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Monday
May022011

Passive smoking and blood pressure in children

I was invited yesterday to comment on a new study involving more than 6,400 young people.

Researchers have assessed the effects of passive smoking on blood pressure in children and the results have been summarised as follows:

Boys who inhale second-hand tobacco smoke at home may experience significant levels of raised blood pressure. In later life this could lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, and an increased risk of heart disease. But in girls passive smoking appeared to be associated with a lowering of blood pressure.

According to Dr Jill Baumgartner from the University of Minnesota:

"While the increases in blood pressure observed among boys in our study may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child, they have large implications for populations.

"The relationship between second-hand smoke exposure and blood pressure observed in our study provides further incentives for governments to support smoking bans and other legislation that protect children from second-hand smoke."

So, let's get this right. According to the research (reported by several papers today):

Boys who inhale second-hand tobacco smoke at home may [my emphasis] experience significant levels of raised blood pressure. This could [my emphasis] lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

The increases in blood pressure observed among boys may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child [my emphasis] yet the research provides further incentives (not evidence, note) for governments to support smoking bans and other legislation that protect children from second-hand smoke.

My reaction?

"This sounds like yet more scaremongering designed to stigmatise adults who smoke at home.

"By their own admission the result of the study is not clinically meaningful for an individual child, so I don't understand how it supports smoking bans and further legislation.

"A more reasonable response would be: nothing to see here, move along."

The Scotsman has the story (with most of my quote above): Passive smoking fumes raise boys' blood pressure ... but lowers girls'

In contrast the Guardian not only omits any mention of the lowering of girls' blood pressure in its headline, it's not even mentioned until the ninth paragraph of the report: Passive smoking raises blood pressure in boys, study reveals.

See also: Passive smoking lowers blood pressure in girls, study reveals (Velvet Glove Iron Fist)

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Reader Comments (5)

The Guardian says "She found an average rise of 1.6 mmHg – or a 1% increase on average healthy levels – in the systolic blood pressure of boys who had been exposed to secondhand smoke compared to boys who had not."

1% ? hardly a dramatic statistically significant increase blood pressure. This increase could easily be the result of diet, living in an urban environment, genetics especially as less affluent families are more likely to smoke.

Best filed away under junk science.

Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:39 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Note the words 'may', 'could' and 'suggesting'. Not very positive.

Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:13 | Unregistered Commenterchas

Leaving aside the anomaly between boys and girls, in the sentence

"While the increases in blood pressure observed among boys in our study may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child, they have large implications for populations."

we have the crux of the junk science which informs tobacco control.

Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:17 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Propaganda in action. Pay a scientist to achieve your results. Throw in a few Mays and Coulds, and then then release to a bigoted press who turn that conjecture into fact to make stupid and bigoted politicians believe it and use it to further control and socially engineer its citizens.

I say boycott the Guardian which is simply spreading hate, fear and prejudice against some of us who have been the people we are from childhood.

Monday, May 2, 2011 at 13:16 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

From the abstract: "We did not find a consistent relationship between ETS and DBP among boys or girls." In fact, for boys the blood pressure in the 2nd quintile (as per their definition still considered as "not exposed") is with 1.6 higher than in the highest quintile: 1.2 mmHG. It's an inverse relationship.

http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS11L1_229

Monday, May 9, 2011 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterBen Palmer

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