Why Buy Cigarettes When You Can Sit Near a Smoker?

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health claims "non-smokers, especially children, who are exposed to secondhand smoke can inhale up to seven times the amount of nicotine inhaled by a smoker." Which is true, if the smoker is smoking the world's tiniest cigarette.

Michael Siegel calculates that a nonsmoker "who spends 12 hours a day in the most heavily polluted smoke-filled room imaginable" (an enclosed smoking lounge) would inhale the nicotine equivalent of about half a cigarette a day. He estimates that a pack-a-day smoker gets about 130 times as much nicotine as a nonsmoker who works an eight-hour shift in a smoky bar.

The numbers are not really necessary to figure out that deliberately inhaling the smoke from a cigarette is a more efficient way of absorbing nicotine than sitting in a room where a little bit of nicotine is mixed with a whole lot of air (not to mention the fact that smokers get at least as much secondhand smoke as nonsmokers do). By my calculation, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is seven times as full of crap as the average tobacco company executive.

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  1. I guess the real question is, does the Massachusetts Department of Public Health consciously and intentionally lie to us, or are they so stupid they actually believe the crap they put out.

    Idiots, or liars: I don’t see a third alternative.

  2. “…the most heavily polluted smoke-filled room imaginable….”

    I saw that room; it was in the Las Vegas airport.

  3. Uh…RC, you are overlooking the most obvious thrid alternative….

    They are both!

  4. They aren’t idiots or liars. They are ends-focused politicians trying rid the world of evildoers.

  5. oops. Make that “third” not “thrid”.

    Stupid keyboard

  6. Haha! Okay, I can buy “second hand smoke is bad,” but how on earth could you get 7 times as much as the actual smoker? I suppose… you could…. eat his cigarettes? Before he was done smoking them?

    Or maybe, if you hung out with 7 smokers all day, that could do it.

  7. “non-smokers, especially children, who are exposed to secondhand smoke can inhale up to seven times the amount of nicotine inhaled by a smoker.”

    Wow, this is a hopelessly sloppy claim. What exactly do you suppose is meant? Perhaps nothing at all is meant–perhaps we are supposed to just let the words wash over us.

  8. My fear is that when the government health officials really have something important to warn us about, all of this Chicken Little shit that they’ve been crying wolf about will cause most thinking people to say “You remember when they said that second-hand smokers were more at risk than the guys pulling the smoke through the cigarette?” They’re destroying their own credibility and wasting our tax dollars to boot!

  9. Brian — I think it might work if the actual smoker isn’t actually breathing. Just smoking.

  10. I did the math last year for a WSJ piece the editors coughed at. The smokey bar case runs afoul of Big Apple and other urban building codes mandating ten times an hour air exchange in most places with attached kitchens, so in order to inflict a pack a day on the help, every guest in a packed house at Elaine’s would have to chain smoke fourteen Gallois an hour – more if somebody opened the door to come in .

  11. “non-smokers, especially children, who are exposed to secondhand smoke can inhale up to seven times the amount of nicotine inhaled by a smoker.”

    Does this relationship hold for alcohol as well? I could really save on my drinks.

  12. From the pdf:

    “Non-smokers, especially children, who are exposed to secondhand smoke can inhale up to seven times the amount of nicotine inhaled by a smoker.”

    Is this meant to say that non-smokers absorb more nicotine when exposed to secondhand smoke than smokers do when exposed to the same secondhand smoke? That would sound more plausible. Seven times is still a high multiple, but it’s a little closer to believeable.

  13. Have you guys no respect?
    If the Authorities speak they do so out of great regard for the most vulnerable members of society.
    Your mindless ridicule is what emboldens the terrorists!

    Always remember, it’s FOR THE CHILDREN!!

    Never mind, just practicing for the civil service exams.

  14. Well, in this case the numbers are probably BS, but as a rule it’s better to trust the numbers (if valid) than to trust “common sense.”

    For instance, a person wearing cheap sunglasses (w/o UV filters) receives a far greater amount of damaging UV radiation inside their eyes, than a person not wearing sunglasses at all. This doesn’t seem to make sense until you consider the fact that wearing sunglasses causes the pupils to dilate and admit more radiation. Is it not possible (if highly unlikely) that a similar mechanism could explain the data cited here?

  15. Yes, crimethink, highly unlikely indeed. To put it mildly.
    Michael Siegel makes a convincing case.
    Let’s tag that press release for what it is. An irresponsible, alarmist, idiotic lie. Which likely won’t keep it from being uncritically regurgitated by the MSM.
    Just how much dumber than they do these people expect their audience to be?

  16. crimethink,

    you might want to reword that. just because there are isolated cases where common sense would lead you astray, does NOT mean that in general, numbers are usually better than common sense.

    i know you covered yourself with the “if valid” note, but you still seem to be implying something i think (hope?) you don’t mean.

    never believe something that defies common sense just because “the numbers” say so. until a rational explanation is found, i’ll stick with common sense. if i’m shown to be wrong, i’ll be wrong. but i bet i’ll be right more often than i’m wrong.

    how do i know all this? common sense…

    -cab

  17. You don’t put trust in numbers, you put trust in the source of the numbers. Or not.

  18. You don’t put trust in numbers, you put trust in the source of the numbers. Or not.

  19. “non-smokers, especially children, who are exposed to secondhand smoke can inhale up to seven times the amount of nicotine inhaled by a smoker.”

    Geebus, why the fuck would children inhale more second hand smoke then grown ups? I bet they wrote that with out the ‘children remark’ then they thought, ‘Gee how can I make this sound even more idiotic ?’ ‘Ohhhh yes, lets stick the especially the children in here.’

  20. barneca

    You don’t want to try Bayesian logic.

    Trust me.

  21. barneca

    You don’t want to try Bayesian logic.

    Trust me.

  22. barneca

    You don’t want to try Bayesian logic.

    Trust me.

  23. Aresen:

    I write and use neural nets and I don’t even want to say ‘Bayseian’ four times!

  24. Pi Guy

    Sorry.

    D**n server squirrel.
    server squirrel.
    server squirrel.
    server squirrel.
    server squirrel.
    server squirrel….

  25. hi aresen,

    you must really not want me to try bayseian logic.

    pardon my density. you mean i tried bayesian logic in my post and you suggest it won’t work? or i demonstrated such stupidity that you suggest i never study bayesian logic?

    i just wikipedia’d it, and based on a cursory review it seems as reasonable an interpretation of probablity as anything else.

    -cab

  26. You can make the numbers say anything you want.

    For example (I dont know if this is true), if one child lives with 12 chain-smokers in an unventilated apartment and no-one ever leaves, that child will inhale seven times as much nicotine as a ratio of body weight as the average smoker.

    Therefore, children exposed to an unspecified amount of secondhand smoke MAY inhale UP TO seven times as much nicotine as a smoker. QED.

  27. If no one ever leaves the apartment and if it’s unventilated, wouldn’t the kid die of asphyxiation long before he gets cancer?

  28. barneca

    No offense intended.

    I meant that, if you thought a set of stats could defy common sense, you should see some of the arguments in Bayesian logic. [I still can’t get my head around the arguments about changing your choice if one of the choices you didn’t make is proved false.]

    Just a mild attempt at humor.

  29. Why the big deal about nicotine? It’s the tar that causes cancer.

  30. Excellent point Bill –

    My small addition was about the same – nicotine, while a drug, isn’t one of the main carcinogens in the smoke anyway. It’s been stuided to help provide metabloic processes for other carcinogens, but isn’t itself listed as a carcinogen.

    I’m not advocating nicotine pills for childern are safe, but why would nicotine be specifically studied in second hand smoke if it has the smallest health risks when considering the other chemicals involved?

    Hmmm….

  31. SixSigma,

    Because of its alleged addictive qualities.
    Once addicted, they get the carcinogens too.

  32. Why the big deal about nicotine?

    People like nicotine. That’s bad.

    “Manifestly, it is impossible to put any such trust in a Puritan. With the best intentions in the world he cannot rid himself of the delusion that his duty to save us from our sins…” – Mencken

    Clearly the new-agey Puritans feel free to lie their silly asses off when they’re in the mood.
    And, having never seen any actual examples of the supposedly egregious lies from the cigarette companies, merely claims of their existence, I have to assume that the claims are just more puritanical BS.

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