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NIOSH runs a comprehensive study at how secondhand smoke affects casino dealers, and comes up with very little

My latest HND story looks at the just released NIOSH study, that examined the effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on casino dealers. The control group was casino office employees, working in a smoke-free environment.

Not surprisingly—to anyone familiar with epi studies on real people as opposed to tweaked lab efforts on rodents—there were measurable differences in various health parameters between the two cohorts, but they were not statistically significant.

The most interesting thing determined by NIOSH is that a metabolic component related to tobacco smoke (NNAL) was found in the urine of casino dealers. Some interesting work has been published that tries to quantify the level of this metabolite with the risk of getting lung cancer, but no such assertions were made in the NIOSH paper.

Of course, the lack of significant findings did not prevent shrill media accounts of the supposedly big findings in the study.

By the way, NIOSH was sitting on this data for around three years, before publishing the report. Could they have had the statisticians working all this time in an attempt to create a finding?

The plaintiff's attorneys have already trotted out a former casino employee and non-smoker who developed lung cancer (now in remission), and is quite sure that he got it from his work environment. While around 90 percent of lung cancer is attributed to smoking, the other 10 percent is idiopathic (unknown origin). Why not look at NNAL levels in those of the 10 percent who are claiming that ETS was the cause?

I don't like being around secondhand smoke either, but there is not much real science—beyond statistical modeling—on the health effects. This NIOSH study is a good start, even if it did not come up with the "correct" findings.

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