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When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: residential thirdhand smoke pollution and exposure
  1. Georg E Matt1,
  2. Penelope J E Quintana2,
  3. Joy M Zakarian3,
  4. Addie L Fortmann4,
  5. Dale A Chatfield5,
  6. Eunha Hoh2,
  7. Anna M Uribe2,
  8. Melbourne F Hovell2
  1. 1Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  2. 2Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  3. 3San Diego State University Research Foundation, San Diego, California, USA
  4. 4San Diego State University/University of California at San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, San Diego, California, USA
  5. 5Department of Chemistry, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Georg E Matt, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-4611, USA; gmatt{at}


Background This study examined whether thirdhand smoke (THS) persists in smokers' homes after they move out and non-smokers move in, and whether new non-smoking residents are exposed to THS in these homes.

Methods The homes of 100 smokers and 50 non-smokers were visited before the residents moved out. Dust, surfaces, air and participants' fingers were measured for nicotine and children's urine samples were analysed for cotinine. The new residents who moved into these homes were recruited if they were non-smokers. Dust, surfaces, air and new residents' fingers were examined for nicotine in 25 former smoker and 16 former non-smoker homes. A urine sample was collected from the youngest resident.

Results Smoker homes' dust, surface and air nicotine levels decreased after the change of occupancy (p<0.001); however dust and surfaces showed higher contamination levels in former smoker homes than former non-smoker homes (p<0.05). Non-smoking participants' finger nicotine was higher in former smoker homes compared to former non-smoker homes (p<0.05). Finger nicotine levels among non-smokers living in former smoker homes were significantly correlated with dust and surface nicotine and urine cotinine.

Conclusions These findings indicate that THS accumulates in smokers' homes and persists when smokers move out even after homes remain vacant for 2 months and are cleaned and prepared for new residents. When non-smokers move into homes formerly occupied by smokers, they encounter indoor environments with THS polluted surfaces and dust. Results suggest that non-smokers living in former smoker homes are exposed to THS in dust and on surfaces.

  • Tobacco smoke pollution
  • Secondhand smoke
  • passive smoking
  • thirdhand smoke
  • environmental tobacco smoke exposure
  • environment
  • environmental tobacco smoke

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  • Funding This research was supported by funds from the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of the University of California, grant number 13RT-0161H. (Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, University of California, Office of the President, 300 Lakeside Drive, Sixth floor, Oakland, California, 94612-3550, USA.) Parts of this study were also supported by the National Cancer Institute, Comprehensive Partnerships to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities Program (grant numbers #1U54CA132384 and #1U54CA132379.)

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the San Diego State University Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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