Wednesday, April 19, 2006

SmokeFreeOhio Apparently Decides to Retain Fallacious Scientific Claims

As of this morning, SmokeFreeOhio's website still contained a number of fallacious claims about the acute cardiovascular effects of secondhand smoke. I have outlined these fallacious claims in detail in a previous post, citing the relevant scientific literature to explain why the claims are inaccurate.

Briefly, SmokeFreeOhio is making four claims that I think are inaccurate:

(1) that 20 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure reduces "the ability of the heart to pump" and puts "a nonsmoker at an elevated risk of heart attack";

(2) that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure "can cause narrowing of blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood and contributing to hardening of the arteries.";

(3) that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure causes "building up fat deposits that could lead to heart attacks and strokes"; and

(4) that 120 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure increases "the chance of an irregular heart beat that can itself be fatal or trigger a heart attack."

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that I communicated my concerns directly to SmokeFreeOhio, both by telephone and by email, back on March 21. This means that almost one full month has transpired since the organization was made aware of the inaccuracy of its claims, yet it has failed to do anything (at least so far) to retract, correct, or clarify these inaccurate statements. The public reading its website continues to be deceived, in what I think is both an irresponsible and dangerous manner, about the health effects of secondhand smoke.

I could understand if it took time for an organization to conduct a careful scientific review of the evidence and therefore it took a month to correct the "fact sheet." But you would think that the statements in question would be temporarily removed from the website until a corrected version could be produced. That appears not to be the case, as the "fact sheet" remains unaltered up on the web site.

I'll be honest. I'm getting the impression that the anti-smoking movement, at least in the United States, doesn't care much about the integrity of the science it puts out to the public. The overwhelming concern seems to be the agenda, and if the science needs to be manipulated or distorted in order to advance the agenda, that's apparently fine. After all, the ends justifies the means, and we're doing this for the children.

This is in contrast to our counterparts in Great Britain, where the British Heart Foundation has commendably corrected an inaccurate communication of its own about the health effects of secondhand smoke.

I have been criticized on this blog for having the chutzpah to suggest anything negative about anti-smoking groups in public, rather than keep my feelings to myself and internally communicate my concerns to the relevant groups. The truth is that I have communicated my concerns to some of these groups and the response, so far, has been absolutely nothing. So much for that suggestion.

I don't know, for sure, whether the anti-smoking groups simply don't care about the accuracy of their public statements or whether they actually think they are correct, but either possibility is scary. If they don't care about our scientific integrity, then I think the movement is no longer viable. But if they care, but don't think their statements are inaccurate, then our scientific expertise is clearly lacking, and again, I don't think the movement is viable in its current state.

Ultimately, our credibility is going to fall apart. I realize that this has not happened yet, but we need to be aware that when it happens, it can happen almost over night. I'm doing what I can, but it seems that I'm up against a solid brick wall (at least here in the U.S.).

No comments: