Billions of people have been exposed to secondhand smoke during the past 400 or so years… so let’s ignore that and consider what happened to 32 mice over the course of two weeks.
A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims that secondhand smoke increased the rate of mutations (from 1+% to 4+%) at a particular locus of mouse sperm.
But even if true, so what? The researchers offer no evidence that this purported difference in mutation rate had any clinical effect.
It would have been simple enough for the researchers to allow the mice to breed and observe the outcome. But why do the logical and scientific thing when one can simply jump to the conclusion that,
Our finding that exposure of mice to second-hand smoke induces ESTR mutations in sperm provides compelling evidence in support of the argument that passive smoking should be regarded as a germ cell mutagen in humans. Consistent with data for first-hand smoke, male exposure to second-hand smoke before fertilization is likely to have detrimental reproductive consequences that go beyond the passive smoker.
But what should be “compelling” about this study is that the researchers should be compelled to return their grant money to taxpayers.
This study was funded by the Department of Energy — I hope the researchers at least tossed the mouse carcasses in a power-generating waste boiler — and the California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, which receives 5 percent of California’s $0.25-per-pack tax on cigarettes and wastes that revenue on dopey studies like this one.