“Novel MRI Technique Shows Secondhand Smoke Damages Lungs”, announces this press release with the implication that, finally, some conclusive evidence that passive smoking “kills” has emerged. Sorry, guys, it is not so – and here are the tricks you used.
When super-magician David Copperfield made the statue of Liberty disappear, nobody thought that the statue actually disappeared, but tried to understand the trick while being flabbergasted by the skills and dexterity of its implementation. That is because we have conquered the superstition about magic.
When antitobacco makes non-existing damages appear on the media stage, we are flabbergasted by what we see and conclude that it is real – and that is because we have not yet conquered the magic of junk science and of the ideology it supports and is supported by. In short, we want to believe it, and we want more shows!
As David Copperfield and his technical team have gone from simple illusions to very high-tech effects to keep your jaw dropping, Tobacco Control is moving from authority-based, simple epidemiological trash science on memory questionnaires to high-tech special effects – but it is still an illusion, and its science is still junk. The illusion is meant to boost the antismoking/healthist ideology and make you believe its hysterical suppositions.
The information that follows debunks what is, to date, the most elaborate effort to “demonstrate scientifically” baseless conjectures about active and passive smoking regarding both smokers and non-smokers. Given the sophistication of the issue, some language is necessarily technical — but not too much. Please bear with us.
What is the difference between David Copperfield and Tobacco Control, anyway?…
David is honest and tells you that what you see is a trick.
Tobacco Control is dishonest and tells you that what you see is real.
Tobacco Control never had a shred of scientific proof that what it says is true. As it happens to all lies, short of admitting them the only way to go on is to persevere in them by making them more elaborate as time goes by … but, even after this display of magic, the scientific proof is still not there.
Our old statement is still valid: if you smoke, you hurt no one.
The study measures the Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) of Helium-3 – an isotope of helium-2 – in the lungs of some smokers and non smokers. The Helium-3 gas is magnetized by a laser and it is inhaled by the subjects while mixed with nitrogen. Its (apparent) diffusion in the lungs is tracked with an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner.
The subjects numbered 38 in total:
17 non-smokers who said they had little exposure to passive smoking;
16 non-smokers who said they had much exposure to passive smoking;
The study projects the impression that it has somehow measured the actual exposure of non-smokers to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), and the presumed lung damages caused by it.
A truly scientific study must rely on rigorous measures, every step of the way. If, at any stage, the measures are not reliable, the study is worthless because the results are irrevocably compromised. Already this study fails the first condition of measurement, that is, verification. The two groups of non-smokers, in fact, claimed their exposures very much along the lines of the junk science epidemiological questionnaires on recalls of vague memories of exposure that are without any verification or empirical quantification. That by itself is sufficient to discard the results in spite of the high-tech that has been used.
The ADC (apparent diffusion coefficient) of the three groups are :
A (the non-smokers who said about little exposure) = 0.0184
B (the non-smokers who said about big exposure) = 0.0201
C (the smokers) = 0.0327
According to the study itself:
The difference between C and A is statistically significant.
The difference between C and B is not statistically significant.
The difference between B and A is not statistically significant.
Simply put, that means that the difference between the diffusions of helium in the lungs of those who claimed low exposure and those who claimed high exposure was too small to be of significance (0.0184 and 0.0201).
The study then says that "ADC values for subjects with high exposure were more variable than those of low exposure subjects but mean values were similar." Furthermore, "the high exposure group tended toward ADC values that were either higher or lower than the low exposure group", further confirming that there was no significant difference between those who claimed high or low exposure.
Let us now assume that the claims of the non-smokers were indeed accurate. In this case, were ETS actually damaging the lungs, a sharp difference in the diffusion should have been noticed between the low-exposed and the high-exposed, indicating incremental damage by incremental exposure. However, the actual results of the study are in contradiction with the observations made on all truly damaging substances — that is, damage increases with exposure — by showing virtually no difference between the two levels of claimed exposures. This by itself would be sufficient to question either the validity of the study or the postulation that ETS is a threat to health.
The problems don’t stop here. The information does not seem to report individual differences between the five smokers – and those would be important data, for it is possible that some of the smokers have produced ADC values similar to non-smokers exposed to ETS.
The study concludes that "Our findings suggest that the effects of secondhand smoke in the lungs can be detected using LTS GH3He diffusion MRI. … The effects of secondhand smoke in the lungs can be detected using long-time-scale global hyperpolarized He3 diffusion MRI."
Difficult words aside, that conclusion is not possible because the study has not measured ADC values immediately after the exposure of the subjects to ETS. It follows that the measures obtained can refer to very many other causal factors; for example (but certainly not limited to):
It must be highlighted once again that a myriad of other factors – alone or in combination – are well known causes of pulmonary variability.
Furthermore, what is reported in the documentation available at the moment refers to measures performed 1.54 seconds after the inhalation of Helium-3, and thus represents an instantaneous condition as opposed to phenomena integrated on a sufficiently representative time.
The extreme variability that has been reported amongst the subjects shows that their small number was inadequate to sustain any conclusion.
Plainly, this is an elaborate way to justify attributions based on the postulation that passive smoking hurts bystanders, which still stands undemonstrated. This time, however, the precision of high-tech is used to mask the desperate efforts of those who try to demonstrate ideology with science, much along the lines of the “scientific” experiments in the USSR, that “demonstrated” that plants grow bigger and better when exposed to the musical frequencies of the International Socialist anthem.
The use of high-precision and high-technology equipment covers sloppy methodology and non-measurements (such as the claimed exposures of non-smokers to ETS) to provide illusory legitimacy and undeserved support to an agenda which, again, seems patterned to serve the political and social efforts of atitobacco fanaticism rather than the discovery of scientific truth.