Friday, July 25, 2008

SHS may not kill anyone

All across Canada, smoking bans are being implemented to punish smokers for actively engaging in a perfectly legal (for the time being) activity.

The public is seldom told that the bans are being initiated to force people to stop smoking; that some people simply find the smell offensive, or that some find the habit morally distasteful. Instead, they’re told that the bans are necessary to protect workers (wait staff and bartenders) or children from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke.

Nor are Canadians being told that the bans originate with the World Health Organization.

Canada signed the FCTC on July15, 2003 and ratified the legally binding treaty on November 26, 2004.

FCTC is the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and was the brainchild of the WHO (World Health Organization) and a coalition of special interest and anti-tobacco groups in countries from around the world.

In fact, there are over a dozen anti-tobacco groups listed as Canadian members of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) including the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit and Canadian Cancer Society. The non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) which comprise the FCA are charged with developing and implementing the FCTC “guidelines”.

By signing the FCTC agreement, the “Parties” (national governments like Canada) agreed to accept, among other things, “the overwhelming scientific consensus that second-hand smoke kills”:

“Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability”.

But . . . at this point in time, the hazards associated with exposure to secondhand smoke are simply allegations. The scientific evidence is neither unequivocal nor overwhelming.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that by reading the typical press release or news article. Most begin with the categorical declaration that: “The evidence is in, secondhand smoke kills” or “Scientific studies have proven that secondhand smoke causes cancer”. The exact wording is immaterial; the message is the same.

It doesn’t matter that the assertions are untrue. All that matters to the propagandists is creating the public perception that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard. The truth is a minor inconvenience with which they’re willing to dispense. And, the Canadian government has agreed, in writing, to propagate these misrepresentations of fact.

The simple truth is that science has not proven that secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer or heart disease. Not has science shown that SHS has ever “killed” anyone.

What some scientific studies have proven is that there may be a slim statistical association between SHS and those deadly diseases. The bulk of the science shows no such association. And, in any event, a statistical association does not prove cause; at least not in any valid epidemiological study.

Forces International recently published a list of studies done on secondhand smoke over the years which was published on their website. The list includes 81 published, peer reviewed studies on the effects of SHS exposure on spouses and children of smokers and the effects of exposure in the workplace.

The chart at the top of the page was developed using information and graphs available on the Forces International website. The chart clearly reveals that the studies finding no statistically significant association (the green bars) between secondhand smoke and major diseases such as lung cancer and/or heart disease outnumber those which do (the red bars) by a ratio of better than 5 to 1.

What the list from Forces shows is that, of the 81 studies conducted on the effects of SHS, 67 (including a major study conducted by WHO (World Health Organization), found no correlation between SHS exposure and major diseases such as lung cancer and/or heart disease. Only 13 of the studies showed a statistically significant association.

And in all of those 13 studies, the association was very weak (a relative risk (RR) of less than 2). In most scientific studies, a relative risk of less than two would be ignored and the study would likely remain unpublished. But, the anti-smoker brigade pounces on every such study, no matter how weak the association, in their propaganda war against smokers.

You’ll notice in the chart, that one study shows a statistically significant health benefit for children exposed to SHS. This would suggest that SHS actually has a shielding effect on children in later years. That study was conducted by the IARC on behalf of the World Health Organization, the organization responsible for the creation of the FCTC.

In other words, the organization responsible for the FCTC, the organization demanding that parties to the conventions agree that the evidence is “unequivocal” conducted a study that proved just the opposite.

There’s a brief explanation on the meaning of relative risk and statistical significance in a previous article on the WHO study.

Or, if you want a more detailed explanation, Dave Hitt has an epidemiology primer on his site. Don’t be afraid of the long word; it’s difficult to get your tongue around, but understanding the concept is actually quite easy. And, it will help you wade through the mountains of propaganda being disseminated by the anti-smoker brigade compliments of the WHO.

Don’t buy into the propaganda. Don’t let the WHO and Canada’s anti-smoker fanatics dictate Canadian law. Get the facts.

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