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Wednesday
Mar022011

Breast cancer and passive smoking: evidence not conclusive, says BMJ

Passive smoking 'raises breast cancer risk' reports BBC News today.

Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke as a child or adult appears to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, experts say.

The story, based on a study published by the BMJ (Association of active and passive smoking with risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women) is reported worldwide with similar headlines:

Breast cancer risk rises with 2nd-hand smoke (CBC)
Smoking ups breast cancer risk in women (Times of India)
Cancer risk for postmenopausal smokers (Irish Health)
Women who smoke at ANY stage of their live 'are more likely to get breast cancer' (Daily Mail)

But wait, what's this? According to the British Medical Journal:

Postmenopausal women who smoke or used to smoke have an up to 16% higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who have never smoked, according to this prospective cohort study. It also suggests an association between passive smoking and increased risk of breast cancer. An accompanying editorial says that the study supports the hypothesis that smoking increases the risk of breast cancer, in particular when the habit starts early in life. But the data need to placed in the context of the overall evidence, some of which found no increase in risk. And the evidence on secondhand smoke is not conclusive.

Let me repeat that final sentence:

The data need to placed in the context of the overall evidence, some of which found no increase in risk. And the evidence on secondhand smoke is not conclusive.

So, not much of a story, then.

H/T Chris Snowdon who will address this study on his blog shortly.

Update: Passive smoking and breast cancer (Velvet Glove Iron Fist)

Wednesday
Mar022011

Ban smoking in cars, says BLF

Here's the "story" I promised you, courtesy of the British Lung Foundation:

Children from across the UK will visit parliament today to present a petition to the Government calling for an end to smoking in cars.

To coincide with today’s presentation, the BLF have released new research that reveals over half (51%) of eight to 15 years old have been in a car when someone has been smoking. The research also showed that eighty-six per cent of children across the UK want people to stop smoking when they are in the car.

The children will represent the new schools initiative from the British Lung Foundation which has been working across England to empower children and give them a voice to help change legislation.

Medical evidence shows that smoking near children can cause a range of respiratory illness, such as bronchitis and pneumonia and increases their risk of getting cancer as adults. Over 300,000 children in the UK present passive smoking related illnesses to their GP every year.

To highlight the huge health risks posed when children are exposed to cigarette smoke in cars, 25 campaign champions from across the UK, have travelled to London today to hand over the BLF petition which is signed by over 15,000 people.

The findings are particularly worrying given previous research showing that smoking just one cigarette in the car, even with the window open, creates a greater concentration of second-hand smoke than a whole evening's smoking in a pub or a bar.

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit uneasy about children "from across the UK" being used for a PR stunt like this, and I'm curious to know how they were recruited.

Although I am about to do a few local radio interviews on the subject, I can't find a single press report about the BLF's "new research". Instead, the media seems rather more interested in the claim that Passive smoking 'raises breast cancer risk' (BBC News).

Then again, Reuters reports that Being too fat raises risk of deadly breast cancer.

Tuesday
Mar012011

Hold the front page

Very busy this week, hence the lack of posts.

Lots to report but some of it is currently confidential or there are still details to be ironed out and confirmed.

I will however have an announcement to make tomorrow concerning the The Free Society. And, yes, it's good news.

Before that I shall be commenting on a report about smoking in cars. I have just recorded an interview for BBC Radio Lincolnshire and I am booked to appear on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire at 7.35 and BBC Radio Merseyside at 9.10.

The "story" is embargoed until midnight tonight, otherwise I would share it with you now. Bet you can't wait.

Sunday
Feb272011

Location, location, location

Even on holiday I am never more than a phone call away from work.

On Thursday the Welsh Assembly announced Bold plans to slash number of Welsh smokers by a third. The quote I gave the Western Mail was composed at Harthill Services on the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Earlier, I dictated a response to an enquiry from BBC Wales (Welsh Assembly Government's 'smoke-free society' aim) from a multi-storey car park off Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow.

Car parks and motorway service stations feature quite a lot in my 'career'. Some years ago, during another short break in Scotland, I had to stop at Kinross Services in Fife to respond to a breaking news story. Two hours later I was still there, taking one call after another, while my family sat and simmered in the car.

The most spectacular location for a holiday 'interruption' was Cat Bells overlooking Derwentwater in the Lake District. I was halfway up this famous fell when my phone rang and I was asked to provide a quote, quite literally, on the hoof. (At least it gave me the chance to sit down and take a breather.)

I've been interviewed while driving off ferries and sitting in airport lounges, but always fully clothed - unlike a former director of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association who told me that he once conducted an interview with the Scotsman whilst standing on the balcony of his Mediterranean villa stark naked.

Now there's a picture I shall take to my grave.

Sunday
Feb272011

From your royal correspondent

Just back from four stress-free days in Scotland. Bliss.

On Thursday morning we went to the Glasgow Film Theatre to see a "screwball comedy" starring James Stewart and Ginger Rogers. Visiting the GFT is like stepping back in time, but in a good way. Within its wood-panelled walls are the most wonderful cinema and cafe that evoke the golden age of film. I can't recommend it highly enough.

On Friday we were in St Andrews. By coincidence Prince William and Kate Middleton were there too. Anyway, we were driving past my old school playing fields on the edge of town when we were held up by a police road block and signs that read 'Royal Visit'.

We had been sitting in a motionless queue of cars for perhaps ten minutes when a small cavalcade of vehicles, led by a police motorcyclist and a black Range Rover, passed in the opposite direction. And yes, in the Range Rover sat Kate and William, smiling broadly, directly at us, as we waved to them.

A few hours later, following a leisurely lunch at a restaurant overlooking St Andrews Bay, we were strolling along Market Street when I was stopped by a film crew. Would I mind answering some questions about the monarchy and the young couple in particular?

Would I mind?! Is the Pope Protestant?

The next minute I was launching into a short spiel. The crew looked at each other and laughed. "Do you do this for a living?" asked one.

No, but I'm open to offers ...

Tuesday
Feb222011

NICE work if you can get it

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is obsessed with its own importance, writes Simon Hills, associate editor of The Times Magazine.

NICE advises the NHS on treatments and makes recommendations to the NHS and other organisations on how to improve people’s health and prevent illness and disease. Like most quangoes it is obsessed with its own importance ...

Current thinking is that you need to control the innocent to bring the guilty to heel. (Stalinism, in other words.) So the government last year was presented with a report to lower the drink-driving limit to one that will ensnare sober drivers on the dubious evidence that it might “save lives” ...

We naughty citizens, as always, need to be more strictly governed. Needless to say that after 20 years of bullying and curtailing our freedoms, far from enjoying the possibility that we might soon not have to die of anything, all the government and its self-serving quangoes have achieved is to make society rather more obnoxious than it was.

Full article on The Free Society website.

Tuesday
Feb222011

Travel sickness

Last week, following visits to Brussels and Madrid, I had a six-hour round trip to Bristol to film a 30-second soundbite. (The actual recording took about ten minutes.)

Pah! My UK record is a ten-hour round trip to record a similar bite-sized interview for a local TV programme.

After travelling from Cambridgeshire to London I caught a train from Paddington and arrived in Plymouth shortly after lunch. I took a taxi to the pub where the programme was being filmed, hung around for an hour or so, recorded my piece, got a taxi back to the station, and arrived home via London some five hours later.

In the same vein, my all-time record is the time it took to fly to Dublin, stay overnight and fly home for what turned out to be a 20-second comment on Sky News.

For the remainder of this week I shall be in Scotland, but not on business. After all that travelling, I need a little rest and recuperation.

Feel free to talk among yourselves.

Monday
Feb212011

What's become of ASH?

Last week I intended to write a post that began, 'Have you noticed how quiet ASH has been of late?'

I refer, of course, to the London-based operation. You couldn't keep ASH Scotland quiet if you bound and gagged all 27 members of staff and left them on a remote Hebridean island without electricity (or a boat).

In England, however, there has barely been a peep out of our old sparring partners. They haven't issued a press release since November and their website hasn't been updated for what seems like ages. (To be fair, they're not alone in this. Forest is currently developing a new site, hence the lack of activity on our old one.)

Last year it was noticeable too that other tobacco control groups were doing more and more of what I like to call ASH's "dirty work".

Anyway, several theories are doing the rounds, including the preposterous suggestion that Deborah Arnott & Co are too busy drafting the new tobacco control paper for the Department of Health.

I couldn't possibly comment.

On Thursday, however, something stirred. According to Campaign, ASH seem to believe that the number of people who quit smoking is linked directly to the amount of public money spent on anti-smoking advertisements. (See ASH blames adspend freeze for failures to quit smoking.)

The advertising industry will no doubt endorse this view because it wants the money, but it's not shared by everyone. Chris Snowdon, for example, has this to say: How thick do ASH think we are? he asks.

I think I know the answer.