Tag Archives: roni rabin

The contest continues…

At the risk of running multiple threads but with the potential of gaining new participants I am starting another post to buttress the good entries already in place.

Here’s one from me:

In a rare public appearance today, the typically reclusive NYT health writer and journalism professor Roni Rabin came forward to answer questions regarding her article with its endorsement of the Canary in the Mines Petition being circulated. Previously Rabin had helped nationalize the concern about 3rd hand smoke but had in that case remained silent after her influential piece.

As reported in the latest article, a consortium of anti-smoking health organizations following the lead of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids suggested that what was missing in tobacco control were the voices of the children themselves. What would address this need would be a panel of children who would decide whether the tobacco companies were indeed marketing to them with their new smokeless products.

The same group at Pediatrics who did such fine work in regards to third hand smoke were asked to design the study that would show how much we needed children to weigh in on this important matter that directly concerned them. In an earlier interview, one of that team said “its really just a question of asking people “do you think tobacco companies should be allowed to market to children?” and if you say “no” then that is a fair indication that they are already doing so and that we direly need this new way of dealing with it.

Of course, because they are children and it is unethical and quite dangerous to expose them to even the sight of tobacco products of any kind, the Pediatrics group suggested that adults would be exposed to the toxic goods and then describe the colors, tastes and package design to the children (and if it helps tell them what products they are familiar with that they resembled) and then the children could safely tell them if they thought they were attractive and if those companies were trying to make them use them. (The children would receive continual reassurance that the companies could not get to them in the testing rooms).

Asked whether children should also be part of the FDA new tobacco control plans, Rabin nodded and then waving her arms and backing up croaked “fear good; tobacco bad” a number of times. She became progressively more excited and before any more questions could be asked had backed herself right out of the room.

-PLB

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Third Hand Smoke, Again!?

I see that Chris Snowdon has a great post on the absurdity and a bit of history on the third hand smoke meme that refuses to die. It seems that while good ideas are often unnoticed or ignored that the really bad ones, and this one is bad in so many ways, tend to get a lot of press. I suppose that they do serve a purpose in uncovering which journalists uncritically repeat items without examining the source materials (for instance, this article from Roni Rabin at the NYT).

The third hand smoke nonsense is particularly dear to us here as we responded (quite some time prior to this blog’s existence) to the Journal of Pediatrics article when it came out. At the time, we had noticed how fast and furiously this story spread throughout the news media and the blogs. It was as though so many had been waiting for this, just like someone suddenly getting some small evidence of what previously rated as little more than a conspiracy theory. You could hear the “I knew it” s resounding throughout the land. Perhaps the most risible of the follow up stories was of Apple techs refusing to touch smokers’ computers.

One small excerpt from our letter:

The authors, in the article, press release and subsequent interviews, argue the danger of third hand smoke, such that smokers are encouraged to change clothing and bathe before holding their children. And yet, the authors still encourage the smoker to breastfeed the innocent child, rather than substitute a tobacco-free bottle of milk or formula (6). This can only mean that, despite repeating the nonsensical mantra of there is no safe level of exposure, whatever this non-safe level of exposure is, it must be much lower than the toxicity of bottle-feeding. The authors also suggest, not in the article but in related interviews, that the nose is an accurate determiner of toxicity, an interesting but outdated pre-scientific method that cynically takes advantage of the lay population (8, 19, 24, 26).

Many educated readers already have a jaundiced view of what passes for epidemiological research, and this article not only justifies their attitude but serves as the epitome of sloppy science, of politics and opinion and desire masquerading as science. We predict that a decade from now, if books and blogs continue to claim that epidemiology is junk science, they will still be citing this article as a perfect example.

-PLB

Wikipedia wars part 2

Recently I reported on my struggle to correct the third hand smoke entry on Wikipedia (see here).  The public source had the same alarmism that only the anti-smoking groups (and even some of them were embarrassed by this nonsense) and the  media seemed to promote with most everyone seeing this as too fantastic to consider in any sense.  Typically you would read an online news report about this new danger by reporters who failed to actually look at the actual study (for example Roni Rabin at the NYT who apparently teaches journalism and yet does not check sources) and then read comment after comment from average folks who saw right through the bad science and the writers who were crying wolf.

My initial results were discouraging but ultimately ended in success.  Despite misgivings, this ended in third hand smoke being temporarily removed and possibly returning simply as a reference to a concept rather than as a fact.  So I tentatively respect the Wikipedia process.

However third hand smoke was an easy battle; passive smoking in general would be the true test.  I have heard from others who have tried to tackle that one that it is impossible,  worse than the travails of Sisyphus, an unwinnable war against the zeitgeist that promotes sloppy science and unwarranted extrapolations when it comes to tobacco.

However, one small step….

-PLB