Wash. U. Study Got it WRONG: Smoke Eaters Do Work

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Tony Palazzolo is an active member of Keep St. Louis Free and a strong believer in personal rights.
Earlier this month Washington University released a study on air quality in smoking-allowed and smoke-free bars and restaurants in St Louis. They used nicotine as the marker to gauge environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) levels in all venues.

If you accept the conclusions of the study you should probably never leave the safe confines of your home. While nicotine was present in all venues it was on average thirty one times higher in smoking-allowed venues. This, they say, is proof that the air in these venues is deadly. What they left out of the press release that the nicotine levels were, at worst 500 times safer than OSHA standards in the establishments tested. Even at 31 times higher, it is still 500 times more dilute than would be considered harmful by OSHA. These are not arbitrary numbers but rigorously-tested standards developed by OSHA for all environments.

The other "finding" in this study is that they were surprised that establishments with ventilation had higher levels of nicotine.

According to the study, ventilation purportedly adds nicotine into the air. Even if the dubious claim that ventilation "just recirculates" ETS were true, it wouldn't add more smoke to the environment. Even if systems were 100% ineffective they would have similar levels of ETS, not more.

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A basic tenet of research is that all the information is released along with the study. In order for the research to be validated it needs to be replicated with similar results. Washington University not only withheld the venues that were tested but also the ventilation systems in use at these venues. Researchers are usually eager to release all the data resulting in such important findings. Why then would they withhold important data with a study that rewrites the laws of chemistry?

This is what is commonly referred to as "science by press release". The point of the study was not the effectiveness of ventilation. It was to spread fear and misinformation to the public. They believe the public lacks the common sense and intelligence to question their results. The study was never meant to be scrutinized. It was meant to be released to the media and used as sound bytes in future press releases.

With, the results of the test showing air quality to be 500 times safer than OSHA standards. With, their conclusions not supported by any data they released. With their nonsensical findings that ventilation acts as a multiplier of ETS. We should all question what the researchers at Washington University were smoking.

Note: Read Martin Pion's response: Wash U. Got it RIGHT: Smoke Eaters Don't Work

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