Want to cure your asthma? Start smoking

"Yes, it’s rotten science, but it’s in a worthy cause. It will help us to get rid of cigarettes and become a smoke-free society” said one WHO official. This is what we're up against

Would a cigarette be of more use?
David Atherton
On 29 January 2013 13:56

This week saw the junk science machine firing on all V12 cylinders, and with the benefit of an up-rated turbo charger. If Tobacco Control was in Formula1, Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn’s creations would perform like a tractor in comparison; Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton would be relegated to being marshals at a corporate track day.

As with many stories of this nature, we begin with the BBC who dutifully reported last Monday that since the smoking ban in 2007 the number of asthma attacks requiring emergency treatment has declined by 12 percent after rising 2 percent year on year before.

The paper referenced by Auntie (co-authored by Professor Stanton Glantz) concluded: “These findings confirm those from a small number of previous studies suggesting that the well-documented population health benefits of comprehensive smoke-free legislation appear to extend to reducing hospital admissions for childhood asthma.”

Chris Snowdon has amply discredited the numbers in the report. He shows that emergency hospital admissions for 0-14 year olds in 2011/2012 were the same as in 2000/2001 and three out of the five years since the smoking ban (2007) were above the average for those admissions. Also, the diagnosis of asthma has actually risen from 2007 to reach its peak in 2008/2009, only to slightly tail off, and it is still significantly higher than pre-ban.

I am going to be slightly contrarian here and suggest that there is, in a perverse way, a possibility that the report may have some substance. Since the smoking ban, smokers go to the pub less and spend less time there. No doubt this has led to people smoking more at home. Similarly with the office smoking room closed, workers are lighting up on the streets, exposing more people to second hand smoke (SHS). My hypothesis is that smoking and being exposed to SHS actually reduces the incidence of asthma, the number of attacks and its severity. What are the indications?

The 2008 Mishra paper published in the American Journal of Immunology found that “The results unequivocally show that, even after multiple allergen sensitizations, nicotine dramatically suppresses inflammatory/allergic parameters in the lung including the following: eosinophilic/lymphocytic emigration; mRNA and/or protein expression of the Th2 cytokines/chemokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-25, and eotaxin; leukotriene C4; and total as well as allergen-specific IgE.”

The Swedish Hjern paper from 2001 was a three generational study of children exposed to SHS. It found that: “Children of mothers who smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day tended to have lower odds for suffering from allergic rhino-conjunctivitis, allergic asthma, atopic eczema and food allergy, compared to children of mothers who had never smoked (ORs 0.6-0.7). CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates an association between current exposure to tobacco smoke and a low risk for atopic disorders in smokers themselves and a similar tendency in their children.”

This New Zealand study published in 2008 states: “Parental smoking during childhood and personal cigarette smoking in teenage and early adult life lowers the risk for allergic sensitization in those with a family history of atopy."

"Participants with atopic parents were also less likely to have positive SPTs between ages 13 and 32 years if they smoked themselves (OR=0.18), and this reduction in risk remained significant after adjusting for confounders.” That is an 82 percent reduction in atopy.

The report concludes: “The harmful effects of cigarette smoke are well known, and there are many reasons to avoid it. Our findings suggest that preventing allergic sensitization is not one of them.”

What other empirical evidence is there to review, where the conclusions are incorrect?

This paper published in the British Thoracic Society in 2004 bemoans; “Trends in asthma indicators from population surveys (prevalence) and routine statistics (primary care, prescriptions, hospital admissions and mortality) in the UK were reviewed from 1955 to 2004. The prevalence of asthma increased in children by 2 to 3-fold, but may have flattened or even fallen... [c]urrent trends in adult prevalence are flat.“

In 1955 smoking rates were over 60 percent of the adult population with few restrictions where and when you could smoke. Most children would be exposed daily if not hourly to SHS. Adult smoking rates in 2004 were 28 percent of the population, yet asthma increased “2 to 3-fold”? 

The authors of the report are guilty of many things: Data torture, publication bias, misrepresentation, and failing to look for confounders. This has been typical of the last forty years, ever since the late socialist, anti-smoker and former UK Chief Medical Officer Sir George Godber said in 1975 that he wanted to "Foster an atmosphere where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them, especially their family and infants or young children who would be exposed involuntarily to the smoke in the air.”

 Alvan Feinstein, a Yale epidemiologist who was sceptical of the harm of passive smoking and lung cancer, in a paper he wrote in 1993 in response to the SHS reportage, quotes a colleague at the World Health Organization (WHO) who said, “Yes, it’s rotten science, but it’s in a worthy cause. It will help us to get rid of cigarettes and become a smoke-free society”.

As with man-made global warming, it is deemed acceptable to lie through gritted teeth when it comes to SHS harm, for the greater good of cultural and economic socialism/Marxism. Indeed, as Friedrich Von Hayek noted in ‘The Road to Serfdom’, science in authoritarian societies can be hijacked for political purposes. He called this "The End of Truth". He was right.

David Atherton is Chairman of Freedom2Choose, which seeks to protect the informed choices of consenting adults on the issues of smoking. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveAtherton20

blog comments powered by Disqus

We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.