Friday, 3 December 2010

Tobacco and Allergies: Is There a Connection?

[This is a guest post from An Apple a Day, who contacted me a while back offering to write something. At the time they had a post on their site about allergies so I asked them if they would give us an answer to the question of whether people can really be—as some claim—allergic to tobacco.] 

Edward Stern is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on earning your online nursing degree for the Guide to Health Education.

We’re all well-versed in the fact that smoking is bad for you [I wouldn't be too sure about that - CJS]. But can you really be allergic to tobacco? By definition, an allergic reaction is the result of your body fighting off something it believes to be harmful such as a disease. Allergies manifest themselves in hives, itching, irritation, redness, more mucus produced, etc. Therefore, if there are people allergic to tobacco, it would mean their bodies find tobacco harmful and are reacting to it.

Whether this actually happens, and why, is still up to much debate. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study claims that individuals may be allergic to tobacco smoke. These allergies demonstrate themselves through nasal symptoms like runny nose and congestion. Tobacco smoke allergies may also cause headaches and nausea. Children with such allergies are susceptible to ear infection and lung deficiencies, such as a greater risk for asthma. Most of these symptoms are easily treated with over-the-counter medicines.

This begs the question: what ingredient is actually responsible for the “allergic reaction”? Is tobacco itself the culprit? Cigarettes are filled with all kinds of chemicals and carcinogens that are far more likely to act as irritants to our system and create allergy-like symptoms. How do these “allergies” manifest across different brands of cigarettes? The EPA study asserts that people can be allergic to smoke, yet failed to indicate what types of cigarettes were smoked in the studies conducted and what ingredients were present in the cigarettes. Other studies shedding light on these questions are scarce. Before any hard claims are made that tobacco causes allergies, more research needs to be conducted.

Regardless, claims of “tobacco allergy” seem to be sufficient for anti-smoking advocates who want to ban smoking from public places, or in places like Los Angeles, where the city wants to ban smoking outside of homes. People are allergic, that's enough, and no one really dares to question the veracity of such statements or what they really mean.

I'm not trying to say that cigarettes aren’t harmful. They are. But in making a case for legislation that bans personal habits from public places, I would argue that lawmakers need to know their facts and steer clear of studies that are speculative at best. Until someone knows why these supposed “allergic” reactions occur (and can definitively pinpoint tobacco as the active trigger), the topic should be avoided in anti-smoking legislation discussions.


Anonymous said...

It would be surprising if tobacco smoke is an allergen unless many other types of smoke are also allergens.

JJ said...

Arnott's eyes light up

Don't give that wretch Arnott any other ideas to twist into falsehoods!

Magnetic3 said...

(cont'd) 3.
A subgroup of asthmatics is also very prone to psychogenic productions or exacerbations of asthma. In a 1970s experiment, a group of asthmatics breathed in an innocuous solution that they were led to believe was a trigger for their asthma. A sizable group developed asthmatic symptoms and a smaller subgroup developed a full blown asthma attack purely on the suggestion of hazard, i.e., a nocebo effect. Those with the symptoms were again given the same innocuous solution to breath, this time being told that it was a bronchio-dilator that would clear the symptoms. Their symptoms cleared, i.e., a placebo effect. Note, too, that, until the current antismoking crusade, any smoke (cooking, heating, tobacco) as it is typically encountered was not considered even a trigger for asthma. There was a time when asthmatics were recommended to smoke a few cigarettes as an antispasmodic.

The antismoking crusade has opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of mental dysfunction which then has social ramifications. The antismoking mentality is itself a cluster of mental dysfunctions. When antismoking is allowed to dictate public policy, it promotes mental dysfunction in the population at large. The additional tragedy is that the antismokers will then use the psychogenic symptoms that they helped to produce as “evidence” for the “harmful” physical properties/effects of SHS. It is coddled/reinforced dysfunction that becomes a vicious circle.

Magnetic4 said...

(cont'd) 4.
All of these claims of fairly immediate SHS harm can be tested with straightforward experiments where sensory/perceptual cues are removed. It can be distinguished if symptoms are produced by the physical properties of externalities or are psychogenic. The problem is who’s going to do these experiments? There are few people with psychological aptitude left in academia around the world. Also occurring over the last few decades has been a decimation of the academic discipline of psychology. Many psychology departments that still call themselves so are overrun with behaviorists. Behaviorists are not psychologists. They are biological reductionists, materialists. Their only interest is in the overall, observable behavior of the “organism”. There interest, too, is in how to get the “organism” to behave in preferred ways through operant conditioning. Other psychology departments have properly been renamed “Behavioral Sciences”. Worse still, some once-independent psychology departments have been taken over by medical faculties. While courses in these departments go by such names as medical psychology or health psychology, the disposition is behaviorist. Their overarching interest is in how to advance the medical model and dogma.

It should be of grave concern that, given all the universities around the world, there is not one article in the official literature that addresses the potential psychogenic/mental health ramifications – for both smokers/nonsmokers - of antismoking activity, much of it an assault on mental health. These shifts are not coincidental. It reflects the intent to remove potential counter-argument to materialist (e.g., eugenics) philosophy and politico-ideology.

Magnetic5 said...

(cont'd) 5.
So, if there are any actual psychologists left in academia, you would first have to find them. You would then have to convince them to spend months and months acquainting themselves with what has been occurring in antismoking and Public Health over the last few decades. They would then have to be convinced to speak against the official grain. Not an easy ask at this time.

For some insights into somatization, I would urge a reading of the book Rampant Antismoking Signifies Grave Danger, p.364-381. For issues regarding asthma, p.297-301, 302-305. Available at

Magnetic said...

Apologies. Had problems posting. Parts 1, 2A, and 2B appear in the previous thread (hope they’re still there).