First second-hand smoke death?

A young asthmatic woman who collapsed and died shortly after arriving for her shift as a waitress at a bar may be the first reported death to be reported nationally from acute asthma associated with environmental tobacco smoke.

This case report by a Michigan State University physician, published in the February edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, not only outlines circumstances under which the woman died, but also raises a number of issues regarding safety in the workplace.

The report states the woman arrived at the bar in Michigan and, according to co-workers, seemed happy and healthy. About 15 or 20 minutes later she collapsed and within a few minutes died.

“This is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS,” said Kenneth Rosenman, an MSU professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Recent studies of air quality and asthma among bar and restaurant workers before and after smoking bans support this association.”

In 2006, the surgeon general’s report concluded that ETS causes coronary heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. But at that time there was little hard evidence linking ETS to the exacerbation of asthma in adults.

However, Rosenman and colleagues believe this case provides plenty of evidence to link secondhand smoke to this death.

“The autopsy clearly indicates she died from asthma,” Rosenman said. “There was no other cause of death. Her death is consistent with what we know about exposures in bars like this. We know asthmatics are more susceptible to irritants and other particulates in the air.

“We know that particulate levels from secondhand cigarette smoke in bars like this reach sufficient levels to set off an asthma attack.”

As an occupational and environmental health physician, Rosenman said he also is concerned about the long-term effects of ETS on all employees, not just those with pre-existing conditions like asthma.

“As a consumer, I don’t have to go into that bar,” he said. “But is it a safe environment for the employees? We have federal laws that say employers have to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This was clearly not a safe and healthy workplace for this employee.

“This death dramatizes the need to enact legal protections for workers in the hospitality industry from secondhand smoke.”

In the United States, 23 states have already banned smoking in restaurants and bars. A number of other states, including Michigan, are considering it.

While many bar and restaurant owners say a smoking ban would hurt business, Rosenman argues that just the opposite is true.

“Consider that 75 percent of the population doesn’t smoke,” he said. “Banning smoking could actually serve to increase business. Studies of restaurants and bars in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. all show business up since they banned smoking. Chicago went smoke free the beginning of this year.

“We’re behind the times if we want to attract tourists and help businesses be more profitable.”

Three public health disease-tracking systems in Michigan were used to gather information for this case report.

Other members of the research included Martha Stanbury, Michigan Department of Community Health; and Debra Chester and Elizabeth Hanna of MSU’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The project was funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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25 thoughts on “First second-hand smoke death?”

  1. “Suspected to”, “believed to”. And still, no scientific proof. Forget scientific consensus (the antithesis of the scientific method), as that doesn’t mean a damn’ thing.

    If you don’t like the smell of smoke (and I don’t blame you, it stinks), don’t go to the bar. What are you? Stupid? Some form of congenital idiot? Or do you just want everything your way? What makes *you* so special? Got asthma? Don’t work where there’s smoke (and yes, there *is* a choice). Don’t walk downtown where you breathe the diesel fumes. Carry your inhaler, you idiot. Make choices. Be an individual.

    Go to a non-smoking bar, where you can pick up hot-looking “member-of-sex-you-find-attractive” after drinking metabolic poisons and eating additive-loaded, pre-packaged-excuses-for-food, take the hottie home, screw them and hope to whichever deity you pray to that you don’t catch some STD. And in the morning, praise-be, you won’t smell of smoke. Nope. Stale alcohol, body odor, dried “dressing du jour”, but not smoke. Whoop-de-do.

    *Wake up*, you morons. Start taking responsibility for your lives. If you don’t like something, *don’t do it*. Stop whining like a herd of pre-pubescent teenagers, and have an original thought. Although I doubt one in fifty of you is capable of even that now.

  2. Ya I also heard that ETS causes the inhaler to not wash their hands after they use the restroom, grow vestigial arms, and eat their own poo. For one, if your retarded enough to work in a smokey environment beit a auto shop, ore refinery, or even a bar with asthma,then you shouldnt be allowed to breed. Secondly, note the word “some”-this means it was a guess. “Some 35-48000 americans” its a guess….its not like its actual data. To be taken with a grain of salt because it doesnt mean anything. Thirdly, the American Heart and Lung Association will tell you ANYTHING causes cancer, even breathing the cleanest air. I’m sorry guys, but we have to put the brakes on somewhere, the world we live in is not perfect, and it would suck to live in a antiseptic society of germophobes. Theres other things in your life that arnt as petty as this to waste your time thinking about.

  3. incidence of SUDDEN DEATH among the asthmatic population has been increasing annually and most likely IS DUE TO their meds.
    WHAT did the autopsy reveal and why would an astmatic anything be working with irritants or tobacco smoke wasn’t as provoking as perfumes etc ?

    what a joke of a SCIENCE blog.
    where’s the scIence ?

  4. The free market ensures that there will be exactly as many non-smoking bars as people want. Everyone wins!
    This is such a no-brainer it defies comparison.
    If there was such a demand for non-smoking bars, why wasn’t there plenty of them to begin with, instead of having to mandate that they all become smoke free?
    Because that isn’t what the majority of the people who go to bars want, that’s why.
    In Iowa, the Democrats just imposed a smoking ban on all bars, while leaving the state owned, cash-cow casinos exempt from the ban.
    I’m not making this up. They said, with a straight face, that they don’t think the smoking ban will hurt the bar business — while at the same time exempting the casinos from the same law. And so they left themselves WIDE OPEN for a lawsuit which is being filed by the bar owners association, citing the unconstutionality of the smoking ban and the casino exemption.
    Democrats: What a bunch of boobs!
    What a bunch of boobs!

  5. smokers will say anything to make themselves sound right. about the girl above who died-it is hard finding a good job especially being a waitress-and if there are any smoke free restaurants i bet they are fully staffed. for B that said: “i grew up with friends and we all smoked and so did our parents and none of us died”. first of all-you don’t know how they died, they could have had a heart attack-which was caused by blocked arteries, which was caused by second hand smoke! in your day-that was then…today thousands of people are dying each year. The media has nothing to do with how people feel…the truth is what makes people speak out against smoking. i am writing an argumentative paper for an english class, and after doing a lot of research I cannot believe I smoked when i turned 18. i did socially when i went out to a bar(which is now smoke free!) and i just can’t beleive i smoked at all. it is very hard to find a restaurant to eat at that is smoke free. there are only about 3 or 4 good places to eat at that are smoke free in my city. i think it would help businesses-though I hate tourists, they would bring more money to our city and restaurant owners would make a lot more money. me aving a 2 year old son now-i will never smoke again, and hope he doesn’t grow up to be like the little punks out here that are smoknig when they are 13 and 14.
    i am right…smokers are wrong : )
    Sarah-virginia Beach

  6. Saying this is the first death caused by secondhand smoke is in itself ridiculous. Anti-smoking groups say 3000 people die each year from second hand smoke yet this is the first actually attributed to it.

    One of two logical options are possible. Either this really is the first death from second hand smoke or this isn’t the first death. If it is the first death, then one death after 200 years of smoking is hardly a public health concern. If it isn’t the first death then anti-smoking lobbyists are trying to scare people into accepting the stripping of freedoms by holding up one particular case and saying this is you… when in reality it isn’t. Its simply bad statistics and bad science. Any scientist or statistician will tell you one person out of 300 million is an anomoly and not the rule.

    In my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not fact) second hand smoke, while it does have negative side effects, is no different from anything else we do. Risk is a part of life. I refuse to live in fear of every little thing that can go wrong. And make no mistake, it is fear that anti-smoking, anti-terrorist, anti-abortion, anti-alcohol, all the anti-something groups are using. If the statistics were hard fact, smoking would be banned by now, same as any other illicit drugs. That being said I do believe that second hand smoke can be detrimental to particular demographs. I don’t smoke around children or the elderly (unless they’re smoking themselves). Out of courtesy and not concern for public health, I don’t smoke in restaurants where people are enjoying a meal. I find those reasonable concessions to make.

    For me the real problem is choice. It’s something that is being taken away from us with all these laws. I ask, in all seriousness, why not give the business owner this choice? Some places will choose to ban smoking, some won’t. Smokers will congregate to the places they can smoke while the non-smokers will go to the smoke-free environments. To me this seems like a reasonable compromise over an issue that has caused so much bad blood between both sides.

  7. Is it really too much to ask for people to smoke outside in order to avoid tragedies like the one mentioned in this story. Is the convenience of not having to get up and go outside every couple of hours really worth putting lives at risk. I don’t think so. Think about it for a minute.

  8. dude the international cancer genome consortium (what a weird name) has just found that for every one cigarette that you smoke, you get about one gene mutation, considering how little genes it takes to start mess up and cause cancer, your basicly playing a large game of russian rullet….if you do the math and add up the amount of cigarettes you will smoke/ have smoked you’ll find that number is alarminly high and it just piles on the gene mutations

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