The answer, it turns out, is quite simple: secondhand smoke contains plutonium.
According to this anti-smoking group: "Arsenic, benzene, carbon monoxide, Plutonium 210 and a host of other poisons are in secondhand smoke."
The Rest of the Story
The presence of the chief raw material for nuclear weapons in secondhand smoke definitely provides a plausible explanation for how, as the Surgeon General claimed, even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer. Even micrograms of fine plutonium particles are known to cause lung cancer. Thus, even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke, with its plutonium, would be expected to cause lung cancer.
Now while I thought I had reason to question even the claim that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure causes heart attacks in people with existing heart disease, I suspect that there is a logical explanation for why it can break down the coronary arteries even of those who are perfectly healthy and strong.
In addition to plutonium, secondhand smoke probably contains kryptonite as well. This element has been documented to pose a danger even to the strongest and most powerful individuals out there with completely healthy and in fact, superhuman, cardiovascular systems.
This provides an obvious explanation for why just 5 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke reduces the ability of the heart to pump, as claimed by many anti-smoking groups, even among the healthiest of individuals.
Of course, the variety of kryptonite in secondhand smoke would have to be either green, red, or gold to exhibit this toxicity to individuals with super-human strength.
Not only is there no safe level of exposure, but no one is safe. No matter how much of a super hero you think you are, you are powerless against a brief whiff of secondhand smoke.
But there's good news on the horizon. Philip Morris, along with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, are supporting Congressional legislation that would ban red, gold, blue, and white kryptonite from tobacco smoke, although The Rest of the Story has opposed this legislation because it would still allow the most toxic form - green - to remain present in existing cigarettes already on the market. No green kryptonite would be allowed in new cigarettes, however.
Another important implication of the presence of plutonium and possibly kryptonite in secondhand smoke is that it provides an alternative explanation for why cigarette companies might be adding ammonia to cigarettes (other than to enhance the addictiveness by increasing the presence of the more readily absorbed form of nicotine).
It may be that cigarette companies are aware that kryptonite easily breaks down in an acid environment, making it essential for them to maintain a higher pH. So in addition to providing anti-smoking groups with increased ammunition to use in their efforts to freak out the public about the astounding immediate dangers of small amounts of secondhand smoke, this new information may also provide cigarette companies with a new defense in tobacco litigation.
Already, a number of pharmaceutical company-funded anti-smoking groups are touting KRT (kryptonite replacement therapy) as the new basis for a national smoking cessation plan, and suggesting that DOJ amend its requested remedy in the landmark case against Big Tobacco to include a $130 billion KRT program. KRT has been shown to be twice as effective as quitting smoking with the use of a placebo; however, the effectiveness of the blinding in these clinical trials has been questioned, since the white kryptonite used in these trials cause immediate disintegration of any plants in the homes of subjects who are receiving non-placebo.