Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An answer to "junk science" claims

Our thanks to Dr. Alan Nichols for his guest post!

Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald, February 9, 2008

In a guest editorial on Jan. 26, Carson Taylor attacks "anti-smoking zealots" who rely on "junk science" to press for laws protecting the public from secondhand smoke. He doesn't identify these zealots, but I will. They include the surgeon general, EPA, Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, WHO and virtually every other public health organization on the planet.

Even Phillip Morris USA officially admits the risk. Per their Web site: "We also believe that the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places." The tobacco industry lied about the risks of smoking and was stung by a $240 billion judgment. They won't make that mistake again with secondhand smoke. Now they indirectly fund outside groups such as "Citizens Against Government Interference" and "My Smokers' Rights," to do the dirty work for them.

Internal tobacco industry documents, made public by a lawsuit, reveal the strategy. "Our overriding objective is to discredit the EPA report. We will never find an unbiased scientist who concludes that ETS exposure has been proven safe for non-smokers. What we need is an aggressive public relations campaign to: 1. Restore a reasonable doubt in the minds of smokers that ETS is harmful to anyone. 2. Buttress the belief in smokers that smoking is a right which no government... is entitled to revoke." (Philip Morris memo 1987 Bates 2023551401/1404. Available online from the UCSF archive (scroll to bottom half of last page).)

Mr. Carson attacks the "infamous EPA study" for having "manipulated the data" to support "preconceived conclusions." He fails to mention subsequent larger and more comprehensive studies by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the National Cancer Institute. Each provided strong validation for the original EPA conclusions. As was later exposed, much of the criticism of the original report came from 13 scientists who were paid a total of $156,000 by The Tobacco Institute and two law firms to submit letters to scientific journals.

As for the ruling by U.S. District Judge William Osteen repudiating the EPA report, Carson fails to mention that Osteen was from North Carolina and had previously worked as a tobacco industry attorney. Osteen's ruling was subsequently overturned, and the official EPA report stands to this day.

Mr. Carson and I do agree on one point. The study done in Helena, Mont., showing heart attacks in the city dropped 40 percent in the six months after an indoor smoking ban was based on too small a population, and followed for too short a time. This is why the study was repeated in Pueblo, Colo., and Bowling Green, Ohio. And then repeated in New York, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Greece, with every study reaching the same conclusion: Secondhand smoke laws result in immediate and dramatic drops in hospital admissions and deaths from heart attacks.

The Internet is full of sites claiming the moon landing was a hoax, Elvis is still alive and there is a conspiracy, hatched by public health officials around the world, to attack secondhand smoke with "junk science." As for me, I'm siding with the surgeon general who states that "the scientific evidence is now indisputable: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adult... There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure."

Alan Nichols, MD
Rock Hill, SC

Dr. Nichols is chairman of the Tobacco Free York County Coalition.

1 comment:

Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

This is great information for those of you who are seeing the "junk science" people pop up in your communities.

Readers' note: Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) and Secondhand Smoke (SHS) are the same thing.