Tuesday, September 26, 2006

According to Minnesota Anti-Smoking Group's Claim, Eating in a Smoky Restaurant Five Times is More Dangerous than Smoking

Earlier today, I revealed that a Minnesota anti-smoking group - ClearWay (formerly MPAAT) - is actively deceiving the public about important information regarding secondhand smoke by misrepresenting the acute cardiovascular effects of secondhand smoke exposure. In their smoking ban manual on their web site, ClearWay claims that eating in a smoky restaurant increases your risk of heart disease by 30%. Not eating in a smoky restaurant every day of your life, I might add. Just eating (presumably once) in a smoky restaurant:

"Current scientific data suggest that eating in a smoky restaurant can precipitate myocardial infarctions in nonsmokers and increase the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiac events in nonsmokers by about 30 percent."

As I pointed out, the claim that eating in a smoky restaurant increases your heart disease risk by 30% is not just a misleading or deceptive claim, it's completely fallacious.

But if one actually stops to think about the implications of ClearWay's public claim, which I think we (tobacco control practitioners) should, the ramifications are absurd (and perhaps comical).

The Rest of the Story

According to ClearWay, eating in a smoky restaurant increases your chances of suffering a heart attack by 30%. Thus, eating in a smoky restaurant twice increases your heart attack risk by 69%. And if you eat out five times in a smoky restaurant, then you face 3.7 times the baseline risk of having a heart attack. Since the relative risk of heart attacks for smokers is, least conservatively, about 3, this means that eating out in a smoky restaurant five times put you at a greater risk of a heart attack than an active smoker.

It also suggests that if you're making a choice between quitting smoking and stopping going to smoky restaurants, you're better off stopping going to smoky restaurants.

I should also note that according to my calculations based on this claim, if you eat out 19 times at a smoky restaurant, you are almost guaranteed to have a heart attack.

Perhaps restaurants that allow smoking should start offering promotional specials for customers who return 19 times. On your 19th visit, they serve you a free meal, calling it: heart attack on a plate.

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