And Then She Realized That the Smoke Was Coming From Inside the House...

In what reads like a parody of a local TV news teaser, anti-smoking activist John  Banzhaf warns anxious parents that the "Biggest Halloween Risk for Kids Is Surprising." Hmm. What could it be? It's not deadly treats, since "the National Confectioners Association and others say that the idea that Halloween candy is likely to be tainted with razor blades or poison is largely an urban myth." Nor is it car collisions, since "only a handful of children are killed in auto accidents every Halloween in the United States." You don't have to wait until the 11 o'clock news to find out the terrifying truth:

The number [of children who die in traffic accidents on Halloween] pales in comparison to the death toll from tobacco smoke.

According to the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine and the New York Times, secondhand tobacco smoke kills more than one thousand children every year from diseases including respiratory syncytial bronchiolitis, asthmatic attacks, and other respiratory complications....

Thus, suggests Prof. John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), adults should warn their children this Halloween, and also on other days, against visiting, going to parties, or playing in homes where adults smoke, especially in their presence.

Let's not question Banzhaf's reliance on a New York Times story as evidence that secondhand smoke kills 1,000 kids a year. Let's assume it's true. Divide 1,000 by 365, and you get fewer than three fatalities per day—presumably even on Halloween, unless there is something especially deadly about secondhand smoke on October 31. (Wouldn't going outside for trick or treating reduce exposure to secondhand smoke?) Technically, three is less than the "handful" killed by cars, and by no stretch of the imagination does the latter number "pale" in comparison to the former. An even bigger leap is suggesting, based on concerns about the health effects of chronic, long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, that the smoke wafting from neighbors' homes while they hand out candy just might kill your kid. It's the sort of scary story that only a grownup could believe.

Yesterday Jesse Walker noted an essay by Lenore Skenazy about Halloween fears.

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  • Sorry||

    Prof. John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

    What an ASH-hole.

  • creech||

    Why do people who believe crap like this even bother to bring kids into this dangerous world? For them, having a baby is child abuse.

  • ||

    I bet many of them don't. This sort of crap-mongering is targeted at OTHER people's kids.

  • ||

    Once again we see the valiant media calling out someone for blatantly lying. Oh wait, no we don't. Just Jacob.

  • ||

    The valiant media is currently preoccupied with Charlie Sheen.
    Look at what that bad boy did!

  • ||

    How is that picture of Christine O'Donnell relevent to this article?

  • ||


  • Coeus||

    Even better question:
    Where's her other hand?

  • Paul||

    Divide 1,000 by 365, and you get fewer than three fatalities per day—presumably even on Halloween,

    Even one child killed is too many.

  • Stalin||

    No, comrade, just the first step towards a statistic.

  • Contrarian P||

    Make sure you ban pregnancy.

  • Ska||

    Do people honestly believe this bullshit about second hand smoke? Or do they just pretend to because they don't like smokers/the smell of smoke and will use any excuse to stop smokers from enjoying themselves?

  • waffles||

    they consciously believe the former because they don't want to admit the latter

  • ||

    I know multiple people who will readily admit that the second hand smoke thing is probably bullshit, and that smoking bans on private property are total violations of property rights...but they hate their clothes smelling like smoke, and are happy for the ban. And then they will bum a cigarette off me after a few drinks.

    Most people don't have principles.

  • ||

    And then they will bum a cigarette off me after a few drinks.

    At which point your pack has conveniently run out, correct?

  • x,y||

    Reminds me of magazine editors who routinely carp about racial disparities in marijuana enforcement even though they know it's a distraction from the principled argument in favor of drug legalization. But, hey, if it advances the cause!

  • waffles||

    aww, c'mon, they're the good guys.

  • Wind Rider||

    WTF? Is this the Reason Halloween week special? All scare stories, all day long?

    Well, ok, there's Balko talking about a DA doing the right thing. Hey, wait a second - that's straight out of bizarro world too.

    The Jacket posted the Davis video to lure us into a false sense of security. . .

  • Citizen Nothing||

    That does it. I'm giving out cigarettes to the Trick-or-Treaters. (Not that it matters but is that legal?)

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I thought I was joking, but I just remembered candy cigarettes.
    Heh heh. I'm really beginning to like this idea, for many many reasons.

  • ||

    Corn Sugar! Now you're talking some serious public health policy nightmares.

  • Brett L||

    Believe those have been banned by the nanny-state for years.

  • ||

    Nosiree. You can still find them here.

    Nik-L-Nip wax bottles sold separately.

  • Sudden||

    Do It!!!

  • Anomalous||

    A bigger danger is third-hand smoke, which Banzhaf is blowing up our asses.

  • Zeb||

    Some anti-smoking nuts actually trued to push that (third hand smoke danger) not too long ago.

  • ||

    It's the sort of scary story that only a grownup could believe.

    I am not willing to concede that Prof John Banzhaf is a grown-up.

    [Is this a hoax, by any chance? "Banzhaf" = 'bans half'?]

  • Wind Rider||

    Put this with the "Dr. Stephen King" ref in the Stossel piece, and I think the Reason staff is having too much fun by half.

  • ||

    Uh, Jacob, it's 1000 kids being killed incrementally on Halloween by second-hand smoke, not 2.8. Have a heart, will ya?

    1000 kids killed every Halloween by second-hand smoke. 1000, and he's got the statistics to prove it, too!

  • ¢||

    I'm going to dress up as second-hand smoke for Halloween: a guy in a Skid Row t-shirt, dragging a thousand dead kids.
    I know that sounds impractical. Three days probably isn't enough time to find a Skid Row shirt. But I'm a doer.

  • ||

    Here ya go on the t-shirt.

    As for the babies, you can buy them by the gross.

  • Pip||

    Why is "reasonmagazine" in the url?

  • T||

    So they can get a referral cut from Amazon.

  • Pip||

    I had no idea the entire Reason staff were Jews.

  • Cartman||

    Sorry about your little boyfriend Pocket, froggy.

  • LarryA||

    Wear a regular white T-shirt, and roll a pack of cigarettes in the sleeve.

  • ||

    I've been saving candy cigarettes to hand out this year. Gonna be fun.

  • Pip||

    Real men hand out candy syringes.

  • Jason||


    But you can use Pelon Pelo Rico.

  • raymond||

    My mother smoked for her entire adult life in the house, with her kids in her lap, all the time, in the car, everywhere. If I'm to believe this crap then I should be farting smoke and keeling over by now along with my entire family. But we are all healthy. The only logical explanation is that I have some super-human ability. I feel so...powerful.

  • ||

    The only logical explanation is that I have some super-human ability.

    You need a cool super-hero name. Lessee:

    -"Smokey" - previously used.
    -"Iron-lungman" - probable copyright issues.
    -"Fagman" - would probably be misinterpreted.
    - "Secondhand" - sounds like a sidekick, not a lead.

  • Mais||

    It does seem that each year, parents seem to worry about their kids being out gathering as much Halloween candy as they can, but they ignore the dangers at home year-round. Parents could keep their kids healthier if they worried about their health all the time and not just at holidays.

  • Roland||

    I think there is no such thing, I think people know that kids are the one that trick or treat. Therefore they will not smoke in front of them. And if someone did smoke in front of them I don't think it will have an adverse affect.

    El Tri Market


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