Witch hunt against smokers identifies third-hand smoke risk

By Calvin Palmer

The relentless witch hunt against tobacco smokers has entered a new phase following the publication of research that identifies a risk from third-hand smoke.

Sorry, second-hand smoke is now so passé. If you want to be part of the smart set, third-hand smoke is the way to go. And it is backed by “science”, naturally.

A pleasure under threat. ©Calvin Palmer 2010.

A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of the University of California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program will give the anti-tobacco lobby more power to its elbow.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that nicotine from cigarettes lingers on indoor surfaces and reacts with ambient nitrous acid to form carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines, or TSNAs.

Co-author of the study Dr Hugo Destaillats said: “TSNAs are among the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke.”

With language like that people are likely to take to notice; even more so when they learn that third-hand smoke enters the body through skin exposure, dust inhalation and ingestion, thus posing an “unappreciated health risk,” according to the study.

If that hasn’t got Joe Public worried, the next revelation is the clincher and one that will have the health fascists raising their right arms in salute and screeching “Sieg Heil!”

Children and infants are especially at risk from third-hand smoke because they have far greater exposure to these “contaminated” surfaces and because of their smaller size would absorb proportionately more TSNAs than adults.

“Oh my baby!”

Already, I can envision mothers writing e-mails to politicians asking for them to act to protect their infants. And politicians realizing the political mileage to be gained from this lobby will no doubt take some action. Just ask President Obama.

Politicians have already been duped over the injurious claims associated with second-hand smoking, so it stands to reason that they will now seize on these latest findings to attempt to eradicate tobacco smoking completely.

But wait, there is more.

Smoking outdoors does not eradicate the potential threat of third-hand smoking since nicotine from smoke adheres to clothing and skin, and it can be carried back inside.

Oh, my God! Is there no escape?”

Opening windows or using a fan is of little use, since nicotine readily clings to surfaces.

“Smoking outside is better than smoking indoors but nicotine residues will stick to a smoker’s skin and clothing,” said Lara Gundel, a co-author of this latest study.

“Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere,” she said. “The biggest risk is to young children.

“Dermal uptake of the nicotine through a child’s skin is likely to occur when the smoker returns and if nitrous acid is in the air, which it usually is, then TSNAs will be formed.”

Note how Gundel keeps stressing the potential harm to children. If she had included dogs and cats, lynch mobs would already be stalking the streets looking for people who smoke.

But hang on a minute, where is the proof that these TSNAs are readily absorbed by children and adults? Ah, well there’s the rub, it does not exist. For all its trappings of scientific respectability, this study is more speculation than substance.

The human health effects of third-hand smoke have not been well-studied, Gundel said, and further work is needed to understand the extent of the threat they pose.

So, they may pose no threat at all in the same way that exhaust gases from car engines and the toxic ingredients in petroleum pose no threat in the real world of day-to-day living.

The trouble I have with research of this nature is that it does not provide any concrete proof that tobacco smoking causes this potential harm. In short, it is propaganda clothed in the respectability of science, but it will allow the anti-tobacco lobby to add more grist to its mill.

Nicotine may well pose a health risk in the form of third-hand smoke but all this research is talking about is a potential risk.

It’s a bit like saying reading The Florida Times-Union columnist Phil Fretz has the potential to make a person want to hit him – hard! But it is a potential that, sadly, is never realized.

I would hazard a guess that the same is true for third-hand smoke. But the media will whip up the hysteria against tobacco, while the health fascists and anti-tobacco zealots will use these findings to further hound tobacco smokers.

Smoking is harmful for those people who smoke but it is highly debatable whether it is harmful to others. But there is an agenda at work and, according to Andrew Button, the anti-smoking zealots are out of control.

Button writes in The Muse, “The anti-smoking movement of today is less about health, and more about discriminating against and controlling people.”

Chances are smokers, already treated like second-class citizens, will face demotion to third-class and likely be made to pay even more for the “privilege”.

[Based on reports by the AFP and San Jose Mercury News.]

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5 responses to “Witch hunt against smokers identifies third-hand smoke risk

  1. Snowdon

    What the scientists actually did in this experiment was mix very high concentrations of nitrous acid with pure nicotine vapour to produce a few nanograms of non-carcinogenic TSNAs. This ain’t going to happen outside a laboratory. For some reason they didn’t mention that on their worldwide press release.


  2. Bilbo

    Calvin, both yours and velvetgloveironfist’s blog make for interesting reading. If anyone ever doubted that the aim of the smoking lobby is anything other than to control people’s lives, this ‘reseach’ puts it beyond doubt. An own goal?


  3. fatemeh Mizbani

    Have you read the paper itself? Your claim of the experimental method is not correct. The sample of nicotine was obtained from inside of a truck owned by a heavy smoker.

  4. barry

    petty american victory disquised as being interested in other peoples health…like all other lobbyist it became a way to double tax the smokers (non smoker) facists declaring themselves innocent of triple hand smoke pouring out of their automobiles on their way to the bank….no other country is manipulated by its education zealots as america is..go after alchohol and keep it that way if you are really interested in health issues bring down alchohol and let them pay their share of a long history of ruining peoples health

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