Sunday, August 3, 2008

SHS kills 1 in every 50,000 non-smokers . . .

At every press release and news conference, you’ll hear the same messages repeated from the anti-smoker fanatics, with neither comment nor questions from journalists. “Secondhand smoke kills”. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke”.

In a previous article, I noted that scientific studies which found a positive correlation between SHS and lung cancer were outnumbered by roughly 5 to 1 by studies which found no such correlation, making the evidence neither conclusive nor unequivocal. A list of the studies was compiled by Forces International and is available from their website.

But, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the evidence presented by the anti-smoker brigade is not in question. Just how great is the threat of lung cancer posed by exposure to secondhand smoke?

In 1994, the British Department of Health established the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH). In a January, 1998 report, SCOTH members concluded that long term exposure of non-smokers to ETS caused an increased risk of lung cancer which, in those living with smokers, is in the region of 20-30%. According to the report:

“If the risk of lung cancer in non-exposed non-smokers is 10 per 100,000, based on rates in non-smokers in the 35+ age group, a 20-30% increased risk in exposed non-smokers would be a rate of 12-13 per 100,000 per year. Thus we would expect an additional 2-3 lung cancer cases a year per 100,000 non-smokers regularly exposed to ETS. The numbers of people so exposed are not known precisely but an estimate would suggest about several hundred extra lung cancer deaths a year are caused by exposure to passive smoking”.

In other words, a non-smoker who has never been regularly exposed to secondhand smoke has a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying from lung cancer.

For non-smokers who have been regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, there is an increased risk of 20% to 30%, which translates into a 1 in 33,333 (at 30% increased risk) or 1 in 50,000 (at 20% increased risk). If the statistics offered by SCOTH are correct, just what does that do to the contention of the anti-smoker brigade that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke?

If only one in 33,333 non-smokers (to use the highest figure) regularly exposed to secondhand smoke will die of lung cancer then the corollary is also true; which means that 33,332 will not be affected.

But, if there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, how is that possible? How can 33,332 non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke escape the ravages of lung cancer if there is no safe level of exposure?

Such a claim stretches the limits of credibility and defies logic.

Are the anti-smoker fanatics lying when they say that exposure to secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer? Are they lying when they say there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke? Have the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke been exaggerated beyond reason?

Questions . . . questions . . . questions?

The statistics provided by the anti-smoker brigade tell us that 33,332 out of 33,333 non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke will not die of lung cancer.

In this case, I believe them. Although I do have serious reservations about the one who allegedly dies.

As a matter of fact, I have become something of a cynic when it comes to any and all claims made by the anti-smoker brigade.

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