The question: Does smoking a single cigarette measurably harm your body?

The single answer references a study which confirms that a single cigarette will raise the level of carcinogens present in the smoker's body within 15 to 30 minutes. The (unstated) implication is that, therefore, a single cigarette does, in fact, measurably harm one's body.

Is this up to Skeptics standards for answers? As far as I can tell, this posts strongly implies a "yes" without actually citing relevant evidence (but appearing to do so for someone who doesn't look carefully enough).

  • I don’t understand your problem with the answer, can you expand no this? As far as I can see, the answer gives a quantified answer. The “implication” is pretty strong: carcinogens by definition and by their name (measurably) cause cancer. Of course this doesn’t mean that every exposure to carcinogens causes cancer, merely that it increases the risk measurably. But again, this is well in line with what “carcinogen” actually means and how it’s commonly understood. Feb 14, 2012 at 22:22
  • @KonradRudolph That is exactly the kind of fallacy that is absolutely out of place on Skeptics. Yes, the common definition is that a carcinogen, in some quantity, will cause cancer with some probability. It does not mean that any quantity at all (like a single molecule) is noticeably dangerous. Look at benzene: it's a known carcinogen, and yet the EPA allows it to be IN YOUR DRINKING WATER, in as many as 38 million billion molecules of it per litre (unless I messed up that calculation). Do you understand my problem with that answer now?
    – RomanSt
    Feb 15, 2012 at 7:24
  • @KonradRudolph (in case I didn't make it clear enough) The answer is equally applicable to drinking water. It has detectable levels of carcinogens, after all.
    – RomanSt
    Feb 15, 2012 at 7:27
  • In fact, “there is no safe dose” … meaning that, yes, every exposure to carcinogens actually does increase the risk of inducing cancer. It’s just that for low doses this risk vanishes in the noise created by background exposure. The relevant question is whether there is an elevation above background level and the question to that is clearly “yes” since smoking adds to it. Feb 15, 2012 at 9:31
  • 1
    @KonradRudolph So we seem to agree in some way :) My problem is that the question clearly asks whether a single cigarette would get lost in the noise, while the answer says that it contains carcinogens. Hope this explains why I say that the answer does not address the question in any way, and is misleading for everyone who doesn't consider things like background noise.
    – RomanSt
    Feb 15, 2012 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


Most of our content from February and March 2011 is not up to our current standards. This case is no different, but I would put the blame on the question over the answer.

Currently, there is no notable claim being investigated. Rather, it reads as an idle curiosity question. Unless someone believes that it's impossible to get cancer from one cigarette, I don't see what's to be skeptical of. If someone does claim that it's impossible to get cancer from one cigarette, then the claim should be added in to establish notability. While the answer to the question is somewhat interesting, that does not make the question on-topic here. It still needs to meet our notability standard.

I suggest we close that question as off-topic and reopen Does smoking cigarettes cause lung cancer? which was closed as a duplicate of this one.

  • Borror0, doesn't the dupe question provide claims that there is someone that believes they're not dangerous, so making the first question "OK" again?
    – Alenanno
    Feb 8, 2012 at 23:10
  • @Alenanno: The answer to the oldest question is an answer the newer question, although not a great one. You could, technically, merge the two questions but that is about it. The text of the older question must be changed in order to become on-topic.
    – Borror0
    Feb 8, 2012 at 23:13
  • I can't claim having anywhere near a good idea of what you guys consider on topic here, but I personally am skeptical of the idea that there is no permissible / recommended exposure limit to cigarette smoke. For example, "exposures to the carbon monoxide or other toxic substances in the tobacco smoke rarely exceed current OSHA permissible exposure limits or PELs.".
    – RomanSt
    Feb 9, 2012 at 14:49
  • And then there's this article which seems to reference a study showing that second hand smoke is nowhere near reaching the OSHA PELs. Isn't this evidence that there is a notable claim that in small quantities cigarette smoke is harmless?
    – RomanSt
    Feb 9, 2012 at 14:55
  • 2
    I agree with you, @romkyns. I was just pointing out that the large part of the problem came from how the question was phrased. A better question would probably have gotten us a better answer.
    – Borror0
    Feb 9, 2012 at 15:57
  • OK, in that case I'll try to phrase a new question better, referencing the notable claim.
    – RomanSt
    Feb 9, 2012 at 17:51
  • 1
    The question might be notable or not - your answer here is off topic, since that wasn't the question of @romkyns; it's a poor excuse, an attempt to swith the topic to 'not notable' and to put romkyns into the guilt position. Apr 27, 2012 at 15:18
  • @userunknown: The first part of your comment is correct. My answer is deliberately off-topic. As I have explained in the comments above, the answer is not up to our standards but I felt that strictly answering the question would have not been going far enough.
    – Borror0
    Apr 28, 2012 at 3:21

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