February 29th, 2000
Dear Councilman Robles,
At last Wednesday’s hearing you pleaded several times for people who had further information to share such with you beyond the context of the hearing itself. In that spirit I offer the following post-hoc testimony to counter some of the avalanche of antismoking data you were hit with at the hearing itself.
I apologize for the length, but given the hundreds of pages of impressive testimony on the other side I do not feel embarrassed about asking you to take ten minutes or so to read through and think about what I present here.
Unlike many of the people who testified at Wednesday's hearing, I am not a "professional" person. I've had good schooling (BA in Peace Studies from Manhattan College plus two years of grad work at Wharton ) and have spent most of my life working with Quakers and with peace/social activist groups.
I have a very strong commitment to the concept of individual freedoms on which our country was founded. I have always hated seeing governments and organizations twisting the truth in order to manipulate people's behaviors and thoughts. As a smoker and as someone acutely aware of the methods of propaganda as used by leaders in times of war I started noticing uses of propaganda techniques by antismokers all the way back in the 1970s. During the past few years as I've become active on the Internet I've spent quite a bit of my spare time researching the facts in the area as well as countering some of the misinformation antismokers put on various message boards and newsgroups.
With that as background, let me begin.
As I indicated at the hearing I was disturbed by the extent of the campaign being mounted by the antismokers on the Internet during the past few weeks: the massive national email campaign you were hit with (and they've called for it to continue… as you’ve probably already noticed!!) was only part of it. There was also a general call for people to come to the hearing and push for a total ban on smoking.
The banning of smoking in New York's bars is seen as a crucial element of the national antismoking campaign: they managed to get such a ban in California and if they can get New York as well the entire country is likely to follow in short order. That's why you saw so many of their "big guns" at your hearing. There's no way to really know what they "spent" in terms of fees, salaries, transportation and such for their speakers, but I would not be surprised if it approached $10,000 or more. The restauranteur/barowner from California who travels around to these hearings for them is certainly not doing it for free and paying his fares out of his own pocket! The antismokers have tapped into a huge bankroll in recent years from earmarked cigarette taxes and legal settlements. The antismoking TV campaign at $188 million annually now outspends the drunken driving campaign ($111 million) and even the antidrug campaign ($155 million) and is slated for EXPANSION! ("Antismoking Ads..." by Skip Wollenberg, Associated Press Feb 11, 2000)
On the other "side" you had bar owners, who probably were putting in their own time to come down without extra pay or expense coverage, a few other local people, and you had me, who almost didn't come when I heard that Amtrak wanted $125!!! (Greyhound saved me: $40 I could afford.)
You truly were hit with a mountain of statistics and figures and subtle and not so subtle propaganda missiles at the hearing. If I believed even half of what the antismokers presented I think my own inclination would be to simply accept the idea that smoking should be banned virtually everywhere. Sitting in the seats of Council and seeing those mountains arrayed against the pleas of a few bar owners worried about losing a few bucks would leave me feeling I had no rational choice but to vote for such a ban. Seeing little children speak of being choked by poisonous fumes and listening to laryngectomy patients speaking with little mechanical microphones would leave me feeling I had no moral choice but to vote for a ban. Of course if I sat back and thought about it more critically I'd realize that these children don't go to bars and that the laryngectomy patients didn't get laryngectomies from ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) but from smoking 2 or 3 packs a day themselves for years (literally many thousands of times the exposure levels of any nonsmokers to ETS)
What I'm going to do here is try to show you that those "mountains" of data are in a lot of ways just mountains of nonsense: numbers picked and exaggerated and twisted to make an annoyance look more like the threat of nuclear disaster. I'm also going to look a bit at some of the propaganda tricks I saw the antismokers using on Wednesday. Secondhand smoke is NOT the problem the antismokers make it appear to be. If it DOES pose any threat at all in terms of serious health problems such as lung cancer or heart disease the threat is *extremely* small in absolute terms: not that much different than the threat you face of dying of a contagious disease contracted from touching doorknobs... it might happen, but the threat is correctly recognized as being so small that folks who worry about it are usually referred for psychiatric help.
If the threat is really so small, then why did the antismoking groups fly people in from California and Washington to testify at Wednesday's hearing? Because they know that the fear of secondhand smoke is a powerful weapon in their battle against smoking itself. They see the goal of reducing smoking to be an absolute good for which it is worth cutting a few corners with the truth as regards the danger of secondhand smoke.
If I tried to look at every claim that was made by all the antismokers at Wednesday's hearing you'd have a full day of reading ahead of you. Instead I'm going to look at one particular testimony for the most part and then add a few things beyond that. I've picked the testimony by the New York Public Interest Research Group for several reasons:
1) It holds a special place in my heart (explained below)
2) It uses many points that were repeated many times in other testimonies.
I know that we both have printed copies so that you can read along with me to see that I'm not misrepresenting anything in the material I quote.
First, as to why NYPIRG is dear to me: For six years I worked with a similar group, going door-to-door raising people's awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons and collecting contributions. I know how these groups work and what's important to them.
While such groups are sincere in their devotion to the environment, peace or whatever cause, their choice of particular issues is often driven largely by the impact such choices will have on organizational growth and contributions. When my group was canvassing a conservative neighborhood we would emphasize our concerns about military waste (actually a rather minor point of concern for the group) and de-emphasize our opposition to Star Wars and Reagan's military stance. In liberal neighborhoods Star Wars spending and Reagan warmongering would be on the top of our clipboards and our tongues. We weren't lying... just being selective so as to maximize support and contributions (on which our incomes of $5 - $8 an hour or so depended.)
NYPIRG works the same way. The smoking issue is absolutely ideal for canvassing purposes. If a canvasser smells smoke the issue gets shoved to near invisibility at the bottom of the literature and the fight against chemical spills takes the banner position. If the canvasser sees American Cancer Society and ASH stickers by the front doorbell the issue of secondhand smoke gets brought to the top and ensures a sizable contribution.
Being able to say that "Our lobbyist testified at the NYC Council hearings and convinced hostile Council members to vote for clean air for our children DESPITE the huge monetary and political pressures on Council from Big Tobacco!" ensures a VERY sizable contribution from such a household.
I'm telling you the above not to disparage the good work that NYPIRG and other such groups do, but to point out that their purity of motives in pushing this issue is not really all that much different than the purity of motives of the bar owners or even of "Big Tobacco". As a legislator it's important that you remember that many of the people who come to testify on issues like this have economic interests that are not always readily apparent. Many billions of dollars from cigarette taxes, lawsuits, and settlements are now being funneled into paying the salaries, expenses and fees of people like the ones who testified on the Anti side at your hearing. Ten years ago the tobacco companies probably had that advantage. Today I don't think they're even allowed to spend a cent for that sort of thing under the settlement agreement they signed.
Enough on the background. Now I'll look at the testimony itself, point by point, and show you why that mountain of data the antismokers hit you with isn't quite what it appears to be.
Page One of NYPIRG testimony:
After the introduction, NYPIRG says: "Secondhand tobacco smoke is deadly to all who breathe it." Now, take a moment and think about that. It's actually pure rhetoric, not any sort of scientific statement: The statement makes it sound as though any human being who has ever breathed a wisp of smoke has died from it while it's obvious that such is not the case. Still... it sounds good... despite really meaning nothing.
They then say: "ETS causes more deaths in the US than all other known environmental toxins combined, and it causes or exacerbates an estimated 300,000 cases of respiratory distress" with the credit for that going to the EPA report and the Surgeon General. Now it's quite possible that somewhere in the EPA Report such a claim is made about environmental toxins is made, but again, if it is, it is more of a rhetorical claim than any sort of scientific determination of numbers.
As to the second half of their statement, that ETS "causes or exacerbates an estimated 300,000 cases of respiratory distress" note the qualifiers: "causes OR exacerbates" and "estimated". Obviously if someone is suffering from severe asthma or acute pneumonia in a smoky environment such will be exacerbated by the smoke (although neither is actually "caused" by the smoke.) But that 300,000 "estimate" is not from such clearly defined circumstances. The number is derived from estimates of virtually anyone suffering from bronchitis or pneumonia or asthma who happens to live with a smoker and sees a doctor. The 300,000 "estimate" also carefully avoids defining what is meant by "respiratory distress"... there's a big difference between someone nearly dying from a severe asthma attack and someone feeling that the smoke in a bar is giving them a runny nose, but both are forms of "respiratory distress". Without knowing what definitions were used and how the estimates were derived, the claim itself is pretty meaningless DESPITE the fact that it looks so impressive.
Similarly with the next claim "up to 11,000 children are sickened and 145 people die each day from ETS." The words "up to" are a red flag: when you see those words it means that the evidence for whatever claim follows is probably pretty weak and that the person making the statement is leaving a nice legalistic loophole in case the actual number is only 11 (or even zero!) instead of 11,000. The statement would still technically be "correct".
The wording is also obscure in that we have no idea what sorts of standards are being used to determine what the word "sickened" means in that context. The claim might be referring to every child who lives with a smoker and catches a cold (caused by a virus!) or simply be a statistical extrapolation from a survey that asked school kids "Are you ever bothered by your parents' smoke?"
As to the 145 people dying daily, even the EPA report claimed only a total of 3,000 a year or about 8 people a day; and remember... even THAT claim was thrown out as being fabricated when the report was reviewed by Federal judge William Osteen in 1998 (See Appendix A.) Antismokers like to claim the judge was "pro-tobacco" but that same judge decided AGAINST the tobacco industry in the much more important case putting the industry under FDA regulation.
Page Two of NYPIRG testimony:
The first sentence claims that the studies on secondhand smoke give evidence that is "unanimous". This is out and out false. If you have access to the Surgeon General's Reports take a look at page 71 of the 1986 Report: On that page you'll see the summaries of 13 studies. Among them you'll find one by Chan and Fung (1982) that found a 20% REDUCTION in lung cancers among spouses of smokers, one by Kabat and Wynder (1984) that found a 10% reduction, several (Koo 1984, Wu 1985, and Garfinkel 1981) that found increased cancer risks but also found that those risks went DOWN with increased exposure, and you'll also find several that show risks so small that the studies were not able to pin them down within acceptable levels of scientific significance (significance usually is taken as meaning that there's less than a five percent chance that the tendency noted was just statistical happenstance).
To be fair, the majority of the studies show a tendency, although a very slight one, for an almost immeasurable increase in the absolute rate of lung cancer among people exposed on a heavy daily basis for 30 or 40 or more years. The percentage increase they sometimes claim (15 - 20%) is only after such decades of exposure. Since lung cancer is rare among nonsmokers to begin with, that translates into one or two extra cases for every thousand people IF the studies’ findings are not confounded by other factors.
None of the studies that I know of have addressed the situations of the much smaller exposures of people on a social basis, and quite definitely none have addressed the question of the much lower exposures that would exist in modern environments with higher air quality standards and equipment. However, the opening statement on Page Two is obviously a complete falsehood: the studies are by NO means "unanimous". But again... it DID sound impressive, didn't it?
The second sentence contains another outright falsehood: we certainly do NOT "know" that ETS harms children by "causing lung cancer". There has NEVER been a study that concluded this. The one study that I know of which specifically dealt with lung cancer, ETS, and children was the World Health Organization study of 1998. It still stands as one of the largest and most authoritative international case control studies of its kind and virtually the ONLY significant finding it made was that children of smokers were 22% *LESS* likely to eventually develop lung cancer than matched children of nonsmokers.
This result was such anathema to the antismokers that it's difficult to even get hold of the report. Appendix B however contains the report's Abstract and you can see that the finding on children was the only finding NOT to cross unity at the 95% level (i.e. the confidence interval did not extend to 1.0 or below) Even the authors had difficulty accepting this finding and interpret it as merely indicating "no association". Of course if the results had been that strongly in the OTHER direction it would have been trumpeted as absolute proof for the antismoking argument.
Page Two, Paragraph Two: "There is no safe level of exposure to Group A toxins." I was surprised when I first found out what the scary "Group A" label means: it's NOT something that's "highly" carcinogenic or anything like that: it simply means that a substance has been declared to be carcinogenic in humans as well as in white mice.
OSHA and the EPA do indeed list "safe levels" of exposure to these things: they HAVE to... microscopic quantities of all these things exist all around us! OSHA and the EPA have set up what they call "Permissible Exposure Limits" or PELs as being considered safe for normal daily exposure.
One of the Group A toxins in tobacco smoke is benzene. According to Lakes Air Toxics Index (http://www.lakes-environmental.com/toxic/ BENZENE.HTML) the OSHA PEL for benzene is 3.26 milligrams per cubic meter of air. Now in a situation like the Council Hearing Chamber there's roughly (I'm guessing the chamber at about 30 feet high by 100 feet wide by 100 feet long) 9,000 cubic meters of air. According to the 1986 Surgeon General's Report (page 130) cigarette puts out about 330 MICROgrams of benzene ( i.e. 330 thousandths of a single milligram). In order to exceed OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limit for this particular Group A carcinogen we'd have to seal the Chamber absolutely airtight and then burn 90,000 cigarettes. I'm not kidding: do the math yourself.
The catch phrase that NYPIRG used was "no safe level of exposure". What that means is that there's no level of exposure which the EPA will guarantee as *absolutely* safe. However, as you can see from the above, it would take a hell of a lot of smoking to even APPROACH a level that OSHA still considers acceptable as a daily level of exposure to benzene.
Another smoke toxin often held up as "deadly" is arsenic, because we all KNOW arsenic is deadly, right? The antismokers will point out something like the following: "About five micrograms of arsenic trioxide is inhaled from each cigarette. Three parts of arsenic trioxide per million is the maximum amount permitted in food." (Alton Ochsner, M.D., Smoking and Your Life 1956, p.15) That sounds pretty bad until you notice that three parts per million means that a single pound of food is thus allowed to contain (454 gms/lb. multiplied by 3 micrograms per gram) 1362 micrograms of arsenic... as much as a smoker inhales from 272 cigarettes! The trick here was to notice that a "part per million" is the same as a "microgram per gram".
So, are non smokers forced to inhale deadly arsenic if someone smokes near them? Yes... but at the rate of 6 cigarettes per year (according to a recent English study’s exposure estimate) it would take about 20 years for them to get what they might get in a lunch at McDonald's in a single day!
There are lots of other chemicals in tobacco smoke. I could do similar math for most of them. I'm sure you've heard about the "4,000 chemicals in smoke". Well, about 3,900 of those are measurable only in quantities of nanograms and picograms. How big is a picogram? It's one one trillionth of a gram. There are probably also 4,000 chemicals in your drinking water if you wanted to measure them down to those levels. Again, it's an impressive sounding but actually meaningless propaganda phrase.
Back to the NYPIRG report. The rest of paragraph two continues to say things that sound scary but are not very accurate. The "3,000" lung cancer deaths a year is the figure from the report that was declared null and void and the NYPIRG people know this full well. They KNOW that the figure has been thrown out, but they repeat it as fact. (as it was repeated in almost every other presentation made to you!) The last sentence of the paragraph is totally meaningless: infections are caused by germs, not by smoke, though it's conceivable that heavy exposure to ETS could somehow make one more likely to get infected in some way I guess... but the sentence doesn't even seem to be saying that.
Paragraph Three: 90% of nonsmokers encounter smoke at some point. I can't argue with that... I'd say the figure is probably closer to 100%. But the second sentence is a CONCLUSION... it starts with the word "Thus" as if something had been proven. The claim they make in that sentence is that people are at health risk due to the simple fact of being exposed, WITHOUT EVER HAVING SHOWN any evidence whatsoever that such a risk exists!
Paragraph Four looks at ETS and children (which is pretty irrelevant to any laws about bars). There actually IS some reasonable evidence that ETS might cause an increase in SIDS. I believe the risk is real enough that I'd be concerned about any baby who regularly slept in a smoky environment. I don't know where the claim in this paragraph about lung cancer and children comes from: as noted earlier, the only study I know of that looked at that issue found REDUCED lung cancer risk… sort of a "vaccination" effect.
The final paragraphs cite not scientific findings, but rather declarations by two groups: NIOSH and the AHA. The declarations sound fairly extreme, and there's a good reason for that: remember... the fear of ETS is seen as VITAL by the antismokers in their efforts to reduce smoking itself.
Note that the sources cited for the AHA conclusion are papers published in 1991 and 1992. The EPA had these sources if they wanted to use them in their report. The evidence in these papers was so weak though that not even the EPA dared to try to make such a claim in its report after reading them!
Whew... we're getting there...
Page Three: "restaurant employees are at least 50% more likely to get lung cancer..." While NYPIRG claims that the NCI attributes this to ETS, the only two studies I found in the area made no corrections for the fact that waitresses, bartenders, and such are likely to have much higher rates of smoking themselves than most people. It's not the bits of smoke in the air from other people that gives them cancer.. it the 20 or 30 or 40 cigarettes they light up themselves every day! (See Appendix C)
I won't go into the arguments about the economic effects too deeply. If the studies were done by activist antismokers like Stanton Glantz (who has devoted his whole life to fighting smoking) they find that bans DON'T hurt business. If they're commissioned by tobacco companies they find that bans DO hurt. I'd be inclined to take the word of the restaurant and bar people on this one: they feel it's better for their business if they can make decisions themselves about whether to allow smoking or not. The only people you see pleading for "a level playing field" (another nice sounding propaganda catch phrase) of a universal ban are the antismokers and those who've been forced by antismokers to ban smoking near a border without such a law.
NYPIRG ends by saying "In sum, the evidence is clear: ETS harms nonsmokers." If the evidence was actually so clear, why does it appear so cloudy when looked at as closely as I looked at it above?
I won't analyze any of the other presentations in this sort of depth, but I do want to look at some of the scary numbers and claims in them to show you how little basis they have in fact.
The "400,000 deaths a year" applies only to PRIMARY smokers... it has NOTHING to do with ETS, but you'll notice that figure appears a dozen times in the antismoking testimonies. Constant repetition in this context is designed to make it appear that ETS is causing a lot of these deaths. Actually that number comes from a computer program called SAMMEC (See Appendix D) which is specifically designed to spew out scary sounding numbers about smoking and all sorts of diseases. The thing that's important to remember about computer programs like SAMMEC is that the numbers they produce are all dependent upon what formulas are put in to begin with. If you think about how this program was designed to be used it’s not surprising that those formulas produce huge numbers!
Even so, those "400,000 deaths a year" are never claimed by scientists to be actually caused by smoking... they're simply "associated", a much weaker medical/scientific term that real scientists never confuse with causality. Antismokers like to use the two terms as one and the same: it's scarier that way. It's also nice and scary when they keep pulling these numbers into their arguments on ETS even though they apply to smokers themselves. A similar effect is achieved by having people with laryngectomies talk about ETS... there's no real connection with ETS there, but that reality is lost in the emotion of hearing the strained mechanical voice say "Tobacco smoke did this to me." Of course they neglect to mention that it was their OWN tobacco smoke.
"3,000 children a day start smoking". I'm sure you've heard that one over and over. Do you know where the figure came from? It's hard to track down but I believe it comes from a January 1989 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at the number of Americans who started smoking by the age of TWENTY. The reality is not quite the image of thousands of kindergartners the antismokers try to call to your mind with that phrase is it?
"Children have the right to breathe clean air." Now what sort of monster would deny children that right? Evil smokers maybe? The propaganda trick here (in addition to the constant "dragging out the children" that antismokers know is so emotionally effective) revolves around the use of the word "clean". OSHA and the EPA have standard definitions of what levels of various things can be found in air before it can no longer be considered clean and safe to breathe. You've heard the truism that every breath you take contains at least a few molecules of George Washington's dead skin cells? Well a day is unlikely to go by in which you haven't inhaled submicroscopic quantities of almost every chemical known to humanity.
Does that mean your air is "dirty"? Of course not: the air is "dirty" only if those elements start to exceed certain levels. The FDA certifies that our food is "clean" despite allowing very small parts of insects, hairs, and even rat feces in it... the catch is that these things can only be present at very low levels. Antismokers like to point at things like the formaldehyde that pours out of a burning cigarette. They never mention that an ordinary gas stove can put out more formaldehyde in the space of cooking a dinner than a hundred cigarettes. To exceed the official "safe" level for formaldehyde we would have had to smoke tens of thousands of cigarettes in the Council chamber the other day.
So do children have the right to breathe clean air? Of course they do. And air that has microscopic amounts of smoke in it IS clean by normal standards. Do children have the right to breathe air free of methane? Of course... but any farm child who goes into a cow barn will be exposed to FAR more methane than they'd ever get from being in a normal restaurant with smokers. Do they have the right not to breathe Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter? Perhaps... but then you'd best keep them away from the softball lot: they'll get a much higher dose there than at a smoking restaurant.
"We would need tornado-like winds to separate smoking and nonsmoking sections". This particular image has been getting strongly pushed by antismokers recently: it comes from James Repace, one of the professional antismokers imported for Wednesday's hearing. His testimony was the one decorated by long nosed devilish smokers that looked eerily like the smokers used in Hitler's 1940's antismoking campaigns (See Appendix E).
Repace looks at the air speed of molecules of nicotine leaving a cigarette (about 700 mph) and then goes on to claim that a 700 mile per hour wind would have to blow toward smokers to keep the molecules from traveling to the non-smoking section. What he ignores (and KNOWINGLY ignores: he's a physicist who MUST know better) is that those molecules will be bumping into other molecules, slowing and displacing into the general mild movement of air around us within tiny fractions of a second. Whatever few individual molecules of smoke might travel 20 feet against even a mild airflow are as insignificant as molecules of my dandruff that might similarly travel.
This argument from a professional who seemingly uses his scientific stature and jargon to knowingly deceive and frighten people for an ulterior purpose is infuriating and should not be accepted. Mr. Repace's practice of declaring "no competing interests" at the end of his research articles should also be unacceptable: as a "secondhand smoke consultant with an international practice" his job would disappear if he suddenly found ETS was harmless!
"Secondhand smoke is more dangerous than first hand smoke" Despite the way it sounds, this does NOT mean that when you are around a smoker that you are breathing in something "worse" than the smoker is. What it *really* means is that if you hold a little vacuum tube right over the end of a burning cigarette the smoke there is more concentrated and chemically different than the smoke that comes out the other end after it cools down a bit and travels through a bunch of tobacco. The statement has nothing at all to do with the reality of a nonsmoker’s exposure in normal situations. It also ignores the rather obvious fact that the main person who's exposed constantly to this "worse" substance is the smoker himself holding the cigarette! But still, once again, it certainly SOUNDS impressive, doesn't it?
"90% of lung cancer patients are smokers". Now I'm not about to argue that smoking doesn't cause lung cancer, because I believe it does, but I want to point out that even a universally accepted "fact" like this has a propaganda element in it. Lung cancer patients are largely over 55 or 60. The definition the CDC uses for “smoker” is someone who’s smoked at least 5 packs in their LIFETIME. That definition probably fits about 70% of the entire population in that age range. Thus, even if smoking had NO effect on lung cancer, we'd see about 70% of lung cancer cases occurring in smokers!
While I believe smoking causes lung cancer, it's not nearly as universal a fate among smokers as the antismokers like to portray it. While the exact figures are hard to pin down (and believe me, I've tried) it seems the reality is that if a person starts smoking as a teenager they've got roughly a five to ten percent chance getting lung cancer someday, maybe less if you take into account the large numbers of people who quit during their 30s and 40s nowadays. That’s a much higher number than if they didn’t smoke at all, but NOT a universal fate.
As I pointed out at the hearing, these figures and the figures on deaths from cancer are very dependent upon events in medical research. Medicine is advancing VERY rapidly as we map the human genome and develop powerful computer models of disease. Many of the antismokers' statistics of death and disease in the future are even more compounded as propaganda in that they assume that there will be NO MEDICAL ADVANCES AT ALL in the next 40 or 50 years: obvious nonsense. It's far more likely that the health effects of smoking (and obviously any that supposedly come from ETS) are going to be greatly reduced or even eliminated in years ahead. Of course, antismokers NEVER consider this aspect of things publicly: it would be counterproductive to their goal. They simply continue to flaunt this fearsome figure when arguing for bans despite the fact it actually has NOTHING to do with ETS.
"The health costs of smoking". This argument is always made by the same people who claim that smoking chops years off peoples' lives. If that claim is true, then obviously that fact ALSO affects the total costs borne by society. Every study I've ever seen that looked at this issue in any serious way has concluded that even 10 years ago tobacco taxes were far higher than could be justified by the issue of "health costs". These are not "Big Tobacco" studies: they're from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Office of Technology Assessment and even the Congressional Research Service after a request by Clinton! (See Appendix F)
"As everyone knows, our children are targets of a massive media campaign to hook them on cigarettes." That’s an actual quote from President Clinton just last year.. Think about this a minute. Did YOU see that "massive media campaign" ? Was it on Saturday morning cartoons after the Ronald McDonald ads? Or perhaps ads in comic books or outside schoolyards? It couldn't be Joe Camel... he's been gone for several years now. What "massive media campaign" was being waged by tobacco companies to "hook our children” in 1999? This statement is so far out of line with reality that it's hard to even know what to do with it.
If the tobacco companies had any brains they would have simply stopped ALL marketing activity in toto years ago and then challenged the alcohol industry to do the same. Of course if they had any brains I wouldn't be paying $3.50 a pack for cigarettes right now and having half that money going to ads that portray smokers as babykillers and drug addicts.
Well, the last few examples were a little bit off topic in some ways, but they ARE simply responses to the antismokers’ claims on Wednesday and they DO show the power of the propaganda they use.
An important thing for Council to realize is that no matter WHAT laws are passed, the extremist antismokers will never be happy. Despite anything they say, their real concern is NOT secondhand smoke, it is smoking itself. If you ban smoking in small restaurants, they’ll be against you for not banning it in bars. If you ban it in bars they’ll be against you for not banning it on the sidewalks. If you ban it on the sidewalks they’ll want it banned in private cars. Ban it there and the next step will be homes with minors living within. Ban it there and it will be any BUILDING that a minor might live in or have cause to enter.
At Wednesday’s hearing you saw the gratitude that didn’t exist for the 1995 regulations… any succeeding restrictions will be met with the same attitude. Until smoking disappears from the face of the earth they will never be content: they see their mission as a crusade against a plague upon mankind.
Councilman Robles, if you've read this far you are indeed a man who seeks the truth about issues before voting on them and making laws affecting millions of people. I hope some of the information I've shared and the propaganda tricks I've examined will make it easier for you if you decide to resist what is essentially a stack of lies designed to engineer our social behavior. It's not easy to go against the antismokers. They portray anyone against them as being no better than a child molesting demon puppet of the tobacco companies. Politically it's a risky choice. My impression of you at last week's hearing was that you're the kind of person willing to take that kind of risk and face that kind of fight if you believe you're on the right side.
I hope I've helped to show you that the issue is not as cut and dried as the antismokers make it sound. ETS may be a “threat” to normal people in some incredibly microscopic sense of the word, but it is NOT a threat that justifies laws shoving people out to back alleys to pursue a normal enjoyment of life. It is NOT a threat that justifies the amount of hate and fear being drummed up against smokers. It is NOT a threat that justifies almost any of the increasingly repressive laws and restrictions aimed at smokers. It is NOT such a threat... it is simply a tool being used to manipulate people's choices about smoking and to promote acceptance of ever higher taxes to fund antismoking groups.
If you want any more information in this area and I can help, please feel free to ask. As I noted at the start, it IS an issue I feel is important, not just for itself but for the wider threat it represents in terms of governmental manipulation of people's behaviors. I *am* scared of big brother, and the social engineering of the antismokers is FAR too Orwellian for my comfort.
Michael J. McFadden
(Aside from liking smoking, *I* can truly say I have no competing interests!)
In 1998 Judge William Osteen handed down a decision that declared the section of the EPA report dealing with long term disease and deaths from lung cancer was null, void and legally vacated. From that point on no honest researcher in the field should have presented those figures as meaningful unless and until the decision was overturned. The decision is now roughly two years old and still standing.
Judge Osteen said (October 16, 1998) :
“"EPA's study selection is disturbing. First, there is evidence in the record supporting the accusation that EPA 'cherry picked' its data. Second, EPA's excluding nearly half of the available studies directly conflicts with EPA's purported purpose for analyzing the epidemiological studies and conflicts with EPA's Risk Assessment Guidelines."
"The record and EPA's explanations to the court make it clear that using standard methodology, EPA could not produce statistically significant results with its selected studies."
"In this case, EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before research had begun. In conducting the ETS Risk Assessment, EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information; did not disseminate significant epidemiologic information; deviated from its Risk Assessment Guidelines; failed to disclose important findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers. EPA's conduct left substantial holes in the administrative record. While so doing, EPA produced limited evidence, then claimed the weight of the Agency's research evidence demonstrated ETS causes cancer."
While this ruling and Judge Osteen’s above analysis did not apply to the sections of the EPA Report regarding the aggravation of childhood ear or respiratory infections by constant exposure to secondhand smoke at home, it does, at least in my opinion, cast some suspicion over how much such concern may have been exaggerated.
Journal Of The National Cancer Institute, Vol 90, 1440-1450, Copyright © 1998 by Oxford University Press
Multicenter case-control study of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in Europe -- P Boffetta, (et al) International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France. email@example.com
BACKGROUND: An association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer risk has been suggested. To evaluate this possible association better, researchers need more precise estimates of risk, the relative contribution of different sources of ETS, and the effect of ETS exposure on different histologic types of lung cancer. To address these issues, we have conducted a case-control study of lung cancer and exposure to ETS in 12 centers from seven European countries. METHODS: A total of 650 patients with lung cancer and 1542 control subjects up to 74 years of age were interviewed about exposure to ETS. Neither case subjects nor control subjects had smoked more than 400 cigarettes in their lifetime. RESULTS: ETS exposure during childhood was not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (odds ratio [OR] for ever exposure = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.64- 0.96). The OR for ever exposure to spousal ETS was 1.16 (95% CI = 0.93- 1.44). No clear dose-response relationship could be demonstrated for cumulative spousal ETS exposure. The OR for ever exposure to workplace ETS was 1.17 (95% CI = 0.94-1.45), with possible evidence of increasing risk for increasing duration of exposure. No increase in risk was detected in subjects whose exposure to spousal or workplace ETS ended more than 15 years earlier. Ever exposure to ETS from other sources was not associated with lung cancer risk. Risks from combined exposure to spousal and workplace ETS were higher for squamous cell carcinoma and small-cell carcinoma than for adenocarcinoma, but the differences were not statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk. We did find weak evidence of a dose-response relationship between risk of lung cancer and exposure to spousal and workplace ETS. There was no detectable risk after cessation of exposure.
NOTE: The emphasis in the above abstract is mine. Note that while the authors describe the result as “not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer” the ACTUAL results right there in the numbers show a scientifically significant (i.e. the Confidence Interval did NOT cross 1.0) finding that the adult children of smokers got 22% *LESS* lung cancer than the adult children of the non-smokers (OR of .78 = 78% of expected lung cancers)
Am J Ind Med 1999 Jul;36(1):90-100
Jahn I, Ahrens W, Bruske-Hohlfeld I, Kreuzer M, Mohner M, Pohlabeln H, Wichmann HE, Jockel KH
Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND: To investigate the association between lung cancer and occupational factors in women. METHODS: Six hundred eighty-six women with lung cancer and 712 controls matched for age and region were interviewed to gather occupational histories and information about other risk factors and confounders. Odds ratios (OR) and 95%-confidence intervals (CI) were calculated. RESULTS: There were 11 cases and 2 controls who reported occupational asbestos exposure. Significantly elevated risks (P < 0.05, smoking-adjusted), were observed in the following industries: chemical, oil (OR 3.7), pottery, glass (OR 2.5), engine, vehicle building (OR 2.2), paper, wood, print (OR 1.9), cleaning service, hairdressing, housekeeping, waste disposal (OR 1.5); and occupations: assemblers, unskilled metal workers (OR 2.5), stock clerks, etc. (OR 1.6), restaurant owners and hoteliers (OR 2.7), as well as waitresses and travel attendants (OR 2.6). CONCLUSIONS: The study provides evidence that both occupations previously observed as hazardous in males, and occupations of particular significance for women only, play a role in the risk of lung cancer in women.
Bull N Y Acad Med 1996 Winter;73(2):370-97
Occupations, cigarette smoking, and lung cancer in the epidemiological follow-up to the NHANES I and the California Occupational Mortality Study.
Department of Economics, San Jose State University, CA 95192-0114, USA.
What jobs are associated with the highest and lowest levels of cigarette use and of lung cancer? Are there gender differences in these jobs? Two data sets-the Epidemiological Follow-up to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHEFS) and the California Occupational Mortality Study (COMS) were analyzed to answer these questions. For females, the broad occupations ranking from highest to lowest cigarette use in the NHEFS was: transportation operators, managers, craft workers, service workers, operatives, laborers, technicians, administrative workers, farm owners and workers, sales workers, no occupation, and professionals. The corresponding ranking for males was: transportation operators, no occupation, laborers, craft workers, service workers, technicians, and professionals. The highest-ranking jobs in the COMS were waitresses, telephone operators, and cosmetologists for women, and water-transportation workers, roofers, foresters and loggers for men. Teachers were especially low on all four lists. This study could not determine whether employment within any occupation encouraged smoking or if smokers selected certain occupations.
by Rosalind B. Marimont
That smoking causes 400,000 deaths annually is now widely promoted as a statistical truth. The recent campaign against teenage smoking asserted that one out of three teenagers who smoked would be killed by his habit. These numbers are a gross misinterpretation of the CDC SAMMEC results, and a gross overestimate of the importance of smoking as a cause of death. Another mantra of the Anti-Smoking Partisans (ASPs) is that smoking kills more people than alcohol and drugs combined. This latter piece of disinformation has been used to justify neglect of the shocking rise in teenage binge drinking and driving. Neither candidate for president has even mentioned teenage drinking, and the Clintons have hardly mentioned drugs until the Republicans made an issue of it.
The 400,000 plus estimate is the result of logical and epidemiological blunders and a lack of scientific integrity, by the fanatic anti-smoking lobby. The CDC estimate is described as the number of deaths ASSOCIATED with smoking, not CAUSED BY it. This is not a semantic distinction, because a death can be associated with many factors.
Among risk factors for heart disease, for example, are hypertension, high serum cholesterol, obesity, sedentary life style, smoking, and genetic factors. If we ran SAMMEC computations for each of these factors, we could estimate the number of heart disease deaths associated with each one. But suppose that John Smith, who died of heart disease, had all of these factors. He would have contributed 6 deaths to the total associated deaths. So that when we sum up these results to arrive at the total deaths, we find that our total is MUCH LARGER THAN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY DIED OF HEART DISEASE.
A simple numerical example will demonstrate the SAMMEC method, and its multiple counting error. Let us consider heart disease. A behavior or attribute is said to be a risk factor for death by heart disease(HD) if the population exhibiting that behavior has a higher HD mortality rate than the population which does not exhibit that behavior. If obese people have a higher mortality rate than non-obese, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease death. The ratio of these two mortality rates is unknown as the risk ratio of obesity for heart disease death, and of course, is measured statistically.
How does SAMMEC compute the deaths associated with some risk ratio? Assume that we have measured the risk ratio of obesity for HDD to be 4. Assume that we have a population of 1000 people, of whom 500 are obese and 500 are not. We observe 10 deaths by heart disease. We can then compute that 8 of these deaths would occur among the obese, and 2 among the non- obese, the ratio of 4:1. Let us call this risk ratio r. Then SAMMEC assumes that if the obese people were not obese, they would have the same mortality rate as the non-obese, or only 2 deaths. Therefore 6 deaths among the obese are attributed to obesity, or the fraction (1-1/r) of the deaths of the obese, in this case 3/4. It is easy to compute the fraction of the total deaths, which is called THE SAF, OR STATISTICALLY ATTRIBUTABLE FACTOR. IF WE STOPPED AT THIS POINT, WE WOULD SAY THAT OBESITY CAUSES 3/4 OF THE DEATHS OF ALL OBESE HEART DISEASE PATIENTS.
But is this true? Let us continue our computation, and consider hypertension as a risk factor for HDD. To simplify the calculations let us assume that hypertension also has a risk ratio of 4 and this is the crux of the overcount, assume that the same group of people who are obese are also the hypertensives. Then we find that 6 deaths of our hypertensive group are attributed to hypertension. Similarly we can find that smoking, lack of exercise, and high cholesterol levels each result in 6 deaths. So that we find that our 5 risk factors are associated with 30 deaths by heart disease. BUT ONLY 10 PEOPLE DIED ALTOGETHER, AND ONLY 8 IN THE HIGH RISK GROUP. Only if each person had only 1 risk factor for any cause of death, would the SAMMEC SAF be a true fraction, in the sense that all fractions would add up to 1.
This overcount is not the only problem with the SAMMEC system. In estimating risk ratios, we compared death rates of smokers to those of non-smokers. This ratio would be a true estimate of the effects of smoking only if the two groups were identical in all other respects than smoking. This of course is not true - the measurement is done without controls. For this reason epidemiologists rarely take seriously risk ratios of less than 3.
In the SAMMEC report, of 102 risk ratios of smoking for various diseases, only 40 are greater than 3. IF WE CONSIDER ONLY RISK RATIOS equal to or greater than 3, THE NUMBER OF DEATHS IS CUT IN HALF, TO ABOUT 200,000. Even if we reject only those less than 2, the number is cut by about one third, to about 270,000. And these corrections still leave a number of serious confounders.
One of the most serious confounders in smoking studies is the inverse correlation of smoking with socio-economic status (SES). Low SES is one of the best predictors of disease and early death.
And finally, no attention is paid to the benefits of smoking. For some conditions, such as obesity, the risk ratio of smoking is less than 1, since smokers are less likely than non-smokers to be obese. Also, smokers are Iess likely to have ulcerative colitis. It is of course heresy to suggest that smoking can have any good effects, but like caffeine, nicotine is known to improve alertness, and allay depression and anxiety. There is recent evidence that smoking may provide some protection against Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's. These good effects are rarely mentioned for fear of being branded a tool of the tobacco companies.
It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war. The deceptions of the war on smoking have done incalculable harm to the nation. The grossly overstated dangers of smoking to health have distorted the nation's health priorities. To equate smoking with alcohol or drugs as teenage dangers is obviously absurd, and would never have happened if the health dangers of smoking had been accurately reported. The war on smoking has become a crusade of good against evil, and logic and science have been prostituted to attain its objective.
# Shultz, Novotny, and Rice, "Quantifying the Disease Impact of Cigarette Smoking with SAMMEC II Software", Public Health Reports, May-June 1991, Vol 106, No 3, pp 326-333.
From the New England Journal of Medicine 10/08/97
Jan J. Barendregt and others from Erasmus University in the Netherlands calculated that at any given age, health care costs for smokers are indeed as much as 40 percent higher than for nonsmokers. And if everyone quit, health care costs would plummet for a few years.
However, nonsmokers live an average of about seven years longer than smokers, and medical costs for the elderly are high. So 15 years after everyone quit, total health care costs would level off at about 7 percent higher for men and 4 percent higher for women than they were before. AP-NY-10-08-97 1928EDT
Midrange estimates based upon likely assumptions suggest net external costs from smoking in the range of 33 cents per pack in 1995 prices, an amount that by itself is too small to justify either current cigarette taxes or the proposed tax increase.
Finally, the following comes from Jacob Sullum, the author of "For Your Own Good"
As the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment noted in 1993: "Reduction or elimination of smoking would improve health and extend longevity, but may not lead to savings in health care costs. In fact, significant reductions in smoking prevalence and the attendant increase in life expectancy could lead to future increases in total medical spending, in Medicare program outlays, and in the budgets of Social Security and other government programs."
In his 1994 analysis of the issue, the economist W. Kip Viscusi found that "on balance there is a net cost savings to society even excluding consideration of the current cigarette taxes paid by smokers." Based on these calculations, he noted, one could argue that "cigarette smoking should be subsidized rather than taxed."
NOTE: All of the above calculations are purely economic. The “moral” costs of people smoking and dying younger are not factored in. The question for legislators though is whether “moral” costs are an appropriate basis for taxation, and if they are, then who should be empowered to define that morality? On a purely economic basis smokers seem to be paying far more in dollars than their fair share given what they eventually “cost” society in terms of those dollars. Increased taxes punish individual smokers, not Big Tobacco Companies… actually it’s been argued that Big Tobacco *loves* higher taxes because it allows them to sneak in higher profits.