Sunday, 22 August 2010

Secondhand Smoke, Firsthand Lies

Secondhand Smoke has reared its ugly head again. We were so caught up with display bans, plain packaging, thirdhand smoke, outdoor bans, apartment bans, potential private housing bans, airbrushing smoking out of photos and banning it from films that secondhand smoke all but disappeared.

It's actually a pretty brave comeback, seeing as a lot of people never bought it in the first place and a lot of others have gradually realised it's a lie, too. But, two days ago, Science Daily reported this:

being exposed to even low-levels of cigarette smoke may put people at risk for future lung disease, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Ok, former Surgeon General Carmona was spouting this rubbish, in direct contradiction of his report, back in 2006, so it's nothing new. It goes on:

Epidemiological studies have long shown that secondhand smoke is dangerous

No, they haven't. The famed 1992 EPA report contained 11 studies, none of which individually showed a risk. The only way they purported any risk was by lowering the Confidence Interval to 90% and cherry-picking data, and even then the 'risk' emerged so low that it wouldn't be accepted in any other area of science. The large study undertaken by the WHO found no statistically significant risk, the only statistical significance was that passive smoke offered a 22% decrease in a child's chance of getting lung cancer as an adult - a protective effect. The largest passive smoking study, by Enstrom and Kabat, also found no risk. President of the prestigious Research Institute Necker, retired world-renowned pulmonolgist Professor Philippe Even has spoken of the lack of risk from secondhand smoke:

There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

Interviewer: It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France ...

Even: I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

Interviewer: Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

Even: They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor ... but not greater than pollen!

A pretty different picture to what we're led to believe, then. But why wait until retirement to tell the public this information?

As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

Not sure what he means? Ask Dr Enstrom, one of the remaining scientists who lets his research speak for itself rather than speaking from a political idology or agenda. His bravery to remain a true scientist has cost him his professional position (more here and here)

Back to Science Daily:

but there have never been conclusive biological tests demonstrating what it does to the body at a gene function level, until now.

"Even at the lowest detectable levels of exposure, we found direct effects on the functioning of genes within the cells lining the airways," says Dr. Ronald Crystal, senior author of the study

She's right, there haven't been conclusive biological tests demonstrating what it does to the body. Actually, it's still not known what 80 a day does to your body, and it's also the case that light smokers, of about <5 a day, have no elevated lung cancer risk over non-smokers. That won't stop this laughable research though:
"The genetic effect is much lower than those who are regular smokers, but this does not mean that there are no health consequences," says Dr. Crystal. "Certain genes within the cells lining the airways are very sensitive to tobacco smoke, and changes in the function of these genes are the first evidence of 'biological disease' in the lungs or individuals."

Sounds good, right? Not really. We experience gene mutations and changes in functions every single day, simply through being alive. Our cells die and get replaced and our body heals itself of all manner of damage. Simply noticing that the lungs are part of this process is not damning news. It's akin to saying that when you eat, your digestive system changes and therefore eating is bad for you. when we eat, our whole body changes; blood is directed to the stomach and our body works hard to process what we eat - it's not inconceivable for someone to turn around and say 'hey, the body is working really hard to get that stuff out, because it shouldn't be there!' See where I'm going with this?

There's probably not much point in me including the following excerpt as it's now so routine in study reports that we'd be more surprised to not see it, but just in case you're wondering why this so-called researcher is spouting such propoagandist manure:

Dr. Crystal says that this is further evidence supporting the banning of smoking in public places, where non-smokers, and employees of businesses that allow smoking, are put at risk for future lung disease.

I think the gaping flaw is that if a wisp of smoke is maliciously altering lung function, how can we smoke 40, 60 a day and survive to be elderly? Even CRUK acknowledge that the average age of cancer in a smoker is 65 - the same age as it is for non-smokers.

As for the specifics of this "study", check this out:

Crystal and colleagues took urine samples from 121 participants to see how much exposure people had to cigarette smoke, measuring nicotine and its breakdown products. This allowed them to classify participants as active smokers, nonsmokers, and people with low-level exposure.

Like it isn't bad enough trusting a doctor with a stripper's name, we now see a sample so small most other studies and sciences wouldn't even permit it, and categorised people based on nicotine in the urine. Let's hope they didn't have potatoes, aubergine or tomatoes for lunch. CNN reported on it, too, saying:

Crystal speculates that the effects of secondhand smoke may be reversible if a person cuts off exposure to smoke entirely.

Of course she did. I think someone needs to tell her what secondhand smoke actually is


  1. Great piece Rich, they do keep trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the more gullible health fadist. This site even have fancy drawings too:

  2. Rich, actually it's even worse than you think. I managed to get hold of some more details on the study and discovered that in order to get any data at all for their "Low Exposure" claims they STILL had to rig the game.

    Of the 36 subjects in their low exposure category, TWENTY-EIGHT of the 36 were actually SMOKERS! "light or occasional" smokers is the term that Crystal et al used, but you wouldn't know these details unless you read a single sentence on page six of their 12 page study!

    Just as with virtually all the other "secondhand smoke" studies that have been done in which the data and methods were made available enough it turns out that the "Conclusion" as conveyed to the public through press releases and interviews was little better than a lie.

    The researchers who do this sort of thing, the journals that publish it, and the reporters who regurgitate the "proper" conclusions they're fed without doing a little background checking on their own, should all be made to pay the price for the damages they've caused.

    Michael J. McFadden,
    Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

  3. I enjoyed this piece immensely, Rich. And Michael's addition as well. Lots of relevant points crammed into a small space but without making one feel "stuffed."

  4. Michael, thanks a lot for adding that, can always rely on you to dig up vital information.

    Audrey, thanks, glad you enjoyed it! It got more retweets than my other articles so looks like i did something right!