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Will the eradication of passive smoking be followed by the eradication of smokers?

Some anti-smokers, I am convinced, have a psychotic disorder.

Psychosis may involve delusional beliefs. Delusions are strong beliefs against the reality, or held despite contradictory evidence.

Fear of ‘passive’ smoking - including even the briefest exposure to tobacco smoke indoors or outside - is a good example of this ‘illness’.

Prior to the smoking ban I was interviewed in a busy London pub. Alongside me was a long-serving employee of ASH who I quite liked because she didn’t have that chip on the shoulder aggression that characterises some of her sterner colleagues.

Sat in that pub however she was a different person. She became agitated and started waving her hand in front of her face.

I wondered what the problem was. Then I realised. It was the smoky atmosphere. And, to be fair, it was a bit smoky. But her reaction was disproportionate and weird.

A friend of 40 years, who I met at university, is so smoker-phobic that he won't attend any event where people are guaranteed to be smoking – even if they are confined to an outdoor smoking area.

Unfortunately if you repeat something often enough (like ‘Passive smoking kills’) a lot of people will believe it even when the evidence of harm is insignificant or inconclusive.

I don’t deny, btw, that a smoky environment can be unpleasant. I know people who grew up in homes where one or both parents smoked up to 40 cigarettes a day and one or two of them still grumble about it when the subject comes up.

Far from encouraging them to smoke, it did the exact opposite.

Without exception they are also living long and apparently healthy lives – and will probably outlive me – which suggests that long-term exposure to smoke in the home may be unpleasant for some but it isn’t as bad as we’re led to believe.

As I've said many times before, no generation has been so exposed to tobacco smoke as the children who grew up in the Fifties and early Sixties when 80 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women were smokers, yet that generation is living longer, and is generally in better health, than any generation before them.

If ‘passive’ smoking is as harmful as they say it is, how is that possible?

Anyway, a new study – reported this week – has found that ‘passive’ smoking has been almost eradicated. According to The Times:

The amount of secondhand smoke inhaled by non-smokers has been almost eliminated over the past 20 years, according to research.

Scientists from the University of Stirling found “dramatic reductions” in exposure since 1998 and evidence of continuing improvements, particularly in the decade after the smoking ban in public places was introduced.

The study was published in the journal Tobacco Control and The Times reported:

Since 1998 the average amount of cotinine — a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke — measured in non-smokers’ saliva has reduced by more than 97 per cent.

Or, in tabloid terms: Exposure to second-hand ciggie smoke drops by 97% (Metro).

Inevitably these results have been presented as a great public health success story. According to the research team:

Our analysis showed Scotland has made even greater progress in protecting [my emphasis] non-smokers from secondhand smoke than previous reports had suggested."

Note that word, 'protecting'.

Truth is, the level of cotinine in non-smokers’ saliva may indicate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke but it is not an indicator of harm caused as a result of that exposure.

We went through the whole cotinine argument before the introduction of the smoking ban. Bar workers were tested for cotinine in their saliva and some had a higher level than people who were not exposed to tobacco smoke on a daily basis.

However, attempts to prove that 'passive' smoking was the reason for ill health among bar workers failed consistently through lack of evidence.

A handful of cases resulted in out of court settlements (probably because employers feared a huge legal bill, not to mention compensation, if they lost) but the few bar workers whose cases went to court lost every time.

That apart, the reaction to the 'news' that non-smokers' exposure to tobacco smoke has fallen by 97 per cent since 1998 was notable for two things:

According to the research team at Stirling University:

"The proportion of non-smokers who have no measurable evidence of cotinine in their saliva has increased at almost every survey year and now stands at more than four out of every five adults.

"However, that still means nearly one-fifth of non-smoking adults experience regular exposure to second-hand smoke.

"We now need to work even harder [my emphasis] on making sure that we protect the remaining 600,000 non-smokers in Scotland who continue to be exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis.’

In other words, non-smokers’ exposure to tobacco smoke has been reduced to almost zero and we’re still not happy! Cue campaigns to prohibit smoking in the home, beginning with social housing, and smoking outside (to prevent smoke 'drifting' in through open doors and windows.)

Also noteworthy was the reaction of ASH Scotland, a body that works hand-in-hand with the Scottish Government and relies on that same government (using taxpayers' money) for most of its funding.

According to CEO Sheila Duffy:

"This [delivering a healthier environment] has not happened by accident but is the result of work by successive Scottish administrations and is a clear example of the benefits of public health campaigns."

Apart from the underlying message ("Keep funding us!") do you see how Duffy chose to politicise the issue, praising ASH Scotland's benefactors for reducing non-smokers' exposure to "secondhand tobacco smoke" when the truth is that smoking, and non-smokers' exposure to tobacco smoke, was in decline long before devolution was a twinkle in Tony Blair's eye.

There is no significant evidence that the health of non-smokers has improved as a result of the smoking ban and other policies introduced by "successive Scottish administrations". The famous 'heart attack miracle' has been debunked so many times it's frankly embarrassing.

As for the display ban, the ban on tobacco vending machines and the ban on smoking in cars with children (which were introduced in Scotland independent of Westminster or Brussels), show me evidence that a single one of these policies has led to "huge reductions in secondhand smoke exposure in Scotland, delivering a healthier living environment."

Long before the Scottish, Welsh and Westminster governments banned smoking in all enclosed public places, shops, cinemas and public transport had gone ‘smoke free’. Many if not most offices were smoke free too.

As we entered the new millennium pubs and working mens' clubs were among the last remaining places where smoking was allowed with few if any restrictions and millions of non-smokers didn't go to pubs, nor were they members of private clubs that allowed smoking, so the smoking ban made almost no difference to them.

As for smoking in cars with children, that was restricted to a handful of smokers long before a law was introduced making it a criminal offence.

In other words, legislation has played very little part in "delivering a healthier environment" in Scotland or anywhere else.

Nothing, of course, will appease the zealots in the tobacco control industry and now that they have ‘achieved’ the ‘eradication of passive smoking’ what’s left - the eradication of smokers?

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Reader Comments (1)

The anti-smoking zealots are extremists. There never was a real threat from passive smoking but they recognized the emotive poor of their ruse. The tobacco control extremists used fear as a lever to impose their desired bans. Their lies must be exposed.

Also, thanks for pointing out once again that the 'heart attack miracle' studies are frauds. they certainly are but even now the anti-tobacco extremists use them to justify bans and the media presents their false and fraudulent studies without question.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at 22:01 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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