Third Hand Smoke

The war on smokers proves the axiom “The first casualty of war is the truth.” After the real dangers of primary smoking were publicized a lot of smokers quit, but not enough to satisfy the nicotine nannies, who concocted a new danger: second hand smoke.

Smartenized® people know that SHS is the biggest scam since homeopathy, but it still has been used to harass and vilify smokers and install smoking bans that put thousands of bars, restaurants and bingo halls out of business. Their goal is to force smokers to quit by making it impossible for them to smoke anywhere and to turn them into social pariahs who are hated and feared by the unwashed masses.

The scam has been fairly successful. At one point about half the US population smoked. Now less than a quarter of them do. But this is not enough for the Nicotine Nazis – their religious zeal won’t let them rest until they eradicate smoking from the entire planet. Consumed with their self-righteous zeal they’ve now concocted a new scam: Third Hand Smoke.

Years ago people in the smoker’s rights movement joked about third hand smoke.   Now, as further proof that our society has become so absurd that satire is nearly impossible, the press is now all abuzz about this new fictitious danger, described as  deadly toxic particles that hang out long after the second hand smoke is gone.  It started with an article in the once respectable New York Times.

Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, evidently desperate for his fifteen minutes of fame, has published a study that, on first glance, appears to bolster this ridiculous claim. “Your nose isn’t lying,” he says. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’”

The article closes with the statement that Third Hand smoke contains polonium-210, “the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006.” This is yellow journalism at its worst.

Michael McFadden, author of the book Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains sent me some rough calculations about polonium-210. He writes:

“A 30 cig per day smoker gets 1 picocurie per day.

“A typical nonsmoker living or working with smokers would get at most about 1/100th of that per day, more likely only 1/1,000th with good ventilation and/or a more reasonable amount of indoor smoking, so about one femtocurie.

“A child would have to live with a smoker for roughly three trillion days to absorb the dose that killed the Russian.”

And that is for second hand smoke. Since Third Hand Smoke is a fictional construct, we can only base our calculations on assumptions. (These calculations also come from McFadden.) Assuming that 1% of this deadly stuff has been spread on the 10,000 square feet of surface area in a typical 2,000 sq foot house, and also assuming that your method of cleaning is to having your infant lick the kitchen floor clean once a day, the kid would have to lick the floor for one hundred trillion days to accumulate a fatal dose. That comes out to about 274 billion years. The universe is about 13.8 billion years old. The half life of Polonium-210 is a mere 138 days. So in order to ingest a fatal dose, the not only would the floor licker have to keep at it 20 times longer than our universe has existed, we’d also have to completely rewrite the laws of physics to keep the stuff dangerous long enough to do any damage. That wouldn’t even slow down a nicotine nanny, of course – they have quite a bit of experience rewriting the laws of physics.

If the NYT had any ethics they never would have allowed this statement to get past the editor, and would have chastised the writer for including it. Fortunately, ethics and accuracy haven’t been an issue for them for quite some time.

So how did the doctor come up with his proof? Did he visit the homes of smokers and carefully measure particulates on every surface? Did he check out the interior of smoker’s vehicles and measure chemicals on their clothes? Hell no. He did a phone survey to see how many people believe this nonsense. That is the entirety of his research. He had someone call a bunch of people and ask them questions (and we can only guess how loaded these questions were) and presented the results as proof that third hand smoke was deadly. And the New York Times, in their wisdom, published this under a scary headline. Yessir, that there is some real fine and dandy science. Noting wrong what that scientific method, nuh uh.

Of course The Today Show, which is always delighted to jump on any junk science bandwagon, did a story on this. And what a story it was, with computer graphics of a lit cigarette leaving blood-colored stains splattered all over a living room and car interior.

Ignoring the fact that this study was nothing more than a phone survey of uninformed opinions, Dr. Nancy Snyderman expounded on this new scary danger to children. (It’s always for the chilllllllllldreeeeen, isn’t it?) She opened with the fiction, “We know that second hand smoke kills 50,000 people a year.” (Care to Name Three, Nancy?) She went on to say, “Everybody has been on an elevator, and a smoker gets on and you can tell immediately who the smoker is, because you smell those toxins.” You’re not just smelling smoke, you’re smelling toxins. Oooo, scary. “The same stuff that comes out of the tailpipe of a city bus.” She goes on to say, “If you really can’t kick the habit you have to smoke outside. And then I would say guess what? You have to change your clothes. They have to go right into the washing machine, because you are a walking toxic dump.”  She didn’t go so far as insisting the smoker then needs to take a shower to wash that deadly stuff off, then call in an decontamination unit to clean up the bathroom, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some other nicotine nanny make that claim.

MSNBC, who is to journalism what Britney Spears is to music, claims that “Even if you don’t smoke around your children, the study finds that toxins from tobacco smoke can linger in the air, on hair and clothing, long after the cigarette is put out. Those toxins can be easily transferred to a baby or small child. Researchers found that even at low levels tobacco particles can be associated with cognitive problems in kids.” (For the chilllllllldreeeeeen!) The study, of course, showed none of these things, but MSNBC has always found that reporting is so much easier when you just make shit up.

There is no end to the fictions nicotine nannies will create to justify their venomous hatred of smokers. This is their latest one, but, but we can be sure there are more to come. Smokers who politely smoke outside, often in inclement weather, to avoid annoying people with second hand smoke, are now horrible evil bags of toxins that will kill your children. And while the idiocy of this will be obvious to anyone with a functioning brain cell, we can be sure that plenty of stupid people will swallow this lie and use it as an excuse to harass smokers even more.

13 Comment(s)

  1. They have FACTs that prove this stuff. Show me FACTS that is it for sure not harmful as they have proven kids that come from smoking families have higher levels of nicotine causing cancer in them…. pretty easy to have a large mouth…pretty hard to have FACTS support your claim it is not unhealthy.

    Cigarettes may be prescribed by Drs but have you asked why? Perhaps you will hear the response that their issue is worse than what will come from the cigarettes.

    You may call it a conspiracy or whatever you want but I am proof of a bartender who never smoked a day in her life…I had cancer…the specific kind you get from cigaretts. Glad you all have great tough bodies to help you fight the cancer cells while you put cigarett toxins in the air so people like me can pay the price.

    Renae | Jun 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. Renae:

    I suggest you read the WHO report on second-hand smoke. It’s easy enough to bend and twist the “facts” (and make non-independent thinkers believe it) because we know that smoking isn’t exactly good for us…but perhaps it isn’t as BAD for us – and others – as many would have us believe.

    You can believe all the “FACTS” that are fed to you without giving a second thought. Or you could question how they can possibly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “facts and figures” are correct without a controlled experiment (which would probably be illegal).

    I am NOT convinced that every case of lung cancer should be directly associated with smoking. It’s easy enough to blame smoking, but does that mean every other possible cause (such as asbestos) should be ruled out? And why do people who have never smoked (or been exposed to second-hand smoke) develop lung cancer?

    Furthermore…you’re welcome. I’m sure the extortionate prices I’m paying for my cigarettes benefit you or your family or friends. You can consider me a martyr for YOUR cause.

    Angela | Jun 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. Okay…I’m chuckling now. Just realized there are a couple of others named Angela who have posted. I’m the one suggesting Renae read the WHO report on second-hand smoke. I haven’t posted in quite some time.

    I would like to add a bit, too:

    When my daughter was little, I actually smoked indoors. She was RARELY ill. My non-smoking friends were always leaving work early to pick up a sick child from school or daycare. Throughout my daughter’s entire school years, I was called to pick her up from school twice – it turned out that she wasn’t sick either time. She simply didn’t want to be at school.

    Angela | Jun 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. Renae, you wrote, ” Show me FACTS that is it for sure not harmful as they have proven kids that come from smoking families have higher levels of nicotine causing cancer in them…. pretty easy to have a large mouth…pretty hard to have FACTS support your claim ”

    OK Renae. Would you accept the results of one of the largest international case-control studies ever done on ETS exposure and children and cancer? Would you accept those results if they were done by the World Health Organization?


    and you’ll find a detailed listing of results of over a hundred studies. Go down the bottom and you’ll find not only the actual abstract of such a WHO study, but an examination of it and links to the full study in the medical journal itself if you have any doubts.

    That WHO study was unable to come up with any significant conclusions for adult exposure BUT they did come up with ONE significant result for all their work:

    They found that children of smokers were 22% *LESS* likely to develop lung cancers later in life than a matched set of children from nonsmokers.

    I think a scientifically significant finding by one of the largest such studies ever undertaken and coordinated under the auspices of the WHO (whose antismoking desires are illustrated clearly in the wording of the abstract and in a crazy press release they put out after their study results were exposed in the press before publication) would count quite nicely as what you call “A FACT!”

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    Michael J. McFadden | Jun 19, 2010 | Reply

  5. Oh… one other thing Renae: Nicotine is not carcinogenic. I’d refer you to the 11th Conference Report of IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) or the EPA for confirmation.

    – MJM

    Michael J. McFadden | Jun 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. The simple fact of the matter is that anti-smokers will never, EVER believe something that didn’t originate within their own “community” if you will. People simply don’t like to be told they’re wrong, and some people just like to have something to bitch about…especially if it’s something they don’t personally subscribe to. That, Renae, IS a FACT.

    Angela | Jun 20, 2010 | Reply

  7. ‘I dont care’ said:

    “As a responsible person would do, I purchased a home after I quit, and before my child was born you idiot. Then, I gutted it and remodeled it completely as to rid any toxic waste from the previous owners. See, Icare for my family’s health.”

    So you left your other home which you had, by your own admission, made “toxic” by smoking in for 15 years – for someone ELSE to clean up? You don’t seem to care much for anyone ELSE’s health then.

    “I’ll live in my delusions and have a happy, healthy, non-smoking life with my family…
    You see I am a firefighter…”

    Oh my gosh, a FIREFIGHTER? How can you be healthy if you’re breathing all those toxic fumes, day and night, and bringing it home on your body for your children to inhale? You can’t think much of your children.

    “and I’ve seen too many families lose their home because of careless smoking. One family lost their daddy.”

    Or careless careers, hey. I’ve known many children lose their fathers because they chose such a dangerous profession as FIREFIGHTING.

    “You might understand that if you saw that families face when we pulled their charred daddy from the ashes” – yep, maybe YOU will understand what your children will have to go through one day, since their father didn’t care about if he left them fatherless because of his bad choice of career. Not a good ‘family’ career.

    Then again, your probably to busy bashing some smoker to care about a healthy life.

    Oranges | Jan 29, 2011 | Reply

  8. Oranges, thank you for bringing me back here and reminding me about the supposed “firefighter” who posted. One of the things I have tried to do over the last several years was get information on fires and smoking bans. There are several groups out there:, NFPA (National Fire Protective Association), and others that I have contacted, sometimes repeatedly in the last seven years to see if they had any data on fires being reduced as the result of smoking bans.

    They had nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. All of these smoking bans out there and the organizations specifically focused on fire safety had absolutely nothing at all to show in the way of evidence that fires had decreased because of them.

    However, if you go to:

    you will find an article headlined “Smoking Ban Blamed For Rise In Fires” referring specifically to bans in pubs and the UK.

    – MJM

    Michael J. McFadden | Jan 30, 2011 | Reply

  9. Thanks MJMcF – nothing irritates me more than hyprocracy. Seems to come hand-in-hand with self righteousness.

    Oranges | Jan 30, 2011 | Reply

  10. Great Reply, Oranges. A beautiful job of taking down a sanctimonious twit.

    Hittman | Jan 31, 2011 | Reply

  11. Just so you all know, there are apparently two Angelas commenting here. I think the majority of you can tell the difference. If you can’t, obviously I don’t need to care.

    Angela | Feb 23, 2014 | Reply

  12. Oh my…I guess I’ve commented on that before. A couple of times. Hey – it’s been five years.

    Angela | Feb 23, 2014 | Reply

  13. Thank goodness you wrote this because it goes to prove your prediction of third hand smoke was ten years ahead of it’s time.

    At the physician the other day, the nurse handed me a pamphlet on smoking cessation (I took up chew since quitting drinking) and while waiting scrawled an early draft of a poem about third hand smoke and hyperlinked in your blogpost here within a microdot of said poem.

    To get to your post I had Googled in the search “Satire: Third Hand Smoke” and since I remember reading a funny piece years ago about 3rd-hand, figured to unearth it – or something similar.

    Yours was the first to come up and it was 30-some down in the results. For convenience, I’ll repeat it here:
    Thursday, September 19, 2019
    Unfunny for the sensitive

    This fresh idea of third-hand smoke,
    It is no longer, not merely a joke,

    If you hug a smoker or two today,
    Be brief, as smoke sticks, and then relays,

    Unto innocents, via dark shirt,
    Bad Smoke shall not filter, it is not inert,

    New fanged Chemical Scientists insist,
    For third-time transfers, then rich$smoke must exist!

    – Comedian Nosmo King



    JBanholzer | Sep 24, 2019 | Reply

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  3. Aug 19, 2017: from Smoking: Third Hand Smoke Page 2 - Smokers Club

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