Wednesday, April 19, 2006

British Heart Foundation Corrects Inaccurate Claim about Effects of Secondhand Smoke

Apparently in response to criticism from me and others about an inaccurate claim on its website, the British Heart Foundation has changed its web site to correct its assertion that "for every four non-smokers who work in a smoky environment like a pub, one of them will suffer disability and premature death from a heart condition because of secondhand smoke."

That claim has now been eliminated.

The inaccuracy stemmed from confusion about the difference between relative risk and absolute risk. A 25% increased risk of death among bar workers due to secondhand smoke exposure does not mean that 25% of bar workers exposed to secondhand smoke will die from that exposure. The 25% increased risk is relative risk, but the claim that 25% of bar workers will die from the exposure refers to absolute risk.

The Rest of the Story

The British Heart Foundation is to be congratulated for quickly and decisively correcting this inaccurate public claim. It is clear that this organization is concerned about the accuracy of its scientific statements and when the problem was called to its attention, it promptly responded by deleting the incorrect statement.

I only wish that the 44+ anti-smoking groups which have made inaccurate claims about the acute cardiovascular effects of secondhand smoke would follow the British Heart Foundation's lead by retracting or correcting their fallacious statements.

I think we'll see, pretty quickly, in the days ahead, whether or not the anti-smoking movement is truly concerned about its scientific integrity or whether it is simply trying to push its agenda, even at the expense of the accuracy of its reporting of the science.

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