Monday, January 19, 2009

Anti-Smoking Advocate Tells Public that Thirdhand Smoke is Just as Lethal as First or Secondhand Smoke

An anti-smoking advocate who was a local coordinator of a state-funded anti-smoking group has communicated to the public, through a letter published in the Jamestown Post-Journal, that thirdhand smoke - the remnants of smoking that remain around smokers and on on surfaces - is just as lethal as active smoking or secondhand smoke exposure.

According to the letter: "Third-hand smoke is the toxic remnants of smoking that surround smokers and lingers in the air and on the surfaces exposed to second-hand smoke. It's just as lethal as first and second hand smoke, especially for kids."

The letter was written by Sam Vanstrom, who apparently was the coordinator of Chautauqua County Reality Check. According to a minor league baseball web site: "Reality Check is a youth-led action program that seeks to expose the manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry and to educate the community though civic action, engaging community members and leaders. It is part of a comprehensive tobacco control program developed by the New York State Department of Health." The Reality Check web site confirms that its mission is to challenge the deceptive practices of the tobacco companies and educate the community about the truth.

The Rest of the Story

It looks like the anti-smoking group and/or its advocate is the one who needs the reality check. There is no evidence that thirdhand smoke is as deadly as active smoking or secondhand smoke exposure. Nor is there any evidence that thirdhand smoke is lethal in the first place.

What the evidence actually shows is that thirdhand smoke produces very small levels of exposure and that these low levels of exposure have not been found to have any significant effect. There is absolutely no evidence that these very low levels of exposure are lethal -- i.e., that they can cause death.

I find it ironic that someone who coordinated a program whose goal is to challenge the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry would resort to deceptive practices to scare people about the effects of thirdhand tobacco smoke. The Reality Check organization is supposed to be about exposing the deception of the tobacco industry and telling the truth to the public. But its former coordinator is doing just the opposite.

How are Reality Check and similar organizations going to have any credibility when anti-smoking advocates who are part of these groups are spreading deception on very basic scientific issues, where they have no evidence to support their claims?

I think the tobacco control movement urgently needs a reality check of its own.

(Thanks to JustTheFacts for the tip.)

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