Living with a smoker called 'major health hazard'

Broadcasted on BICNews 20 October 1997

Passive smoking doubts blown away by studies

LONDON (Reuters) - Two medical studies showing passive smoking increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer have blown away any lingering doubts about the dangers, the British Medical Association says.

``The new evidence published by the British Medical Journal shows that living with a smoker is a major health hazard,'' Dr. Bill O'Neill, the science and research adviser for the journal, said today in a statement.

``The tobacco industry must now stop its pathetic attempts to evade the evidence and accept that cigarettes not only harm and kill those who smoke them, they harm and kill non-smokers, too.''

The dangers of involuntary smoking on non-smokers have been known since the early 1960s, but the two latest studies published today provide the most definitive results to date that excess risk is not just chance or due to other factors.

Dr. Malcolm Law of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London analysed 19 published studies involving 6,600 people about the risk of heart disease for a non-smoker living with a smoker.

He found that people who have never smoked have an estimated 30 per cent greater chance of developing heart disease if they live with a smoker.

``This is surprisingly large - almost half the risk of smoking 20 cigarettes per day even though the exposure is only 1 per cent of that of a smoker.

``Breathing other people's smoke is an important and avoidable cause of ischemic heart disease, increasing a person's risk by a quarter.''

In a separate study also from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Allan Hackshaw said 37 studies showed passive smoking raised a non-smoker's chance of getting lung cancer by 26 per cent.

The risk for the non-smoker rose with the number of cigarettes their partner smoked and the number of years they lived together.

Hackshaw explained carcinogens in environmental tobacco smoke are inhaled and passed into the blood. Non-smokers who lived with smokers had increased concentrations of tobacco specific carcinogens in blood and urine samples.

``It is therefore to be expected that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke causes cancer.''

The latest studies are more bad news for the tobacco industry, still reeling from reports the British Medical Association might follow the United States in demanding compensation to cover treatment for smoking-related diseases.

Copyright 1997, Reuters News Service

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