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Chapter 9: Smoking and Asthma

Whilst it is probably premature to say that most people believe smoking, active or passive, causes asthma, it is not premature to say that most people feel it is a risk factor for it, and it is a certainty that the anti-smoking crusade are trying incredibly hard to convince us all that asthma is a result of tobacco smoke.  Regardless of what we are told though, the question is this: does smoking really cause asthma, and where is the proof?

As always with the anti-smokers, the answer is: ‘no it doesn’t, and there is no proof’ or, more accurately, no scientific proof – there is, of course, an abundance of junk science masquerading as real science and it is bandied around so quick, forcefully and often that many people succumb to the fallacy that it is real science.  The real science, however, shows asthma is entirely unrelated to smoking, except the ongoing idea that passive smoke may trigger an asthma attack – this is probably true, but in all honesty it is of no real consequence given it depends on the severity of the sufferer’s asthma and the realisation that even dust can trigger an attack.  Let us not forget that grass and plants can trigger severe hayfever, but there is no shout for a ban on anything related to hayfever. 

A study published in the July 8th 2000 edition of the British Medical Journal[1] found very interesting results which challenge the mantra that smoke causes asthma.  The study was an intergenerational study over 20 years, and researchers found that whilst the rate of asthma had doubled between 1976 and 1996, the smoking rate during that period had halved.  Furthermore, asthma and hay fever increased for both smokers and non-smokers but more so for non-smokers, and that the steep rise in asthma was dramatically underscored by the fact that prescriptions for steroid inhalants for treatment of asthma rose more than six-fold between 1980 and 1990 alone.  What is extremely relevant, and telling, is that this pattern is not occurring solely in the population sample of the study: asthma and allergy rates are increasing drastically among adults and children in all developed countries, but not in less-developed poorer countries.

[1] Upton M N et al 2000 Intergenerational 20 year trends in the prevalence of asthma and hay fever in adults: the Midspan family study surveys of parents and offspring BMJ

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