Passive smoking 'worse than thought'

17th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

17 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — The Health Council is poised to advise the government that research indicates second-hand smoke is much more dangerous than previously thought, killing thousands of people each year in the Netherlands.

17 November 2003

AMSTERDAM — The Health Council is poised to advise the government that research indicates second-hand smoke is much more dangerous than previously thought, killing thousands of people each year in the Netherlands.

The council said passive smoking can cause heart disease, lung cancer and cot death. It said passive smokers have a 20 percent more chance of contracting lung cancer and a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
 
The advice — which will be presented to Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst on Tuesday — was based on US research and compiled by a commission of experts. Passive smokers are defined as people who passively smoke eight cigarettes a day, namely the non-smoking partners of smokers or their children.

The Dutch Cancer Institute (NKI) said the council's conclusions confirmed what many academics already believe.

NKI academic Floor van der Leeuwen said the heightened chance of lung cancer only applied to those who are exposed to cigarette smoke on a daily basis over several years, while the heightened risk of heart disease could apply to people who occasionally breathe in cigarette smoke in public places such as sports club canteens.

Previous NKI inquiries indicated that passive smokers had a heightened risk of lung cancer. It estimated that 200 Dutch residents died each year as a result of breathing in second-hand smoke, an NOS news report said on Monday.

Workers have the right to a smoke-free workplace under new regulations which come into force on 1 January 2004. But cafes, restaurants and hotels, coffee shops and sports club canteens have temporarily escaped from the new regulations.

The anti-smoking association CAN wants to take the Dutch State to court in protest against the fact that the entertainment industry and sports club canteens do not have to meet the new smoke-free regulations.

And with recent figures indicating that one-third of the Dutch population smokes, the Lower House of Parliament is scheduled to debate the smoke-free workplace on Wednesday.

Health academics have discussed for years how damaging passive smoking is and leading trade journal the British Medical Journal reported last year that the risks of passive smoking were being strongly exaggerated. It said the health risks would fall away if other risk factors such as breathing in smog and exhaust gases were taken into account.

But the researchers were criticised for accepting funding from the tobacco industry and were accused of downplaying the risks of passive smoking. But other academics, such as the Editor-in-Chief of doctors trade journal The Lancet, John Horton, said research that emphasised the health risks of passive smoking is often funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
 
Meanwhile, a recent study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that passive smokers have a 30 percent extra chance of contracting lung cancer, much higher than the 20 percent figure put forward by the Health Council.

But just three years ago, the WHO cancer institute IARC said the increased chance of lung cancer among passive smokers was just 17 percent.

The Dutch Health Council first said that passive smoking might cause a heightened chance of lung cancer 13 years ago. At that time though, it had no figures to substantiate its claims.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news

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