If There Isn’t Less Here, There’s Not More There

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I have more to say about hyperbole than I do about smoking.

    One of the most striking linguistic trends in viral media (and the one most likely to annoy people like me) is that everything and anything becomes hyperbole. Everything is awesome, best thing ever, mind-blowing, etc.

    I know this is meant to be playful and harmless but for some reason it really bothers me and has the opposite effect on me. Same with gifs. I dislike gifs extremely.Report

  2. Avatar EB says:

    Without actually knowing anything about the danger of third-hand smoke, etc., your argument is measuring risk on the wrong scale.

    No one actually cares about th relative danger of various forms of smoking. They care about the absolute health risk. If (numbers obv made up) direct smoking gives you 99 cancer points and 3rd hand smoking gives you 33 cancer points, but it only takes 10 cancer points to actually get cancer, then the two really are equally dangerous. The fact that direct smoking is extra bad on some arbitrary scale doesn’t really concern me as much as the fact that, in my made-up example, I’ve still got cancer.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to EB says:

      More or less, but…

      No one actually cares about the relative danger of various forms of smoking. They care about the absolute health risk

      Most people don’t know what absolute risk *is*, and they talk an awful lot about relative dangers… so I quibble with that part.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to EB says:

      The cancer risk for all smoking is relative, though, and not absolute. People smoke and live to 90. It’s about the various odds that a bad thing will happen to you, which bad thing, and how bad the thing is.Report

      • Or, if you want to look at it as the “maximum health risk” or “the worst that can happen” and say that first-through-third hand smoking has the same MHR and therefore are “equally dangerous”… and that relative risk is unimportant… well I consider that view blinkered because it really does mean that if you live with a smoker, you might as well smoke yourself.

        I’m not saying that the MHR isn’t important. But the worst that can happen is quite secondary to the odds of it happening.

        Otherwise, being born comes with a risk of cancer. Lung cancer. Being a soldier and being a solar panel installer are both equally bad because you can die or be injured on both jobs. Driving with and without a seatbelt are equally bad because you can die in a car accident either way. Hell, driving drunk and driving sober are both equally bad. That’s just not a helpful prism through which to evaluate the issue, in my opinion.Report

      • Avatar EB in reply to Will Truman says:

        To the extent that you’re talking about smoking in particular, I suspect you’re right–direct smoking and third-hand smoking are probably on opposite sides of whatever risk thresholds exist (since if they were actually equally risky everyone would be dead) (note: not intended as a factual statement).

        However, to the extent that you’re trying to establish a general principle, I think my caveat is important. “Getting hit in the head with a 1 ton weight is just as dangerous as getting hit in the head with a 2 ton weight.” Is this accurate? In some sense, the 2 ton weight is twice as bad (kinetic energy, ease of identification of remains, etc). Can I reverse it and say “getting hit with a 2 ton weight is no worse than getting hit with a 1 ton weight?” Well, sure. The relevant threshold is death, not degree of kinetic energy transfer, so they’re both equally bad in that sense.

        I guess my basic point is that there is no general principle to be established here, and it sounds like you’re trying to make a more general point than just about tobacco.Report

      • EB, my general principle is that if you’re not willing to say that Z is no more dangerous than X, then you shouldn’t say X is just as dangerous as Z.

        I am perfectly willing to say that a 2-ton weight falling on you isn’t generally more dangerous than a 1-ton weight falling on you.Report

      • BTW, EB, I loved your comment. My first response was too short because I wanted to respond to it while I was waiting in line at Sheetz.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to EB says:

      They care about the absolute health risk.

      Indeed, and exposure makes an impact as well. To piggy-back on your example, if a typical non-smoker gets exposed to three instances of third-hand-smoke each day, then it becomes just as dangerous as direct smoking from a public-health perspective. There was a lot of hyperbole with second-hand-smoke, to be sure, but one of the sane arguments was that a smoker dining with a few of his friends and smoking could be doing more damage to others (in aggregate) than to himself.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to trizzlor says:

        Exposure matters mostly on the basis of relative danger. The more exposure you have, the greater the danger. Which is why the difference between first, second, and third-hand is significant.

        I will grant that the dynamics would change if it could be demonstrated that second hand smoke is actually doing as much damage in the overall as smoking, but the numbers we have do not suggest that to be the case. The most obvious metrics I can find are lung cancer and heart disease, where it’s about 10:1.

        Which absolutely sucks if you’re one of the non-smokers who got cancer from smokers, but suggests that the primary public health danger is to the smokers themselves.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to trizzlor says:

        The most obvious metrics I can find are lung cancer and heart disease, where it’s about 10:1.

        Fair point, it’s probably unlikely that a person is habitually smoking with 10 non-smokers. That said, back when smoking was allowed in bars or even at work, that second-hand risk could really add up.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    It’s the end of the world as we know it,
    and I feel fine.
    Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Smoking is the perfect pleasure. It must be destroyed.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I should also mention that I am turned off by inflammed rhetoric and distrust it.Report

  6. I had a roommate who insisted that one whiff of cigarette smoke, by itself, could cause lung cancer. I don’t think she was being hyperbolous, either. I think she really believed it, based on some theory that the cancer mutation can be effected by one introduction of the poison. For all I know, she might have been technically correct, although left out of her claim is any assessment of the likelihood of that happening.

    Since neither she, nor I, nor our other roommate actually smoked, it was just something to argue about and not an imposition on any of us.

    I don’t really have a point here, other than to relate an anecdote.Report

  7. Will,
    I remember that there were people who argued that secondhand smoking was *worse* than smoking because the person smoking benefitted from the filter while the secondhand smoke person just breathed in everything indiscriminately.Report

  8. Avatar Damon says:

    First they came for my cigs, then they came for my e-cigs!

    Bastards.Report

  9. @will-truman ,
    Semi-relatedly, “Animal protein-rich diets could be as harmful to health as smoking”.
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/04/animal-protein-diets-smoking-meat-eggs-dairy

    The subheading in this case suggests actually that they are underselling the comparison though: “People under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes, study suggests”.Report

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