Second hand research

Author: Elio F. Gagliano, MD
Article Published: 23 January 2009

Morbidity and mortality from heart attacks have been declining for several years in both Europe and North America. This trend had long been observed before the smoking bans came into being.

For example, in 1998 J. A. Volmink (stored link) reported a "Change in incidence of myocardial infarction ... between 1966 and 1996". Other studies reporting similar observations have been noted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (stored link), WebMD (stored link), and in the International Journal of Cardiology (stored link).

While some of these studies mention tobacco smoking among the other risk factors (economic, education, gender, race, cholesterol, high blood pressure, inactivity, diabetes and so on) no one refers to second hand smoke (SHS). Now, could you ever expect that someone would not have seized upon the opportunity to bind the decreased hospitalization trend for myocardial infarction with SHS?

As a matter of fact, some have done it. Of course, they do not know that the above trend was observed long before the invention of SHS. The latest of these foolish studies comes from Pueblo, Colorado (stored link). They not only claim a 41% decline in heart attacks due to the smoking ban, but they also state that reduced SHS exposure makes the larger contribution! I am not going to comment on their study, as I cannot do so any better than one of the pioneers of the anti-smoking campaign, Michael Siegel (stored link) has done. In case you do not care to read the whole of Siegel's commentary, let me refer to some of his remarks:

"the study cannot conclude that the observed changes in heart attacks are due to the smoking ban, rather than to other changes that took place over time, including changes in medications being used to treat heart disease, better diagnosis and more aggressive treatment of heart disease, and a substantial decline in smoking prevalence in Pueblo county during the study period, which may or may not be due to the smoking ban itself."

"Even if we stipulate that the smoking ban did cause the decline in heart attacks, how can the study possibly conclude that the effect was due primarily to reduced secondhand smoke exposure?"

"The study goes overboard not only in its overall conclusion, but in its attempt to paint the data as somehow proving that eating in a smoky restaurant for a half hour is causing lots of people to keel over from heart attacks. The study does nothing of  the sort."           

I suppose that the majority of researchers who claim a relationship between SHS and all kinds of diseases do so only because they have to publish something to save their careers. Of course, there may be some who do so because they hate smoke and smokers, and there are those who have been so deeply brainwashed that they simply do not know what they are doing. In any case, they do not deserve the designation of researcher, nor any compensation as such.

And if someone were to ask me if there could be some bribery involved, I would answer: it is possible, indeed, probable.

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