Prolonged Psychological Fear Based on Unfounded/Distorted Claims:
Second-Hand Smoke - a.k.a. Second-Hand Lung Cancer Scare
I am personally against tobacco smokers. I think it is a filthy habit and wish it was never invented. Having said this, I find it difficult to separate my personal desires from hard objective science; but I will try.
Tobacco smoking is a very bad addiction. Smoking is a major cause of lung cancer and heart disease in smokers. Smoking can rob 10 years from a person’s life. But this section is not about the effects of primary smoke. This section is about the effects of smoking on other nearby individuals; such as, spouse, children and co-workers. This section is about a major unfounded scare that breathing second-hand smoke causes lung cancer.
Second hand smoke does not get a complete clean bill of health. Exposure to second-hand smoke has adverse health effects associated with irritation of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Exposed infants and children, in particular, are at increased risk of respiratory infections, middle-ear infection, and the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory symptoms.
The two most definitive studies on the effects of second-hand smoke relating to lung cancer were funded by the World Health Organization and by the American Cancer Society.
The WHO study was coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This expert study was performed by 27 respected epidemiologists and cancer specialists throughout Europe. The study compared 650 lung cancer patients with 1,650 healthy individuals. The study found no evidence that any ‘statistically significant’ additional risk at home or at work was due to second-hand smoke.
After learning of the findings, WHO attempted to squash the report and prevent its publication. The report was leaked to the press which caused great embarrassment to WHO for its role in censorship. It was eventually published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on 7 October 1998.
The study sponsored by the American Cancer Society was the longest and most comprehensive scientific study ever carried out in the effects of second-hand smoke. The 39-year study covered 118,094 California adults, including 35,000 couples where one spouse was a smoker. The results of the study did not support a causal relation between second-hand smoke and tobacco related mortality.
At the end of the 39-year study, the American Cancer Society after learning of the findings, killed off any further funding in an attempt to squash its publication. This left the researchers, Professor James Enstrom, from the University of California’s School of Public Health, and Geoffrey Kabat, from the New York State University’s Department of Preventive Medicine with a dilemma. Without further funding, this important research would never be published and never see the light of day. They accepted funds from the American tobacco industry to cover the expenses associated with publication. The report was published in the British Medical Journal on 17 May 2003.
Many smokers are being unfairly treated as outcast, social lepers, in our society. Overly restrictive regulations are not supported by hard science.
In the early 1950’s, I and my younger sister Kathy launched one of the first successful anti-smoking campaigns in the nation. I was around 4 years old at the time and Kathy was a year younger. My Dad was a habitual smoker. We watched cartoons on television and between cartoons they showed “Smokey the Bear” commercials. One particular commercial showed a man smoking in bed. He fell asleep. His cigarette dropped slowly from his hand setting the blanket on the bed on fire. By the time the fire-trucks arrived, the house was totally engulfed in flames. The man and his entire family were burned to death. The fire-trucks were spraying water on the fire, but the damage was already done and the lives were forever lost. To a boy of 4, that man became my Dad, because my Dad also smoked in bed. We were so affected by that commercial that my sister and I resolved to do something about it. Whenever Dad lit up a cigarette we would cry and scream “Dad you’re trying to kill us!” This was not an act; this was real. We were scared to death. After several months of seeing the effect of his smoking on his hysterical children, my Dad made a very great sacrifice and gave up the habit.