TRUTH rants about Polonium-210 in cigarette smoke

Well, our old friends at TRUTH – an ironically-named organization, to say the least – have another commercial out, which I just saw tonight.

Their latest ad bellows that cigarette smoke contains Polonium-210, “a dangerous radioactive substance linked to cancer!” Their spokesranter then holds up a Geiger-Müller counter to an ash tray and records a huge, almost AM-radio-static-like, rating of counts per minute.

Well, gee, do you think TRUTH might be exaggerating just a tad? Let’s see:

There’s Polonium-210 in cigarette smoke because there’s Polonium-210 in raw tobacco. Po-210 is the radioactive decay product of longer-lived-but-still-radioactive Lead-210, which accumulates in the trichomes (hairlike filaments) of the tobacco plant. According to a 1999 article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the levels of Polonium-210 in tobacco smoke are not believed to be great enough to significantly impact lung cancer. And that’s among smokers. Among people who merely breathe second-hand smoke, the levels of Po-210 they’re inhaling are going to be even lower.

You’re not going to pick up this stuff by waving a Geiger counter over some cigarettes. These are trace amounts we’re talking about here. The only way Po-210 has been “linked to” lung cancer was by having laboratory animals inhale Po-210 in huge quantities, more than a smoker would be exposed to in his/her lifetime.

But, darn it, little details like that won’t get in the way of TRUTH. They’re going to convince you that smoking is evil, no matter how much they have to exaggerate. Besides, “radioactive” automatically sounds scary, even if you’d get more radiation from lying under a sunlamp than you would from smoking 2 packs a day.

Gah. Whenever a TRUTH commercial comes on, I’m tempted to take up smoking just to piss them off. :mad:

Flick . . . ahhhhh.

Jesus. Smoking’s already more or less confirmed to dramatically increase your lung cancer, as well as a laundry list of other potential health problems. Why the fuck does anyone feel that they have to lie to make it look more dangerous?

Man, I was curious why my face melted off and all my hair fell out. It must be all that second hand smoke I’m getting.

God, those bastards make me angry. I’m tempted to take up smoking just because of those commercials. Don’t those pinheads realize they could just tell the truth and get the desired effect without having to make shit up?

Just show a picture of someone talking through one of those throat microphones, that would do it for me.

/quit cold turkey about a year ago :slight_smile:

You know, this sentiment is so universal that I’m beginning to think the Truth ads are secretly financed by tobacco companies.

They are openly financed by the tobacco companies according to the terms of their settlement. Or was I just wooshed?

It wasn’t just you that got wooshed Gaudere… we all did!

:::lights up another stick of instant death 60’ radius:::

Hey, that tactic worked to get Red Dye #2 off the market…

I imagine that, given that, the people at Truth are pretty annoyed that cigarettes are still legal.

Well, simply telling people about the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, etc., didn’t work, right? I mean, people are still smoking. So I guess they felt a new approach was warranted.

About ten years ago, there was a book out that did something like this as satire. I forget what the actual set-up was (tobacco company accidentally pledges 10x the expected amount to produce PSAs, or something like that) but a tobacco company found itself having to produce an ad campaign to steer people away from smoking.

The solution? Produce ads that unquestionably obeyed the letter of the law (and the spirit, to some extent), but which were subtly designed to backfire and encourage people to take up smoking.

Au contraire. They’d be out of jobs.

Ah. Forgot to mention, does anyone remember this book?

TRUTH isn’t targeting smokers with their ads any more.

They’re not even targeting young, impressionable waifs who are thinking about taking up smoking.

They’re targeting the general non-smoking public, to try to get them more insensed about second-hand smoke.

“Look!” they scream. “Those evil smokers are not only blowing carcinogenic chemicals and arsenic in your face, they’re also blowing radioactive dust at you!”

At the end of the commercial, they even went through a crowd of non-smokers with Geiger-Müller counters and waved the wands over their bodies to make their point. Those no-good smokers are making you radioactive! Ban it! Ban it! Ban it!

If I’d been in that crowd, and I’d known what was going to happen, I’d have brought some of those smoke detectors with radioactive Americium-131 in them and thrown 'em at the filmmakers.

I might. Did the tale involve[spoiler]the main character (public relations or some such for a tobacco company, or possibly a lobbyist for the industry) being kidnapped and covered head to toe with nicotine patches, making it impossible for him to smoke any more?

Also, I can remember one of the slogans that was used in the book: it was along the lines of “Everything your parents told you about smoking is right”, and then kids were supposed to see “smoking is right” at the end and, thus, be inspired to smoke.[/spoiler]
Spoiler tags used in case anyone feels like reading it if we can ever remember the title.

Google comes through again. This is the book I was thinking of. Is it the right one, Sublight?

The problem is that people react emotionally to any idea of radiation exposure, whether it’s warranted, or not. Consider the whole non-sense industry about radon decay daughter gasses in basements of houses - people spend huge amounts of money to protect themeselves from a danger that, in most instances, either can’t be avoided, or is otherwise negligible. The decay chain starting with the most common isotopes of radon has total half-life for the whole chain of about a day - within five days, then, there’s nothing left. Or if you’re continually getting more radon coming up, you’re at an equilibrium. Either way, trying to make one’s basement gas proof is usually a case of drastically diminishing returns. But the testing kits sure to sell.

Similarly, you have people up in arms about food irradiation for no good reason.

And these same people don’t realize that a signifigant fraction of naturally occuring potassium is radioactive: With a sensitive radiac you can detect bananas, for chrissake. No one is saying bananas are bad for you - and I imagine that there’s more dose to be had from eating a banana a day than from smoking a few cancer sticks a day. sheesh. :smack:

Thanks for the info on RADON…I was pretty sure that this is a much-hyped danger. Here in New England, home ispectors are charging big bucks for a radon test. It is probably nothing to worry about, unless your cellar is full of the stuff.
I belive SEVERAL brands of bottle spring water (from Europe) make a point of emphasizing that they are radioactive…surprised they are able to seel this stuff! :smack:

Well, again, it’s a matter of which isotopes are involved, and at what concentration. The ironic thing for me is knowing just which public health hazard created the furor to actually give Congress the power to push through the legislation creating the FDA. In the 'tween war years (I’m not exactly certain when) a snake oil salesman became convinced of the therapeutic effects of radiation. Remember, at this time, radiation was still very poorly understood, but was seen as the new scientific wonder.

This gentleman made up water with one of the much longer lived radium isotopes, and sold it as a health drink. Radiotherm, as it was called, garnered a lot of attention, and had a number of public persons talking about how great it was for giving them energy for going through their day. (Kinda like RedBull, only using the power of the atom.) And, for a number of years, all was well.

Then some of the people drinking this started to get sick. The most spectacular case was a young socialite who ended up with bone cancer through his skull, and other major bones. Before he finally died they’d had to remove his entire lower jaw, IIRC, and he had gone from being a very handsome young man to a medical horror. Finally people started listening to the scientists who were saying that drinking a long-lived, alpha-particle-emitting isotope was a baaad idea. One of the kickers for this was, after the gentleman in question died, they exposed a sheet of x-ray film to his body - without using any external source, mind you. And they got a good map of the poor schmuck’s bones from all the radium that had settled in his bones.

The public furor over all this, combined with the growing horror that there were no laws preventing the snake-oil salesman from continuing to sell his Radiotherm created the political environment that required the gov’t to set up something to prevent this from happening again. Hence the FDA.

(As an aside, while I call the man behind Radiotherm a snake-oil salesman, he was relatively honest: He used the radiotherm, himself, and continued drinking his supply long after the FDA shut him down. He continued to believe that his health was a direct result of the dose he was giving himself, and would give cases of Radiotherm to his friends on birthdays and holidays - and such gifts were often greatly appreciated. I’m not saying this to excuse him for poisoning his customers, just to explain he wasn’t advocating something he didn’t use himself.)

The really ironic thing, if you look at the current laws and regulations the FDA comes under - because of the food supplement business pressures, getting the FDA to leave them alone - it is possible that if someone wanted to market something like Radiotherm, now, the FDA wouldn’t be able to stop them, since it was never marketed as a medication, but as an energy drink. (Which, if you look at it the right way, it was: Where else could you get a drink of water that actually zapped you with gamma rays, and alpha particles moving at a fraction of the speed of light?) I may be wrong in my interpretation of the laws, but I don’t think so - AIUI so long as you steer clear of making actual medicinal claims for your product the FDA can be told to go suck eggs. :smack:

I sincerely hope that the bottled waters you’re talking about are much less… energetic.

They are forced to finance them, but have no controll over the content. There was a case a year or so ago in which the tabacco companies sued “Truth” for making ads that had personal attacks in them.