Sunday, April 11, 2010

Secondhand smoke & asthma - a definite maybe

If you visit any website dedicated to the control of asthma and asthma symptoms, you will usually find reference to the fact that asthma has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past three decades.

A report released by the EPA in 2003 reported that “the percentage of children getting asthma has doubled in two decades, rising from 3.6 percent in 1980 to 8.7 percent, or 6.3 million children by 2001.”

According to an article from the Associated Press at that time: “Researchers don’t know exactly why asthma is increasing among children, but a number of factors in air quality, both outdoors and indoors, have been studied. Those range from exposure to dust mites, cockroaches and pesticides to tobacco smoke, ground-level ozone from cars and soot from diesel engines.”

Early on, the anti-smoker crowd were quick to pounce on secondhand smoke as a major factor in both the onset of asthma, and the exacerbation of asthma symptoms, especially among children. But, the rapid increase in the incidence of asthma at a time when smoking prevalence was declining should have been cause to re-evaluate the strength of the association between smoking and the onset of asthma. Of course, it wasn't.

Instead, a report entitled “ Passive smoking and children” was recently released by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the RCP (Royal College of Physicians) in the UK. Under a section with the heading, “The costs of passive smoking in children”, this august body of health scare professionals claims that: “The cost of providing asthma drugs for children who develop asthma each year as a result of passive smoking up until the age 16 in the UK is approximately £4 million.”

That's a pretty definitive statement. And, it's presented with such authority that people could almost be forgiven for believing it. After all, the public has been conditioned by anti-smoker propaganda to accept the most outrageous claims without question. And, it does come from a reputable body of health care professionals.

Still, the claim raises a few questions.

For example, to determine even an approximate value of drugs provided to children who develop asthma as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke, you have to know how many children will actually develop asthma from passive smoking. And, to do that, they would have to know how many children were exposed to secondhand smoke and what percentage of new asthma cases could be attributed to passive smoking.

And, that's something they can't know.

Even the “experts” aren’t entirely sure why some people develop asthma and others do not. The most they can say is that asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, is partly caused by an individuals genes. Studies involving twins suggest that 50% to 80% of a child’s asthma risk is due to genetic factors.

And, a visit to several web sites dealing with asthma suggests there is no evidence whatever that secondhand smoke causes asthma. In fact, most sites are pretty forthright and openly admit that the causes of asthma are unknown. Even the US Surgeon-General, in his 2006 report, admits that: “The evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure from parental smoking and the onset of childhood asthma.” Uh-huh.

The Surgeon-General's 2006 report also notes: “The evidence is not sufficient to infer a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and acute respiratory symptoms including cough, wheeze, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing among persons with asthma”.

So how could those learned gentlemen at the Royal College of Physicians calculate the cost of providing drugs for SHS induced asthma if they can't even show, with any degree of certainty, that asthma is caused by exposure to secondhand smoke?

The numbers are purely speculative; they have no basis in fact. They would be no more or less accurate if they had simply been plucked from somebody's posterior.

The RCP report also claims that: “Passive smoking in children costs at least £9.7 million each year in UK primary care visits and asthma treatment costs, and £13.6 million in UK hospital admissions.”

But, on what evidence do they base these figures?

Just how does a doctor determine that secondhand smoke, and not another of the numerous triggers, caused an asthma attack? Do parents of asthmatic children bring their kids to hospital claiming their children are having difficulty breathing due to an asthma attack caused by Mom or Dad forcing them to inhale secondhand smoke? Really?

There are likely asthmatics out there, both children and adults, who have a strong reaction to secondhand smoke. But, most parents, including smokers, will come to know what triggers cause a child's adverse reaction and seek to avoid them. The inference that smoking parents are somehow less caring or more irresponsible than non-smoking parents is pure unadulterated bullshit.

These wild, exaggerated claims are little more than blatant fear-mongering meant to score a few cheap political points. They're intended to support the anti-smoker contention that smoking in private homes needs to be banned to “protect the children.”

I wonder if the RCP can tell us how many hospital admissions for asthma are caused by exposure to pet dander, household cleaners, dust mites, automobile exhaust, etc? Can they tell us the annual drug costs associated with those asthma triggers?

Yeah. I doubt it too.

PS By the way, responsible parents should not allow their asthmatic children to watch too many comedies on TV . Old reruns of the 3 Stooges and the Roadrunner should also be avoided. Laughter is major asthma trigger.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

second hand smoke has given me severe ,high Asthma ,and ,I never had any thing like this before .And Iwasnt gonna get this .It started as asevere cold that would nt go away and kept getting worse.Ithought I was just getting irratated by the cigarette smokers .Or allergic reaction because Iwas ill. Iwas finally diagnosed with severe Asthma,And I got bronchitis and Phnemonnia,alsoAsthma allergy. And treated .I now have Asthma forever.It is very severe and high risk .And they took the eresol Albuterol away.Iwasnt in
in control ,but it killed the poision,in the cigarette poision,in the cigarette that entered my body from the strangers smoke .And the other many triggers,from Asthma ,