Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The price of deceit

On a day when junk science was inescapable, the BBC's Radio 1 website managed to sink to new depths.

Doctors call for smoking ban in all enclosed spaces

Really? They kept that quiet. You'd think they'd have a well co-ordinated media onslaught, with press releases, fraudulent statistics, press, embargoes etc.

That, of course, is not the bit I'm talking about. This is.

Matthew quit when his four-year-old daughter got asthma.

"We were going to the hospital and we told the doctor. She said it was the particles on her clothing that was the real effect for her asthma."

This is the thirdhand smoke myth, is it not? If this anecdote is true, and it's not just some ASH stooge telling tale tales, this doctor should be struck off. There is no place in medicine for the near-medieval superstitions that this quack is peddling. Get rid of her.

"That was when we realised it wasn't helping even smoking outside."

"We thought we were doing the right thing by going outside and smoking. We didn't want to smoke in the house with the kids because of the passive smoking.

"We thought going outside was eliminating it, but it wasn't."

Dear me. A lie really can get around while the truth is still putting its shoes on. 

A few weeks ago someone found this blog under the key phrase 'can third hand smoke cause a 1 year old to wheeze?' That stuck in my mind because I pictured a mother whose baby was unwell neglecting the real reason for its illness in favour of some garbage she had read in a newspaper. 

That, to me, is the human cost of all this trash. Lies have been everywhere today and those who have told them will go home believing that it's all in a good cause. They have said, for example, that passive smoking causes 40 cot deaths a year. 

Now, I can sit here and explain that this is an estimate built on a projection built on a flawed study. I can tell you that the supposed relative risk is almost certainly due to a failure to control for socio-economic status. I could add that cot deaths are rare in countries like Russia which have high smoking rates and that there is no correlation between rates of smoking and rates of cot death. But ultimately what matters is that some parents who have been bereaved through cot death, and happened to smoke, will feel that they are to blame for their child's death. And that, I think, is unforgivable.


Witterings from Witney said...

Chris, I would like to say 'Great Minds'....but I wont!

You may like my latest on the Times story and letters from 20 most senior doctors that has been published. Slightly different take on the subject.

Anonymous said...

What will constitute an enclosed space. ALL enclosed spaces is a pretty broad term. It has to include my home and yours, but does it remain "enclosed" with the windows open? Is a sports stadium enclosed when it has no roof? Is a field or a park enclosed when it is simply surrounded by a fence? Is a private garden, by the same reasoning, also enclosed? Taken at face value I must say the phrase "all enclosed spaces" looks like a blank cheque for the antismokers to interpret in any way they see fit. A pretty can of worms.

Anonymous said...

There's one other thing you need to take into account here; in the former East Germany and in the present ex-Soviet bloc, asthma rates are a tiny fraction of what they are in the Western world, despite the pollution levels in these other places being sky-high with all manner of supposedly extremely potent asthma-inducing agents. Interestingly the asthma rates in the former East Germany increased after re-unification, as a westernised lifestyle permeated that area.

Smoking doesn't actually cause asthma. Nor does pollution; they trigger it in individuals who are primed to develop it because of other environmental causes. The primary hypothesis as to how this priming happens is the "Dirty is good" hypothesis, which states that as we're growing up it is useful to have a certain amount of harmless bacteria around us, to give our immune systems some target practice in distinguishing ourselves from potential pathogens.

This is why children who live on farms, or in households with pets don't sufffer as much from asthma as do kids from much cleaner households; the animals around them and the generally higher levels of harmless but easily killed bacteria in the environment around them teaches the kids' immune systems how to behave properly.

Modern living, where we rigorously remove dirt with vacuum cleaners and saturate our houses with antibacterials and disinfectants, gives kids a very sterile environment. Coddling kids and stopping them playing around outside also does this; a lack of house pets is also bad.

Smoking is a red herring; a trigger, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Only last night, my five year old daughter, as I tucked her up in bed, said "Daddy, is it true that if you smoke you die?". "Who told you that?" I said. Miss Baxter, her teacher. Now, my daughter has only been to school since last September - she's in Reception for God's sake - and already, at an age when she cannot possibly understand, she is being saddled with anxiety, presumably as directed from up above. How can I employ grown-up reason with a five year old to assuage her worries (and without undermining her teacher of course, though I'd sorely like to)?

I know her teacher. She's lovely and wouldn't dream of creating anxiety in her children. Yet she did and I don't really know what to make of it; I guess she doesn't realise.

The corruption of truth and of the scientific method, the relentless propaganda, the whole caboodle, has seeped into our society such that a perfectly nice teacher can consider it acceptable to do that! I am so very, very appalled and Chris, I take some solace from your blog, not because I think we are going to change society, but because it is simply reassuring to know that I'm not alone in all this madness