Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Scottish Libdems 2011: learning the differences between active and passive smoking

You can read the Scottish Liberal Democrats' manifesto here. For a party that is likely to win only a sprinkling of seats, there's certainly a lot of reading material. There's very little on tobacco and smoking, except a promise to make 'progress' on smoking cessation measures. There's quite a bit on alcohol and (without mentioning the words 'minimum pricing') a commitment to approaching this issue on a UK-wide basis.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats' chief manifesto pledge is to create 100,000 jobs by selling off Scottish Water. A policy taken from the Scottish Tories (Severin Carroll of The Guardian) may not be a vote winner in Scotland.

How well do Scottish Liberal Democrats understand the smoking issue? Party leader Tavish Scott distinguished himself even in the early stages of the parliamentary discussion that culminated in the Smoking, Health and Social Care Act 2005. In April 2005 Tavish sounded off as follows:
We are tackling two of the biggest health-related factors in our society – smoking and alcohol. They are time bombs that have long-term impacts that we must address now. Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable premature death in Scotland. Some 13,000 families a year in Scotland lose a loved one through smoking-related death and 1,000 of those are associated with passive smoking. Some 35,000 Scots are treated every year for smoking-related diseases. Each and every year we see among lifelong non-smokers 865 deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory conditions that are related to passive smoking. Statistics show that non-smokers who work in a pub where smoking is allowed are at least 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than other non-smokers
We cannot accept such statistics in modern Scotland; we have to act now and for the long term, which is why this devolved Government has committed itself to introducing a comprehensive ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces in order to reduce smoking, save lives and help to transform Scotland's national health. [emphasis added] 
Do we know how many members were sitting in the Chamber that day ... however many it was, no voice pointed out to Tavish Scott that his statistics were bull. No one has ever presented the idea that exposure to secondary smoke elevated the risk of lung cancer to bar staff by a factor of twenty. The risk elevations given for passive smoke exposure in regard to lung cancer are typically up to 25 per cent, i.e. a factor of 1.25.

Risk elevations for active smoking in regard to lung cancer might approach 20, but this is very different from secondary smoking. Also the dizzy heights of 1.25 as a risk factor from passive smoking relates to a lifetime's exposure, not a summer job in a smoky bar (Tavish Scott does not specify any length of tenure for his hypothetical bar workers), and many epidemiologists would not consider risks of this order to be significant.

Tavish Scott shows lamentable ignorance, but also the failure of anyone else in the Chamber to put the real situation on public record demonstrates how much the Scottish Parliament has allowed the truth to become a casualty of the war on tobacco.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been a bar worker since 1972 and after I did a half marathon recently I felt a little out of breath.
I shall have to get checked out for lung cancer immediately.