# Short Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke

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Phil said :

Many studies published in serious journals are based on faulty logic, bad methodology and sometime even worst. Perhaps Dr Siegel is right, perhaps Glantz's claim IS ridiculous. However, articles published in equally serious journals should be use to debunk this. For Stossel to present something as a "myth" based only on the opinion of ONE scientist is downright manipulative. Although in the end it'll probably damage the reputation of science more than his ratings.

The problem here is that many studies have been done on the health effects of breathing second hand smoke. Overall, very little harm has been proven, but there is probably SOME harm, even if it is a tiny fraction of the harm smokers are doing to themselves.

Because there are so many studies looking at something so difficult to demonstrate, there are results on both sides. That is : some results show no harm and some results show harm. People getting into arguments on this can find study results to 'prove' whatever position they choose to stand for.

Overall, we should accept that the harm is there but is probably trivial. If there is an exception to this, it is probably to those most vulnerable individuals - babies and toddlers. Smokers should not allow smoke to pass into the lungs of these ones.

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There seem to be several debates going on here.

Should we ban smoking in public?

Is there evidence of harm from second hand smoke?

Is there evidence of harm from very short exposures.

Well, here's my 2d worth

Pangloss, when you say "

I think you know better than that. I have no problem with your objections to noxious odor and discourteous behavior, by the way. By all means, object on that basis. I support your right to take your business elsewhere, 100%." I think you have missed the point; I shouldn't have to move to make way for the smokers. It should be the other way round. They are the ones doing something offensive; not me.

OK, I know that the health risk from someone elses smoke is not huge; there are studies that show evidence of harm and it is scientificly reasonable to make an argument like this

Smokers are known to have high rates of cancer.

While this may be due to some other effect (perhaps the lighters or matches are the problem) it is reasonable to say that smoke causes cancer in smokers.

Unless someone can explain how the smoke "knows" that is is in the lungs of the person who lit the cig then it is reasonable to assume that smoke will cause cancer in non smokers too.

There may be a cutoff point below which there is no effect but there would need to be a mechanism proposed that "turns off" the carcinogenicity at low levels. AFAIK there is no such mechanism so I do not believe that there is a "safe" exposure. There may well be a level where, compared to the other risks in life, the risks from second hand smoke are negligible. I don't know what that level is. It will certainly depend on other things.

This makes it look like any smoke is "harming me a little bit" by raising my risk of cancer (and where I have written cancer there are other health problems to which the same logic applies).

There is also the question of the fact that smoke stinks. When someone farts in a lift nobody bothers to complain about hydrogen sulphide toxicity. It's simply not socially acceptable; proof of physical harm doesn't eneter into it.

On the other hand I'm not sure I agree with the statement that it's not OK to harm me a little bit. OK, I realise that seems odd, but I know that the kids next door make a lot of noise and it annoys me; that probably raises my blood pressure and therefore in some (tiny) way it is detrimental to my health. I also know that the parties I host from time to time do exactly the same to my neighbours.

Neither of us sues the other for damages because we both know

(1) we are as guilty as each other and

(2) we wouldn't get anywhere; the jury would decide that noisy kids or the odd party are reasonable things to put up with. If I were hosting parties every week that might be another matter. In particular I could get taken to court over it and fined (or even jailed if I carried on) for causing a nuisance.

Whether or not having to put up with other people's smoke is "reasonable" or not is a decision made by society as a whole. At least in principle, in a democracy that's where the laws come from.

Society here in the UK seems to have decided that, while it was acceptable to smoke in public in the past, it is no longer acceptable.

OK the laws are not a perfect reflection of societies view- they cannot be since different people have different views but we chose governments and thereby we choose laws. If we don't like it it's our own fault (please don't turn this thread into a "the legal system doesn't work because... debate. I know it doesn't so feel free to start another thread about it)

OK that's why theres a law coming in about smoking in the UK.

Now can we get back to the question of whether or not it is scientifically valid to clain that short exposures to second hand smoke are a health risk?

How would you construct the experiment to answer that question and would it be possible to perform the experiment?

Alternatively, is there a valid theory that gives rise to a mechanism for such an effect.

I think there might be in principle. It's the old idea that "it only takes one cancerous cell to grow into a cancer and it only takes one carcinogenic molecule to turn a cell cancerous because there's only 1 (nuclear) DNA molecule in a cell for it to interact with". I'm not at all sure about the second clause there.

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Smoking emissions standards? =P

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I think you have missed the point; I shouldn't have to move to make way for the smokers. It should be the other way round. They are the ones doing something offensive; not me.

You don't have to move. You choose to. I don't have to move away from fat people with rotten teeth, but I choose to because it's gross - even though they're the ones being offensive.

The thing is, when a smoking area is deamed as such - by the owner of the business, then what right do we have to make laws to stop that? Just like a home owner, you don't have a right to tell them what to do in their own business. If you don't like my smoking in my house, then don't come in. Same with business. If you don't like them allowing smoking and you don't want to be around it, then don't come in.

This isn't about your right to frequent any business you want without being offended - you don't have that right. Just like you don't have a right to walk in anybody's house and not be offended. It's their house. And these are private businesses - regular folk like you that own it and make their living from it. It is paid for by them and they have a right to allow smoking or slow emition of mustard gas too - in my opinion - so long as it is marked and partitioned appropriately.

You don't have a right to enforce your ideas of offensive behavior on everyone else. We all have ideas of offensive behavior that differ - no matter how practical or popular you think yours are - and that's not a free society. Not in the least. A free society means allowing people to do stupid things. A free society means tolerating the idea that not everybody wants to be like you...

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On the other hand I'm not sure I agree with the statement that it's not OK to harm me a little bit. OK, I realise that seems odd, but I know that the kids next door make a lot of noise and it annoys me; that probably raises my blood pressure and therefore in some (tiny) way it is detrimental to my health.

It may raise your blood pressure but it's not the kids doing it. You choose to get angry. Most of what offends you in life is your problem.

Whether or not having to put up with other people's smoke is "reasonable" or not is a decision made by society as a whole.

I agree, in that it isn't reasonable to be forced to deal with other's smoke in public. And it's even more unreasonable to force non-smoking on private businesses. Their only duty should be to designate and label.

Now can we get back to the question of whether or not it is scientifically valid to clain that short exposures to second hand smoke are a health risk?

How about damage to the lungs? Surely we can prove that smoke darkens the lungs can't we? Second hand, third hand, whatever generation of smoke shouldn't matter should it? That's enough harm in my mind to keep anyone from smoking in public outside of a designated establishment. Of course, what about outside?

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OK, I know that the health risk from someone elses smoke is not huge; there are studies that show evidence of harm and it is scientificly reasonable to make an argument like this

Smokers are known to have high rates of cancer.

Carbon monoxide kills in sufficient quantity. Do not drive your car past my house anymore. You don't know that it won't harm me.

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Carbon monoxide kills in sufficient quantity. Do not drive your car past my house anymore. You don't know that it won't harm me.

There is no social benefit to smoking. There is to driving cars.

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No, it does not. Name one study that shows drinking water does not cause cancer. No one would fund such a study, for one thing. The study would be inconclusive, for another.

Right. We know this as truth. We don't know that about second hand smoke. When you have the same degree of certainty let me know, but I still won't want you smoking next to me in a public space any more than I would want you carrying a plate of rotting rat entrails.

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This is very wrong reasoning, IMO.

Sorry, I worked my way up the chain before seeing this post. Let me take this one on.

You can't just pick a subject and decide that its adherents need to prove themselves non-threatening to you.

No, I would pick an activity which is (i) non-useful to society and (ii) absolutely known to cause harm in some concentrations.

You look funny. Prove you're not dangerous to me. You have a strange name. Prove you're not dangerous to me. Your farts smell awful. Prove they're not dangerous to me.

Moreover, I didn't rely only on the health aspects but also believe that there is no right to engage in nuisance activities (i.e. actions which are noxious with no social utility) in public spaces.

I think you know better than that. I have no problem with your objections to noxious odor and discourteous behavior, by the way. By all means, object on that basis. I support your right to take your business elsewhere, 100%.

If it became a fad for 20 somethings to start carrying about in public places rotting plates of rat entrails and sniff the vapors from time to time, I think it would be perfectly appropriate for a state legislature to pass legislation banning the practice.

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There is no social benefit to smoking. There is to driving cars.

There's a social benefit large enough to justify the thousands of dead bodies we mourn over year after year?

There's a social benefit if we quit insisting on driving vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds, made of metals and unforgiving, non-elastic materials.

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There is no social benefit to smoking. There is to driving cars.

Yet cars are far more destructive than smoking in environmental terms. Waving this aside because of a perceived societal benefit is an unquantified and arbitrary value judgement.

I would classify cars as being a convenience, rather than an overall benefit. They cost us massively in terms of raw resources, and the true extent of the damage done (to humans and the planet) by collisions and accidents, the burning off of fossil fuels, carving the planet into roads, and belching out millions of tonnes of exhaust every year, very much remains to be seen.

I don't think this is really comparable to a minor and user-controllable vice like smoking, in any way.

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John Cuthber said :

It's the old idea that "it only takes one cancerous cell to grow into a cancer and it only takes one carcinogenic molecule to turn a cell cancerous because there's only 1 (nuclear) DNA molecule in a cell for it to interact with". I'm not at all sure about the second clause there.

Let me return to a wee bit of science. Dr. Bruce Ames (now retired) spent his whole professional life researching carcinogens and their effects. He found that over 50% of ALL chemicals we ingest are carcinogens at high dose.

The flip side of this discovery is that 100% of all chemicals are non cancer causing at sufficiently low dose. Cabbage contains more than 20 chemicals that have (so far) been classified as cancer causing. However, at the the low doses found when you eat cabbage, they are harmless.

It is rather probable that the nasty chemicals in cigarette smoke are also harmless in the doses we get from short exposure to second hand smoke.

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There's a social benefit large enough to justify the thousands of dead bodies we mourn over year after year?

To driving? Yes, of course.

There's a social benefit if we quit insisting on driving vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds, made of metals and unforgiving, non-elastic materials.

I'm not sure that would save lives or that the costs would be similiar. I don't understand your point.

My argument is simple:

1. Smoking has zero social benefit and is known to be deadly in certain concentrations. Therefore, I want to know that it is not hurting people before it is used in the public. This wouild be an obvious rule if we were not trying to unwind centuries of custom and addiction.

2. There is an enormous benefit to a mobile society. We can argue about the best policies re car composition, design, or the speed limit but there is no question that cars provide enormous competitive and other advantages to society.

3. It's a nuisance with no corresponding social benefit. Does no one want to take on my rat entrail analogy?

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Yet cars are far more destructive than smoking in environmental terms. Waving this aside because of a perceived societal benefit is an unquantified and arbitrary value judgement.

I would classify cars as being a convenience, rather than an overall benefit.

Note you shift to "overall benefit." You're now talking about net benefit.

Smoking has no gross benefit to society so there isn't even an argument about "overall benefits." It's all loss.

I had an essential meeting today 45 miles from my office. A bus route would have been uneconomic and counterproductive.

How was I to get there?

They cost us massively in terms of raw resources, and the true extent of the damage done (to humans and the planet) by collisions and accidents, the burning off of fossil fuels, carving the planet into roads, and belching out millions of tonnes of exhaust every year, very much remains to be seen.

What alternative are you proposing?

I don't think this is really comparable to a minor and user-controllable vice like smoking, in any way.

We'll see if my argument continues to be ignored...

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Note you shift to "overall benefit." You're now talking about net benefit.

I am shifting nothing. I describe it as such because you respond to "cars are damaging" with "but they have a benefit", as if there is some magical formula that makes driving more acceptable than smoking, and this benefit you mention is the final output.

Smoking has no gross benefit to society so there isn't even an argument about "overall benefits." It's all loss.

You are missing the point; this is not about scoring points for the team. My counter-attack (if you will) on driving was simply to illustrate that your argument was flawed.

Put it this way: any successful and fair democratic society must address perceived threats with proportional responses. Legislating away personal accountability over a question of manners is not a proportional response.

Everybody loses when legislation is used to hammer down something to which a more proportional response is "...do you mind not doing that here?"

Believe me, this would not be the first time seemingly innocuous legislation has opened the door for subsequent laws with a wider reach and a stronger grasp.

I had an essential meeting today 45 miles from my office. A bus route would have been uneconomic and counterproductive. How was I to get there? What alternative are you proposing?

Geographically specific meetings are virtually obsolete, and the cost of assembling hybrid and bio-fuelled fleets is plummeting, yet people like yourself keep driving backwards and forwards, without putting pressure on your companies to update their communication technologies, start car-sharing schemes, or invest in environmentally sound leased/company cars.

Believe me, I am well aware of how much more convenient life is with a car, but you seem to be saying that the negative effects of driving and manufacturing cars can be neglected in our discussion simply because there is a small positive output.

Convenience, not benefit. Convenience at a cost to us all, and to thousands of other species. And yet while defending this ongoing destructive pantomime that we are all responsible for, you have the nerve to interfere in other people's business with drastic cries of "ban this" and "you can't do that", when all the situation actually requires is that you show some spine, appeal to people's better natures, and tell them outright that their behaviour offends or harms you. It is shameful.

We'll see if my argument continues to be ignored...

Your argument is not being ignored; it is being disputed (or quite possibly misunderstood - it happens). However, this thread is constantly at risk of being derailed and I would urge all participants to get back to the point of it.

The latest strictly relevant offering I see is SkepticLance's most recent post, which directly addresses the question in the OP.

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Haezed, I don't want to step into Sayo's argument, but just to bookend our own conversation, I respect where you're coming from, I guess I just have a different outlook on it. I do think you have a foot in the door, in a sense, regarding the point about long-term affect studies giving sufficient cause for banning, I just don't agree with the banning. I would say further studies first. But (having thought about it and listened to your POV some more) I don't think that's an unreasonable point of view at all.

My main objection is that you kinda touched on my anti-demagoguery nerve. I really get concerned when I hear people talking about banning things without due diligence. I realize that's not exactly what you're doing (you want to ban things that people find annoying), but you and I aren't typical people, and those are difficult subtleties to convey to the general (voting) public.

Me, I want some hard evidence before I start banning things, rather than take a "if in doubt, ban and find out" approach.

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To Pangloss.

Where do you draw the line?

There have been literally dozens of studies on the health effects of second hand smoke. The end result is pretty much known. More research is a large waste of $$. Let me nail it down for you. Second hand smoke is a trivial, but still harmful health influence. Not sufficiently bad to be of real concern to most of us. Short term exposure to second hand smoke, by the results of studies to date, is essentially so close to harmless we might as well call it harmless. Smoke is harmful, to a significant degree to : 1. Those who smoke. For them, there is more than a 50% chance that their eventual death will be early, and caused to some degree by their smoking. 2. Probably, babies and toddlers are harmed by second hand smoke. They should be given total protection from inhaling the noxious substance. For adults, second hand smoke is probably a trivial detrement to their health. Carrying out more studies is highly unlikely to change this picture. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Smoke is harmful, to a significant degree to : 1. Those who smoke. For them, there is more than a 50% chance that their eventual death will be early, and caused to some degree by their smoking. 2. Probably, babies and toddlers are harmed by second hand smoke. They should be given total protection from inhaling the noxious substance. For adults, second hand smoke is probably a trivial detrement to their health. Carrying out more studies is highly unlikely to change this picture. actually, if i'm understanding this right, repeated long exposure to second hand smoke -- e.g., spending a couple of hours down the local pub every week -- could have non-trivial health repercussions. the problem with banning smoking in pubs on these grounds, tho, is that it's pretty inconsistant with leaving tobacco legal as everyone knows that second hand smoke is harmful. what, i'm allowed to chose to smoke 50 a day and really harm myself, but i'm not allowed to chose to minorly harm myself by not bothering to find the nearest pub with decent air-con or a no-smoking rule? ---------- the uk gov are thinking of banning smoking in cars now, aswell and, afaict, it's not one of those instances where a sane rule is twisted to look stupid by the media. they're actually thinking of actually banning smoking in cars, on 2nd-hand-smoke-related grounds... #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I'm not sure that would save lives or that the costs would be similiar. I don't understand your point. Sorry that was a little vauge. I meant that I was rejecting your analogy since I don't agree that it has the social benefit to dead human ratio that is required to continue with the analogy. Driving isn't a right. Smoking and killing yourself is, or ought to be. To be honest, I'm not sure where driving actually falls in the whole rights argument, in terms of philosophical consistency - so to me it's a bad example. It needs a thread of its own. Smoking is a personal liberties issue to me. If I want to smoke cigarettes and sniff cyanide then leave me to it. If Joe Blow Business thinks he can rake in more customers by opening a cyanide sniffing section, then so be it. It's his business. As long as he's gone to reasonable lengths to partition that area and mark it as such, then what's the problem? No customer walking in the door should have any expectation of not encountering cyanide in that case. That's certainly extreme, and perhaps just a bad of example as I accused your driving example of being - but I don't see how you can be comfortable banning something in a free society like America. 2. There is an enormous benefit to a mobile society. We can argue about the best policies re car composition, design, or the speed limit but there is no question that cars provide enormous competitive and other advantages to society. There is benefit, but this benefit pales in comparison to the thousands (if not millions) of dead humans so far, the additional strain on oil and the wars that encompass it, the increasing footprint of man on the planet...etc. 3. It's a nuisance with no corresponding social benefit. Does no one want to take on my rat entrail analogy? No corresponding social benefit that we would all agree with. Some would say smoking calms their nerves. I would say it creates a false need which can then be satisfied and make a person feel better. Some would say it helps them to keep from eating, a dietary aid. I know I gained 35 lbs after quitting smoking. This is a typical benefit that we all know about. Why does it have to have a social benefit to steer clear of your proposed banning? I mean, I understand that things with a fairly universal benefit would be hard to do without, but why does that clear them from banning? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites what, i'm allowed to chose to smoke 50 a day and really harm myself, but i'm not allowed to chose to minorly harm myself by not bothering to find the nearest pub with decent air-con or a no-smoking rule? Good point. I've been a smoker for about three years now. I've decided to quit on many occasions due to health risk involved with smoking. But then i don't. I don't even make it a day. I smoke about 7 to 10 a day. Its not that much and i dont feel I need them, I just love to smoke. America is so motivated. We are always running around, worrying about this or that, working 70 hour weeks, and we forget that life is more than that. Stopping to have a cigarette seems to break that cycle, if not for more than ten minutes. So my suggestion would be that if you don't want to smoke, thats fine. If my smoke bothers you, leave. As I will do the same if you do something that bothers me. In most major cities, you should be less worried about second hand smoke and more about the pollutants EVERYONE is contributing. Anyone else smoke American Spirits(premium brand)? These damn anti-smokers are making me pay more and more each year for these things. I'm going to have to sell my children into slavery if they keep going up. Is that what you want?!?!?! #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I'm going to have to sell my children into slavery if they keep going up. Is that what you want?!?!?! There are some anti-smoking nazi's so extreme that they would likely prefer you sell your child into slavery, to save them from your second hand smoke. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites How much do you think they'd give me? There are some more kids in the neighborhood i could round up as well... (the above was a joke for anyone who didn't catch the sarcasm) The idea that second hand smoke will harm your clothing is crazy. Unless you find yourself in sweat lodge with your children i think you can drop the hysteria. Think before you jump on the bandwagon. Second hand smoke is consumed by the smoker along with, what seems would be a more imposing treat, FIRST hand smoke. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites To Pangloss. Where do you draw the line? There have been literally dozens of studies on the health effects of second hand smoke. The end result is pretty much known. More research is a large waste of$$.

I don't believe that's incorrect. What's been studied it long-term exposure to second-hand smoke. Short-term exposure has not been studied in depth.

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The problem here is that many studies have been done on the health effects of breathing second hand smoke. Overall, very little harm has been proven, but there is probably SOME harm, even if it is a tiny fraction of the harm smokers are doing to themselves.

Still it was shown, pretty clearly IMO, that even short exposure to second-hand smoke makes the CFVR [coronary flow velocity reserve] of nonsmokers indistinguishable from smokers, even if the average CFVR of nonsmokers is significantly higher (better) than smokers before second-hand smoke exposure. The case against long exposure to second-hand smoke looks very serious, but it's not enough to prove 20-30 minutes/day of exposure will increase mortality.

However, even if the argument is wrong I think very little will be made to protect smokers. The fact is, the cost of this habit for society is high, oppressing smokers is easy to justify from an economic point of view and smokers are not seen as victims. How many high profile politician want to be associated with the smokers, I ever heard Obama was afraid to be seen as weak if he continued smoking.

One or two opinions one way, one or two opinions another. Sounds like a toss-up to me. (shrug) So we're back to square one, which in this society means you can continue with your activity until someone proves it is dangerous

Here I totally disagree with you, it's too easy to use the opinion of ONE scientist to claim a "toss-up", with that kind of reasoning everything is a toss-up in science.

About the burden of the proof, I think this case requires nuance. Scientifically speaking you're right. But this is not only about science, it's about the health of a population. Sometime a reversal of the burden of the proof is justified, for example in some countries, when a company design new chemicals they have to prove the innocuity of their product before it can be marketed. The burden rests on them because of the potential hazards associated with designing new chemicals. We can't legislate against smokers and say "hey, you have to prove your smoke is harmless", but the opposite view seem to be as unreasonable considering we already know so much about the danger of second-hand smoke.

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I just wonder, has anyone here changed their opinion on any of the matters that have been debated as a result of what they have read?

Anyway,

"Originally Posted by John Cuthber

I think you have missed the point; I shouldn't have to move to make way for the smokers. It should be the other way round. They are the ones doing something offensive; not me.

You don't have to move. You choose to. I don't have to move away from fat people with rotten teeth, but I choose to because it's gross - even though they're the ones being offensive."

The problem is that they think it's reasonable to sit near me and light up. Also, while from my point of view it's a choice, but from the point of view of some asthmatics these smokers make places like bus stations no-go areas.

I still mainatin that the people doing something odd have the responsibillity to ensure that it does not adversely impact on others. It is not the responsibillity of everyone else to pander to them.

The thing is, when a smoking area is deamed as such - by the owner of the business, then what right do we have to make laws to stop that? Just like a home owner, you don't have a right to tell them what to do in their own business. If you don't like my smoking in my house, then don't come in. Same with business. If you don't like them allowing smoking and you don't want to be around it, then don't come in.

Same problem; I got there first but they lit up anyway.

This isn't about your right to frequent any business you want without being offended - you don't have that right. Just like you don't have a right to walk in anybody's house and not be offended.

Do you really not think that there's a difference?

I can walk around my house naked; I can't do that in a shop, even if I own it.

It is paid for by them and they have a right to allow smoking or slow emition of mustard gas too - in my opinion - so long as it is marked and partitioned appropriately.

How many times do I have to point out that the partitioning does not, in my experience, work?

You don't have a right to enforce your ideas of offensive behavior on everyone else. "

No, I don't, but society does. Here in the UK it has made that decision.

BTW, Pangloss,

re

"Carbon monoxide kills in sufficient quantity. Do not drive your car past my house anymore. You don't know that it won't harm me."

No problem; I don't drive. Carbon dioxide is also toxic...

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