Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Smoking, SHS . . . and now third hand smoke

“A new study says third-hand smoke may be dangerous.”Toronto Star

Unfortunately for the fear-mongering, anti-smoker zealots at the Star, the “study” says nothing of the kind. The study turns out to be a phone poll on the attitudes and beliefs of the public as it pertains to the newly-coined phrase “third hand smoke”.

No conclusion on the toxicity, or even the existence, of third hand smoke was forthcoming from the poll.

In fact, Stanton Glantz, of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at U of C, San Francisco said yesterday in an interview with Scientific American that he is not aware of any studies directly linking third-hand smoke to disease.

The lack of any balance in the inflammatory outburst by Stuart Laidlaw in the Star article suggests he may have written the piece directly from the press release, without taking the time to read the actual study. Laidlaw should at least make an effort to control his anti-smoker bigotry if he wants to maintain any credibility.

The discussion section of the alleged study points out the real purpose of this survey:
“This novel finding is important because the thirdhand smoke concept could easily be incorporated into current and future tobacco counseling messages, tobacco control programs, policy initiatives, and guidelines.”

In simpler terms, the contents of the survey should be milked for its propaganda value in the continued persecution of smokers. The science is unimportant.

Dr. Michael Siegel, wrote on his blog yesterday:
“The tobacco control movement's warnings to the public about the dangers of thirdhand smoke highlight once again that science is no longer driving the movement. Tobacco control practitioners are warning parents that even if they smoke outside the home, leaving a coat hanging on a door is going to expose their children to toxins and harm them due to offgassing of vapors from particulate matter that has settled on the coat during smoking. Yet there is no evidence that such very low levels of exposure to tobacco smoke residue constituents is harmful”.

Siegel is a well known anti-smoking advocate, an MD and a professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Boston University School of Public Health.

What Stuart Laidlaw and the Star refer to as a study, is little more than an exercise in propaganda by Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Laidlaw claims in his article that:
“Researchers have found that third-hand smoke containing heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials lingers long after second-hand smoke has dissipated, and can be ingested by children crawling around a room.”

What researchers? Where is his proof that “researchers” have found third hand smoke to be hazardous, for that is the clear implication of his statement? Winickoff is quoted in the article as saying: "This is the first scientific study to use the term."

And, remember, such notables in the field of tobacco control as Siegel and Glantz say there is no scientific evidence to support the concept of health hazards from third hand smoke.

Winickoff’s survey is driven by the need to maintain pressure on smokers; to vilify those who choose to smoke in the eyes of the public and force them to quit.

Winickoff says:
“Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette or in a hotel room where people were smoking. Your nose isn’t lying, The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’”

I would add: “But, only if your brain is the size of a pea.”

Smoking is a serious public health issue. Wild exaggerations and deceptive “scientific studies” contribute nothing to the debate. Neither do sensational headlines and misleading articles in the press.

Disseminating such propaganda to the public is irresponsible journalism.

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