Monday, 24 March 2014

'Further indoor smoking restrictions', aka ban on smoking at home

I had a call from the BBC this morning inviting me on to the Radio Scotland Morning Call phone-in with Louise White. The subject was the study blogged by Forest here, by someone at Heriot Watt University here in Edinburgh. It claimed that passive smoke exposure 'in particular in more than two places of exposure was significantly associated with risks of stroke, angina, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms ... impacted on sleep problems, self-recognition, making decisions, self-confidence, under strain constantly, depressed and happiness in never smokers' (this from the abstract).

Ouch. And to wind up, 'elimination of indoor passive smoking from different sources should still be a focus in future health programs'.

This is surely a case of torturing the figures till their pips squeak. None of the issues in question, including depression and lack of self-esteem, can be attributed to causes as vague as secondary smoke exposure (especially if you experience it in two friends homes in the space of what, a day? a week?)

I wasn't called on to the show until very nearly the end of the discussion, just before 9.30 a.m.. Professor Linda Bauld was on and a medic arguing for further restrictions, and Dr Stuart Waiton from Taking Liberties against it. Stuart pointed out that the new research that comes out all the time always tends to suggest that people's liberties should be further restricted for their own good. Professor Bauld didn't think that legislation would be the answer, but she did want to use what I can only describe as pester power. (It's not enough to open the window or even to go out of the door, you have to go right outside, close the door, etc. I am only surprised that third-hand smoke wasn't mentioned). The medic acknowledged that he would not want to use extra powers to interfere if he thought people were smoking at home in front of kids, but somehow did want something to be done. Callers had varying viewpoints, I think most felt that further powers would not be enforceable (by which I think was meant teachers, health visitors and social workers being able to take action of sorts if they suspect kids are exposed to passive smoke).

My objections to all these restrictions are that the other factors in these conditions they talk of are all vague, nothing is being measured, everything is approximate, nothing is ruled out, and we are expected to accept more or less as a matter of faith that tobacco smoke has the same effect as bad air and damp housing.When I did finally get on air I responded to the point made about this 'new research' recommending more restrictions, by commenting on the neverending flow of anti-smoking studies and by pointing to my favourite page on the Cancer Research UK website. It's the one that says that they fund studies that support existing tobacco policy. (Or to be blunt, they are unlikely to fund studies that don't find a significant risk to health from secondary smoke, or any other excuse to tighten restrictions further.)

Then I had the producer on the line thanking me for my time. By the time I remembered to put up the volume again a minute or so later, they had moved on to a discussion about doggie-bags. Seriously I hope that the national broadcasting station in an independent Scotland will offer something a little more heavyweight!

My views were offered as a non-smoker. I did dabble in smoking a little bit in the early days following the smoking ban. But I didn't miss it when I wasn't smoking.

I was also invited on to the show as a campaigner. Campaigning is not one of my strengths, I am more of a desktop warrior, and it's superficial and non-engaging. Other priorities have taken over (work, mostly) and the group on which this blog bases its name has not really functioned effectively for over two years. I now see the whole issue as one caused by too much centralisation of power generally, and certainly not one that can be resolved by people like me taking on tobacco control directly.

1 comment:

Dick Puddlecote said...

Nicely done, Belinda. Loved Harry and Morag. :)