Schotse anti`s schieten in eigen voet

Nu het rookverbod in Schotland een feit is lijkt het alsof de anti-organisaties die er voor gelobbied hebben alle mogelijke moeite moeten doen om hun standpunt publiek te verdedigen. Ze halen de meest absurde, op niets gebaseerde uitspraken en claims over meeroken uit de kast.


De British Heart Foundation gaat zelfs zo ver dat ze claimen dat een kwart van de niet-rokende barwerkers door meeroken voortijdig zal sterven:


“We know that regular exposure to secondhand smoke increases the chances of developing heart disease by around 25%. This means 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. No responsible government could allow such an appalling public health anomaly to continue.”


Anti-rokenwetenschapper Michael Siegel helpt hun echter meteen uit de droom: ze verwarren relatief risico met absoluut risico. Dit is pure volksmennerij…


Another Inaccurate Scientific Claim Regarding the Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke

An anti-smoking health group is publicly claiming that 25% of all bar workers exposed to secondhand smoke will die of heart disease caused by that tobacco smoke.

If true, this means that about 100,000 of the 474,000 bartenders in the U.S. will die of heart disease due to secondhand smoke exposure at their workplaces. It also means that bar workers face an astronomically high mortality rate (1 in 4).

According to the
British Heart Foundation: “We know that regular exposure to secondhand smoke increases the chances of developing heart disease by around 25%. This means 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. No responsible government could allow such an appalling public health anomaly to continue.”

This statement was also carried to the public in at least one
newspaper article. This is North Scotland quoted the Foundation as stating 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 second-hand smoke.

These claims were apparently made in support of the recently implemented ban on smoking in Scotland pubs and restaurants.

The Rest of the Story

This claim about the health impact of secondhand smoke exposure among bar workers is blatantly false. It stems from a confusion between relative risk and absolute risk of disease.

Relative risk is the difference in risk of disease between individuals exposed to a particular hazard and those not exposed. The relative risk of heart disease death in pub workers due to secondhand smoke is reported here as being approximately 1.25, which means that pub workers are 25% more likely to die from heart disease than they would be if there were no smoking in pubs.

Absolute risk refers to the actual risk of developing a disease if one is exposed to the hazard. A 25% absolute risk of dying prematurely from heart disease among bar workers would mean that 1 in 4 bar workers would be expected to die prematurely from heart disease.

The problem is that the British Heart Foundation statement equates absolute risk with relative risk. While the relative risk of heart disease among exposed nonsmokers is about 1.25, meaning that exposed bar workers are 25% more likely to die from heart disease due to their exposure, the absolute risk of a bar worker dying from heart disease attributable to secondhand smoke exposure is nowhere close to 25%.

The shame here is not merely that an anti-smoking group is using false scientific claims to support public policy but that it is completely unnecessary to do so. There is enough evidence, I believe, of the hazards of secondhand smoke exposure for bar and restaurant workers that we can promote policies to protect the health of these workers without having to resort to misleading and inaccurate public statements and the blatant distortion of the truth.

I think we can effectively promote responsible public health policies while at the same time being truthful. And to be honest, I think we’d be a lot more effective if we did so.

After all, eventually all of these fallacious claims that we’re making are going to tip off the public and the media to the fact that we can’t be trusted to accurately present the science. And then it’s going to become impossible to convince them of the legitimate facts about secondhand smoke – facts that need to be communicated to the public, and for which we need the public’s trust.

What’s at stake is simply too important to throw it all away just so that we can make some claims that sound very dramatic and alarming.

The truth is enough to support the policies that most of us in tobacco control are working towards. There’s no need to go beyond simply telling the truth. And if we don’t stop doing it, it’s going to destroy our credibility. Then we won’t be able to convince anyone of even the true facts about the dangers of secondhand smoke.


De verregaande overdrijving van de strijders voor een rookvrije wereld gaat zich steeds meer tegen hun richten. De geloofwaardigheid van hun claims brokkelt steeds verder af. Als de pers, en daarmee het grote publiek, dit doorkrijgt zal blijken dat de hele beweging als een kaartenhuis in elkaar klapt. Eigen schuld, dikke bult…


Another Inaccurate Scientific Claim Regarding the Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke

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  • "Es ist schwieriger, eine vorgefaßte Meinung zu zertrümmern als ein Atom."
    (Het is moeilijker een vooroordeel aan flarden te schieten dan een atoom.)
    Albert Einstein

  • "Als je alles zou laten dat slecht is voor je gezondheid, dan ging je kapot"
    Anonieme arts

  • "The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."
    Sir Richard Doll, 2001

  • "Een leugen wordt de waarheid als hij maar vaak genoeg wordt herhaald"
    Joseph Goebbels, Minister van Propaganda, Nazi Duitsland


  • "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • "There''s no such thing as perfect air. If there was, God wouldn''t have put bristles in our noses"
    Coun. Bill Clement

  • "Better a smoking freedom than a non-smoking tyranny"
    Antonio Martino, Italiaanse Minister van Defensie

  • "If smoking cigars is not permitted in heaven, I won't go."
    Mark Twain

  • I've alllllllways said that asking smokers "do you want to quit?" and reporting the results of that question, as is, is horribly misleading. It's a TWO part question. After asking if one wants to quit it must be followed up with "Why?" Ask why and the majority of the answers will be "because I'm supposed to" (victims of guilt and propaganda), not "because I want to."
    Audrey Silk, NYCCLASH