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