Monday, June 28, 2010

SHS can double risk of fatal heart disease

The headline from a June 16, 2010 article from Reuters states: “Second-hand smoke can double risk of fatal heart disease: study”

Curious? Well, yes . . . considering the fact that the best any other study to date has been able to show for an increased risk due to exposure to secondhand smoke is about 30%. And, that includes the highly controversial 1993 meta-analysis conducted by the US EPA.. Health Canada uses a RR (Relative Risk) of 1.24 to calculate IHD deaths allegedly due to secondhand smoke exposure.

The headline refers to a study conducted by researcher Dr. Mark Hamer, University College London, and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. There's no doubt it will get attention, but I suspect it's unlikely to win any “truth in advertising” awards.

If this study shows a two-fold risk of dying from heart disease, then it suggests that exposure to secondhand smoke is as great a risk as active smoking.

Also curious is the amount of secondhand smoke exposure required to cause this doubling of risk? Because it takes a lot. Literally. The lead-in to the story claims: “People who breathe in a lot of other people's tobacco smoke are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those exposed to lower levels of "secondhand" smoke, according to a British study.”

Of course, Dr. Hamer and his colleagues don't use the highly speculative terminology (a lot) used by Reuters. They use the much more precise scientific measurements “high” and “lower” as in: “Researcher Dr. Mark Hamer said analyses restricted to never-smokers found that high secondhand smoke exposure was associated with more than a two-fold increased risk of dying from heart disease. A "high" level of exposure, Hamer explained, would be equivalent to living with a smoker and getting exposed to secondhand smoke pretty much every day.” Uh-huh.

So, have these people been smoking something a little stronger than Camel Lights? Or, is this simply another example of blatant fear-mongering from the anti-smoker crowd and their spin-doctoring allies in the media?

Maybe a quick look at the study abstract will throw some light on the subject. But, then again, maybe not.

The results of the study tell us that: “High SHS was associated with . . . CVD death (age-adjusted HR: 1.21, 95% CI: 0.85 to 1.73)." Which is close to the RR of 1.24 used by Health Canada in their IHD calculations. Which is not double the risk of CVD. In fact, with a spread of “0.85 to 1.73”, it doesn't even achieve statistical significance. Something which obviously doesn't concern the real scientists in the anti-smoker crowd. If there are any real scientists in the anti-smoker crowd.

So, are “people who breathe in a lot of other people's tobacco smoke” twice as likely to die from heart disease as those exposed to lower levels of "secondhand" smoke?

Readers will have to make up their own minds. But, I'll be filing this one under “Bullshit and Bafflegab”.

Also in the news, this time from the Daily Mail in the UK, “Mother who has never smoked a cigarette has terminal lung disease because of her parents' 60-a-day habit”. Uh-huh.

According to the article, Lynda Mitchell (pictured above), a 52 year old mother of one, is dying from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), but has always despised tobacco. She blames her illness on her parents who each puffed 60 cigarettes a day. Lynda is quoted in the article as saying: “If I hadn't been surrounded by smoke I think I would have been a lot better. I wouldn't be sat here talking to you about dying.”

The problem here is that, as far as I'm aware, there is no conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke exposure causes COPD. And, I'm fairly sure that, if such evidence existed, Health Canada would have included COPD deaths due to SHS exposure in their smoking attributable body count. They don't. At least not yet.

But, one can expect a plethora of studies to surface, compliments of the anti-smoker zealots, supporting Mitchell's allegations.

According to an article at About dot com, “The American Lung Association estimates that it will be the third-largest cause of worldwide death by 2020. This means that the number of patients who present themselves to the healthcare system with COPD is also increasing.”

So, the incidence of COPD is increasing while smoking prevalence and exposure to SHS are declining. Interesting. And, strange.

Another item to be filed under Bullshit and Bafflegab.


Anonymous said...

My God !!
That woman is so fat and ugly that it's a wonder that her lungs bother to work at all.
AAT is a big cause of COPD.
Now that smoking (and so called 'second hand smoke') is decreasing these 'smoking related' diseases are increasing.
Of course the answer is simple. Smoking prevents lung disease. By 'allowing' small lungs a sample of smoke, the lungs then develop an immunity to higher forms of 'pollution'
Just like a vaccine.
Had this fat wack smoked and not eaten so much she probably would have been healthy.

Anonymous said...

As smoking prevalence declines and rates of "smoking related" disease rise one might hope people will notice that 1 + 1 has started to equal three. I doubt it. The first step when this trend became apparent was to invent SHS. Now when that has proved insufficient to the task, thanks in part to the antismoking movement and public smoking bans, along comes THS. When they run out of hands they will find something else to blame, industrial pollution and car exhaust are on the favorites list. At some point in the future will anyone ask "no smoke, no smog so what IS killing us?". Not much sign of that because in todays world the truth is unacceptable:

The older you are the greater your risk of dying.

No one lives for ever, no one ever has and no one ever will. The inability to accept this is at the root of all the health mania.