Free smokes!
August 30, 2004 3:02 AM   Subscribe

Breathing could cost you your health. If the *best* quality air in a UK city is equivalent to smoking 10 fags a (24 hour) day, are we all going to end up like the people in the anti-smoking adverts?
posted by asok (18 comments total)
Holy fuck.
posted by Jairus at 4:07 AM on August 30, 2004

So that means that if I live way out in the country I can smoke like 3 packs a day and still be as healthy as the folks in Oxford. Hmm.
posted by moonbiter at 4:23 AM on August 30, 2004

that's kind of misleading - you get the equivilant levels of "oxides of nitrogen" but that says nothing of all the other crap found in cigarrettes. That's not to say i advise anyone to inhale city air, of course, as doing so has been shown to be detrimental to one's health.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:41 AM on August 30, 2004

Then again, air pollution is also not only measured in terms of "oxides of nitrogen" ... and, of course, the practice of cigarette companies putting extra crap on the cigs should be outlawed.
posted by magullo at 4:56 AM on August 30, 2004

That's misleading. I live near Oxford, and while a few years ago the pollution used to be terrible, it's been a while since the city centre has been limited to low-pollution busses and taxis only. The air there seems fine to me, certainly it doesn't stink nearly as much as London.
posted by Mwongozi at 5:36 AM on August 30, 2004

Yeah, NOX are most definitely not the most dangerous things in cigarette smoke. It's the particulates, your PAH, dioxins and other partial combustion products that do you in---the "tar" in the smoke. In fact, recent research shows that sucking on the end of a diesel exhaust is way less exposure than a cigarette draw.
posted by bonehead at 6:12 AM on August 30, 2004

Working in London you really do notice how bad the pollution is. I'm gonna be really discusting and say the black stuff that comes outta my nose from the pollution after a day at work is certainly not nice!

I was on holiday in Iceland a couple of months ago and was introduced to the new Hydrogen buses that are being used to cut down on emissions. Nice idea so let's hope it works
posted by floanna at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2004

oh and skallas - you aren't an ex or non smoker by any chance are you? :D I'm happy to keep puffing away on the 'dangerous mix of chemicals' to get a 'crappy buzz'. Can't see the point of trying to give up while I'm getting affected more by the pollution in London
posted by floanna at 6:56 AM on August 30, 2004

I'm an ex-smoker, and I would like to state for the record that the buzz was super. Man, I miss my dangerous chemicals; there is no better complement to a cup of coffee in the morning.

That said, kids, don't start smoking. Unless you want to look really cool.
posted by majcher at 7:10 AM on August 30, 2004

God bless the Black Snot of London. I particularly enjoy standing at one end of the tube platform and looking at the other end, noting the thick haze of shit in the air.
posted by influx at 7:28 AM on August 30, 2004

In the European Union over 600 additives may be used in the manufacture of tobacco products under an extremely loose and de-centralised regulatory framework. Although tobacco additives are generally screened for their direct toxicity, there is virtually no assessment of the impact additives have on smoking behaviour or other undesirable external consequences. If a small quantity of a relatively benign substance added to a tobacco product can make the product more addictive, make it easier to start smoking or facilitate continued smoking then it may be causing great harm by 'leveraging' additional smoking. The additional smoking brings increased exposure to over 4,000 chemicals, including many that are highly toxic and carcinogenic. Given that over 500,000 people die prematurely in the European Union each year as a result of smoking-related disease, even a one per cent change in smoking attributable to the use of additives would have large absolute health consequences - tens of thousands of lives annually. For this reason, tobacco additives should be seen as major public health issue in their own right.


Though 600 additives are authorised for use in tobacco products, only the tobacco manufacturers can say which additives are used and in which brands. Not even the Government or the European Commission, which are responsible for the regulation of tobacco products have this information or the power to demand it.


Most additives are not necessary and few were used before 1970.

posted by magullo at 7:35 AM on August 30, 2004

There is an easy solution, don't live where the air is poison.

I feel bad for the people that smoke AND live in those polluted cities. Double whammy, anyone?
posted by fenriq at 7:52 AM on August 30, 2004

Back on topic:
Personally, I would agree that the air quality in Oxford has massively improved since I was a boy: I used to change buses outside Queens College and inhale those lovely old diesel fumes, where the ancient buildings were blackened with pollution and crumbling with erosion fom same. The city centre is much improved over the last 10 or more years - I hate to think what the stats were like in 1970! These readings are probably not just from the centre, where cars are largely banned in the daytime, but from the monitors which can be sen in various locations all over.

The local bus company [which my dad and two uncles used to work for, back in the days when it was the municipally owned 'City of Oxford Motor Services'] is clearly making efforts:
"we have fitted controlled exhaust systems to our fleet which cuts out a large proportion of harmful emissions. We run the lowest emission bus fleet of its size in the UK."

"88% of our vehicles have engines to Euro II Standard or above ... the Euro standard dictates maximum levels across a wide range of vehicle emissions. All vehicles use ulta-low sulphur diesel. 69% of buses are fitted witha catalyst and regenerative trap (55% in 2002). Average age of fleet is 5.2 years, compared to a government target of 8.0 years and a national average of 8.6 years. " [PDF link]

Whether the other competing bus co., Stagecoach, is making similar efforts, I don't know. However, they do say this:
"In total, bus usage in Oxfordshire has increased by over 80% since 1987 ... In contrast, bus use nationwide has declined significantly over the same period."

The increase in bus usage must be beneficial for air quality in some respects, curtailing as it does the unnecessary overuse of private motoring in the urban environment.

I'd love to see the comparison figures - from previous years and from other, non-UK cities, like Paris and L.A. (are US pollution figures even compiled? The EPA over there is not the most dangerous watchdog these days, is it?). I'd love to see this company's statement fisked: it's in CalorGas's interest to promote LPG, which may or may not be lower in NOX, but will still be a fossil fuel adding to greenhouse gases and other pollution. If they were so concerned with pollution, wouldn't we be better served by a push to develop fuel cell technology? I don't expect Calor to be pushing for that as a solution.

fenriq: I wish I'd known it was that simple! Where do you recommend? Can you cite the NOX figures for your nearest city?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2004

Just like to echo what Mwongozi said. It's not so many years ago that all traffic was allowed through the city centre. Since they banned cars, things are improved. Still alarming though. I might as well take up smoking...
posted by salmacis at 8:19 AM on August 30, 2004

I live in Glasgow, the third worst city in the survey, which also has the most polluted street in Britain (Hope Street). Given that I also smoke, I could well die halfway through writing th
posted by Kasino72 at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2004

Uh, hello? This isn't a scientific paper. This is an advertisement.

It hasn't been peer reviewed, it hasn't even been submitted to a journal. It's just been put up on a website. Whose website? The people who did the "survey", of course.

There is no data about the method for actually measuring the samples, no data about when and where in the cities the samples were taken, and no data regarding what kind of cigarettes they're comparing to. It doesn't even clearly link NOx to any specific detrimental effect!
posted by atbash at 1:26 PM on August 30, 2004

Air quality has improved measurably since the 19th Century when every home burned coal and wood with no filters. Still has a long way to go diesel exhaust particulates causes cancer and other things.
posted by stbalbach at 1:27 PM on August 30, 2004

atbash, indeed but some clues are in the link.

'The Government’s stated target for average NOx levels is 21 parts per billion – the equivalent of 12 cigarettes a day'
So NOx can't be *that* bad.

NOx is implicated in respiratory disorders and asthma.

I believe they are comparing levels to a 'light' brand of cigarettes.

It was interesting to me that London did not come out worst, is the difference due to atmospheric causes, I wonder?
posted by asok at 2:40 AM on August 31, 2004

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