I’m not surprised when I see lazy scientific journalism in mainstream newspapers. Science is hard, I get it. We should demand better from Scientific American though. Yet here’s reporter Coco Ballantyne offering a full interview to Jonathan Winickoff, the doctor behind the “third hand smoke” study that made the New York Times a few weeks ago — a study that consisted entirely of calling random people on the phone and asking them what they believe about tobacco smoke.
After a mild concession from Stanton Glantz that there isn’t actually any evidence linking the remnants of tobacco smoke with disease, she gives Winickoff the floor:
How exactly do you distinguish between second- and third- hand smoke?
Third-hand smoke refers to the tobacco toxins that build up over time—one cigarette will coat the surface of a certain room [a second cigarette will add another coat, and so on]. The third-hand smoke is the stuff that remains [after visible or "second-hand smoke" has dissipated from the air]…. You can’t really quantify it, because it depends on the space…. In a tiny space like a car the deposition is really heavy…. Smokers [may] smoke in another room or turn on a fan. They don’t see the smoke going into a child’s nose; they think that if they cannot see it, it’s not affecting [their children].
Smokers themselves are also contaminated…smokers actually emit toxins [from clothing and hair].
Can we get this guy on the Daily Show please? Michael Siegel laments that statements like this will destroy the credibility of the tobacco control movement. Personally, I’m glad to see it happen. The deeper it descends into farce the sooner we’ll beat back nanny state intrusions.