Study s secondhand smoke estimates overblown

Related articles

Secondhand smoke supposedly contributed to one percent of the worldwide mortality rate during the course of 2004, according to a study published in last week’s The Lancet. Using disease-specific relative risk estimates and other approximations, the study came up with a figure for the rate of secondhand smoke-related exposures and their effects among children and adult non-smokers from 192 countries in the year 2004. Their findings suggest that 40 percent of children, 33 percent of male non-smokers, and 35 percent of female non-smokers were exposed to secondhand smoke worldwide, leading to approximately 600,000 deaths — or one-percent of worldwide mortality. The majority of the diseases attributed to secondhand smoke were lower respiratory infections in children under five years old, adult asthma and ischemic heart disease in adults.

ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan does not believe these numbers and directs readers to our ACSH publication on the topic — Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Health Risk or Health Hype? “Secondhand smoke rarely causes any kind of chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer, although it can cause acute symptoms, especially in children, not to mention the aesthetic intrusions of the tobacco smoke,” she says.

ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross emphasizes the basis of the study’s figures lies in estimates, “and probably some computer models, which can easily lead to data fudging. Whatever the actual number of people who have been harmed or killed by secondhand smoke, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes and other harm reduction methods which do not involve combusted tobacco — smoke — could eliminate those problems by 100 percent.”