Lies don’t make an argument stronger

The idea that second-hand smoke is extremely life threatening is based on political motivation, not scientific fact. In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency released its report on the epidemic, which classified second-hand smoke as a Class A Carcinogen.

Actually, that’s not quite correct.

After the study was completed, the EPA found it didn’t back up its claim of 3,000 deaths, so EPA administrators doubled the margin of error from 5 to 10 percent to make the numbers match up.

I use stats from 1992 because this particular study branded second-hand smoke as a Class A Carcinogen and was subsequently used to push through smoking ban legislation.

In the report, the EPA estimated that second-hand smoke caused non-smokers to “smoke” the equivalent to one-fifth a cigarette per day. Actual studies by Keith Phillips, M.D. of Covance Laboratories, a United Kingdom-based team of air monitoring experts, show the actual number is more like six cigarettes per year. The report also labeled second-hand smoke a Class A Carcinogen because of its relationship to lung cancer. A relative risk of 3.0 or higher shows a definite link between a substance and an effect. A relative risk of less than 2.0 is usually written off as being caused by chance or bias.

How does a study with so many problems go unchallenged? It doesn’t.

In 1995, the Congressional Research Service released a critical review of the EPA report. Among the group’s complaints: “The studies relied primarily on questionnaires to the case and control members, or their surrogates to determine second-hand smoke exposure and other information pertinent to the studies.” And that out of the three major studies, the EPA ignored the two that showed no negative correlation between second-hand smoke and lung cancer, but used data from the third, which showed a “a positive risk that was barely statistically significant.”

In 1998, Judge William Osteen, also a critic, vacated the study. Among other things, he states the EPA “publicly committed to a conclusion before research had begun” and “adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate the Agency’s public conclusion.”

Newer data would not change the fact the EPA used fraudulent methods to issue a study that was then used to form public policy.

The study by the World Health Organization found there was no correlation between exposure to it and lung cancer. Well, almost. The study did find children who had been exposed to second-hand smoke had a 22 percent decrease in their risk of lung cancer.

This information may sound illogical because for the last 10 years individuals have been told second-hand smoke is a horribly dangerous carcinogenic that is destroying the fabric of our lives. If the EPA had been forced to apply the same standards of proof to second-hand smoke, your view on it and the laws on it might be quite different today.

Just consider the facts: the relative risk for workplace second-hand smoke was 1.17 with a confidence interval (which is an interval used to estimate the likely size of a population parameter) of .94-1.45, well below the preferred 2.0 – 3.0.

If you allow lies to be used to advance a cause you like, then you lose the right to protest against lies being used to advance causes you despise.

Any law can be made reasonable, any crusade justified, if lies are allowed the same authority as the truth.

Daniel Watkins is a fourth-year computer information sciences student from Hephzibah, Ga. He can be reached at