Scare mongering is a very effective tool in raising funds, and passing smoking bansHow many people really die from secondhand smoke?
Last edited by: WinstonSmith, Wed December 06 2006 11:45 PM
The number that I hear quoted most frequently is 63,000 deaths a year.
The EPA originally claimed that 3,000 people a year died from lung cancer from ETS exposure.
(Federal Judge William Osteen of North Carolina threw this claim out because the EPA had made the unprecedented move of reducing the "confidence interval" of their epidemiological study from 95% to 90%, didn't follow the agreed standards for the study, and documentary evidence indicated that the EPA had reached a pre-determined conclusion before the study was finished.
Osteen's decision is full of sound reasoning, but anti-smokers dismiss it because Osteen apparently worked for the tobacco industry at some point.)
The 63,000 determination (or other numbers in the 40,000 to 75,000 range) comes from deaths from cardiovascular causes (determined by other faulty studies) being tacked onto the original EPA estimate of 3,000 from lung cancer. I believe the 63,000 number comes from the Centers for Disease Control.
CSPI (The Center for Science in the Public Interest) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), perhaps the two most overzealous litigate-for-public-health organizations, and the American Legacy Foundation probably provide a great deal of these numbers in the venues where people are likely to see them.
Your question makes me suppose that you are new to the issue, so, with the sincere hope that you look elsewhere for a more comprehensive, specific, and accurate explanation than I am about to provide, I'll give a down and dirty summary of how it all works.
All of these scare numbers come from epidemiological studies that attempt to compare two groups that differ in a studied behavior (e.g. a smoking and non-smoking group). These studies are don retrospectively (basically asking people to cover years of behavior in a survey) and prospectively where each of the populations are followed over a period of time.
So, for example, if I wanted to study how much of an effect exposure to books has on brain cancer, I would find, let's say 100,000 people who read regularly and 100,000 people who never read. After 10, 20, or 30 years, I'll take a look at how many people get brain cancer in each population. Let's say my results come out like this:
100,000 book readers had 1000 cases of brain cancer.
100,000 non-readers had 500 cases of brain cancer.
My God! Book readers are twice as likely to get brain cancer! (forget the fact that I never took any differences between these two populations into account other than book reading).
The results of this would be expressed in epidemiology in "Relative Risk". In this case, my Relative Risk would be 2.0.
I can now extrapolate this information across the say, 80,000,000 book readers in America, do the math, and say that 80,000 people get brain cancer from books every year.
With this "scientific" information in hand, I head on down to my local courthouse because I've got alot of money to get out of those damn, child killing, brain cancer causing booksellers. I sue the largest publishing houses and booksellers in the nation, manage to convince a jury and, Holy Cow, I win! I've got a Billion dollars!
Now, every book comes with a Government Warning on it.
This also opens new markets for products such as translucent reading assistants to block people from the harm of the cancerous effects of the deadly books.
"Reading gloves" are sold to protect people from the deadly books. These are particularly popular because, really, what pretentious, hip, health conscious, pseudointellectual would be caught dead in public without their "reading gloves"?
(They come in multiple styles and colors--for the discerning paranoid! They're great conversation starters; can't you just see yourself sitting in the "look at me, I read" bookstore cafe and having the woman of your dreams sit next to you and asking "Why are wearing gloves to read?...Oh, really; I never knew that!...and IS THAT Chomsky in French translation you're so easily comprehending? My place or yours, Intellectual-Socially-Conscious-Glove Boy?" Okay, I'm straying. Really, though, that's the way alot of these anti-smoking people think.)
With my lawsuit won, my cash in hand, and even more cash in hand from the "book gloves" people I made a deal with before pursuing my case, I head on down to Washington and start talking to some politicians. I'd like to start an organization that protects people from the deadly effect of books, and, in exchange for a nice campaign contribution, I'd like some government funds for my organization. I even have a way of helping this politician get the funds for my organization: a book tax!
After all of this, guess what? Since I convinced a jury that books cause cancer once, I can convince them again! I do yet another study and, Eureka! not only did the booksellers and publishers not take enough necessary measures to protect their customers from books, the books actually got worse! My latest study shows that book cause THREE TIMES the amount of brain cancer instead of two times the amount! I get two billion dollars more!
No one bothered to consider that the book readers in my original study had a tendency towards all kinds of behaviors that could possibly cause a small rise in cancer. No one can prove that I've created a very strong bias in my original lawsuit by putting government labels on books. This affected everyone, including the subjects and researchers of my second study, so it was only natural that there would be an increase in their findings. There better be! I created it!
I now have my 3 Billion Empire and a nice salary that I pay myself through the organization that my political friends and I began, and fund, along with anti-book commercials, through the book tax.
I now dare anyone to say that books don't cause cancer. After all, everyone knows that they do. 20 million owners of reading gloves and 50,000 brain cancer deaths a year from reading can't be wrong.
Repeat cycle as desired………..
Scare mongering by using false and misleading data is very effective in raising special interest funding, and in getting unnecessary laws passed. Pharmaceutical nicotine interests are the special interest funding behind smoking ban ordinances. And lawmakers appear to be the sheeple poised to give pharmaceutical companies unprecedented power in a whole host of issues, from smoking bans, alcohol prohibition, and now to obesity laws.
Unfortunately for lawmakers (and the rest of us), I fear it will be too late to regain the power they relenquished to the pharmaceutical / medical industry, once they realize their mistake.
Update: As an example look at how influential Johnson & Johnson's partner Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) was in getting Obama's government healthcare passed into law:
How hazardous is secondhand smoke?............AQ testing proves shs is 4 to 25,000 times SAFER than OSHA air quality regulations require.