Vail Valley Voices: EPA’s smoke and mirrors |

Vail Valley Voices: EPA’s smoke and mirrors

David Dillon
Vail, CO, Colorado

It’s the scam to end all scams. For 17 years, it has influenced countless minds and a myriad of legislation … and it is all a lie.

I’m talking about secondhand smoke and its more outrageous spawn: thirdhand smoke.

Before 1992, no one ever heard of secondhand smoke. Then, the Environmental Protection Agency published a report that was sheer brilliance in its agenda but complete and utter lies.

Smoking is bad. I don’t dispute that, so save the rants. I’ve been a smoker and a nonsmoker but never an anti-smoking zealot. Zealots are evil sorts who feel that any means, no matter how corrupt, are justified if they achieve their desired end.

Failing in its efforts to convince smokers to quit, the EPA decided to apply pressure on them from nonsmokers. The trick was how to motivate the nonsmokers. The EPA figured if it could convince them that their own health was in danger, they’d panic and they could exploit the subsequent irrational hysteria. Pure genius.

So the EPA published a report concluding that secondhand smoke posed a horrible danger to nonsmokers, and the myth of secondhand smoke was born.

Some well-documented facts:

– The EPA report was a study of 30 previous studies of nonsmokers exposed to smoke. Scientific protocol demands that findings meet a 95 percent confidence level to constitute a relative risk. Also, unbiased research forms an impartial conclusion from the data it studies. The EPA started with a conclusion, manipulated the data to suit it and had the audacity to release its findings before the study was even completed! The agency excluded studies that didn’t support its agenda and lowered this one study’s confidence level to 90 percent, doubling its margin of error and violating its own guidelines. At 95 percent, the data showed unequivocally that there was no risk whatsoever from secondhand smoke.

– The EPA chose not to include a National Cancer Institute study that concluded there was no relation between secondhand smoke and risk of disease.

– The Congressional Research Service, a federal agency, studied the EPA report and found it had absolutely no scientific basis.

– The most comprehensive study ever done on secondhand smoke was published in 1998 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Hoping to validate the EPA’s study, it instead determined that there was no increase in lung-cancer risk from exposure to secondhand smoke whatsoever. Oops.

– The British Medical Journal reported in 2003 on an independent study conducted by the University of California and the State University of New York. Spanning 39 years, from 1959 to 1998, it followed 118,094 adults in the American Cancer Society’s cancer prevention study, including 35,561 nonsmokers married to smokers. They found no significant associations between disease and secondhand smoke in any of those studied. Their conclusion: “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality.”

– In 1998, federal U.S. District Judge William Osteen vacated the manufactured findings of the EPA report and condemned its violation of accepted scientific protocol by finding that “EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before the research had begun, adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate its conclusion and aggressively utilized its authority to disseminate findings to establish a de facto regulatory scheme to influence public opinion.”

– New York Daily News columnist Sidney Zion wrote: “Now we have the truth about the anti-smoke fascists. Last week, a federal judge wiped out the entire basis of all this business about the danger of secondhand smoke, a lie that has transformed our culture, from saloons to our homes.”

Studies and zealots supporting the cause always use the discredited EPA study as its scientific foundation. Further, the “thirdhand smoke” nonsense is purely anecdotal, the result of surveys of people whose opinions were formed primary by secondhand-smoke media coverage.

Common sense and arithmetic reveal the outlandishness of it

all. Think back to decades when

people smoked in movie theaters, restaurants, bars, the workplace … everywhere.

Assuming every nonsmoker came in contact with secondhand smoke constantly, they’d have been dropping like flies. More nonsmokers would be dead than smokers. We would all know people who have died from it.

Exhaled smoke is greatly diluted. The relative risk in the EPA’s study equates living with a smoker to smoking six cigarettes a year. There are more deadly and more concentrated agents in charcoal grilling smoke. Where’s the national anti-grilling campaign?

The link to heart disease is disingenuous. Other risk factors exist, making it impossible to narrow the source definitively to cigarette smoke. Autopsies can show blocked arteries but cannot prove a direct link to their cause. Diet, lack of exercise and atmospheric toxins might be to blame.

You don’t hear secondhand-smoke nonsense in Europe. Smoking is common there, and Europeans are by and large healthier than Americans.

Fundamentally, I’m a Democrat, although I intentionally seek out opposing views. I’ll watch Fox and CNN and form my own opinions. Sometimes, I’m more Republican than Democrat and vice versa.

I usually dislike this phrase, but it was the “liberal media” that perpetuated the secondhand-smoke bunk. It became the ultimate PC cause. Legislators legislated against smokers because it earned them dimwitted-anti-smoking-zealot votes.

Even staunch Republicans who hate “the liberal media” have swallowed it. If they only realized that their entire view of smoking has been carefully crafted by the liberals they so despise.

The brilliance of the EPA’s plan was taking something the majority of people dislike and turning it into a “deadly threat.” Americans embraced this “legitimate” reason to eliminate something that annoyed them. Like mindless little marionettes, they allowed the EPA to pull their strings, and they’ve been dancing in the air ever since.

Thomas Jefferson rightly said there is great danger in the rights of the minority being decided by the desires of the majority. If we can legislate behaviors we just don’t like, where will it end?

You may not care about this issue because you dislike smoke, but maybe the next junk-science study will involve something you do care about, and you’ll see how dangerous engineered lies are. It shouldn’t matter what you personally feel about smoke. What should matter is whether you believe in the construction of lies by government and other agencies to regulate behavior.

There are better, more honest and more honorable ways to achieve righteous goals. And if you don’t see that, you are inching us closer and closer to the loss of possibly greater personal liberties in future days.

So, you can sit back, buy into the lies and do nothing. But when it happens to you down the line, maybe the smokers will also just sit back, and you’ll get what you deserve.

David Dillon lives in Eagle.

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