Reducing second-hand and third-hand smoke is an important aim. This is because second-hand and third-hand smoke can be very harmful. The evidence also shows that if smoking is seen as ‘normal’ at a community level, young people are more likely to start smoking, and people who currently smoke will find it harder to quit. Increasing the extent to which a community is smoke-free is associated with less smoking and more success in quitting. A 2021 publication from the Mayi Kuwayu study showed that areas of Australia where the TIS program is present, compared to non-TIS areas, have a significantly lower prevalence of smoking inside households.
Relevant activities include the following:
To be successful, smoke-free policies need community participation – not just consultation – in their development. Policies that have local ownership and commitment are more likely to be followed. There is also evidence that introducing smoke-free policies in the workplace can lead to increased support for smoke-free spaces in other areas such as smoke-free homes and cars. Successful smoke-free workplace policies also result in more workers wanting to quit.
Combining locally owned smoke-free policies with access to quit support services increases the success of these policies. Working in an environment with a smoke free policy can also encourage individuals to quit.
Here are some quick tips on setting up a smoke-free environment: How to set up a smoke free environment.
The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) of New South Wales provide a good set of resources to help you support workplaces to set up smoke-free policies.
provides: advice on how to begin the process; templates for worker consultation; and templates to assess how much smoking happens at work.
Second-hand and third-hand smoke is a health risk factor, particularly for children. Children are at greater risk for a number of reasons, including their size, faster breathing rates and less developed respiratory and immune systems. Second-hand smoke is associated with a number of childhood illnesses including:
Second-hand smoke is also believed to contribute to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Less well known, but probably just as harmful is third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke is the tobacco smoke toxins from second-hand smoke that get into people who smoke’s hair and clothes and build up on surfaces and dust in areas where people smoke. Evidence shows that these toxins stay in homes and cars for a long time after the cigarette has been extinguished, even several months later. They may even become more toxic over time.
Bullinah Aboriginal Health Service’s Solid Mob ‘Our home is a smoke free zone’ campaign
Third-hand smoke is an emerging area of research and we don’t yet understand all the health hazards. However, children (especially infants), are more vulnerable to third-hand smoke toxins. This is because infants crawl over contaminated floors and mouth contaminated surfaces like furniture and toys. We also know that infants consume up to a quarter of a gram of dust every day. That’s twice as much as adults.
There is good evidence that having a smoke-free home and car improves children’s health. There is also some evidence that keeping the home smoke-free helps to prevent uptake of smoking by young people. There are therefore many good reasons to support people to have smoke-free homes and cars.
A 2018 review found that intensive counselling methods or motivational interviewing with parents to be most effective for reducing children’s tobacco smoke exposure in the home. There is some indication that school-based education, intensive home visits, brief education provided to parents in clinics (including scheduled children’s health checks) and culturally sensitive health promotion brochures may also help reduce second-hand smoke in the home and car.
Menzies School of Health Research has developed Healthy starts: reducing the health effects of smoking around Indigenous babies and children, a resource to support health providers when discussing second-hand tobacco smoke with families, and to encourage families to have smoke-free homes.
Griffith AMS hosting a smoke-free community event
Any opportunity to reduce second-hand smoke is a good investment because there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and smoke-free events both denormalise smoking and encourage people to think about quitting. The Talking About The Smokes (TATS) study found that support for smoke-free festivals and events is strong in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly among those who don’t smoke:
Pledging to be smoke-free demonstrates an active commitment and motivation to change. Evidence shows that when someone makes a public declaration (pledge) they are more likely to follow through with that promise, both for themselves, but also because of what others might think of them if they don’t maintain their promise. We also know that people are more likely to stick with a commitment that has real value, purpose and meaning to them.
Smoke-free pledges are a good population health promotion tool because:
The Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service Quit B Fit Team encouraging people to take a pledge to not smoke in their homes, cars and workplaces
You can find further information on smoke-free environments in the video and factsheet produced by NBPU TIS which can be downloaded here.
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