Friday 13 November 2015

The magic of secondhand smoke

Here's another one to file under 'They Said It Would Never Happen'. The New York Times reports from the land of the free...

Smoking would be prohibited in public housing homes nationwide under a proposed federal rule announced on Thursday, a move that would affect nearly one million households and open the latest front in the long-running campaign to curb unwanted exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

The justification is hilarious, in a pathetic kind of way...

In moving to require the prohibitions across the country, federal officials say they are acting to protect residents from secondhand smoke, which can travel through walls and under doors

The claim that brick, plaster and cement are no match for wisps of smoke cannot be a misprint because it is repeated in a sycophantic New York Times op-ed titled 'They're coming for your cigarettes. But that's OK' (yes, it's OK, citizen, go back to sleep)...

The problem with your cigarette is that it sends secondhand smoke through your walls and doors and into your neighbors’ noses

The thing about smoke, as you cannot fail to have noticed, is that it rises due to being hotter than the air around it. You don't need to understand basic physics to know this, although it helps. Strike a match, light a candle, spark up a cigarette. Observing fire in any context demonstrates the same thing. The idea that smoke typically creeps 'under doors', down corridors, under more doors and 'into your neighbours' noses' should strike any journalist as being questionable, to say the least.

As for smoke travelling through walls, I really don't know where to begin. I'm not sure which is scarier, governments banning people from smoking in their own homes or the bizarre motivated reasoning that compels journalists to write things - in such a matter of fact way - that are not so. This is not even pseduo-science. It is anti-science.

Back in 2010, there was the guy who claimed that secondhand smoke travelled 'along plumbing and electrical lines', but he was manifestly a bit odd. This, by contrast, is the newspaper of record in the most powerful country on earth.

It's easy to laugh at the superstitions and crackpot beliefs that flourished before the Enlightenment. Increasingly, we have little to feel superior about.

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