Friday 12 February 2010

Thirdhand smoke roundup

An extended version of my article about the thirdhand smoke study is on the Free Society website today. Quick summary: they used 14 times as much nitrous acid and 15 times as much nicotine as would be found in a normal home to produce a few nanograms of a substance that isn't a carcinogen. Apart from that, great study.

Meanwhile, it's been interesting to see what the reaction has been to the whole story in the press and on the blogs.

Some fell for it hook, line and sinker. Bro WTF? thinks...

So not only do smokers ruin my ability from wearing [sic] my same “go-to” outfit two nights in a row amongst two separate groups of people because my clothes now smell like an incinerator, smokers are killing me long after they leave a room.

Live Well! is not alone in seizing on thirdhand smoke as another excuse to tax smokers...

I say raise cigarette taxes! Not only is it good for our health, it will be good for the states who will receive more tax revenue that they desperately need for school systems, roads, and other infrastructure projects.

Honors e/e genuinely seems to be worried by the threat and wants to go further than mere taxation... 

Until I read this I always felt like if people want to smoke they should be able to it was not hurting me and if I did not want to be around it I could walk away, but now I am not so sure. This study shows that not only are smokers hurting themselves but they are also hurting people who come into a building, get in a car, or visit there [sic] house after they have been smoking. If tobacco is so harmful to everyone maybe it should be ban [sic].

Woman's Day says smokers should take a few precautions...

If you still insist on smoking, smoke outdoors only. Just make sure you take a shower and wash your clothes afterwards—at least you can help protect someone else’s health.

See? Is that so much to ask?

A member of an Indiana anti-smoking group can't separate cause from effect but she has her own story to tell at the Star Press...

Then, last year, I became a victim of third-hand smoke -- the residual toxins that linger on the hair, skin and clothing of smokers. I had come into contact with a couple who smoked and their clothing had the strongest stench of tobacco I had ever experienced. Being a previous smoker myself, I know that smokers don't realize how awful they smell and many times try to cover up the signs of smoking by using sprays and colognes (which) only make it worse.

The result of my contact with third-hand smoke was initially a sinus headache, then coughing. I ended up using a week's worth of vacation time because I developed what is called community acquired pneumonia.

John Banzhaf of ASH (for it is he) takes some dodgy science and exaggerates it still further:

Interestingly, another very recent study shows that nicotine exhaled into the air is converted by other common indoor air pollutants into cancer-causing chemicals which can linger on clothing, furniture, draperies, etc. -- a new risk being termed "thirdhand smoke."

The risk could be comparable to that of smoking.

Check that last line. Good grief.

Back on planet Earth, and on Spiked, Rob Lyons thinks differently:

Yet even the junk science of secondhand smoke seems like the stuff of Nobel Prizes next to the new kid on the block: ‘third-hand smoke’. Now, claim researchers, you don’t even need to breathe smoke in, you simply need to be in contact with smokers or touch surfaces that have been in contact with their smoke to be at risk. If the dodgy research that produced the smoking ban was bullshit, the claims made for third-hand smoking are in a whole new category: ‘beyond bullshit’.

At The Examiner, Thomas McAdam was showing signs of - shock, horror - having actually read the study:

His “study” did not involve any clinical trials with actual human beings (or even actual mice or rats). He and his student assistants simply applied tobacco smoke to sheets of cellulose as a model indoor material, and determined that TSNAs detected on cellulose surfaces were 10 times higher than those originally present in the sample. That is, after spraying the cellulose sheets with nitrous acid.

And he has some information about the study's funding source:

Before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Hugo is some sort of moron, you need to know about California’s Proposition 99. In November 1988, California voters approved Prop. 99, “The Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act”, which instituted a 25¢-per-pack cigarette surtax. Part of this tax revenue is deposited into a Research Account, to be appropriated for research on tobacco-related disease, by the TRDRP. For the bizarre little study we have outlined above, Dr. Hugo Destaillats was awarded $704,901.00 by TRDRP and the taxpaying smokers of California. Maybe Dr. Hugo’s not such a moron after all.

And, finally, he points out that not only are people prepared to believe anything they're told, they're already hunting out fresh scares for themselves:

Within months, the neologism “third-hand smoke” was getting more than 3 million references in a Google search. (Interestingly, the term “fourth-hand smoke”—the theory that you can get cancer from simply watching a movie in which Humphrey Bogart is smoking—is now getting 56,600 Google references.) Stay tuned.

We'll leave the last word to Andrew Button at The Muse:

The point at which your activism goes from being an attempt to protect people from harm to a plot to make life harder for people with a weakness, is the point you should probably call it quits.

The thing is, big anti-tobacco is a thriving business, and they’re not going to stop on their own...

The anti-smoking movement of today is less about health, and more about discriminating against and controlling people.
Anti-smoking activists want a nanny state that protects people from themselves, and punishes behavior some people find aesthetically unappealing.

The state should not have the power to regulate what it doesn’t like arbitrarily, unless that behavior poses a real risk to other people.

Until people realize this, anti-smoking legislation is only going to get more restricting and oppressive


Ann W. said...

Thanks Chris, excellant research work.

Now about “fourth-hand smoke”, I always believed that it would be the term used that causes someone to start smoking by either a)seeing someone smoke, in person or b)on film or the packages behind the counter.

Anonymous said...

I keep asking this, however nobody seems prepared to even have a crack at it: when (and how) does this all end? Will I have to wait another decade for civility and decency to return? Or will I be a pariah for the rest of my life?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Excellent round up.

You've just given me an idea for another "guest post" by a randomly selected CiF-er.

Unknown said...

I'm just waiting for the tobacco industry to release their studies showing that smoking cigarettes makes you really, really cool. And that smoking doesn't kill people.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Care to comment on the third hand smoke nonsense, which you believed without research, Tom, instead of throwing up an off topic straw man?

I know it probably hurts being shown up as a naive idiot, but tobacco companies weren't responsible for making you a transatlantic laughing stock.

Nope, it was anti-smoking 'scientists' who turned you into a useful idiot, so your anger really should be directed at them instead. ;-)

Junican said...

Isn't it time someone sued these so-called researchers for spreading false and malicious rumours? What are the tobacco companies doing? The whole problem re smoking started when sued the tobacco companies. Isn't it time they started suing back?

The witch from Essex said...

Why should the tobacco comapnies bother 'doing anything'?
Since bans and prohibition makes tobacco more poplular (especially with young kids) their sales are rocketting.
Plus as people do stop smoking with NRT the drug companies buy nicotine from guess who ??
It's a win/win situation for the tobacco companies and they are proabably instigating most of the phoney research to guarantee their sales.

Anonymous said...

The phrasing "I developed what is called community acquired pneumonia" used by that nutter caught my eye.

As far as I can tell from looking around, "community acquired pneumonia" appears to just be regular old pneumonia. Wikipedia doesn't include an ICD-9 code for it, so I assume it's just some new classification for pneumonia they've dreamed up.

The use of the wording "community acquired" quite literally blames "the community" for pneumonia. It looks like the phrasing is another instance of assigning collective responsibility for any individual's disease.

Of course, then it's no wonder that the comment in question was written by someone from an anti-smoking group. I wonder if "community acquired pneumonia" is going to be a new gimmick used to promote health hysteria at someone's expense. Probably smokers, but perhaps industry as well. We'll see.


Klaus K said...

To clear one thing up, that some of you might know - but I can see others don't:

The tobacco industry is forbidden to do not only advertising, but also studies about "the health effects of smoking" since 2005.

The american government has specifically issued a court order in 2005 at DC district court, saying that the industry is not allowed to give other views of the dangers of smoking (including passive smoking) than the government view - i.e. smoking and passive smoking causes cancer, heart disease and other respiratory diseases.

This is why you will find the government views on fx. the Philip Morris website. But not on Japan Tobacco's website, since they were not part of this trial.

This court order - and the advertising ban - means that the so called "free world" in fact went back to the ways of the 15th century's witch hunting: You will be decapitated for saying the world is round - or the world is not the center of the universe.

Everything you need to know about this, plus a lot of other things, is available on James Enstrom's website: Defending legitimate epidemiologic research: combating Lysenko pseudoscience.

Lysenko was the Soviet-scientist, the father of all political junk science, who was responsible for the crash in the Russian farmfood production because of bad science. Enstrom is referring to Jonathan Samet as Lysenko.

Samet is the leading general behind the anti-tobacco crusade, high ranking officer in WHO, scientific editor of Surgeon Generals 2006-report, chairman of the IARC working group, and: The US-government key expert witness in the trial against the industry. Judge Gladys Kessler relied 100% on Jonathan Samet's written testimony.

The court order has been appealed by the industry, awaiting supreme court.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Very interesting, Klaus. So that means that Tom Corson-Knowles is even more stupid than he first appeared. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Where does it end? PLEASE, someone tell me? I am so sick to death of this foolish discrimination.

If it was any other minority - blackes, gays, jews, catholics, etc, etc, etc. - then the entire weight of the State and the law would come down against the foul stench of discrimination.

Smokers, however, appear to be the national sport (far more popular in certain circles than football).

So, I ask again a question which nobody seems prepared to answer: WHERE AND WHEN DOES IT END? I don't want to be dead before I can enjoy a smoke around the average non-smoker. At present, they all think I'm blowing out something similar to enriched uranium - they quiver and quake at the mere smell of tobacco.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry!