Saturday, November 07, 2009

Gasdoc in a Garage!

I recently ran across an internet discussion where an Antismoker was seriously putting forth an argument that I'd thought had been put out to pasture a long time ago. About five years ago some Antismokers in Italy produced a study purporting to show that cigarettes were far more "polluting" than modern diesel cars.

(http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/12481.php)

Basically they claimed that smoking three cigarettes in a sealed garage produced more air pollution than running a car for a half hour in that same garage.

The trick here is that they basically tested for a particular element (FPM 2.5) that's given off by cigarettes in much greater relative quantities than by diesel fuel. If they'd picked a different element (or even a normal car!) to measure then the car would have come out as the villain.

What they did is kind of like saying "Chlorine is poisonous, and this teaspoon of chlorinated tap water is giving off more chlorine than this entire bottle of ammonia!" and then concluding that drinking a teaspoon of tap water would be more "deadly" than drinking an entire bottle of of ammonia.

It's a shell game - a bait-and-switch sort of argument.

I've thought about this study for a bit over the years and have recently come up with a new study to propose. We lock those researchers along with some volunteer Antismokers in that sealed garage for an hour with the car running while GasDoc, Blad Tolstoy and I am locked in a different garage with three or four smokers (all of us playing a wild game of poker... if the other three were female we could get really creative at that!) At the end of the hour we open both garages.

Study result: the world will be a better place.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers Brains"