nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Second Hand Smoke In Cars Claim Goes Up In Smoke

Urban Medical Legends:  Remember the "study" that showed increased risk of spouse abuse during the Super Bowl?

Well, here's another one.  An intrepid pair of reporters attempt track down a claim, as reported in MedPage Today (Apr 12).

At one time, lawmakers considered passing legislation that would make it unlawful to smoke in a car containing children.  The impetus was an oft-quoted study that "secondhand smoke was 23 times more toxic in cars than in the home."

That claim continues to surface, and is used by advocacy groups who are looking to continue the war against smoking.

The reporters were able to track this "scientific claim" back to a news story, but not to any experiment, study, or research.  So, another scare tactic bites the dust...but will probably persist for decades among the New Age crowd.

Now, I'm not a tool of the smoking industry.  Au contraire, I'm OK with restricting smoking in areas where people with severe lung diseases or allergies must do daily life activities (like going to the DMV, or the doctor, etc).  I'm OK with business establishments setting rules for how they do business.  Restaurants can say they don't allow smoking.  If smokers don't like it, there are plenty of other places to eat.

I'm not OK with laws that cater to someone's esthetic distaste.  The evidence supporting health risk--in healthy people--from second hand smoke is substantive, but very small.  If you're worried about second hand smoke, then you should be scared out of your wits about filling your car at a gas station, or cooking on a grill, or mowing the grass.  It's important to put risk in perspective.

But, just to show that hope springs eternal in the social engineering breast, there are now groups campaigning against "third hand smoke."  Not sure what that is?  Neither was I, and I've been in the public health business for 25 years.  Third hand smoke is what can settle in drapes and couches after being exposed to smoke in the air.   You've been in a room that smells like smoke, right?  And you can smell it on the furniture.  Well, I guess these people think that over time enough of the combustion products can leap out of the carpet into your nose in sufficient quantity to increase your risk of cancer.  Who says that religious fervor has lost its hold on humanity?


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