The on-line St. Louis Post-Dispatch permits readers to air their views by having a Comments section following every story. Mr. Bill Hannegan is a prolific poster to those sections. What concerns me is the reliability of his reference material.
When I first became involved in the SHS issue, as a scientist I felt compelled to give the tobacco industry the benefit of the doubt when they published any study or rebuttal in a newspaper ad. I quickly learned that their aim was not to further the truth about secondhand smoke but to obscure it, and create doubt on the subject.
Mr. Hannegan seems intent on following in their footsteps. A good example is his repeated reference to the controversial study Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98 by Enstrom & Kabat published in the British Medical Journal in 2003. Contrary to many other peer-reviewed studies this concluded that there is no causal relationship between SHS and coronary heart disease and lung cancer in exposed non-smokers.
In a previous blog American Heart Association and KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE! team up(?!) I noted both the American Cancer Society’s strong condemnation of the misuse of its data by Enstrom & Kabat, and the criticism from many scientists on the BMJ website, including one from Jayant S Vaidya, University College London, Dept of Surgery, titled Flawed study from the outset
Today’s Post-Dispatch has a story by reporter Margaret Gillerman on page B1 As Clayton goes no smoking, others might follow, some believe
Bill Hannegan was quick to post an on-line comment ( July 12, 2009 12:59AM CST) accusing Clayton’s mayor and aldermen of not giving “serious consideration to the air filtration systems that Clayton restaurateurs had installed to protect employees from tobacco smoke exposure, even though the Clayton aldermen knew that Surgeon General Carmona admitted in his report that such systems might adequately mitigate the risks of secondhand smoke in restaurants.”
This statement is simply untrue, as I verified by checking U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona’s most recent report on SHS: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, published in 2006. In his Preface to the report Dr. Carmona writes:
Restrictions on smoking can control exposures effectively, but technical approaches involving air cleaning or a greater exchange of indoor with outdoor air cannot.
Chapter 10 is devoted to the subject Control of Secondhand Smoke Exposure which draws the following conclusions on page 649 on how to provide protection from SHS, with the most relevant to this discussion bolded:
1. Workplace smoking restrictions are effective in reducing secondhand smoke exposure.
2. Workplace smoking restrictions lead to less smoking among covered workers.
3. Establishing smoke-free workplaces is the only effective way to ensure that secondhand smoke exposure does not occur in the workplace.
4. The majority of workers in the United States are now covered by smoke-free policies.
5. The extent to which workplaces are covered by smoke-free policies varies among worker groups, across states, and by sociodemographic factors. Workplaces related to the entertainment and hospitality industries have notably high potential for secondhand smoke exposure.
6. Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry.
7. Evidence suggests that exposure to secondhand smoke varies by ethnicity and gender.
8. In the United States, the home is now becoming the predominant location for exposure of children and adults to secondhand smoke.
9. Total bans on indoor smoking in hospitals, restaurants, bars, and offices substantially reduce secondhand smoke exposure, up to several orders of magnitude with incomplete compliance, and with full compliance, exposures are eliminated.
10. Exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke cannot be controlled by air cleaning or mechanical air exchange.
Once again it’s very clear that opponents of smoke-free air don’t care how they bend or subvert the science. They are true disciples of the tobacco industry and its long history of denial and subversion of public health.