July 24, 2007
Dangers of the Smoking Ban
Banning smoking in nightclubs will save lives, oh yes:
A former heavyweight boxing champion is in a critical condition after being shot in the face, apparently for asking three clubbers to put out their cigarettes.
July 19, 2007
Hypocrisy, They Name is Horton
A very interesting set of quotes from Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet.
It would appear that he's not entirely consistent.
July 07, 2007
Mr Kennedy, 45, is believed to have told officers that he believed he was not breaching any "no smoking" rules because he was blowing the smoke out of the window.
No one has believed that one for years.
June 24, 2007
Restrictions on Smoking
Sir Liam Donaldson proposes:
Reducing the number of cigarettes that Britons can bring into the country from inside the EU from 3,200 to 200.
Interesting don't you think? Sir Liam will destroy the Single European Market in order to stop people smoking in front of kiddies.
Obviously worth it of course, for Won't Someone Think of the Children?
June 20, 2007
Go To Work On An Egg
The advertising clearance centre, a government-backed watchdog, says that it blocked the campaign because eating an egg for breakfast every day was not a “varied diet”.
It is no longer legal to run a TV advert suggesting that you should have a boiled egg for your breakfast each day.
Can we start the slaughter please? Pretty please?
June 07, 2007
Someone's Not Reading the Literature
This looks superficially appealing to a certain mindset, that those who smoke should be banned from adopting children.
Smokers will be banned from adopting children under the age of five in an attempt to protect young people from health risks such as asthma and lung cancer.
Lord forbid of course that children might escape from council control, the largest risk factor known for having an entirely shitty life.
But even within the justification given, a hope to avoid lung cancer, they're wrong. There was a huge metastudy done by the WHO in the late 90s, looking at the effect of passive smoking. In that, only one result was found that was statistically significant.
No, it wasn't that people subject to passive smoking keeled over young, whatever the "refinements" to such studies since then. It was that, entirely contrary to expectations, for children, exposure to second hand smoke was a prophylactic against lung cancer.
Yes, that does mean what you think it does. Children exposed to tobacco smoke go on to get less lung cancer than those who are not (persumably an extension of the idea of hormesis, low level exposure priming the system to resist).
So, if the concern really was over the health of the children and (admittedly, a huge leap of faith here) Portsmouth Council actually knew what they were talking about, smokers would be preferentially chosen to adopt.
March 18, 2007
The Dose is the Poison
Repeat after me, the dose is the poison:
Women will be told not to drink while pregnant or even when trying for a baby in controversial government guidelines which will mean warning labels being put on bottles of wine, spirits and beer.The plea for total abstinence follows growing fears over the rise among binge drinking among young women and concern that maternal drinking can cause possible brain damage in the womb.
Serious drinking in pregnancy can indeed cause brain damage: Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. There is indeed binge drinking amongst young women.
But neither of these facts justify lying to people. In moderation (in fact, in the sort of amounts in the current guidelines) alcohol may do more good than harm: it certainly reduces stress for example.
Repeat after me: the dose is the poison.
December 01, 2006
Polonium 210 and Cigarettes
How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)
A fraction of a trillionth of a curie (a unit of radiation named for polonium’s discoverers, Marie and Pierre Curie) may not sound like much, but remember that we’re talking about a powerful radionuclide disgorging alpha particles — the most dangerous kind when it comes to lung cancer — at a much higher rate even than the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Polonium 210 has a half life of about 138 days, making it thousands of times more radioactive than the nuclear fuels used in early atomic bombs.
We should also recall that people smoke a lot of cigarettes — about 5.7 trillion worldwide every year, enough to make a continuous chain from the earth to the sun and back, with enough left over for a few side-trips to Mars. If .04 picocuries of polonium are inhaled with every cigarette, about a quarter of a curie of one of the world’s most radioactive poisons is inhaled along with the tar, nicotine and cyanide of all the world’s cigarettes smoked each year. Pack-and-a-half smokers are dosed to the tune of about 300 chest X-rays.
That last line has me slightly scratching my head. I don't deal with radioactive metals (rather the rare earths more generally) so I'm not about to enter the swamp of trying to convert 438 picocuries (30 cigarettes by 365 days by 0.4 picocurie per fag) into rem or sieverts to try and compare directly with chest x-rays but are we absolutely certain that he's got his numbers right there? the same as 300 chest x-rays a year?
Or, if we look at typical exposures, a chest x-ray is 0.00002 Sievert. Multiply that by 300 and we get 0.006 Sievert don't we? That's three times the regular amount we simply get from background radiation. Or 1/666 of the 50% fatal dose.
Or for the truly interested, less than the 0.008 sieverts received as background radiation by those who live in Cornwall.
So, yes, there is polonium 210 in your cigarettes. And no doubt it is dangerous (for some value of danger) for it to be there. But what we want to know is how dangerous? The answer to which would appear to be:
Smoking: Less Dangerous Than Living in Cornwall.
Update: Russell Seitz makes the same point. Alas and alack, as he so often does, more scientifically than I do.
November 09, 2006
Blatantly False Comment of the Day
I mentioned yesterday that report on environmental toxins: and asked whether the release of a scare mongering report in The Lancet was anything to do with the negotiations over REACH. According to the Guardian:
The Lancet review is deliberately timed. The European Council of Ministers will next month consider new legislation, known as Reach, which could toughen controls over industrial chemicals. For the most part, the chemicals under consideration are those known to be cancer-causing, damaging to the immune system or hormone-disrupting. (Those that could possibly damage children's brains are not even up for discussion at this point.)
So not just a connection, that's the whole point of it. So I still think we should ask if TEBAF Margot had any role in funding the study.
Dr Philippe Grandjean, from the University of Southern Denmark, is surprised that anybody raises an eyebrow at the idea that you or I could be thicker because of petrol fumes. "The main discussion about lead is not whether there has been a drop in IQ," he says. "I think that is widely accepted. I have met a couple of industry consultants who wanted to doubt it, but I don't think any serious researcher or scientist does."
Really? You might want to go and talk to those researchers who investigate IQs then:
The Flynn effect is the year-on-year rise of IQ test scores, an effect seen in most parts of the world, although at greatly varying rates. It was named by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve after the New Zealand based political scientist James R. Flynn, who did much to document it and promote awareness of its implications (Flynn, 1984, 1987). The average rate of rise seems to be around three IQ points per decade. Attempted explanations have included improved nutrition, a trend towards smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity, and heterosis (Mingroni, 2004).
How can there be a constant and consistent (and unexplained) rise in IQ scores when we're all getting ever thicker from environmental pollution?
Lying toads they are.
October 10, 2006
Didn't you know this was the next step?
The Government is to consider allowing councils to ban smoking in the street.