Smoking links

• “Don’t think of a giant blue baboon!”

Too late. A picture of a giant blue baboon just flashed through your mind. Likewise, reminding smokers they may not light up inevitably makes them think of smoking, and increases their craving for tobacco, a study from Oxford University suggests. Money quote:

[Researcher Brian] Earp hasn’t done a followup study yet, but he theorizes that this ironic effect might apply to a lot of public campaigns designed to discourage actions: Don’t do drugs, don’t drink and drive.

• Michael B. Siegel criticizes New York’s impending ban on outdoor smoking, and notes that

…the surgeon general’s statement conflates the temporary negative effects of secondhand smoke on the circulatory system, which have been shown to occur with short-term exposure, with heart disease, a process that requires repeated exposure and recurring damage to the coronary arteries. It also conflates one-time DNA damage, which occurs with any carcinogenic exposure, with cancer risk, which likewise generally requires repeated exposure.

Why is Siegel’s opposition to New York’s outdoor-smoking ban relevant? Because Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Health, has spent the last 25 years advocating smoking bans. This one, he says, is based on misunderstandings of the science (at best) or on the propagation of outright falsehoods (at worst).  The upshot:

In trying to convince people that even transient exposure to secondhand smoke is a potentially deadly hazard, smoking opponents risk losing scientific credibility. The antismoking movement has always fought with science on its side, but New York’s ban on outdoor smoking seems to fulfill its opponents’ charge that the movement is being driven instead by an unthinking hatred of tobacco smoke.

• Via the Google Wayback machine, this random smoking-related article from 1978:

A top government scientist says smokers can consume a pack a day of some new cigarettes on the market “without apparent risk.” “We don’t want to call them safe. We don’t think there is such a thing. But some are so low (in tar and other toxic substances) as to pose no observable hazard,” says Gio Batta Gori, head of the smoking and health program at the National Institutes of Health. The tobacco industry has developed these new cigarettes with the help of millions of dollars in government research funds. [emphasis mine]

The smokes Mr. Batta Gori talked about are the mentholated kind. Up to 23 Carlton Menthol cigarettes a day, he told the Associated Press, would constitute tolerable (presumably non-damaging) levels of tar and toxins.

Today, mentholated cigarettes are on the verge of being banned, courtesy of the same government that once spent a fortune on bringing them into the world.

About Rogier:
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.
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