Secondhand smoke holds more toxins
A visiting biologist was able to study Philip Morris' findings at a clandestine lab
SECONDHAND SMOKE is more toxic to nonsmokers than inhaled smoke is to a smoker, says a California researcher.
"People working in places where smoking is allowed are in danger," Suzaynn Schick, a cell biologist at the University of California San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said at a Tobacco Control Conference yesterday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Schick has spent three years studying documents about experiments on secondhand smoke at a secret Philip Morris laboratory in Germany.
She said secondhand or sidestream smoke is chemically different than mainstream smoke inhaled by a smoker. A lighted cigarette in an ashtray releases into the air larger molecules that are more likely to be poisonous than a cigarette being smoked, she said.
Secondhand smoke was three times more toxic to tissue culture cells than mainstream smoke in three-to-five-day comparisons by the tobacco company, she said.
Aged smoke -- smoke that hangs in the air for long periods -- contains particulates that stick to things and toxicity doesn't decrease, Schick said. People take the smoke home from bars on their clothes and in their hair, she said. Smoky environment affected people's larynxes, she said.
Lung cancer is a major risk for smokers while heart disease is the biggest risk for secondhand exposure, she said.
A new California Environmental Protection Agency report on secondhand smoke lists developmental, respiratory, carcinogenic and cardiovascular effects.
Philip Morris' experiments were done on rats, which are less sensitive to smoke than humans, Schick said, noting none of the biological research was ever published by the tobacco company.
She said the company moved its research laboratory to Germany in the '70s when people began filing lawsuits against the tobacco industry and lawyers wanted to see the files. The research is more protected in Germany, she said.
"All I could see is what they published -- not what was behind the scenes," she said. Her first paper on her findings is being published this month by the Journal of Tobacco Control, she said.
Also participating in a panel, "Open for Business: No Smoking in the Workplace," were Tanya Alana, co-owner of NTYce Bar, and Georg Weidmann, manager of John Dominis Restaurant.
Noting she is a former smoker who still coughs at night, Alana said she and her co-owners decided at the outset to make their lesbian nightclub smoke-free.
Some people were shocked at the club's opening but business actually has increased with people who don't want to go home "smelling like an ashtray," she said.
Austria-born Weidmann said he spent many years "puffing away" as he traveled through different countries and states. He finally stopped when "it became so bad, I was running out of air." He had emphysema and had to use an inhaler, he said.
He had surgery last fall after a doctor saw a spot on his lungs and a biopsy showed it was cancer, he said. "I feel better than before," he said, noting he no longer needs an inhaler. "I'm glad I don't do it (smoke) any more."
He said John Dominis' no-smoking policy hasn't hurt business. It caused some concern initially because of the influx of Japanese tourists who smoke, but they stand outside, he said.
State Health Director Chiyome Fukino said Hawaii has the third lowest adult cigarette smoking rate in the nation at 17.2 percent.
"Being No. 3 is wonderful but No. 3 just isn't quite good enough," she said. "Let's be No. 2 (now California). Then, let's talk strategy to take on Utah (No. 1)."
Free help available to kick the deadly habit
FREE HELP is available to Hawaii's uninsured and Medicaid-insured smokers who want to quit. All they have to do is call the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline toll-free at (800) QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
The local coaching center, at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., is a proven program to help people quit smoking with coaching support and nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch, gum or medication.
Especially trained Quitline coaches will work with residents to determine the best program for them.
Coaches will assess callers' readiness to quit, help them set a quit date and create a personal quit plan. They will schedule times for follow up and discuss possible nicotine replacement therapy.
They can arrange for uninsured or Medicaid-insured callers to get the therapy free if it's appropriate.
The coaches will send participants a quit guide to help them stay on track between coaching sessions.
Those wanting to stop smoking also may see www.CallitQuitsHawaii.org to get more information about the service and quit tips.
They can also register online for a call back from a quit coach.
Health care providers, friends and family members of smokers are encouraged to visit the Web site or call the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline for information.
The Quitline is run by Free & Clear (www.freeclear.com), recognized as a leader in providing tested and validated tobacco treatment.
The program is supported by the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund with money from the state's settlement with the tobacco industry.