed to this toxicity by just breathing within the same apartment that a previous smoking tenant occupied and through touching surfaces in past smokers’ homes.
New research shows that thirdhand smoke carries a unique chemical compound called 1-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridinyl)-4-butanal (NNA). NNA is one of the many tobacco-specific nitrosamines – a group of cancer-causing compounds found in tobacco products. Tenants are exposed to NNA by touching surfaces polluted by thirdhand smoke or by inhaling dust contaminated with smoke residue.
The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, including thirdhand smoke. The greatest line of defense to protect your residents and your properties is to enact a smoke-free policy.
Comprehensive smoking bans are essential for protecting everyone
Thirdhand smoke is toxic to residents and other people entering your properties. It puts renters and their families at risk for a decision they did not choose to make. The benefits of going smoke-free not only support the health and well-being of your residents, but also support the longevity of your properties.
Find out what steps to take to ensure you are creating a healthy place for all to live and work. For more information on smoke-free housing, visit tobaccofreeutah.org. For free resources to help you quit, visit waytoquit.org.
 Major ‘third-hand smoke’ compound causes DNA damage — and potentially cancer, American Chemical Society, Accessed July 2022.
 The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006), Accessed July 2022.