What is a news worthy health issue

The news media in general is guilty of pouncing on anything that is startling and unusual as opposed to that which may be construed as “old news”.

Case in point,  during a period in 2002, the BBC ran one story on people who died from smoking (8,571) and three stories on a single death from vCJD.   From this we might conclude that both the public and the media are rather blasé about old news, whatever it may be.

That’s not all, though; we also often fail to consider the source.  News stories are generated by reports from agencies and individuals, sometimes those with a vested interest in the public’s reaction to the report.  For a frightening example of this scenario, take the review published recently by Janine Caltado and her colleagues at the Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education in San Francisco.

They examined every paper ever published on the relationship of smoking to Alzheimer’s, including some claiming that smoking may help prevent this disease.

In all they found 43 published reports, eleven of them written by people affiliated with the tobacco industry.

On average, those eleven papers showed the risks of Alzheimer’s related to smoking less than a third of that presented by the other reports.  Going to greater depths, the reviewers discovered some of the tobacco industry’s marketing strategies, including those intended to recruit young people based on studies showing that the large majority of smokers form the habit before the age of 24.

So check the facts with every resource available, and don’t let preconceived ideas (or wishful thinking) influence your judgment.