Sunday, 14 February 2010

Infectious Cigarettes?

We've all being having so much fun with the laughable notion of third hand smoke, that another recent investigation into the devil herb almost escaped attention.

Fags have got the lurgey, apparently.

The tobacco in cigarettes hosts a bacterial bonanza — literally hundreds of different germs, including those responsible for many human illnesses, a new study finds.

“Nearly every paper that you pick up discussing the health effects of cigarettes starts out with something to the effect that smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke experience high rates of respiratory infections,” notes Amy Sapkota of the University of Maryland, College Park. The presumption has been that smoking renders people vulnerable to disease by impairing lung function or immunity. And it may well do both.

“But nobody talks about cigarettes as a source of those infections,” she says. Her new data now suggest that’s distinctly possible.

If these germs are alive, something she has not yet confirmed, just handling cigarettes or putting an unlit one to the mouth could be enough to cause an infection.
So what ordinal description should this be termed? Fourth hand? Fifth hand? Who knows, but what this is effectively saying is that even unlit cigarettes are dangerous.

Time for a ban on possession of tobacco products in a public place, perhaps? You may think that's a bit far-fetched, but such a law already exists in some mad US counties.

Unsurprisingly, there is much use of the words 'if', 'could' and 'maybe', because this is merely wild speculation, as the researcher readily admits.

And here’s “a really wild idea,” she says: What if the smoke particles traveling through the still-unburned part of a cigarette pick up some germs and then ferry them deeply into the lung, where they’re unlikely to be cleared? Wouldn’t that be the prescription for disease?
Err, what about the danger from an unlit fag? Didn't you say earlier ...

One sometimes wonders if there is any new angle to be probed by anti-tobacco obsessives, but the capacity of US researchers to amaze and amuse in equal measure is fed by the massive funding pool afforded to them by the Master Settlement Agreement and subsequent hypothecated tax increases on tobacco.

This particular study, like the recent one relating to third hand smoke, appears to be trying to shift the focus of danger away from the smoke and onto the smoker. Not only are we apparently covered in deadly nicotine, we're now rumoured to also be breathing out lethal infections.

It will soon be time for the colony on the outskirts of town and a big bell for society's new lepers.

H/T Neal Asher


IanPJ said...

But at least in a place where no-one else would go, we could have our own smoking pubs...and clubs, and restaurants, and coffee shops, and, and hey, wait a minute, that's reasonableness and normality.

sign me up..

Anonymous said...

get yourself elected you can still smoke in the house of commons bar

Neal Asher said...

They're scraping the barrel here. The bugs won't survive the 500C+ temperature at the tip of the cigarette so the hot particles pick them up on the way through the length of it, and carry them through the filter. Yeah, right. I'm trying to think what they'll come up with next, but I guess I haven't got the imagination of the anti-smoking brigade.

BTS said...

I coined 4th hand smoke (seeing or hearing about someone smoking) and 5th hand smoke (reading about someone smoking - any blogs or sites spring to mind..?) a year or so back on the Smoke Screens forum so I'm not not sure where this ranks.

Third hand sweaty bollocks through the looking glass perhaps..?

I think I may have also suggested smokers' colonies as a response to an article on VGIF a while back.

Keep up will you Dick..

(Apparently there are pills available for that..)

Leg-iron said...

Any microbiologist (non-brainwashed) will confirm that the ash dropping off the end of a cigarette is sterile until it hits the ashtray. Which won't have much life in it either. Anything that's burned is sterilised. Dead. No life at all of any kind. Not even a prion.

Bacteria cannot hitch a ride on smoke particles because a) the smoke particle is hot enough to kill them and b) they are much bigger than the smoke particles. It would be the same as you standing in front of a coal fire, getting hit by bit of floating ash and being carried across the room by the force of it.

Then there's the structure of the cigarette. It isn't a series of stacked tubes through which bacteria can easily flow. They won't get far on the basis of the airflow, even if they weren't already attached to the tobacco leaves and stuck there until the fire gets them. Bacteria do not have the ability to run. Some can swim in liquid but they can't climb through dry leaves.

Finally, the only way human pathogens could get into cigarettes is if someone put them there during processing. They do not naturally appear on tobacco leaves and any that were present on the leaves would be unlikely to survive drying. If you use filters, the only way you'd get any infection would be if the end of the filter was loaded with a big enough dose of something nasty, and that would have to be deliberate.

In short, if this is the level of desperate junk they can come up with and call it science, I wouldn't employ any of them to sweep the floor of my lab.

They know so little of the subject, they'd be a danger to themselves and to me.

Angry Exile said...

Seen Velvet Glove recently? Fourth hand smoke is apparently tiny smoke related products that you're pissing down the bog and befouling the water supply with. Yes, obviously the water is thoroughly treated before it comes out of a tap but I assume that the full name is Homeopathic Fourth Hand Smoke.

Man with Many Chins said...

I could believe that bacteria are living within the tobacco....if for example you smoke hand rolling tobacco, its not a good idea to go and fondle your tomato plants afterwards as tobacco carries a disease that affects tomato plants.

But said bacteria surviving the temperatures involved in smoking a cigaretter....nah

PS Like the new look of the blog!

Ed P said...

That tobacco is sooo dangerous I have given it up and now smoke my weed neat. And if I have nicotine withdrawal symptoms, just feeling a pack of fags gives me a homoeopathic "hit".