Thirdhand Smoking: A Triumph Of Wee P-Values

Thirdhand Smoking: A Triumph Of Wee P-Values

We last did third-hand smoking back in 2011. Even then I didn’t think the concept would far. How silly can you get?

Pretty silly.

Thanks to Dan Hughes we have the peer-reviewed Science Advances paper “Human transport of thirdhand tobacco smoke: A prominent source of hazardous air pollutants into indoor nonsmoking environments“.

First-hand smoking is a sin only slightly less damning than climate change. It might even cause climate change. Smokers suffer, though. But they benefit, too. (Looks cool, does wonders for your voice.) For many, and maybe because of the tobacco they choose, the suffering outweighs the benefits.

Second-hand smoke arises from smooching smokers, or from breathing the same air they exhale. Maybe even when they aren’t smoking. This, science assures us, is just as evil as smoking, and maybe eviler, because smokers are inflicting their nasty habit on others!

Third-hand smoke is from being in the ex-presence of smokers. Not in the presence; the ex-presence. Seems smokers leave a trail in smoke like snails do in slime. If you touch this trail, or breath the air that touches the trail, why, it’s just as if you were smoking yourself!

Fourth-hand smoke would presumably be touching or smooching a third-hand smoker. There has to be an n such that by the time we have reached n-hand smokers we have included every person on the planet. Once the research comes to this level, it will have nothing left to condemn about smoking. They’ll have to move on to coffee.

On to the paper!

From the Abstract:

The contamination of indoor nonsmoking environments with thirdhand smoke (THS) is an important, poorly understood public health concern. Real-time THS off-gassing from smokers into a nonsmoking movie theater was observed with online and offline high-resolution mass spectrometry. Prominent emission events of THS tracers (e.g., 2,5-dimethylfuran, 2-methylfuran, and acetonitrile) and other tobacco-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coincided with the arrival of certain moviegoers and left residual contamination. These VOC emission events exposed occupants to the equivalent of 1 to 10 cigarettes of secondhand smoke, including multiple hazardous air pollutants (e.g., benzene and formaldehyde) at parts-per-billion concentrations.

Fancy chemical names. I can’t pronounce acetonitrile, but it looks bad.

Anyway, sitting and watching a movie is equivalent to smoking from 1 to 10 cigarettes.

That’s 1 to 10 full cigarettes. From third-hand smoke.

A chain smoker could do it! I’ve seen various estimates, but a popular one is 6 minutes to suck through a fag, as the Brits say. I’m not sure about suck, but fag is right.

A 90-minute movie would see a chain smoker burn through 15 cigarettes. So he’d still get more than the guy three rows back at the next showing. But not much more. An ordinary smoker might do three to six cigarettes in a movie. Which is the same as the guy who didn’t flic his Bic.

Hey, it’s science.

It’s more sophisticated than I’m making it sound, of course. I do like to tease stuffy cocksure researchers. It’s not like going to any movie makes you the equivalent of a true smoker. No. It takes special kinds of movies.

According to one report, “The effects were particularly pronounced during R-rated films, like ‘Resident Evil,’ which the authors suggested was because such movies attract older audiences more likely to have been exposed to smoke.”

IMDB summarizes this movie: “A special military unit fights a powerful, out-of-control supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident.”

Mutant flesh-eating creatures could drive one to smoking, it must be admitted.

Wait, we’re not done. There was something about “tracer chemicals” supposedly emitted by the movie fans. Which is why they discovered, via wee p-values, the signifier of all their significances, that G-rated movie patrons emitted less stink (tracer chemicals) than R-rated patrons.

The increase in THS tracer concentrations was a function of audience demographics for both movie type and movie showtime. While movie rating (G-rated versus R-rated) may not explicitly represent the audience demographic, it was a proxy for both audience age and the likelihood that individuals in the audience were exposed to smoke at some point before entry. A much more pronounced enhancement was observed for the showings of R-rated action movies (e.g., Resident Evil and Irre Helden), while similar abrupt increases were minor and only occasionally present in the family movie screenings, even with large audiences of 70 to 220 people (e.g., Wendy). Concentration spikes due to THS emissions are largest for later showtimes.

If you value your lungs, stay away from R-rated movie fans.

Oh, one last thing, Only a minor point. The smoking-equivalent estimates were calculated from measurements taken in a theater that implemented a smoking ban fifteen years previously.

Smoke is just as unstoppable as zombies, apparently.

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  1. Sheri

    “acetonitrile”–try methyl cyanide instead. Easier to pronounce.

    Okay, the “smoke-free for 15 years” confirms these individuals are 100% crazy. There’s an easy summation: WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!

    Now, toss out those absolutely useless studies, well, except this study does verify that theatre seats are hazardous waste collectors that are never cleaned, all the more reason to avoid theatres while avoiding researchers, too. I guess we did learn something from the study.

  2. DAV

    If first hand smokers can live to be 90 you have to wonder how small the percentage of non-smokers die from third to second hand smoking. I quit smoking years ago but even now doctors classify me as an ex-smoker instead of non-smoker. If something you did 40 years ago is going to kill you with no escape then what exactly is the point in quitting?

  3. C-Marie

    It is actually amazing that we all are surviving at all with all of the exposure to everything that is not good for us to breathe, absorb, eat, etc.

    My parents both smoked until they were in their sixties. As I did live with them until eighteen years of age, I absorbed their second-hand smoke from infancy onwards, on a daily basis. Mama smoked Lucky Strikes and Dad changed over to Kents when they were made available.

    When I was sixteen or so, I decided that I would do the grown up thing and start smoking in my senior year of high school…’60-61. I smoked Camels and inhaled and all, because it was the cool thing to do. A pack was $0.25 then.

    After marriage, (married a non-smoker and how he put up with the stench of which I was wholly unaware…..), when I became pregnant with our second child, I came to the realization that I could not tell my children to not smoke as I sat there smoking. They were my reason for stopping smoking. And I have told them so.

    To cease my habit and to ease out of my addiction to nicotine, I went from Camels, to Lucky Strikes, to Marlboros, to Salems, and then Kents which seemed to only be hot air….and then cold turkey…no patches, pills, or. I have never had a smoke of any kind since then as my fear of becoming addicted just like that used to be so strong, and now for many years, there has been no desire to smoke. I even had to give up coffee for a year back then, because the association with cigarettes was so strong. But I do enjoy Kenya AA now very much!!

    All of the cancer scares did nothing for me to stop…we even back then called cigarettes, cancer sticks, but the reality did not come through. I did have bronchitis every winter as a child, and now have some asthma, but not bad at all as long as I stay away from barbeques, fires of any kind or size, and as of yet, by the grace of God, some fifty years later, I have no cancer. Neither did my parents who are gone on to Heaven now.

    Well, that is my personal smoke association story. And to all I say, do not start, do not vape, save your lungs for when you are old. Other things, arthritis, etc. start catching up, but if your lungs are healthy, life is so much easier.

    God bless, C-Marie

  4. “Which is why they discovered, via wee p-values, the signifier of all their significances, that G-rated movie patrons emitted less stink (tracer chemicals) than R-rated patrons.”

    Can you show using your preferred probability methods, step by step, how to solve the general problem of how to compare a variable X between populations A and B?


  5. brad tittle

    While I am a firm believer that chasing after 2nd hand smoke is idiotic, I am also absolutely positive that 5th hand smoke is detectable without any scientific equipment. My neighbor smoked in his trailer. He stopped smoking in his trailer. Washed his trailer thoroughly. Twice. With Tri Sodium Phosphate. If I stepped into that trailer for 30 seconds, my wife knew I had stepped into the trailer.

    That might be a joke in my wife’s direction.

    Except I could also detect the smoke that still remained in the trailer in the hair of my wife.

    If only someone could use that power for good…

  6. IMX, having once moved into a former heavy smoking room, TSP does very little to remove smoke residue. Amway Zoom (diluted to half recommended strength, and perhaps comparable in action to Fantastik, Formula 409, or the like) did far, far better, with heavy stains running down the wall with a single spray, going from tan to cream color in one application. I have no idea whether the paint was originally white, off-white, or cream, or what benefit we might have gotten from a second application.

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