A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Cabrini Hospital

And Now There’s Third-Hand Smoke

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By Jessica McElroy

We all know about the dangers of first and second-hand smoke, which are easy enough to comprehend.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, directly inhaling smoke from a cigarette, or first-hand smoke, is a known cause of lung cancer.  Second-hand smoke, the diluted smoke exhaled from a smoker or emitted from the burning end of a cigarette is also a carcinogen.

But it seems the dangers of smoking reach even further.  In recent years Scientific American, MSNBC and the University of California have reported that third-hand smoke — the mixture of cigarette smoke toxins and chemicals that linger in material around them, including on the fabric of smokers’ clothing — poses a threat to the health of nonsmokers.  A 2011 article by the Mayo Clinic states that third-hand smoke can cling to “hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped.”  Infants, children and non-smoking adults may be at risk of tobacco-related health problems when they inhale, ingest or touch substances containing third-hand smoke.  Studies indicate that infants and children are especially susceptible to these harms, but even adults may be at risk.

Well, whatever odor sticks to Aunt Sadie’s jacket when she smoked earlier today can’t be so bad, right?  So it’s fine if she now cuddles with Baby Bobby?  Think again. According to the New York Times, third-hand smoke can contain a bunch of fun stuff including hydrogen cyanide, butane (found in lighter fluid), toluene (found in paint thinner), arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and polonium-210 (a highly radioactive and toxic carcinogen).  And all of it is resistant to normal cleaning. Yum!

So it was only a matter of time before companies started imposing new rules against third-hand smoke – that is, people smoking on their own time away from work.

Last month, Fox News reported that Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana will expand its anti-smoking policy to ban third-hand smoke beginning July 1, 2012.  This expansion will prohibit the smell of smoke on employees’ clothing, as well as the use of tobacco products while at work, including while on break.  The hospital’s ultimate goal is to have its employees stop using tobacco products permanently and Cabrini has offered support services to help their employees quit.

Since Cabrini’s new policy will impose on its employees’ activities when they are off-duty, there would seem to be some potential legal landmines associated with the ban.  The media didn’t examine them. LASIS will.   (more…)

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