If You Can Smell It, It May Be Killing You

Maverick anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel has published an article in the journal Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations in which he faults the tobacco control movement for misrepresenting the acute cardiovascular effects of exposure to secondhand smoke. Siegel, who supports government-imposed smoking bans in workplaces and agrees with his fellow activists that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of heart disease, criticizes them on his tobacco policy blog for claiming that even transient exposure might kill you. The journal article (which is available for free) gathers together some of the more egregious misrepresentations and explains why they are inconsistent with the scientific evidence. A sampling of the whoppers:

"Breathing drifting tobacco smoke for even brief periods can be deadly. For example, the Centers for Disease Controls [CDC] has warned that breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes (less than the time one might be exposed outdoors on a beach, sitting on a park bench, listening to a concert in a park, etc.) can raise a nonsmoker's risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker." [Action on Smoking and Health]

"After twenty minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke, a nonsmoker's blood platelets become as sticky as a smoker's, reducing the ability of the heart to pump and putting a nonsmoker at an elevated risk of heart attack." [SmokeFree Ohio]

"Just 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can greatly increase your risk of heart attack." [New York City Department of Health]

"Even a half hour of secondhand smoke exposure causes heart damage similar to that of habitual smokers." [Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights]

Siegel worries that "the dissemination of inaccurate information by anti-smoking groups...may harm the tobacco control movement by undermining its credibility, reputation, and effectiveness." He also argues that lying about health hazards "represents a violation of basic ethical principles that are a core value of public health practice [and] that cannot and should not be sacrificed, even for a noble end such as protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure." 

The headline of this post, by the way, appeared on a New York City subway ad sponsored by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free City back in the '90s. Although this sort of scaremongering has been going on for a while, the more recent examples decried by Siegel often include numbers, appeals to authority, and inapposite journal citations that enhance their pseudoscientific patina.

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  • ||

    the Centers for Disease Controls [CDC] has warned that breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes

    Where are people buying these cigarettes that last for 30 minutes? I've never stretched one past 10 minutes.

    I'm so glad I don't live in NYC...

  • ||

    The headline of this post, by the way, appeared on a New York City subway ad...

    Smells that can kill you? In the NYC subway? That's gotta be longer than a one item list.

  • ||

    Siegel worries that "the dissemination of inaccurate information by anti-smoking groups...may harm the tobacco control movement by undermining its credibility, reputation, and effectiveness."

    If only.

    Just you wait, they'll find a way to link smoking to global warming and terrorism. "You hate Mother Earth and America!"

  • Guy Montag||

    Just you wait, they'll find a way to link smoking to global warming and terrorism. "You hate Mother Earth and America!"

    If Arianna Huffington has not tried that crackpot approach by now it is never going to happen.

    [laments the death of usenet, where *I* could have spread this sillyness]

  • Guy Montag||

    YEAAA!!! My prayers are answered! The refresh of the page conjured up the "I survived roe v. wade" chick!

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for the full frontal assault on "thirdhand" smoke. They've already won the secondhand smoke battle.

  • ||

    Guy Montag | October 17, 2007, 1:32pm | #
    ...

    If Arianna Huffington has not tried that crackpot approach by now it is never going to happen.

    [laments the death of usenet, where *I* could have spread this sillyness]


    You have a blog don't you? You could post stuff like this and about your hybrid energy mopar products.

  • ||

    I'm a little puzzled as to why reason sides with the smokers in the secondhand smoke debate. I fail to see how others can have the right to poison the air I breathe any more than they have the right to punch me in the nose.

  • Guy Montag||

    I'm still waiting for the full frontal assault on "thirdhand" smoke. They've already won the secondhand smoke battle.

    That will be right before the "on the other hand" smoke battle.

  • Guy Montag||

    You have a blog don't you? You could post stuff like this and about your hybrid energy mopar products.

    Yea, but I need to post it where someone will read it.

  • Guy Montag||

    I'm a little puzzled as to why reason sides with the smokers in the secondhand smoke debate. I fail to see how others can have the right to poison the air I breathe any more than they have the right to punch me in the nose.

    Because: second hand smoke does not poison anybody, the commons are the commons and if you don't like the smoke stay away from the smokers. Lots of other perfectly obvious reasons too.

    Why do you people frquently equate other people doing things that you don't like as punching you in the nose? Do you get punched in the nose a lot in dirt-world?

  • ||

    McMansion, not to get into a whole big thing about this, but the theory is this is a private property rights issue. Homes, cars, bars, these are all private property, and as such, the owners should determine if smoking is permissible, not the government.

  • ||

    I'm a little puzzled as to why reason sides with the smokers in the secondhand smoke debate. I fail to see how others can have the right to poison the air I breathe any more than they have the right to punch me in the nose.

    The right to walk your nose into my swinging fists ends at the tip of my arm.

  • ||

    Because: second hand smoke does not poison anybody, the commons are the commons and if you don't like the smoke stay away from the smokers. Lots of other perfectly obvious reasons too.

    Secondhand smoke does poison you - it seems that the only thing in dispute is how much causes what severity of damage. I don't see why the burden is on me to avoid those who foul the air.


    Why do you people frquently equate other people doing things that you don't like as punching you in the nose? Do you get punched in the nose a lot in dirt-world?


    No, you're right. If you don't like getting punched, the burden is on you to stay away from those who throw punches.

  • ||

    McMansion, not to get into a whole big thing about this, but the theory is this is a private property rights issue. Homes, cars, bars, these are all private property, and as such, the owners should determine if smoking is permissible, not the government.

    Why? Private property doesn't magically mean you are outside the realm of the law.

  • VM||

    BakedPenguin | October 17, 2007, 1:23pm | #
    The headline of this post, by the way, appeared on a New York City subway ad...

    Smells that can kill you? In the NYC subway? That's gotta be longer than a one item list.



    well spake! Now between this and Dawn, there seems to be an olfactory component today!

  • ||

    Where are people buying these cigarettes that last for 30 minutes? I've never stretched one past 10 minutes.

    Maybe if you smoke American Spirits you could do it. From what I hear they burn forever.

  • squarooticus||

    Why? Private property doesn't magically mean you are outside the realm of the law.

    So you are in favor of government being able to set and enforce any rule it can get past the legislature, no matter how invasive or capricious? Majority rules, and all that?

  • ||

    I don't see why the burden is on me to avoid those who foul the air.

    Do you go into bars playing rap music, because that's what the patrons like, and demand that they play speed metal? Should the Jamican place down the street stop selling jerk because you don't like the upset tummy it gives you?

    Or should you just go somwehere else?

  • Episiarch||

    Maybe if you smoke American Spirits you could do it. From what I hear they burn forever.

    25% more tobacco and no chemicals makes for a minimum of 7-10 minutes for a smoke. It's rough in the winter, or if you just need a quick smoke break (and don't want to throw away part of an item that is increasingly expensive).

  • Edward||

    There is ample evidence that a few minutes exposure to straw poll wins by Ron Paul can do irreparable brain damage, although possibly only in those whose brains have already damaged by exposure to other toxins, e.g., libertarian blogs.

  • ||

    Do you go into bars playing rap music, because that's what the patrons like, and demand that they play speed metal? Should the Jamican place down the street stop selling jerk because you don't like the upset tummy it gives you?

    Or should you just go somwehere else?


    Along those lines, if a bar owner doesn't like the city's rules, he can move his business somewhere else.

  • ||

    Jeez! The Dan T. spoofers aren't even trying any longer.

  • ||

    If you don't like getting punched, the burden is on you to stay away from those who throw punches.

    Yes, avoid Biker bars and Punk clubs at all costs!

  • Episiarch||

    EDDDWAAAARRRDDOOOOOO

    Please tell me how you are never coming here again, dude. It entertains me.

  • ||

    An aside. I recall some of the more ridiculous scare tactics used to keep me from experimenting with the dreaded reefer. As a teenager, this resulted in me understandably, if not correctly, concluding that the entire anti-drug message was bullshit. This second hand smoke propaganda surely sends a similar unintended message.

  • ||

    BAN KIM CHEE, NOOOOOOW!!!!!

  • ||

    Mcmansion Man, you exhaling that obnoxious greenhouse gas CO2 poisons the air too. Having 3 children is hell on the planet. If your house is more than 2000 square feet, then you are probably poisoning the air more than the average Mcmansion Man. Evil inconsiderate bastardos who fly to Vail for a weekend ski trip are doing far more harm than a cigarette smoker will do in a lifetime (I pulled that out of my ass, but I bet its about right. My ass is pretty intuitive.) Does your car get 10% worse gas mileage than average...then you are in need of regulation. Then you get into (smelly hippie) odors, perfumes, peanut butter, etc. There is no end to where some people will stick their figurative noses. And we wonder about how we can have all these stupid drug laws.

    Then you have this gem:

    http://www.nbc11.com/news/14358255/detail.html

    All these tobacco nannies want is the equivalent of "reasonable gun control" right?

  • ||

    this resulted in me understandably, if not correctly, concluding that the entire anti-drug message was bullshit.

    Funny thing is, is that my still smoking dope after all these years, ex-hippie uncles would probably be first in line to support a smoking ban.

    Then again, we always went out to the shed out back to light up, so, go figure.

  • ||

    If You Can Smell It, It's Making You And Your Clothes Stink.

    You'll need a shower, and your clothes will need laudering or dry cleaning.

    But that's OK, just send the bill to the Commons.

  • ||

    An aside. I recall some of the more ridiculous scare tactics used to keep me from experimenting with the dreaded reefer. As a teenager, this resulted in me understandably, if not correctly, concluding that the entire anti-drug message was bullshit. This second hand smoke propaganda surely sends a similar unintended message.

    What, you mean marijuana doesn't cause irreparable brain damage? Or turn you into a psychopathic killer? Next thing, you'll be telling me that LSD doesn't cause chromosome damage.

  • ||

    "If You Can Smell It, It May Be Killing You"

    That's quite the slippery slope from "He who smelt it dealt it."

  • ||

    Why, even LOOKING at cigarettes can give you eye cancer. No, seriously.

    Oddly enough (and only tangentially related), since the only tobacco I smoke is a fine cigar about once per week, the smoke that comes from cigarettes might as well be burning truck tire smoke to my nose. I don't know why my cigar smells so much better (I've even gotten compliments from one of my neighbors for the aroma of my cigars), but even if secondhand cigarette smoke contained essential vitamins and minerals I wouldn't ever want to smell it.

  • ||

    What, you mean marijuana doesn't cause irreparable brain damage? Or turn you into a psychopathic killer? Next thing, you'll be telling me that LSD doesn't cause chromosome damage.

    But the drug warriors keep telling me that merely handling marijuana increases chances of developing acute paranoid schizophrenia by a billion percent. Better err on the safe side, fer the chirren.

  • ||

    bigbigslacker - You've got to understand, Oakland has solved all of the big problems facing the city, so they have time to put the finishing touches on Utopia.

  • ||

    Silly Reasonoids...in the game of Extreme Grievance Nuturing, the end always justifies the means.

    Tobacco and science are now about as related as Creationism and science.

  • ||

    McMansion Man,

    So, you're an authoritarian bootlicker? Tell me, were you born that way, or did you like the stiffy you got reading1984?

  • T||

    Seamus,

    Shh! Don't tell, man. I'm riding amotivational syndrome for all it's worth. I tell my wife it's all those years of smoking dope and it's not my fault my youthful indiscretions altered my brain chemistry. In reality, I'm just a lazy slob. One of these days she'll catch on, but don't give the game away.

  • ||

    Listen, guys, like it or not, our society has decided to gradually phase out smoking. I think you'll all just have to learn to live without the right to kill yourself.

    Smoking has had such a devestating effect on our society that the government would be remiss if they didn't do something to counter it. Cigarettes may be proof that sometimes individuals really do need to be saved from themselves.

  • duster||

    Yeah, that t-shirt chick is hot. As far as this Seigel guy goes, I can never get over how naive he is. How can he think lying and hysterics damages anti-smoker's 'credibility'? Is he not aware of the drug war?

  • ||

    On other thing about smoking bans in bars for alledged health damage to non smokers. Are the health crusaders going to go after music volume?

  • ||

    I think Dan's just having fun now.

    Side note: Chicago Park District is voting today on whether to ban smoking in parks and beaches. I'm sure it will pass. After all, we have to think of the CHILDREN! I'd like to see them do something about the *E COLI* on the Lake Michigan beaches, first. Sheesh

  • ||

    I don't know how that d got into alleged. ;-)

  • Guy Montag||

    What, you mean marijuana doesn't cause irreparable brain damage? Or turn you into a psychopathic killer? Next thing, you'll be telling me that LSD doesn't cause chromosome damage.

    That is all English department hype trying to move the source of those problems off of them and onto something else.

  • Guy Montag||

    That Seigel guy sure has to reach for topics after getting canned at TNR.

    Bummer, t-shirt changed to her second best look :(

  • Tym||

    An aside. I recall some of the more ridiculous scare tactics used to keep me from experimenting with the dreaded reefer. As a teenager, this resulted in me understandably, if not correctly, concluding that the entire anti-drug message was bullshit. This second hand smoke propaganda surely sends a similar unintended message.

    You mean it doesn't cause chromosome damage, males growing breasts, females growing facial hair, infertility, DNA damage, lowered immune response, amotivational syndrome, permanent brain damage, reduced memory capacity, instant addiction, schizophrenia, equal tar to a whole pack of cigarettes, etc...

  • VM||

    CPD smoking ban: lots of it was due to garbage, btw.(per CLTV)

  • Tym||

    Bummer, t-shirt changed to her second best look :(

    I preffered the blond girl they used to have.

  • ||

    Side note: Chicago Park District is voting today on whether to ban smoking in parks and beaches. I'm sure it will pass. After all, we have to think of the CHILDREN! I'd like to see them do something about the *E COLI* on the Lake Michigan beaches, first. Sheesh

    Some park district guy in Chicago was quoted on the radio saying that the 'filters concentrate cadmium, mercury and nicotine, and well, kids put things in their mouths, so a parent shouldn't have to worry about that at the beach or the park.

    The $500 fine presumably shows how serious the city takes the offense.

    Where are governments going to get their funding when the tobacco pot dries up?

  • lunchstealer||

    Well, you have to recall that the current scientistic consensus is that if you can smell it, you must have dealt it. It is also generally excepted that while it is silent, it is deadly. Therefore one can assume that if you can smell it, it may - nay must be - killing you.

    Of course, it certainly isn't making you stronger, and it is axiomatic that whatever isn't making us stronger is killing us.

  • ||

    """Listen, guys, like it or not, our society has decided to gradually phase out smoking. I think you'll all just have to learn to live without the right to kill yourself."""

    Dan, if you don't like smoking, move to another country.

  • ||

    Actually, I would like to see the tobacco companies take Dan's advice and stop selling their products in the U.S. It would be long before the government cried foul over lost tax revenue.

  • ||

    "kids put things in their mouths"

    I remember when I was five, my friend and I would pick up cigarette butts and pretend to smoke them to look cool. :-o

  • ||

    Has anyone else seen this TV commercial that's been airing recently? It's talking head shots of a bunch of individual kids, where they go on about how 'we' all have the right to clean air, free of pollutants. I think they actually use the phrase 'no safe level' for smoke. And even a tiny amount of exposure is dangerous.

    Anyway, you think it's another anti-tobacco ad, until the end-- where it's a heavy handed plea not to BURN YARD WASTE.

    Yup. The logical extension of the anti-tobacco campaign. Next stop: sitting your kid in front of a campfire is child abuse.

  • ||

    I remember when I was five, my friend and I would pick up cigarette butts and pretend to smoke them to look cool. :-o

    Did you ever get the candy cigarette gum as a kid? It had powerdered sugar or something (asbestos?) inside the wrapper so that when you blew on it it appeared to smoke. Somehow, I suspect that's illegal now too.

  • Guy Montag||

    I remember when I was five, my friend and I would pick up cigarette butts and pretend to smoke them to look cool. :-o

    Apparently we are the only people who have lived through that experience. Everybody else died watching others smoke. As a matter-of-fact, it was the way Saddam and Hitler killed so many people so quickly.

  • ||

    Can't resist feeding the troll. Dan T. Who the fuck is this "society" that has decided to phase out smoking?

  • Guy Montag||

    Anyway, you think it's another anti-tobacco ad, until the end-- where it's a heavy handed plea not to BURN YARD WASTE.

    Actually, that one started in the 1970s or before then kinda died out. Must be making a comeback, like "climate change". Just wait for the bans on cartoons that sell products to return, I think that is next up on the cue.

  • ||

    Can't resist feeding the troll. Dan T. Who the fuck is this "society" that has decided to phase out smoking?

    The American people, via our elected representatives.

  • ||

    here we go.

  • DanTurd||

    Listen, guys, like it or not, our society has decided to gradually phase out driving. I think you'll all just have to learn to live without the right to kill yourself.

    Driving has had such a devestating effect on our society that the government would be remiss if they didn't do something to counter it. Automobiles may be proof that sometimes individuals really do need to be saved from themselves.

  • ||

    I can't wait until society decides to phase out idiots. Get in line, Dan. You're first.

  • ||

    If You Can Smell It, It May Be Killing You

    Having travelled once in the same car with five guys who had stuffed themselves with beans and beer the night before, I can attest to the truth of that.

  • JBinMO||

    "Listen, guys, like it or not, our society has decided to gradually phase out VOTING. I think you'll all just have to learn to live without the right to kill yourself.

  • ||

    Listen guys, like it or not our society has decided to phase out Judaism. I think you guys will have to learn to live without the untermenschen.

  • Sean Healy||

    Why should libertarian logic stop at smoking? How can you guys tolerate the fact that it is illegal to piss and shit wherever you want?

  • ||

    Maverick anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel

    I remember seeing Siegel's work featured several times on H&R, always in the contect of him being an anti-smoking activist who challenges the tactics of other anti-smoking activists. But I don't remember seeing any reports on any actual anti-smoking activism he's practised. I do appreciate his response to dishonest tactics among those promoting smoking bans, but if you are going to continue to use his own anti-smoking stance to lend weight to his arguments, it seems appropriate to document what he considers useful working against smoking.

  • ||

    Why should libertarian logic stop at smoking? How can you guys tolerate the fact that it is illegal to piss and shit wherever you want?

    Well, you can certainly crap all over your own property, or all over anyone else's property provided you have permission. Unless you have permission, though, you shouldn't do it.

    Kinda like we think smoking should be handled, when you think about it.

  • ||

    Sean Healy | October 18, 2007, 7:01am | #

    ...How can you guys tolerate the fact that it is illegal to piss and shit wherever you want?

    I love that analogy. It sums up the lack of logic the nannies have.

    Hey Sean, when is the last time you went into a bar and it didn't have a "pissing and shitting" section? Its probably called a rest room, WC, or just has a little picture of a man on the outside.

    With the logic of the Anti "public" Smoking crowd, all bathrooms would be closed (if you can smell it's dangerous!!) and everyone would be out front pissing and shitting in the streets.

    Or you could have a cordoned off secontion with proper instruments for waste (smoke) removal.

  • ||

    exposure to the sun causes cancer and until we can find a way to ban the sun(and we're working on it) we are just pushing for a ban on people going outdoors when the sun is out. after all it is for their own good. they must be stopped from killing themselves

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