Secondhand Smoke
Passive Smoking
Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Too much has already been written about the false science behind the secondhand smoke scare. So, we'll keep this sweet and simple here. Alrighty?

"Passive smoking" was brought into the English language after the German "pasivrauchen," which was coined in Nazi Germany. From "The Nazi War on Tobacco: Ideology, Evidence, and Possible Cancer Consequences" by Robert Proctor (Bulletin of the History of Medicine 71.3 (1997) 435-488) (emphasis added):

By the middle of the 1920s cigarettes began to come under suspicion, especially through the work of Fritz Lickint, a Dresden physician who in 1929 published some of the first statistical evidence linking lung cancer and cigarettes. (32) He was not the first to suggest a link--Isaac Adler and others had already done this (33) --but his was the most comprehensive review of the literature up to that time, while also presenting new statistical facts. His evidence was fairly simple, constituting what epidemiologists today call a "case-series" showing that lung cancer patients were particularly likely to be heavy smokers. Lickint's article served as a springboard for many subsequent investigators: Victor Mertens, Angel Roffo, and T. Chikamatsu, for example, all of whom demonstrated the carcinogenic potency of tobacco tar while crediting Lickint's pioneering vision. (34)

Lickint went on to become Germany's foremost exponent of the antismoking message, cautioning that tobacco had surpassed alcohol as a public health menace and that strong steps were needed to counter the threat. In his monumental Tabak und Organismus (Tobacco and the organism), published in 1939, Lickint chronicled an extraordinary range of ills deriving from smoking, chewing, or snorting tobacco. (35) The 1,200-page volume, produced in collaboration with the Reich Committee for the Struggle Against Addictive Drugs and the German Antitobacco Association, was advertised as Das Standardwerk; it is arguably the most comprehensive scholarly indictment of tobacco of the century. Surveying 8,000 publications worldwide, the author blamed tobacco for cancers all along the Rauchstrasse--lips, tongue, lining of the mouth, jaw, esophagus, windpipe, and lungs. Tobacco was an instigator not just of cancer but of arteriosclerosis, infant mortality, ulcers, halitosis, and dozens of other maladies. Lickint identified tobacco as a powerful drug: tobacco addiction he characterized as Nikotinismus (or, more properly, Tabakismus), and tobacco addicts as Nikotinisten (or Tabakisten); he also compared tobacco addicts to morphine addicts, and made a convincing argument that "passive smoking" (Passivrauchen--he seems to have coined the term) posed a serious threat to nonsmokers. (36) He argued that thousands of cancer deaths could be prevented by curtailing tobacco use. Twenty percent of all male German fatal cancers began in the area he dubbed the "Rauchstrasse," leading him to speculate that tobacco might play a role in as many as 7,000 male cancer deaths per year in Germany. (37 )

Footnote (36) is as follows:

36 Fritz Lickint, Tabakgenuss und Gesundheit., pp. 260-65. Other German terms used at this time to designate nicotine addiction include Nicotismus (Bamberger), Nicotianismus (Krafft-Ebing), Nicotinsucht (Lickint), Fumigatismus (W. Kautszch), and Kapnomanie (J. Stein); see Lickint, "Nikotinmissbrauch" (n. 19), pp. 306-9. Lickint first uses the term "Passivrauchen" in his 1936 Tabakgenuss (n. 34), p. 26. In his Tabak und Organismus (n. 35) he links this to J. Fink's concept of "Nicotinismus innocentium" (p. 260).

Generally, the origin of the term seems to be credited to Fritz Lickint in Tabak und Organismus: Handbuch der gesamten Tabakkunde (Stuttgart: Hippokrates-Verlag, 1939), pp. 260-65. From the above notes, notice the comparison of tobacco users to morphine addicts. Sound familiar? The modern-day comparison is smokers to heroin addicts. Honestly, the contemporary antismokers seem to be using the NAZI playbook word-for-German-word.

passive smoking n. [cf. German Passivrauchen (1976 or earlier)] the involuntary inhalation, esp. by a non-smoker, of another person's tobacco smoke

The NAZI antismoking "science" was plagued by many of the same ills that plague modern antismoking rhetoric, e.g. lack of any reasonable measurement of smoke, recall bias (most epidemiological studies are based on surveys after-the-fact), and such. However, today's antismoking reports also tend to play fast and loose with scientific/statistical procedures; see Osteen's criticisms of the 1993 EPA report on the matter. (WebMistress: I cannot say whether or not the same can be said of NAZI passivrauchen studies.) Criticisms of that EPA report have been numerous, widespread and foolishly ignored.

The term "passivrauchen" might have been from NAZI Germany but "environmental tobacco smoke" is truly American. The term needed to be changed to something environmental before the Environmental Protection Agency could even begin to lay claim to its study.

"Report on the misuse of science in the administrations of George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) and William J. Clinton (1993-2001)," refers to an Executive Order to ban smoking in all federal buildings, justified by relying on the EPA report, Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders, the students' report says:

However, prior to [the President's] executive order, the cited report was subject to review by the House Committee on Agriculture (July 1993), the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (July 1993), and the Congressional Research Service (November 1995). Each determined that the procedures taken by the EPA in producing their report were scientifically questionable and perhaps politically motivated. The report was also subject to a lawsuit filed by six tobacco companies in early 1993.
The lawsuit from the tobacco companies resulted in Judge Osteen's decision to effectively overturn the report--with a laundry list of bad science used in the EPA report. (Note that, as per a previous decision from him in court, he was NOT what one might call a "tobacco shill"! Not at all.) His decision was overturned on the grounds that the EPA is not a "final action agancy." In other words, other agencies can use the report to justify antismoker laws because the EPA doesn't use the report to enact laws. Hmmmm.... Just try to get your head around that one. More facts on the EPA report come from Statistics 101. Moving from the Environmental Protection Agency to the World Health Organization (WHO), we find even more interesting results deviating from the antismoking hypotheses about passive smoking. In a long-term study, the WHO did not find any evidence of deadly ETS.

The Telegraph published an article exposing the above-mentioned suppressed WHO study. (NOTE: As of 2 Feb, 2009, the UK's Telegraph had removed the original article. It has been reproduced at Clearing the Air.) The then-editor of the Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, wrote a commentary in The (London) Independent, Feb 17, 2006. This commentary from across the Great Pond refers to the Enstrom/ACS mess, which was the American Cancer Society's smear campaign against a scientist who did another HUGE long-term study using the ACS's very own data but again went "the wrong way," and the WHO study (emphasis added):

At that time, when I was editor of The Sunday Telegraph, the paper, under the headline "Passive Smoking Doesn't Cause Cancer - Official", revealed that the WHO had initially kept under wraps the results of its latest research into passive smoking in seven countries, which showed not only that there was probably no link between passive smoking and lung cancer, but that it might even have a protective effect.
Action on Smoking and Health - but not, interestingly, the WHO - made a formal complaint, on grounds of inaccuracy, to the Press Complaints Commission. After an exhaustive investigation, lasting several months, the PCC rejected the complaint.

This study exposed in the Telegraph was subsequently published as Multicenter Case-Control Study of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Lung Cancer in Europe, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 90, No. 19, October 7, 1998 (emphasis added):

Results: ETS exposure during childhood was not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (odds ratio [OR] for ever exposure = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.64-0.96). The OR for ever exposure to spousal ETS was 1.16 (95% CI = 0.93-1.44). No clear dose-response relationship could be demonstrated for cumulative spousal ETS exposure. The OR for ever exposure to workplace ETS was 1.17 (95% CI = 0.94-1.45), with possible evidence of increasing risk for increasing duration of exposure. No increase in risk was detected in subjects whose exposure to spousal or workplace ETS ended more than 15 years earlier. Ever exposure to ETS from other sources was not associated with lung cancer risk. Risks from combined exposure to spousal and workplace ETS were higher for squamous cell carcinoma and small-cell carcinoma than for adenocarcinoma, but the differences were not statistically significant.
The only significant finding was a negative correlation, specifically the finding for childhood exposure. Notice that the conclusion says that there was no association with an increased risk of lung cancer and seems to gloss over the fact that the confidence interval is entirely below 1, indicating a statistically significant decreased risk. Funny that. No wonder the World Health Organization tried to suppress this study!

More interestingly, when the Telegraph got wind of this, the WHO didn't file a complaint...but the politically motivated ASH filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission, according to the then-Editor of the Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in The (London) Independent (Feb 17, 2006).

The other WHO study is the German airline study. Mortality from Cancer and Other Causes among Airline Cabin Attendants in Germany, 1960-1997," American Journal of Epidiemiology, Vol. 156, No. 6, which states on p. 564,

We found a rather remarkably low SMR [Standardized Mortality Ratio] for lung cancer among female cabin attendants and no increase for male cabin attendants, indicating that smoking and exposure to passive smoking may not play an important role in mortality in this group. Smoking during airplane flights was permitted in Germany until the mid-1990s, and smoking is still not banned on all charter flights.
This study came from the Department of Epidiemiology and Medical Statistics, School of Public Health-WHO Collaborating Center, University, Bielefeld, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany. The study can also be found directly at Oxford Journals.

Well, it doesn't make much difference because, according to a medical journal, The Lancet, the WHO doesn't need evidence to establish guidelines anyway! Then again, according to a former medical journal editor, the medical journals have become "creatures of the drug industry," which are very eager to push smoking bans and the ensuing sales of Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Dr. Smith (I know...makes me think of Lost in Space, too) chaired a debate held at the Royal College of Physicians on 5 November 2001 on the motion "This house believes that Britain should be ashamed of its response to research fraud and take action at once.", as reported by in Peter Wilmshurst's Fraud in research (Clinical Medicine Journal : vol 2 : March/April, 2002 : Conference report)for the Royal College of Physicians. To quote, "Both sides agreed that for the last 15-20 years there has been recognition that research fraud has been as great a problem in Britain as in other countries. The difference between Britain and other developed countries has been our failure to make any real attempt to deal with the problem. The USA held congressional hearings on fraud in biomedical research in 1981 and 1985, and soon afterwards founded the Office of Scientific Integrity (now the Office of Research Integrity)." For those who don't know, medicine/healthcare is a self-regulated industry, meaning that misconduct or incompetence is usually only investigated by other people in that same industry. By and large, there's a bit more accountability if an industry is regulated or, at least, overseen by objective outsiders.

Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98 by James E. Enstrom and Geoffrey C. Kabat(British Medical Journal, 2003;326:1057, 17 May). This is one of the largest and most rigorous studies of its kind. However, because the results didn't please antismoking zealots, the American Cancer Society began a HUGE and unfounded smear campaign on the authors. Enstrom began Scientific Integrity Institute in response to the unfounded accusations by the ACS. See James E. Enstrom in his own words from the Tobacco Portal on SourceWatch for further clarification of the author's ordeals with the smear campaign--as well as additional article citations concurring with his BMJ results.
NOTE: SourceWatch is like Wikipeida, both in form and rAnti hysteria. However, the Tobacco Portal on Sourcewatch is sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, which was created and funded by the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. In other words, the whole thing is run by a bunch of raving antismokers who are living off tobacco money. Honestly, this sounds like something that should be in the Funnies File!
Quoting from the BMJ article:

Results For participants followed from 1960 until 1998 the age adjusted relative risk (95% confidence interval) for never smokers married to ever smokers compared with never smokers married to never smokers was 0.94 (0.85 to 1.05) for coronary heart disease, 0.75 (0.42 to 1.35) for lung cancer, and 1.27 (0.78 to 2.08) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among 9619 men, and 1.01 (0.94 to 1.08), 0.99 (0.72 to 1.37), and 1.13 (0.80 to 1.58), respectively, among 25 942 women. No significant associations were found for current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke before or after adjusting for seven confounders and before or after excluding participants with pre-existing disease. No significant associations were found during the shorter follow up periods of 1960-5, 1966-72, 1973-85, and 1973-98.

Conclusions The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.

Ooooo, here's a funny one. The HSE in the UK published a little guide for secondhand smoke inspectors, HSE OC 255/15. (That's the Health and Safety Executive's Operational Circular. It's a UK thing.) Take a look at paragrpah 9 (emphasis added):

The evidential link between individual circumstances of exposure to risk in exempted premises will be hard to establish. In essence, HSE cannot produce epidemiological evidence to link levels of exposure to SHS to the raised risk of contracting specific diseases and it is therefore difficult to prove health-related breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Inspectors are therefore urged to exercise caution in considering any formal enforcement action in relation to SHS (with one exception see below). However, the full impact of the smoking ban is difficult to foresee completely, and if serious circumstances emerge where inspectors believe they must consider enforcement, then they should consult Health Unit and the Policy Team (see Annex 2 for contacts) before taking action. The exception to this guidance relates to pre-existing health conditions of employees which can be made worse by exposure to second hand smoke e.g. respiratory or cardiovascular disease, or to pregnancy. In such circumstances, specialist and medical advice may be necessary to secure support for enforcement action.
Well, now, the government decided that admission wouldn't do for the impending draconian smoking ban. So, some "health official" or other changed and replaced it with another operational circular, 255/16. You can find the true document here OR, better yet, read all about it at Mysterious Changes by the HSE courtesy of Freedom2Choose. I'd say, "Oh, those wacky Brits are at it again," but I'm familiar with British humour and it's usually much funnier. On a more healthy note, check out Hairychestnuts' Smoke and Mirrors, which deals with two shady issues in the "disappearing" HSE document in plain, understandable language from a real man. (In Addition: Hairy's Health Behaviour (postnote 283) explains the truly inane preaching of the supposed healthy people--accusing people who smoke of being illiterate yet demonstrating their own inability to read their own propaganda! It would be quite amusing if it weren't so sad.)

Also, consider Environmental tobacco smoke revisited: the reliability of the data used for risk assessment. Risk Anal. 2001 Aug;21(4):737-60 (emphasis added):

Further, it seems highly improbable that exposure to a concentration of tobacco smoke at a level that is generally much less than 1% of that inhaled by a smoker could result in an excess risk for CHD that-as has been claimed-is some 30% to 50% of that found in active smokers. There are certainly valid reasons to limit exposure to ETS as well as to other air pollutants in places such as offices and homes in order to improve indoor air quality. This goal can be achieved, however, without the introduction of an extremist legislation based on a negligible risk of lung cancer as well as an unsupported and highly hypothetical risk for CHD.

And more from Lung cancer due to passive smoking--a review, Int Arch Occup Environ Health., 2001 May;74(4):231-41 (emphasis added):

The question of whether or not ETS exposure is high enough to induce and/or promote the carcinogenic effects observed in epidemiological studies thus remains open, and the assumption of an increased risk of lung cancer due to ETS exposure is, at present, more a matter of opinion than of firm scientific evidence.

Thus far, the worst thing we've seen of secondhand smoke in the literature is "a negligible risk" and even that we can take with a grain of salt given today's antitobacco hysteria. As far as scientific results go, the first thing we need to ban is irrational hysteria.

Finally, take a look at A False Martyr ? (Wednesday, May 31, 2006). This poor woman was trotted out as a martyr to secondhand smoke because even the most zealous antismokers don't have any such deaths to back their outrageous claims of hundreds of thousands of deaths due to secondhand smoke. This is a very readable article showing the fact that this woman could not have contracted lung cancer as a result of secondhand smoke.

Well...this is getting tiresome. The whole idea of vilifying people who smoke via secondhand smoke studies, regardless of what you call the drifting smoke, is...well, just plain wrong....socially, scientifically, financially, morally...wrong. But, hey, as long as it started with the NAZIs, antismokers can pretend that the passive smoking scare is gospel, right? *sigh*

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"Warning: the health police can seriously addle your brain"

"Science and Secondhand Smoke: the Need for a Good Puff of Skepticism, from Skeptic, Volume 13, Number 3, 2007.
(Fabulous quote from page 21, "...irony writ large: The famous baby boomers, who brought us hard drugs, hard rock and hard pom, morphed into the new prohibitionists." Classic.)

"Second-hand Smoke is Harmful to Science."

Smoke and Mirrors


FORCES International - Scientific Portal

The Facts About Secondhand Smoke

Must Reads, especially Proctor

Why a Non-Smoker Fights the Pro-Smoking Ban Lies (Sunday, September 10, 2006)
Smoking bans: Good public policy? Or simply a great pharmaceutical marketing plan? (Friday, February 23, 2007)

Secondhand data on secondhand smoke (10/8/2006) by Jerome Arnett, Jr., a pulmonologist and writer.

A Couple of Articles on the "no safe level" Surgeon General:

US Surgeon General Slammed by Colin Grainger (11th October 2007), a prefeace to Where's the Consensus on Secondhand Smoke?.

Pertinent videos of interest:

BBC NEWS: The facts in the way of a good story
It looked like a vindication of the smoking ban in Scotland - in little more than a year, the heart attack rate had been cut by almost a fifth. But look at official figures, says Michael Blastland, and it just doesn't stack up.

Dr. Siegel's blog post on Huffington and Globe

Secondhand Smoke Exaggerations Challenged, by Jeff Stier, The Huffington Post, November 13, 2007
To quote: "Science eventually catches up with those who hyperbolize about risks, and the public learns to disregard them."

Where there's smoke...there's Dr. Siegel by Alex Beam, the Boston Globe, November 13, 2007
To quote: "the anti-smoking lobbies aren't in business to promote public health; they're in business to stay in business."

Siegel's post on Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations

Warning: Anti-tobacco activism may be hazardous to epidemiologic science, by Carl V Phillips, Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 22 October 2007.

Siegel's post on Skeptic

Science and Secondhand Smoke: the Need for a Good Puff of Skepticism, from Skeptic, Volume 13, Number 3, 2007.

Siegel's post on NY Post


Siegel's post on New Scientist and WSJ

Editorial: Don't mangle the facts, even in a good causeNew Scientist issue 2629, 10 November 2007.

Science behind smoking ban called into question by Jim Giles, Andy Coghlan and Linda Geddes, New Scientist issue 2629, 10 November 2007.

Do Broad Smoking Bans Cloud Belief of Risk? Wall Street Journal (Page B7), November 8, 2007.

A sad addiction to anti-smoking (The Times, February 16, 2007)

London GP Questions Passive Smoking Propaganda At Conference On Choice (Medical News Today, 04 Mar 2005 - 11:00 PST)

Smoking out the facts by Dr Liz Frayn (Spiked, 21 July 2004) -- The British Medical Association's public health campaigns on passive smoking and junk food might ruin its reputation in the long run.

From junkscience dot com:

"Junk science" is faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas. The junk science "mob" includes:

  • The MEDIA may use junk science for sensational headlines and programming. Some members of the media use junk science to advance their and their employers' social and political agendas.
  • PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS may use junk science to bamboozle juries into awarding huge verdicts. Large verdicts may then be used to extort even greater sums from deep-pocket businesses fearful of future jury verdicts.
  • SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, such as the "food police," environmental extremists, and gun-control advocates, may use junk science to achieve social and political change.
  • GOVERNMENT REGULATORS may use junk science to expand their authority and to increase their budgets.
  • BUSINESSES may use junk science to bad-mouth competitors' products or to make bogus claims about their own products.
  • POLITICIANS may use junk science to curry favor with special interest groups or to be "politically correct."
  • INDIVIDUAL SCIENTISTS may use junk science to achieve fame and fortune.
  • INDIVIDUALS who are ill (real or imagined) may use junk science to blame others for causing their illness.