Tobacco-financed researchScientists doing research...

Healthwatch

October 01, 1991|By Universal Press Syndicate

Tobacco-financed research

Scientists doing research financed by the tobacco industry believe that cigarette smoking is an addiction and causes a wide range of diseases, a new survey has found. The scientists who conducted the survey said it demonstrated that the scientific community was not divided on the relationship between tobacco and health and that the tobacco industry did not act based on the opinions of scientists whose research it finances. The survey, which appeared in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, examined the opinions of 77 scientists who worked on projects financed by the Council for Tobacco Research in 1989. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed said that most deaths from lung cancer were caused by smoking and 98 percent said that cigarette smoking was addictive. Russell Sciandra, an author of the study, said, "The only reason the council exists is as a propaganda campaign to perpetuate the myth that there is more research to be done." Sciandra is associate director of the smoking control program at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. Major cigarette manufacturers established the council in 1954 to investigate the relationship between tobacco and health. The council has spent more than $150 million on grants to scientists and will distribute $18 million this year.

Teen-age misconceptions

In Biblical times, women who menstruated were considered unclean. Today many women still call menstruation "the curse." Has anything really changed? Not according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Alberta reviewed a number of surveys that asked teen-agers what they knew -- and didn't know -- about menstruation. The results were disappointing. Most teen-age girls still falsely believe they should avoid extremely hot and cold weather, bathing and exercising during their periods. A quarter of all girls also think that menstrual flow rids the body of waste. And more than half have no idea that midway through their monthly cycle is the time they're most likely to get pregnant. (Incidentally, many girls still believe that pregnancy can't happen the first time they have sex.)

Teen-age boys know even less about menstruation. In one survey, 75 percent of the boys thought it affected a woman's ability to think and 87 percent said women were particularly emotional during their periods.

The researchers recommended that parents, schools and doctors join in battling our children's gross ignorance about sexual matters. There's lots of good information available if you know where to look. For starters, try these two books written for teen-agers: "What's Happening to Me?" by P. Mayle (Lyle Stuart, 1979) and "Menstruation: Just Plain Talk," by A. Nourse (Franklin Watts, 1980).

AIDS risk low

"As many as 128 infected with AIDS by surgeons or dentists!" shouted the news headlines. So now let's look at the real story: While the thought of contracting the AIDS virus from your doctor is admittedly scary, the chances of it happening are still very slim.

According to computer estimates by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, some 300 surgeons and 1,200 dentists now have the AIDS virus. The CDC estimates that as a group, they may have infected as few as 13 or as many as 128 patients. This means that your own risk of contracting the AIDS virus from an infected surgeon or dentist is really quite low -- at worst it's less than one in a million.

Though that risk is low, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association have advised members with AIDS to either warn patients of their condition or stop doing surgery altogether.

Potent pills

tTC

Have you ever wondered why drugs come in only two or three sizes? Penicillin, for instance, is available in doses of 125, 250 or 500 milligrams. Yet people come in all shapes and sizes. A small person who takes one of these standard big doses is more likely to experience side effects. This seems an easy problem to remedy -- so why aren't drug dosages meted out according to body weight and height?

Andrew Herxheimer, a pharmacist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, found out that drug companies don't like making different-sized pills because -- surprise -- it cuts into their profits. Most drugs are designed to be effective in 90 percent of the population. For those who would be better off with smaller doses, side effects are indeed common. Herxheimer notes that prescribed drug dosages can exceed the correct dose by as much as 70 percent.

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