Are these rounds in a poker game? Different degrees of gossip reliability? Various grades of quality for clothes in a consignment shop?
The correct answer is all of the above, and more. These are different types of tobacco smoke, and they’ve come to epitomize the progressive stages of a regulatory program that accomplished its objectives a decade ago… but now keeps growing and growing.
Firsthand smoke, obviously, is what smokers breathe in directly. Secondhand smoke is what other people breathe in from the lit cigarettes and exhalations of smokers. Thirdhand smoke, a new concept, is what secondhand smoke leaves on clothing, furniture, and other surfaces.
By the way, it doesn’t end there. There’s also fourthhand smoke—but that’s something we’ll get to later.
Healthwise, firsthand smoke is the riskiest. The medical hazards of cigarette smoking are well established and well known. In fact, they’re so well known that adults who smoke are justifiably viewed as willingly taking those risks. In a free society that respects individuals, that should end most political battles over smoking: let’s prohibit kids from lighting up, punish whoever sells or markets cigarettes to them… and let grown-ups live their lives as they please.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Yes, adults can smoke, but they’re constantly bombarded by higher taxes, more restrictions on the products available to them, more limits on advertising, and more rules on where they can light up.
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