According to an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Minnesota anti-smoking group has publicly claimed that 30 seconds of secondhand smoke is as bad as a lifetime of active smoking in terms of coronary artery function. The group - Association for Nonsmokers (Minnesota) - issued a press release which declared that a mere 30 seconds of secondhand smoke exposure results in coronary artery damage that is indistinguishable from the damage suffered by active smokers (many of whom have smoked for decades).
According to the article, the Association for Nonsmokers press release claimed that: "Just 30 seconds of exposure can make coronary artery function of nonsmokers indistinguishable from smokers."
The Rest of the Story obtained a copy of the press release, dated August 30, which indeed stated:
"Research studies have shown that even just thirty seconds of exposure to secondhand smoke can make coronary artery function of non-smokers indistinguishable from smokers."
The Rest of the Story
The amount of time it takes to suffer severe damage from secondhand smoke keeps decreasing rapidly. First it was 30 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Then 5 minutes. Now it's down to 30 seconds. I can see why anti-smoking advocates in Omaha want nonsmokers to call 911 when they so much as see an ashtray.
Let's give the Association for Nonsmokers the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was simply a careless mistake, and that what they meant to say was that 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke is indistinguishable from chronic active smoking in terms of coronary artery function.
If the Association for Nonsmokers' health claim is true, then there is no reason for smokers to quit smoking. Because if they are ever exposed to secondhand smoke for just 30 minutes, then their coronary arteries apparently have suffered damage equivalent to that from active smoking and the function of their coronary arteries is indistinguishable from that of active smokers. So why bother to quit smoking?
I guess we can add the Association of Nonsmokers to the list of more than 80 anti-smoking groups which are making fallacious health claims in order to promote smoking bans (an ultimate goal which I support, although I condemn the use of false information to promote this goal).
Obviously, this claim (even if corrected to 30 minutes rather than 30 seconds) is fallacious. The coronary artery function of chronic active smokers is clearly very different from that of nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke for just 30 minutes. Chronic active smokers are likely to have coronary artery stenosis and possibly, ischemia (decreased oxygen delivery to the heart). In contrast, there is no possible way that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure can cause coronary artery stenosis or cardiac ischemia. These differences could easily be ascertained through a stress test, electrocardiogram, and/or coronary angiography.
To suggest that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure is as bad for coronary artery function as a lifetime of active smoking is not only a joke, it is also seriously harmful. It really undermines the public's understanding of, and appreciation of, the cardiovascular effects of smoking.
If I were a smoker who had smoked for 40 years and was told that my coronary artery function was indistinguishable from a nonsmoker who walked into a smoky restaurant for 30 minutes, I would be convinced that smoking has essentially no adverse cardiovascular health consequences. I would probably celebrate by immediately lighting up. There would be no incentive for me to quit, since I've basically just been told by an anti-smoking group that my coronary artery function is no different from what it would be if I had never smoked in my life but had merely breathed in some drifting tobacco smoke for 30 minutes.
Can you see how this health claim by the Association for Nonsmokers is every bit as false and misleading and damaging as the fraudulent claims that tobacco companies have put out to the public?
Having given the Association for Nonsmokers the benefit of the doubt, it is still unfortunate that a press release went out stating that only 30 seconds of secondhand smoke causes as much deterioration of coronary artery function as years of active smoking. It truly undermines the appreciation of the cardiovascular risks of smoking and does a disservice to the protection of the public's health.
I would expect that a quick correction and apology would be made for these errors (first, for the 30 seconds; second, for the suggestion that coronary artery function in a smoker is indistinguishable from that of a nonsmoker exposed for a mere 30 minutes).
But for now, the Association for Nonsmokers - Minnesota holds the record for the claim of the least amount of time it takes for secondhand smoke to severely harm you; 30 seconds is going to be hard to beat.