Media Advisory: Third-Hand Smoke Risk Claims Challenged

Published February 11, 2010

On February 8, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a study by a research team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California describing the alleged risks of third-hand smoke. The researchers claim tobacco residue clinging to surfaces such as clothes and hair pose health risks for children.

Two doctors contacted by The Heartland Institute and a policy analyst for the organization rejected the idea that third-hand smoke poses significant health risks. They can be quoted as follows or contacted directly for additional information.

“There is no bench and lab, and no epidemiology proof of cause of cancer in side stream or exhaled smoke, and certainly no proof of cancer caused by residue of tobacco smoke on clothes, furniture, carpets, or furniture.

“If the cause of cancer were understood, it might be possible for public health officials to make claims of this or that, but mostly they appeal to people’s anxieties and ignorance.

“At this point, after expenditures of billions, we know that cancer is mostly increased by age; smoking cigarettes causes cancer; and there are a few—very few—chemicals and electromagnetic/radiation factors that can cause cancer.

“No one, ever, has shown that tobacco smoke residue causes cancer. In fact no one has shown that side stream or exhaled tobacco smoke causes cancer. The issue for anti-tobacco crusaders is smell and preferences, and interfering with smokers, not some serious public health issue.”

John Dale Dunn, M.D. J.D.
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“There is such a phenomenon as third-hand smoke. There’s no evidence whatsoever that it’s hazardous to health, but as an aesthetic matter, it’s quite noticeable if you’re sitting next to someone on a bus who reeks so badly of smoke that you are nauseous. Still, being able to smell something doesn’t mean it will give you cancer or any other disease.

“I can’t believe we’ve reached the phase in anti-smoking hysteria that we’re now worried about carcinogenic effects of third-hand smoke. When are we going to get to fourth-hand smoke?”

Elizabeth Whelan
American Council on Science and Health

“The claim of dangers from third-hand smoke reeks of the same pseudo-science nonsense that has caused our country to implement so many other unnecessary nanny-state regulations. While the Berkeley study might make for eye-popping news headlines, it lacks the scientific substance necessary to be taken seriously.

“In the end, these claims of third-hand smoke dangers will be confirmed for what they really are—nonsense.”

John Nothdurft
The Heartland Institute
Legislative Specialist
[email protected]