The 14th Congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona: Non-smokers 'exaggerate' effect of fumes

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THE EFFECTS of passive smoking on health are greatly exaggerated by non-smokers, early results of a large Scottish research study have shown.

When researchers looked for hard evidence of the effects of other people's cigarettes in the blood of their subjects they could find only about half the amount of exposure expected from the reports of the non-smokers.

In the study, 10,359 non-smoking men and women were asked how much they had been exposed to someone else's smoke in the past three days. In their answers 763 men and 1,451 women said they had been exposed to 'a lot' of smoke and 183 men and 416 women said they had been exposed to 'a little'.

They also reported on their own health problems, from heart disease to coughs and phlegm.

Hugh Tunstall-Pedo, professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of Dundee, said in Barcelona yesterday: 'What seems to be happening is that self-reported illness and medical diagnosis tend to lead people to saying that they are more exposed to cigarette smoke than actually happens.'

Professor Tunstall-Pedo, speaking at the 14th Congress of the European Society of Cardiology, said they also found that people who were aware of health problems tend to avoid the presence of smokers. Women were more likely to exaggerate the effects of passive smoking than men. 'If a non- smoker is not feeling 100 per cent fit, he may avoid cigarette smoke. The non-smoking public does not like it and if they feel they have anything wrong with them, they will try to avoid it.'

However, the findings did not mean that passive smoking was without risk to the health of non-smokers. They found evidence of some level of coronary heart disease in 25.9 per cent of those exposed to a lot of smoke compared to 17 per cent of those who had been exposed to no smoke.

The Scottish Heart Health Study provided more evidence that passive smoking is indicated in many types of heart disease, as well as in deaths from heart attacks.