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: