Everybody knows it. Breathing secondhand
smoke kills non-smokers. Except that now, it
seems, maybe it doesn't.
A North Carolina federal judge ruled
Friday that the Environmental Protection
Agency's 1993 report declaring environmental
tobacco smoke (ETS) a Class A carcinogen was
The report was conducted improperly, he
said, and the science was lousy. In his
ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas
Osteen wrote: "EPA publicly committed to
a conclusion before research had begun . . .
adjusted established procedure and scientific
norms to validate the agency's public
conclusion, and aggressively utilized . . .
authority to disseminate findings to
establish a de facto regulatory scheme
intended to restrict plaintiff's (the tobacco
industry) products and to influence public
Which finding poses a troubling question
for Americans: Whom can you trust?
Not the tobacco industry, of course.
Corporate America is always suspect, but
tobacco is especially, given recent
admissions to having ignored or concealed
findings related to nicotine addiction.
Not smoking activists, who have said that
even though science doesn't necessarily
support them, the end of stopping people from
smoking justifies the means of bending the
truth.Longtime anti-smoking activist Stanton
Glantz, a University of California at San
Francisco professor, summed it up nicely in
1990 at the Seventh World Conference on
Tobacco and Health: "the main thing the
science has done on the issue of ETS, in
addition to help (ing) people like me pay
mortgages, is it has legitimized the concerns
that people have that they don't like
cigarette smoke. And that needs to be
harnessed and used . . . we are all on a roll
and the bastards are on the run and I urge
you to keep chasing them."
Not the media, some of whose members in
recent weeks have apologized for everything
from inventing facts and people to reporting
events that may not have happened after all.
The betrayals of activists and corporate
heads needn't disturb one's sleep. Both
groups are driven by agendas, and both,
ultimately, are motivated by money. Americans
expect as much. The betrayals of media are
more disturbing given that trust and
credibility are imperative to the media's
Contrary to public opinion, most media
people aren't agenda-driven. Most don't care
who gets elected or how many papers sell--the
majority are pathetically underpaid no matter
how well the publisher eats. More to the
point, they care about getting a good story,
which translates into pay raises, better
hours and private schools for their kids.
What should be keeping Americans awake
nights is the betrayal of government. For the
past five years, the federal government has
been spreading the word that ETS kills
As a direct consequence of the EPA report,
smokers have been banned as pariahs from
offices, restaurants and, in some places,
bars and sidewalks. Owing to government
"proof" that secondhand smoke
damages or eventually kills children exposed
to it, some kids caught in custody disputes
have been deprived of the parent who smokes.
It's one thing to say tobacco smoke
exacerbates existing health problems--a claim
that can be supported by scientific
evidence--but another to say that tobacco
smoke is killing people. No good end
justifies such damaging means.
The alleged connection between exposure to
ETS and development of lung cancer in
non-smokers has been tenuous from the start.
The EPA report wasn't a study but a
"meta-analysis" of several studies,
many of which weren't scientifically
Objective critics point out that most
studies included were conducted outside the
U.S. where confounding environmental factors
weren't considered. Some studies were
absurdly small, such that any result would be
All combined, the studies weren't
"statistically significant," the
measure scientists use to separate findings
that are merely interesting from those that
demonstrate a clear association.
In the years since the EPA report, other
studies have only added to the confusion. The
California EPA produced a study that
confirmed the EPA's findings. A new--and
reportedly better--study by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer found no
Whom can you trust?
That's a question no one can answer,
especially not your government. At best, the
EPA report, which prompted life-altering
judicial and legislative decisions, may be a
numbing example of how government can
fabricate information and modify behavior
while the baffled masses are wondering what's
Whom can you trust? Maybe a better
question is, what's next?
Copyright © 1998 Steven
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Web address March 2005: http://www.junkscience.com/news2/parker.htm