‘No link’ for cancer, secondhand smoke

April 1, 2014

Dear Editor:

In the March 22-23 Democrat, JoAnn Martin played down the significance of an important new study on secondhand smoke, which I discussed in a column March 12. While I respect Martin’s nursing credentials, I wonder at her selective use of sources.

While it’s true that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) did not conduct the study, it did finance it and report its conclusions. I quoted the NCI Journal of Dec. 13 that researchers found “no link between the disease (lung cancer) and secondhand smoke.” What part of “no link” does Martin not understand?

She also quoted individual researchers who questioned whether secondhand smoke should get a pass, and the size of the study. But the NCI report didn’t equivocate, stating clearly that the statistical evidence did not show any significant relationship between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. As for the size of the study, it was the largest ever undertaken on the subject.

The NCI’s findings don’t stand alone. A European study by the World Health Organization in the late ‘90s reached the same conclusion, as did a British study a few years later. However, I agree with Martin that secondhand smoke has other health implications, which I noted in my column.

Martin said that how one views secondhand smoke “depends upon your perspective.” That is unfortunately true for a sizable segment of the population. But the scientific method allows no room for personal biases, and seeks the facts regardless of where they may lead.

Doug Kneibert