LETTERS: Where is the proof?

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Duncan Barkes and other commentators should be aware of the essential figures about why smoking is now banned in British pubs.

It is because 54 people from the hotel and catering industry were deemed to have died from lung cancer and associated ailments caused by passive smoking.

This was seized on by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) and promoted as evidence that bar staff who didn’t smoke were at severe risk from the customers who did.

This figure was shipped out to an Australian epidemiologist who applied it to the total number of people working in the industry

(1.1 million) and then claimed that it meant 617 barmen, barmaids, licensees and the like died each year from the effects of inhaling second-hand smoke.

At no point, however, was it ascertained how many of the 54 smoked themselves and therefore ingested it directly. And because there had never been a survey to suggest differently, ASH and the epidemiologist claimed the right to assume that they smoked or didn’t at the same rate as the rest of the population. It was thus an evidence-based truth.

As someone who was born and brought up in a pub, has worked in them and spent too many hours there as a customer, I can vouchsafe that pub staff, landlord, landlady, barman, barmaid, pot-man, cellarman, cleaner, all indulged directly in the habit far in excess of the average citizen and anyone from that industry will attest to the very same.

It was one of the reasons people enjoyed pub work, the jolly camaraderie of drink mixed with shared conversation and cigarettes. But that, of course, is anecdotal evidence rejected as valueless by scientists and ASH. And the big pub companies, run by corporate yes-man twerps, never had the wit or the will to fight for the little people of the pub trade from which they had so long profited.

This when the only proper survey of passive smoking, extending over 39 years in the USA (by Enstrom and Kabat, both non-smokers), concluded that there was no causal link between second-hand smoke and lung cancer and coronary heart disease.

The enterprise lost its financial support from the American Cancer Society when it continued to fail to show a connection. And the society then alleged its results were contaminated because in its final two years it accepted funds from a research organisation partly funded by American tobacco companies.

Thus the survey of 25,000 never-smoked spouses of smokers monitored over nearly 40 years is rejected by environmental scientists and anti-smoking zealots while the lungs of 54 unknown barmaids and barmen are now more than partly responsible for the closure of thousands of old-fashioned British pubs.

Of course, smoking is a profound foolishness, but it isn’t wicked and nor should people doing it held up to be. And sensible level-headed pub users should at last band together to overturn a law propounded as a truth when, in fact, it is a falsehood.

John Dodd

South Harting