Last month, Journal of National Cancer Institute reported on a surprising result. The surprise was on two fronts - (i) the unexpectedness of the finding, (ii) not a single major media channel chose to report on it. That is quite odd, because you would expect media to be extra happy to report any puzzling finding.
A large prospective cohort study of more than 76,000 women confirmed a strong association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer but found no link between the disease and secondhand smoke.
The fact that passive smoking may not be strongly associated with lung cancer points to a need to find other risk factors for the disease [in nonsmokers], said Ange Wang, the Stanford University medical student who presented the study at the June 2013 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.
Investigators from Stanford and other research centers looked at data from the Womens Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS). Among 93,676 women aged 5079 years at enrollment, the study had complete smoking and covariate data (including passive smoking exposure in childhood, adult home, and work) for 76,304 participants. Of those, 901 developed lung cancer over 10.5 mean years of follow-up.
The incidence of lung cancer was 13 times higher in current smokers and four times higher in former smokers than in never-smokers, and the relationship for both current and former smokers depended on level of exposure. However, among women who had never smoked, exposure to passive smoking overall, and to most categories of passive smoking, did not statistically significantly increase lung cancer risk. The only category of exposure that showed a trend toward increased risk was living in the same house with a smoker for 30 years or more.
We looked around and found only one mention of the above study in media, and that too is in a blog maintained by UK’s Telegraph. James Delingpole wrote -
It was, after all, a decade ago that the British Medical Journal, published the results of a massive, long-term survey into the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. Between 1959 and 1989 two American researchers named James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat surveyed no few than 118,094 Californians. Fierce anti-smoking campaigners themselves, they began the research because they wanted to prove once and for all what a pernicious, socially damaging habit smoking was. Their research was initiated by the American Cancer Society and supported by the anti-smoking Tobacco Related Disease Research Program.
At least it was at first. But then something rather embarrassing happened. Much to their surprise, Kabat and Enstrom discovered that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ie passive smoking), no matter how intense or prolonged, creates no significantly increased risk of heart disease or lung cancer.
Similar conclusions were reached by the World Health Organisation which concluded in 1998 after a seven-year study that the correlation between “passive smoking” and lung cancer was not “statistically significant.” A 2002 report by the Greater London Assembly agreed. So too did an investigation by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.
Yet between 2006 and 2007 smoking was banned in all enclosed public places throughout the United Kingdom largely on the basis of the claim widely promulgated by bansturbating politicians and kill-joy activists that it was necessary to protect the health of non-smokers. On the basis, in other words, of a blatant and scientifically demonstrable lie.