Heather Crowe, the long-time waitress who allegedly contracted lung cancer from second-hand smoke and waged an anti-smoking campaign, passed away May 23rd, 2006.
Comments on Crowe’s passing, by anti-smoking activists and smoking-ban proponents in governments and health ministries, indicate that there will be campaigns to exploit Heather Crowe as the first (and only) “official” martyr of those who allege second-hand smoke (SHS) to be a lethal public health risk (especially for hospitality workers).
However, there are reasons to believe that Crowe’s martyrdom to this cause is based on falsehoods. Heather Crowe may be a false martyr.
We have no reason to doubt Heather Crowe’s own sincerity. She genuinely believed that her lung cancer resulted from 40 years of exposure to SHS during her work as a waitress. Her campaign to “raise awareness” of the supposed lethality of SHS exposure was based on this belief, and a sincere desire to help others by ensuring workers protection from SHS through public smoking bans. Crowe’s belief about the cause of her cancer and the opportunity to use her personal tragedy to help others gave meaning to her illness and impending death, so her enthusiasm and willingness to be exploited by anti-smoking and smoking-ban campaigners was understandable.
The problem is — Heather Crowe’s lung cancer tumor was not caused by the SHS she was exposed to. A cabal of influential people very much wanted Crowe to believe her cancer resulted from SHS exposure, and very much want all of us to share that belief and support whatever smoking related regulations they might devise, “in Heather’s name”. Nevertheless, objective assessment of the facts leads to the conclusion that this cabal misled Crowe, exploited her as a pawn in their manipulations of politicians and the public, and through Crowe continue to mislead all of us.
The “proof” that Heather Crowe’s lung cancer was a result of exposure to SHS, with no other contributing factors, is alleged to be: 1) Crowe was a lifelong non-smoker but suffered 40 years of SHS exposure in her workplace. 2) Crowe’s lung cancer tumor biopsy indicated that she had developed a stage 3B non small cell lung cancer — adenocarcinoma — in the upper lobe of her left lung. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of lung cancer in smokers, at this point in time, therefore Crowe’s tumor must have been caused by tobacco smoke. 3) Crowe had no other significant exposure to known or suspected causes of lung cancer.
Of those three statements, #2 and #3 are false and misleading.
According to the American Cancer Society: “In the late 1950s and 1960s, squamous cell carcinoma was about three times as common as adenocarcinoma. Although squamous cell carcinoma was clearly linked to smoking, the relationship between tobacco smoke and adenocarcinoma of the lung was described by researchers as “slight, if any.” But by the late 1980s, adenocarcinoma had become the most commonly diagnosed lung cancer in the US. “According to the anti-smoking industry themselves, in the 1950’s and 60’s smokers developed Squamous Cell lung tumours primarily. Andenocrcinoma tumours, at that time, were considered to have “little, if any” association to smoking because smokers rarely developed them (although non-smokers did). In the last twenty years or so, smokers have overwhelmingly been developing andenocarcinoma tumours also and almost never develop Squamous Cell tumours anymore. Non-smokers still almost always develop andenocarcinoma — as Crowe did.
Michael J. Thun, MD, director of analytic epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, explains the shift in the type of tumors smokers develop, as: “Before the 1950s, smoke from cigarettes was too irritating to be inhaled deeply, and most of the carcinogens were deposited in the larger airways closer to the throat. Since then, the popularity of filters and new tobacco blends allows smokers to inhale more deeply. This smoking pattern deposits carcinogens in the small airways deeper in the lungs – the areas where adenocarcinomas form.”
The “official” explanation for smokers developing less squamous tumors and more adenocarcinoma tumors, is that modern filters on cigarettes cause smokers to inhale more deeply which deposits irritants into the small airways deep in the lungs where adenocarcinomas develop. But — non-smokers don’t inhale second-hand smoke through a filter!
The anti-smoking industry claims, smokers are now developing andenocarcinomas because they are inhaling cigarette smoke through modern filters, specifically. It’s the filtering that makes the difference, in smokers, they claim. Non-smokers never inhale SHS through filters, they always inhale unfiltered smoke. That means, if SHS is causing lung cancer in non-smokers, they should be developing Squamous Cell tumours! Unfiltered tobacco smoke = squamous cell tumours, filtered tobacco smoke = andenocarcinoma tumours, according to the American Cancer Society.
Furthermore, recent research has demonstrated that the biological processes through which most smokers develop adenocarcinoma lung tumors are different from the processes through which never-smokers like Heather Crowe develop adenocarcinoma.
A study by Adi F. Gazdar, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues, “support the hypothesis that at least two distinct molecular pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of lung adenocarcinomas, one involving EGFR TK domain mutations and the other involving KRAS gene mutations,” and that “these results also suggest that exposure to carcinogens in environmental tobacco smoke may not be the major pathogenic factor involved in the origin of lung cancers in never smokers but that an as-yet-unidentified carcinogen(s) plays an important role.”Pao et al. (2004), found that: “Collectively the data showed that adenocarcinomas from ‘never smokers’ comprise a distinct subset of lung cancers, frequently containing mutations within the tyrosine kinase domain of EGFR that are associated with kinase inhibitor sensitivity.”
The assumption that, because adenocarcinoma is the most common lung tumor developed by smokers – that must mean adenocarcinoma tumor in never-smokers results from environmental tobacco smoke exposure, is false. Smokers and non-smokers develop adenocarcinomas through different processes, and the “vector” by which smokers are alleged to develop adenocarcinomas — filtered tobacco smoke — is not a factor in SHS exposure at all.
The Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada website states:”Certainly, Heather [Crowe] never smoked; she does not live with any smokers, and never had any significant exposure to any other risk factors for lung cancer, except second-hand smoke at work in smokey restaurants and banquet halls.” This statement is both false and misleading.
The development of lung cancer in non-smokers has been linked to many more possible risk factors and ‘contaminants’ than are listed by PSC. Leaving mention of these other risk factors and pollutants out would be deceptive enough on their part, but to then go on and claim; “These days, few people have any significant exposure to risk factors for lung cancer, other than cigarette smoke” escalates the deceptiveness to outright lying.
Among the commonplace pollutants, other than tobacco smoke, could be incense. Researchers from the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, found that;”Incense burning caused more pollution than traffic. Inside the temple, they found very high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a large group of highly carcinogenic chemicals that are released when certain substances are burnt. Total levels of PAHs inside the temple were 19 times higher than outside and slightly higher than at the intersection. A PAH called benzopyrene, which is thought to cause lung cancer in smokers, was found in very high quantities inside the temple. Levels were up to 45 times higher than in homes where residents smoked tobacco, and up to 118 times higher than in areas with no indoor source of combustion, such as cooking fires.” (B) Did Heather Crowe burn incense in her home, or attend a church where incense was used, on a regular basis?
Other contaminants linked to the specific type of lung cancer Crowe was diagnosed with — adenocarcinoma — include wood smoke, ultrafine particles and nitrogen oxides generated by gas and electric cooking, some styles of Chinese food cooking, unvented (or poorly vented) stoves and vehicle exhaust. Is PSC claiming that Heather Crowe was never exposed to these common pollutants associated with cooking, and thereby with restaurants, at any time during her 40 year career as a restaurant waitress? Are they claiming she was never exposed to industrial and/or vehicle fine particle air pollution, despite living in Ottawa?