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Saturday, May 17, 2003
How harmful is passive smoking?

I was disappointed to see that the British Medical Journal had published a report suggesting that the dangers of passive smoking had been greatly exaggerated. Read about it here.

There are several disquieting points about the study. Firstly, it was funded, in part, by the tobacco industry. Secondly, the research appears not to have checked regularly on people's smoking/non smoking status and thirdly it directly contradicts many long-standing pieces of research that indicate unequivocally that passive smoking carries measurable increases in the risks of lung cancer and/or heart disease. Here is a report on another study and there are some useful links, too. You may also like to refer to my previous blog, on the subject of smoking, dated 13 February.

For some years, I have been part of a trial to test the efficacy of certain medicines. Every six months, I have a clinic appointment where I have to produce evidence of my compliance with the regimen, I am subject to a number of tests, and I am quizzed about my lifestyle in detail and whether anything has changed. The methodology of this study appears to be excellent - I may blog about it in detail in the future. Because the methodology of the study of which I am a part appears to be noticeably superior to that in this passive smoking survey, the new study has to be seriously suspect.

Few people remember the way in which smoking and lung cancer were linked indubitably by the work of Sir Richard Doll. (Incidentally, Sir Richard had the theory that pollution was the major cause of lung cancer and he was startled by the link with smoking.) Previous studies, especially the many sponsored by the tobacco industry, showed no link at all. We now know this to have been because the tobacco industry sponsored a large number of studies in the expectation that some, at least, would be inconclusive.

They were right but some did show the link. These reports were suppressed: they were never offered for publication.

The tobacco industry is playing the same old game but I hope that their current activities will be treated with appropriate contempt. Smoking is something that should be a matter for consenting adults in private. A ban on smoking in public is completely reasonable.

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