TEEN SMOKING: Did Media Overstate Link to Cancer?
Today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports that last week's media coverage of a teen smoking study overstated the link between smoking early in life and cancer. The Inquirer and other major papers had reported that teen smoking "causes permanent genetic changes in the lungs and forever increases the risk of lung cancer -- even if the smoker quits." In today's coverage, the Inquirer reports that the study merely found that teen smoking causes permanent chemical damage, admitting that the "leap from chemical damage to lung cancer is questionable." Though that conclusion is possible, it was not tested by the study, conducted by John Wiencke of the University of California-San Francisco and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The clarification comes amid concerns that last week's media reports could affect health policy by diverting funds and research priorities to focus more on teen smokers. The reports also could have "seriously affect[ed] the decisions of older smokers trying to quit, besides demoralizing many others who have already quit" (Vedantam, 4/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.