Second hand smoke, here are some questions that the anti tobacco groups need to answer

Simon Chapman has been part of the debate on Stephen Williams MP’s blog. He is Australian and have used Australian statistics for my illustration.

Whether second hand smoke (SHS) causes lung cancer (LC) they need to pay particular attention to role of benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) in p53 mutations and whether the rare cases in non smokers is the result of exposure to second hand smoke or wood/coal smoke, car exhausts, industrial pollution or even BBQs.

Assumptions: Population of Australia 2007 21,200,000
Lung cancer deaths in 2007 in Aus 7,626

LC rate per 100,000 = 35.97 approx = 36

90% of LC deaths are smokers, hence LC rate non smokers = 3.6

If you look at the IARC/WHO database Pfeifer and Hainault 10% of non smokers have the guanine to thymine, p53 mutation. This would give SHS LC rate of 0.36 per 100,000 per year, about 1 person per 300,000 people. About 71 people a year.


The guanine to thymine transversion is also seen in coal miners from argon exposure who are non smokers. The IARC in their zeal to prove that BAP is the cause of LC have overlooked that BAP is also produced in far higher quantities in wood/coal smoke, car exhausts, industrial pollution or even BBQs. My provenance for this is er, Professor Simon Chapman.

In your letter to tobacco control you cites these papers:

“Ott and Seigmann[8] and Wallace and Ott[9] provide data on fine and ultra-fine particle emissions from different sources: “Controlled experiments with 10 cigarettes averaged 0.15 ng mm-2 … ambient wood smoke averaged 0.29 ng mm-2 or about twice those of cigarettes and cigars … In-vehicle exposures measured on 43 and 50 min drives on a California arterial highway gave PC/DC ratios of 0.42 and 0.58 ng mm-2 … Interstate highways had PC/DC ratios of approximately 0.5 ng mm-2 with ratios above 1 ng mm-2 when driving behind diesel trucks. These PC/DC ratios were higher than the ”signature” value of the cigarette (0.11-0.19 ngmm-2)measured in a large Indian gaming casino with smoking.” [8]

When it refers to “ultra-fine partiles” I assume you are referring to PM2.5 of which BAP is one. By your own omission you imply that non smokers ingest far more BAP from wood/coal smoke, car exhausts, industrial pollution, candles and BBQs.

It is quite possible that no one in Australia or the world has ever contracted LC from SHS and the very most it is is 71 per year out of a population of 22 million. This would be the equivalent of 210 in the UK, 3,000 people die on the roads every year in the UK, so crossing the road or driving your car is 15 times more dangerous than SHS?

Sorry it is late here and I hope my maths and decimal places are in the right place. My PHD I hope will let us at last have a honest debate.

All I want to do is have a cigarette in peace in a bar.

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11 Responses to Second hand smoke, here are some questions that the anti tobacco groups need to answer

  1. The Ferryman says:

    A tricky one for the anti tobacco fanatics
    When challenged about the effects of dense fumes on workers in places like foundries and steel
    mills ,they justify with statements like ” Ah but those places have wall ventilators and extractors”
    Simple response,dont air filtration units work in Pubs
    Let us be totally honest the anti smoking frenzy has nothing at all to do primarily with health
    it is a well funded ,Corporate Hobby Horse
    As long as there are £$Millions in the Kitty the neurotic anti smoking lobbies will keep their
    snouts in the trough of plenty.
    There are 100 + work places more lethal than the smokiest tavern…….NOW .

    Realist (Ex Union Health&Safety Rep Industrial Section)

  2. Gary K. says:

    Assumptions: Population of Australia 2007 21,200,000
    Lung cancer deaths in 2007 in Aus 7,626

    LC rate per 100,000 = 35.97 approx = 36

    90% of LC deaths are smokers, hence LC rate non smokers = 3.6

    These ‘assumptions’ are rather off.
    Since LC deaths are very,very rare(about 0%) in the non-adults, use the adult population of smokers,ex-smokers, and never-smokers.

    Adults are probably about 75% of the population or 15.9 million.

    Current smokers are about 25% and ex-smokers are probably about the same 25%.
    NOTE: In America the numbers are 20% and 21%.
    That would give you about 8 million never-smokers(50%).

    In America LC deaths go like this:
    current smokers = 21%
    ex-smokers = 61%
    never-smokers = 18%

    The 90% smoker LC death rate is thrown around; but, 82% is the US CDC rate and I would guess that it is about the same for the Aussies.

    18% of 7,626 = 1,373 never-smoker LC deaths per year.= 17/100,000.
    This is very close to the American rate of 20/100,000.

  3. Gary K. says:

    Antis like to use the rate per 100,000 because it gives them bigger numbers to scare people with.

    17/100,000 sounds a lot bigger than 1.7/100ths of 1%!!!!

  4. Gary K. says:

    “never-smoker LC deaths per year.= 17/100,000”

    Exposure to SHS/ETS will increase that rate by 25% to 21/100,000.

    Not dying a LC death is easier done with a rate per 10,000.

    Those are 1.7/10,000 and 2.1/10,000.
    Not dying rates are 9,998.3 and 9,997.9.

    A never-smoker exposed to SHS/ETS has 99.996% of the un-exposed never-smoker’s chance of NOT dying a LC death.

    Realistically speaking, there is NO difference and bans will not improve a never-smoker’s chances of not dying from lung cancer.

  5. Fredrik Eich says:

    Whatever else you can say about Simon Chapman a least he has a sense of humour, which is rare trait in anti-smokers. I would suspect that it takes a lot of self control to say “passive smoking kills” and keep a straight face. Maybe, this is why they tend to be so charmless. I would probably
    rather be sat next to Simon Chapman in a restaurant then have to tolerate the ramblings of others

    for example

  6. Gary you might need to add in the radon LC numbers to that mix it should take shs drivel down even more!
    Since they cant prove any of it anyway! LC death totals are still totals and radon LC deaths are a part of that total making the purported shs LC deaths even less.

  7. Who wrote the piece heading this thread? Slightly confused…

    Common sense tells me SHS effects are a load of junk, not being a statistician. Exhaled cigarette smoke is filtered, surely – by the smoker’s poor lungs. And to try to get a lungful off the smoke coiling from the tip of a cigarette is a fruitless task, even once, let alone 10 or 20 times during the life of the cigarette. So, unless the room is small with many smokers in it, and no ventilation, whatever the effect on the non-smoker it must very small compared with that on the inhaling smoker, as regards the lungs.

  8. Junican says:

    Correct m if I am wrong, Dave, but I am really very suspicious about the methods used by Tobacco Control to assess the comparison of smoke inhalation by an active smoker and that by a non-smoker.

    Let me just create a scenario.

    Imagine a non-smoker in a pub with a friend who smokes. Suppose that they are the only persons present. Suppose also that they sit, drink and chat for four hours. During that period of time, the smoker smokes 10 cigarettes.

    Therefore, the smoker actively inhales a part of the smoke directly and also inhales just as much SHS as does the non-smoker. That being the case, how can Tobacco Control claim that SHS is only marginally less harmful that active smoking?

    I have in mind that they do a little mental reservation. What they could be doing is this:

    4 out of 5 people are non-smokers. Therefore, in a pub, it is likely that for every smoker there will be 4 non-smokers. Each of those non-smokers is breathing the SHS. Therefore we can add up the total effect on all the non-smokers and arrive at a figure of ‘SHS harm’.

    Would I be a million miles from the truth?

  9. Jenny says:

    Second hand smoke is so very dangerous. Amazing how smokers do not seem to care about how they are affecting other people’s health.

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