18/01/09 More Irresponsibility From the Anti-Smoking Brigade

This article will be looking at a study that found one thing but concluded another.

The study was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health, entitled “Association of Smoking in Adolescence with Abdominal Obesity in Adulthood: A Follow-Up Study of 5 Birth Cohorts of Finnish Twins” [1].  The study states that, after controlling for the potential confounders, there was no significant elevation of the odds for obesity (OR = 1.34; 95% confidence interval, 0.95-1.88).  The authors acknowledge the fact that there was no finding of a statistically significant relationship between smoking and obesity and that this may be explained by the hypothesis that it is other factors that lead smokers to tend to have a higher incidence of obesity.  As I have long said, cigarette smokers tend to come from the lower classes, and are less likely to have overall good health.  A poorer diet coupled with a less active lifestyle and higher alcohol consumption are all factors for obesity, and factors that tend to go hand-in-hand with smoking.

Somehow, though, they conclude that:

“Given the greater risk of overweight and abdominal obesity among girls who smoked daily and the fact that adolescent smoking is often associated with preoccupation with weight, emphasizing the deleterious effect of smoking on abdominal fat accumulation could be effective in smoking prevention among young women.”

So despite admitting that they found smoking did not appear to be a factor for obesity, they conclude the total opposite.  Odd that, considering we are also told smoking acts as an appetite suppressor and some smokers use it as a weight loss aid.  Also odd considering that when smoking rates reached their peak obesity was nowhere near a problem.  As Michael Siegel states on his blog:

“the study concludes by advising readers that we should be telling the public (emphasizing to the public, no less) that one of the deleterious effects of smoking is to cause obesity later in life.

Do you mean to tell me that even though the study cannot conclude that smoking causes obesity, we should tell the public that smoking causes obesity because it might lead to a decrease in smoking initiation?”

Indeed Michael, that is the case.  Researchers found no link, but advocate stressing that they did, for the good of the public no less.  Am I alone in thinking that the good of the public is actually knowing the truth and making our own decisions? To quote Siegel again:

“This is definitely an example of viewing the ends as justifying the means. Because reducing smoking initiation is a good thing, it doesn’t matter if we lie to people about the effects of smoking or give them information which is not scientifically supported.

What’s most odd is that this conflicting information appears in the very same paper. This suggests that the authors of the study are not concerned about the validity of the information that they are recommending be disseminated to the public.”

Once again with the anti-smoking movement, we see statements with no scientific backing. By that I mean that the authors are stating smoking causes obesity, but offer no evidence by way of scientific measurements or biological mechanisms – apparently we are just to believe that it somehow just does. I’m unconvinced, and don’t buy into the idea that something “just happens”.

[1] http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/99/2/348
[2] http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/

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