Wednesday 28 October 2009

Fresh nonsense

From the print edition of The Sun today:


Smoking one cigarette in your 20s can send heart attack risk soaring, researchers claim. Just one fag's fumes can stiffen arteries by 25 per cent, restricting blood flow and damaging the heart.

How many readers will interpret this as a clear warning that smoking just one cigarette in your youth makes your heart attack risk "soar"? How many readers will then think one of the following:

(1) They might as well keep on smoking if they've started. The damage has been done.

(2) People in their 20s have heart attacks as a result of smoking.

(3) The Sun doesn't know what its talking about.

Only one of these statements is correct. See if you can guess which one. 

As per usual, the "research" in question has not been published but it appears to confirm the less-than-earth-shattering fact that smoking increases arterial stiffness. The press release which The Sun reworded gives us enough of the facts for us to see that its news report is tremendously misleading. What the research actually says is:

The study compared the arterial stiffness of young smokers -- five to six cigarettes a day -- to non-smokers. Arterial measurements were taken in the radial artery in the wrist, the carotid artery in the neck and in the femoral artery in the groin, at rest and after exercise.

Clearly then, this was a study of regular smokers, not of people who had just one cigarette in a lifetime. The readings were taken after the participants smoked one cigarette, but that's hardly the same thing. 

So what are the implications of this unpublished research? As the lead researcher says:

"In effect, this means that even light smoking in otherwise young healthy people can damage the arteries, compromising the ability of their bodies to cope with physical stress, such as climbing a set of stairs, or catching a bus," Daskalopoulou said.

Ho-hum. This isn't particularly news-worthy information, which explains why most newspapers haven't reported it. Maybe if the study had shown that "smoking one cigarette in your 20s can send heart attack risk soaring" other journalists would have picked up on it. 

But it didn't. 

[The article has been substantially rewritten in The Sun's online edition, with a slightly less hysterical headline and with some of the more blatant mistakes removed (including the whole first paragraph).]


Witterings from Witney said...

Chris, this is yet another example of the high standards of journalism that we, in this country, enjoy! It is either 'cut & paste' without checking the facts, or when they do try and actually write something, promptly get it 'arse about tit'!

Journalism is called a 'profession', but at least the oldest profession still knows its arse from its ........!

Fredrik Eich said...

This is my stab at Sun speak:
"ONE COFFEE IS DEADLY. Single drink stiffens arteries until you come over all dead. Young people who drink coffee, even only socially, think they are safe but this just goes to show there is no safe level of coffee drinking..." And because I smoke and I drink gallons of coffee; it means I died about six years before I was born - which is very young.

Fredrik Eich said...

Or how about this:
"ONE BOWL OF CORNFLAKES IS DEADLY. Shocked scientists say eating cornflakes could make you proper dead."

handymanphil said...

And, amazingly Chris, the Sun comment section is unavailable! I wonder why?

The witch from Essex said...

Dr. Ronald M. Davis, a former president of the American Medical Association who campaigned against tobacco, alcohol, obesity, illicit drugs and unhealthy lifestyles in his career as a public health official, died Thursday at his home in East Lansing, Mich. He was 52.


B7 said...

My two Aunties who are both in their mid eighties have smoked over 1 million cigarettes between them.

Both of them have never had a days illness because of smoking, its about time the mainstream press started reporting some truthful real facts about smoking.


Mark Wadsworth said...

A single grain of salt can kill. Fact.

helend498 said...

I'm surprised that you can no longer comment on The Sun article.

I made a comment on it yesterday, they must have withdrawn comments - I wonder why?

Mind you if my comment was anything to go by (I'll give up my daily exercise routine as I'm aware that it stiffens my articles also and that exercise must therefore be bad for me), then I'm not surprised.

What utter junk these papers are printing. They have created huge holes for themselves with the lies they have told.

I don't think it can be long before they admit how we've all been conned.

Either that, or they can RIP, which they will do if they keep reporting nanny state propaganda instead of the truth.

No wonder they're restless over the rise of internet news.

helend498 said...

"stiffens my articles"

I mean "arteries" - whoops!

marbee said...

Tobacco Control organizations like the American Cancer Society, ASH,
Tobacco Free Kids, etc., have become nothing but Perception
Management firms. They are paid to CREATE "truth". Created truth is
controllable. PM uses select information involving falsehood and deception. Really smoke and mirrors to get people to believe what they want the "truth" to be. Not to be confused with public diplomacy, Perception Management as a rule uses deception to influence emotions to an end. The difference between real and perception is like a stick of dynamite and the A-bomb. Wars can be created using Perception Management! Everyone, really, has seen PM in practice, and small business owners are experiencing this with legislation against their Constitutional rights. It requires absolutely no courage to support a popular position, even if completely wrong or illegal. This is a very dangerous road
they are taking with false science as the basis!