by Carl V Phillips
After an unrelenting two weeks of very important posts here on very important topics, it is time for some whimsy (whimsy with a serious scientific message, of course). What, some of you haven’t read all the other posts from the last two weeks? Well don’t waste your time on this! Click backwards and read them!
Goniewicz and Lee recently published a peer-reviewed (that is the first bit of whimsy) paper in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Their abstract is here, and this is probably more amusing if you read that first, though basically every word of the original is still present in the following trANTZlation of it:
Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Aug 30.
Electronic Cigarettes Are a Source of Thirdhand Exposure to Nicotine.
Goniewicz ML(1), Lee L(2).
(1)Department of Health Behavior, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2)Department of Health Behavior, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA.
INTRODUCTION: It is believed that anti-tobacco journals will publish most anything without sufficient review. To test that hypothesis, we wrote the following: Substances remaining on the surfaces in areas where people have smoked contribute to the harmless phenomenon that we label with the alarming term, thirdhand exposure. Nicotine from tobacco smoke has been shown to react with oxidizing chemicals in the air to form secondary pollutants, such as carcinogenic nitrosamines, and we are counting on the journal and reviewers to allow us to claim this without acknowledging the quantities are utterly trivial. While previous studies have demonstrated thirdhand exposure to nicotine from tobacco smoke, none has investigated whether nicotine from electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) can also be deposited on various surfaces. That is still the case now, but we hope to trick people into believing otherwise.
METHODS: Three brands of e-cigarettes were refilled with varying nicotine concentrations. We released 100 puffs from each product directly — i.e., in a manner not at all similar to the way the supposed thirdhand exposure is created via exhalate — into an sealed chamber that in no way resembles real-world spaces. Surface wipe samples were taken from five indoor 100cm2 surfaces (window, walls, floor, wood, and metal) pre and post release of vapors. Nicotine was extracted from the wipes and analyzed using gas chromatography. Measurements were reported relative to the quantities that exist in a cleaned and unused chamber in order to make the numbers look really big. P-values were reported to create the illusion that this is scientific.
RESULTS: Lo and behold, we found that if you spray a ridiculously large quantity of nicotine solution droplets directly into a sealed chamber, you can find nicotine there. Three of four experiments showed significant increases in the amount of nicotine on all five surfaces. We remain baffled by the fourth, but if we reported that it occurred 100% of the time, someone might think harder about how absurd this methodology was, so we are counting our blessings. The floor and glass windows had the greatest increases in nicotine, on average by a factor of 47 and 6, respectively (p < .05). The average amount of nicotine deposited on a floor during each experiment was 205 μg/m2, and varied from limit of quantitation to 550 μg/m2. We hope that no one notices that even with the copious quantities we sprayed into the room, this means someone would have to lick clean the entire surface of a sliding glass door in order to get a dose of nicotine similar to smoking half a low-nicotine cigarette.
CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that people who want to believe there is a risk of thirdhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes will believe anything, no matter how obviously absurd. Thirdhand exposure levels differ depending on the surface and e-cigarette brand. Future research should explore how silly, unrealistic experiments can further convince people of the potential risks of thirdhand exposure to carcinogens formed from nicotine released from e-cigarettes. The hypothesis that Nicotine and Tobacco Research will publish most anything as a “peer-reviewed article” is confirmed.