Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smokers face double risk: active smoking & SHS

Over the past couple of years, I've read a number of “scientific” studies on smoking and second-hand smoke. Many of them have left me scratching my head and wondering what they were trying to accomplish. And, given the creative nature of some of those studies, it's clear that some of the researchers had altogether too much time and money on their hands, and nothing worthwhile on which to spend either.

For example, a study conducted a year or so ago where a researcher in Montreal concluded that exposure to second-hand smoke caused nicotine dependence in children as young as ten. As I recall, the scientific method on which she relied to reach her conclusion was to survey 10 and 12 year old children to see if they had ever suffered nicotine withdrawal symptoms following exposure to second-hand smoke. Uh-huh.

I believe I still have a copy of the study but I can't remember if I filed it under “Are They Kidding Me”, “For Laughing Out Loud” or “Just Plain Bullshit”. It might even be in my “How Ridiculous Can You Get” file, along with the study on third-hand smoke.

At any rate, I may have to start a new file, tentatively titled “What The Hell Is This About ” for the latest study from Italy. The study was reported on the CAGE (Canadians Against Government Encroachment) blog. The authors recommend that, in future, any study related to the health of smokers must take into account the environmental tobacco smoke his own cigarettes emits.


It's not enough they've got me scared to death (figuratively) that I may die (literally) from smoking (eventually), now they want me to worry (unnecessarily) about dying (theoretically) from my own second-hand smoke.

Does anyone else consider this overkill?

According to the researchers, the study was needed because: “Very few studies have evaluated the adverse effect of passive smoking exposure among active smokers, probably due to the unproven assumption that the dose of toxic compounds that a smoker inhales by passive smoke is negligible compared to the dose inhaled by active smoke.”

The study was conducted under . . . er, less than ideal circumstances, which may have compromised its integrity. For one thing, It was extremely small, with only 30 participants; 15 smokers and a control group of 15 non-smokers.

The researchers claim the study was conducted “in a controlled situation of indoor smoking”. But, the controlled situation turned out to be an enclosed, 4M2 newsstand (roughly 36 square feet). In fact, the square footage is not that much bigger than granddad's old outhouse. Most people considered the outhouse a confined space, even though it had two seats, one for big bums and one for little bums.

It was also a good place to file scientific studies of a questionable nature.

At any rate, according to study authors, in this environment ETS contaminants could be easily monitored, with very few confounders. However, they also noted, in the name of scientific integrity I suppose, that newsstands "were usually placed near heavy traffic streets and therefore newsagents were also exposed to urban pollution" from traffic emissions.

Not surprisingly, the authors concluded that: “During indoor smoking, ETS contribution to total BaP (Benzo-a-pyrene) dose of the same smoker, may be not negligible”. Earth shattering.

It's hard to know how to respond to such conclusive evidence of . . . er, whatever. Frankly, I don't know whether to laugh, tear my hair out or sing a few bars of “Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares.” Maybe I should send the authors an e-mail complimenting them on this scientific break-through.

Dear Maria Teresa, Anna and Fred,

Just thought I'd drop a line to acknowledge your superlative exercise in redundancy. However, I must point out that if the alleged 1,700% increase in relative risk for lung cancer hasn't convinced me to quit the habit, the additional relative risk of 20% allegedly due to exposure to second-hand smoke is unlikely to do the trick.

And, if it's your intention to suggest (facetiously?) that smokers can die twice, don't. Such a suggestion might damage your credibility (severely). Besides, Health Canada has been (statistically) killing some smokers twice for years. (Seriously.)

But, if I may, I'd like to offer some constructive criticism regarding the subject matter of the study. Maybe the money might have been better spent on some topic of more immediate import to the betterment of mankind. Perhaps a study on the mating habits of fleas. Do they really light up a Camel after mating? Or do they just roll over on the camel's back and go to sleep?

Please forgive the impertinence.
The Old Rambler

OK. I'm being sarcastic. But, just where do they come up with this shit? Or more to the point, why?

1 comment:

Carol said...

I just love this post...very witty and so true