My neighborhood grill-and-ale house has
banned smoking inside its premises since the
first of the year. Those who choose to light
up must do so in a designated smoking area
outside. I must say, I like this arrangement.
I never cared to breathe the cigarette fumes
of others. Nor did I like it when my clothes,
my hair, even my skin reeked of tobacco
But having mentioned all this, I must also
say that I do not like the reason my favorite
watering hole went "smoke free." It
was mandated by California state law, which
took effect New Year's Day, banning smoking
not only in restaurants, but also in bars.
And the pretext of this law was a 1993 study
and declaration by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency that secondhand smoke is a
Class A carcinogen -- as hazardous as
asbestos, benzene and radon -- and that it
causes some 3,000 lung-cancer deaths a year.
Even folks like me who aren't cigarette
smokers, who appreciate a smoke-free
environment, suspected that the EPA's
findings were politically motivated rather
than based on sound science. And earlier this
month, a federal judge in North Carolina
arrived at the same conclusion.
"EPA publicly committed to a conclusion
before research had begun," wrote U.S.
District Court Judge William Osteen.
Furthermore, the judge added, the regulatory
agency violated federal law, the 1986 Radon
Gas and Indoor Air Quality Research Act, in
determining that secondhand smoke was a
The law requires that a broad-based panel be
convened to make such determinations and that
the panel include representatives of affected
industries. However, the EPA deliberately
excluded tobacco-industry representatives
from its secondhand smoke panel.
Moreover, wrote Osteen, the EPA
"adjusted established procedure and
scientific norms to validate the agency's
public conclusions." In other words, the
EPA dishonestly selected a small batch of
studies that supported its desired conclusion
-- that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer
-- while ignoring a larger batch of studies
that contradicted its finding.
Two of the studies the EPA ignored were
actually sponsored by organizations that are
anything but sympathetic to the tobacco
industry. One study, funded by the National
Cancer Institute, found that nonsmokers have
no increased risk of lung cancer as a result
of exposure to secondhand smoke during
childhood, in the workplace or from living
with a pack-a-day smoker for as many as 40
Another study, conducted by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer and funded by
the World Health Organization, similarly
concluded that secondhand smoke poses no
significant health risk.
Despite these authoritative studies, despite
Judge Osteen's ruling last week striking down
the conclusion of the EPA's 1993 study, the
agency continues to deceive the public that
secondhand is not merely a nuisance, but a
proven health hazard.
"The decision (by Osteen) is
disturbing," said EPA Administrator
Carol Browner, "because it is widely
accepted that secondhand smoke poses very
real health threats to children and
Browner and other anti-smoking crusaders also
went so far as to question Judge Osteen's
integrity, because his court is located in
North Carolina, one the nation's leading
tobacco-producing states. But these same
anti-smoking crusaders applauded the same
judge last year when he ruled that the Food
and Drug Administration has the authority to
regulate cigarettes -- a ruling to which the
tobacco industry strenuously objected.
The issue here really is not so much about
secondhand smoke. It's more about the
corruption of science by the EPA for
Joseph Perkins is a columnist for the San
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