What The Researcher Didn’t Say About Third Hand Smoke
Many of you are no doubt aware of the third hand smoke reports that have been making the rounds lately, and it is a sad testament to our current situation that such a ridiculous notion can get any media coverage let alone be bandied around as fact.
There are, as ever, numerous problems with the third hand smoke report. The NY Times reported the story , as did the Telegraph and now various others. The first problem is that no study was carried out – a phone survey was done asking if people thought third hand smoke was a health hazard – and used the results to determine that it is. It does not matter one iota to the ‘researchers’ that they have no evidence whatsoever – no study, no scientific material, nothing to back up their claim that third hand smoke is dangerous. Lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Winickoff stated “Your nose isn’t lying,” he said. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’” How ridiculous can it get? This is akin to saying that when you smell foods your brain is saying they are toxic and to refrain from ingesting it.
Unlike other reports debunking the third hand smoke scare tactic, which are in abundance across the internet, I am going to delve into Dr. Winickoff’s past to expose his agenda and why we cannot trust a word he says. According to Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center  Dr. Winickoff currently chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, with 15 peer-reviewed publications regarding tobacco control in child healthcare settings. He is the Harvard site PI for the Julius Richmond Center of Excellence, Addressing the Secondhand smoke Exposure of Children, and has drafted key tobacco control policy for the AMA, AAP, and the APA. He serves as scientific advisor to the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, and has developed a program called CEASE: the Clinical Effort Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure.
Note how this all centres on ‘tobacco control’ rather than tobacco analysis. Clearly then, not a man we can trust and not a man with an objective outlook on study.
Having read the NY Times article I decided to dig around for Dr. Winickoff’s contact details and get in touch with some questions. In my first email I wrote:
“[C]an you please tell me how you gathered the information that tobacco smoke was still harmful the next day? The article makes no mention of any experiment conducted to monitor air levels, nor is there any epidemiological evidence of illness from exposure to third hand smoke. In fact, as you admit yourself, third-hand smoke is a brand new term. I am curious to what research has been done to warrant a new term, and how we know the threat is real and not just an attempt of fear-mongering or, potentially, a way of legislating a ban outdoors.”
To this email I received a prompt reply:
“Basically, the study found that IF you believe that thirdhand smoke is harmful to infants and children, then you were much more likely to have a home smoking ban. The 1500 page surgeon generals report from 2006 concluded that there was no risk-free level of tobacco smoke exposure.”
The outrageous lie that there is no risk free level of tobacco smoke exposure is something that has long been irking me, for it is entirely false. Are we to believe that sitting next to someone for 30 seconds while they smoke is more dangerous than holding uranium? Apparently so. I wrote back:
“If I may summarise then: a ‘study’ was conducted which asked, basically, what lengths smokers went to to restrict children and infants from breathing second-hand smoke, correct? Why, then, does this warrant heightened fear-mongering and a whole new description for what is a non-existent threat (third-hand smoke)? You cannot claim that third-hand smoke even exists unless you have conducted experiments on air quality, which you did not – and even OSHA air quality tests show second hand smoke to fall well within the limit for safe levels of air toxins.
The 2006 Surgeon General’s report did, indeed, conclude that – however, that does not make it so. Are you telling me that, as an educated researcher, that tobacco smoke is more dangerous than radiation? If you are in agreement with the SG ’06 report then that is what you are saying, because radiation, despite causing cancer in ALL animals tested (except, curiously, those exposed to tobacco smoke) still has a recognised safe limit. Tobacco, which has been smoked for millennia and currently has billions of users worldwide, is more dangerous?”
I received a very underwhelming response:
“OK, I see that you are unconvinced and that is your right. Thirdhand smoke is just a term to describe that smell you have in your nose after the cigarette is extinguised…The thinking is that just because you cannot see the visible smoke, the toxins are still there.”
Aha! The truth at last. Thirdhand smoke is just a term to describe smell – but a term that will serve very well to instill fear in smokers and non-smokers. It is also a term that has the capacity to prevent smokers working with children, so no more smoking babysitters, teachers, and maybe even nurses.
This man is running around telling anyone who will listen that third hand smoke is a very real threat when he is simultaneously admitting that it is, actually, just smell. Curiously, he ignored my following emails – a sure sign he knows he is talking rubbish and is running on luck to not get caught.
Now, remember Winickoff’s earlier statement: “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’” A strong smell indicates toxicity does it? I guess no more eating onions or garlic then. Anyway, since when did tobacco smoke smells send people running? It doesn’t, the smell is less pungent than plenty of other things we happily use, so his argument doesn’t even qualify as ‘thin’, I think transparent is a better term.
So another piece of bad journalism for smoking then, but as if that’s not enough the NY Times finish the article with this:
“Among the substances in third-hand smoke are…polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006.”
Clearly this journalist is unfamiliar with doses – undiluted vinegar, acetic acid, can kill us. Shall I run to the papers and warn people of the dangers of vinegar? No, because vinegar is actually very beneficial to us. Too much water will kill us. Too much anything can kill us. What the journalist fails to mention is that polonium-210 is in tobacco not because it is added, but because tobacco grows in the ground, polonium-210 is found worldwide in every crop harvested. So no more eating carrots, broccoli, potatoes, or anything else from the ground. Worried about the benzene in cigarettes? Oops, better lay off the tap water then – there’s more benzene in one glass of water than one cigarette. Televisions emit radiation, but we all happily watch them. The simple fact is that the amount of any chemicals in cigarette smoke is absolutely tiny, they are bearly measurable. As for the Polonium-210, they neglect to mention that it is in all earth-grown produces, including vegetables. It appears in tobacco smoke simply because tobacco is a plant, and as such receives the Polonium-210 content from the soil and fertilisers used to help it grow.
From the horses mouth the third hand smoke scare is nothing but lies and irresponsible outpouring of false information. Don’t believe the hype.
I am an independent researcher, focusing mainly on health. I have written my first book which looks at the scientific evidence on smoking and health, and run a website with the latest news as well as my articles. I also run a weekly newsletter with my latest articles, updates and worthwhile, relevant news.
My website is www.smokescreens.org
Terribly Toxic T-Shirts
By Michael J. McFadden
In yet another chapter of the Tale of Terribly Toxic Tobacco, a textiles researcher at Hohenstein University released preliminary details on a study seemingly designed to terrify parents who might smoke outside on a balcony that they will be poisoning their innocent infants with the deadly neurotoxin known as nicotine as it secretes itself on their T-Shirts and then leaps out to burrow into and destroy the little babes’ skin cells.
No, as usual, we are not making this up. Of course a little seat of the pants figuring reveals that the typical smoker would have to take roughly 6 quadrillion smoking breaks in this manner to “poison” the child with the equivalent of a single cigarette. At a pack a day that’s roughly 300 trillion years’ worth of smoking and baby cuddling (about 30,000 times as long as the universe has existed, give or take a few eons).
And of course the entire study model involving artificial textile swatches, chemically created sweat, radioactively injected nicotine, liquid chromatography, and some sort of android-mad-scientist-produced simulated baby skin might seem a bit questionable, but hey, never let trifling things like that stand in the way of good old fashioned psychological terrorism, right? We certainly wouldn’t want to contradict lawyer John Banzhaf’s ASH ravings about the threats of “massive damage” to our children’s nerve cells while he reminds us of his ever-wonderful willingness to help parents grab children in custody disputes. Heaven forbid that smokin’ granny ever be allowed to touch her grandkids!
After all, SOMETHING must be done to protect the children. And this is something. So obviously we must do it.
By Michael J. McFadden
CFA Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”
ANR Removes Unsupported Thirdhand Smoke Claim from Web Site.
Groundbreaking new research: Third Hand Smoke Causes Leprosy!
August 6, 2010
Did you know that third hand smoke can cause Leprosy? Wounds that never heal? Flaming,festering, flatulent and pustulent, putrescently oozing oncologically orange orifices of ichor and slime and gore?
Well, OK, it may not BE Leprosy, but it’s just LIKE Leprosy. And they haven’t REALLY found that thirdhand smoke causes it yet, but they’re paying a researcher a quarter of a million dollars in the hope she can show it to be so.
Here is the latest news from Kookiefornia, excerpted to point to the relevant study:
UC Riverside Receives Six Grants for Tobacco-related Research
Funding from UC Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program will boost campus research on topics ranging from third-hand smoke to how cigarette smoke affects reproduction
(August 4, 2010)
RIVERSIDE, Calif. Tobacco-related disease kills more people worldwide than any other single factor. To help address this problem, the University of California, Riverside has received six grants from the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), …
Totaling more than $850,000, the grants will fund research on topics ranging from third-hand smoke to the effect of cigarette smoke on reproduction.
• Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, for a project to study the adverse effects of third-hand smoke, which is the residue from tobacco smoke that adhere to nearly all surfaces (e.g. carpets, curtains, upholstery, car surfaces) long after a cigarette has been extinguished; the adhered products can then breakdown and/or change to become carcinogens. Martins-Green will study the effects of this kind of smoke exposure on skin biology and wound healing. The two-year $250,000 grant will support one graduate student and one postdoctoral scholar. “I am expecting to find that prolonged exposure to third-hand smoke will affect the ability of the skin to protect us from environmental exposures,” she said. “I also expect that, when injured, the skin will not heal normally and could even result in wounds that become chronic.”
See the full story:
I don’t think this particular story should stand alone. Regular Club Newsletter readers have probably seen the following tales as well recently:
1) A new study last week showed that if you take a sealed tight room that someone smoked in 24 hours previously and applied a giant windy vibrator to it for an hour that enough “third hand smoke” would be resuspended in the air to be almost one-hundredth as dangerous as if someone was actually smoking in the room with you. And, just to cover all their bases, the researchers claim that if you enter such a room at such a time WITHOUT a giant vibrator it will still be one-ten-thousandth as dangerous as being in a room with someone smoking.
2) If third hand smoke and giant vibrators aren’t your cup of tea, you can always try to get a grant like the one recently awarded as a Stimulus Grant to Dartmouth College. It seems Dartmouth has been poaching on Stan Glantz’s favorite Smoke Free Movies hunting preserve and secured a whopping $3,000,000.00 (Yep. Three Million.) to study “Visual Media Influences” on the smoking AND drinking activities of young teens.
Excerpt from the grant award: “Onset of smoking and alcohol use occurs during adolescence and young adulthood, and research provides extensive documentation of social influence effects on use of both substances. This study focuses on entertainment media and marketing influences. Up to now, each has been studied in relative isolation, and primarily among adolescents. In this study, we propose to assess exposure to movie and television images of smoking and alcohol use, as well as field a unique assessment of exposure to tobacco and alcohol marketing. … One survey will assess exposure to entertainment media images of smoking, tobacco marketing, tobacco use and tobacco attitudes. The other survey will do the same for alcohol.”
In other words, make sure you have a secure archival copy of Casablanca hidden away somewhere in a secret chamber. Someday the non-digitally-blurred version may be worth millions. Ditto for any fans of “Cheers,” “M.A.S.H.”, George Burns or the Marx Brothers.
for the full story.
3) Finally, there’s another grant floating around out there looking for someone else to do some great research on this “third hand smoke” thing. They’re really looking for someone to prove that it’s both deadly AND a significant threat to world health (seriously). The prize to the lucky researcher who comes up with a plan to “prove” such a thing? $4,000,000.00 (Yep. Four Million)
I am SOOOOO tempted to put in an application proposal. Only problem is that I’d probably get arrested for “attempt to defraud” since my research wouldn’t come up with the “right” answer the grantor is looking for.
I am DEFINITELY in the wrong line of work here….
Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”
Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Citizens Freedom Alliance
Action on Smoking and Heath Claims that Thirdhand Smoke is as Harmful As Active Smoking
February 15, 2010
15 February 2010
Third hand smoke was pretty ridiculous. Second hand smoke is backed up by no evidence at all, but third hand smoke was just being silly.
A Post from Geoffrey Kabat
Researcher Warns that Smokers are a Danger to Their Children, Even if They Only Smoke Outdoors
• Even at the unrealistic levels found in the experiment, there is no evidence that such doses are harmful to humans
• The main TSNA produced is not a carcinogen
• The weakest results were found in the real-life conditions, with measurements barely exceeding detectable levels in the smallest conceivable workplace of a heavy smoker
• Any effect from the TSNAs is negligible compared to the effects of the nitrous acid itself
The Heartland Institute
American Council on Science and Health
The Heartland Institute