BALTIMORE, MD – How bad is smoking really? When compared with other risky activities, it appears it may not be nearly as dangerous as public health officials would have you believe. The DME Continues its coverage of bear-related medical issues with this report on a new study from the Journal of Ursine Health Risks.
The study, published this week, sought to tease out the true danger of smoking by comparing it to real-life bear risks. Participants were randomized to either 2 hours of tobacco smoking or two hours of structured exposure to an adult female grizzly bear.
“What we found blew our minds. No one had any trouble from smoking… but bears, wow! That’s risky stuff,” said author RJ Klotkern, MD, PhD.
All 8 of the participants who completed the bear intervention suffered health effects from bear-related medical injury (2 deaths, 4 episodes of limb loss, and 2 episodes of hemodynamically significant bleeding). During the 48-hour post-intervention observation period, none of the 40 patients randomized to the smoking arm experienced any adverse effects. There was significant crossover in the trial, as many (>80%, N=32) participants who were randomized to the “Bear Arm” of the study wished to switch to the smoking arm after being informed of their randomization. Data analysis was conducted using an “intent-to-treat” approach, and even with the nullifying effect of crossover, risk for limb-loss and death was significantly higher in the Bear Arm (p = 0.0001).
“There’s a lot of negative publicity out there for smoking, but our study clearly shows that the real public health risks are related to bears not cigarettes. The bear-related industry has been engaged in a decades long cover-up of bear-related health risks… even going to the lengths of trying to introduce kids with “soft” bear paraphernalia, like the infamous “Teddy Bear” that functions as a gateway experiment for many children. We need to have awareness campaigns to teach kids to say “no” to bears,” said Klotkern.
The study has limitations. Participants were not blinded to their randomization group and the study only tested exposure to one bear type. Some have also complained that the study did not include adequate follow-up. Still, we at the DME are doing what we can to spread the word about bears and your health.