Secondhand lies

Letter to the editor
Copyright 1998 Detroit News
September 16, 1998

Homer Read of the American Lung Association of Michigan, in his Sept. 2 rebuttal, "Secondhand smoke's documented danger," finds it "hard to believe with all of the credible information available, The News was still able to write its Aug. 7 editorial, "EPA: Smoke and Mirrors." But there is no credible material indicating any valid association between secondhand smoke and primary health risks.

Sadly, it took a district court judge to expose what hundreds of scientists and statisticians have been saying for five years: The Environmental Protection Agency "cooked the books" in its corrupt "study" on secondhand smoke.

Reed continues with an ad hominem attack on Judge William Osteen, implying that the tobacco industry "found one judge to side with it." Osteen is a highly respected jurist. This is the same judge who ruled that the Food and Drug Administration could regulate cigarette content -- a decision recently overturned.

Like others involved in the heavily funded anti-tobacco movement, Reed makes a habit of using misleading, inaccurate statements to imply that certain "facts" are indisputable. It is important to understand that government-sponsored "research" should be viewed with equal or greater skepticism than industry-sponsored research.

For example, of the famous 400,000 deaths "attributable to smoking," more than 192,000 are people over age 75. Of these, more than 71,600 are over age 85. Since U.S. life expectancy is not much greater than 75, nearly half of these deaths are gratuitously included to make smoking appear to be a greater risk than it actually is.

Of the remaining 208,000 deaths, many of the causes attributed to smoking are questionable at best and simply silly in many cases. They disregard confounding factors such as heredity, obesity, diabetes or congenital anomalies.

There is no doubt that smoking is a health risk. It is not, however, any greater a risk than obesity, inactivity, poor nutrition or low socioeconomic status. The secondhand smoke scare is simply a political ploy.

Anne Fennell

Austin, Texas

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