According to the Tobacco-Free York County coalition, people are suffering heart attacks due to 15 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure in restaurants due to clotting in their coronary arteries caused by platelet activation.
In a column published Sunday in the Charlotte Observer, the coalition writes that: "Spending just 15 minutes in a restaurant where people are smoking can activate blood cells called platelets, which can trigger blood clots. Clots in arteries feeding the heart muscle cause heart attacks."
In the column, the coalition supports smoke-free ordinances in Rock Hill and York counties.
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It is beyond me why the coalition would need to resort to misleading the public in order to promote workplace smoking bans. What is the need to scare the public into thinking that they are going to drop dead from a heart attack merely from walking into a smoky restaurant for 15 minutes, when there is no evidence that this is true?
While it is true that 15 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure does activate platelets, there is no evidence that this transient activation of platelets results in blood clots in the coronary arteries, or anywhere else. Unless you are talking about someone with extremely severe pre-existing coronary artery disease, a mere 15 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure is not going to trigger a heart attack. And if this article is referring only to people with severe coronary artery stenosis, then why not state that? Why grossly mislead the public into thinking that anyone who walks into a smoky restaurant for 15 minutes may end up suffering a heart attack due to smoke-induced clogging of their coronary arteries?
Even if the group is talking about people with severe coronary artery stenosis, I'm not aware of evidence documenting that the platelet activation caused by 15 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure actually does cause heart attacks. So at best, the column is grossly misleading. At worst, it's inaccurate.
Unfortunately, I seem to be watching the scientific integrity of the tobacco control movement degrading before my very eyes. And it doesn't appear that there's anything I can do to stop it. It's truly sad to see.
While in the short run, this sensationalism may help win a few battles, in the long run, I am convinced it is going to destroy the credibility of the tobacco control movement.
Now, does any anti-smoking group want to suggest that 10 minutes of tobacco smoke exposure causes heart attacks? As long as we've moved away from solid science and into the realm of making up our claims, why stop at 15 minutes?
(Thanks to Rufus Trotman for the tip).