Saturday, December 22, 2007

American Cancer Society 16 Cigarette Claim challenged in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today bravely printed my challenge of the American Cancer Society's 16 Cigarette Claim. I admire the Post for printing it. The ACS gave the Post a lot of money when the ACS took out its full page "Thank you!" ad a while back. Letters editor Jamie Riley seems willing to print both sides of any issue, despite the editorial stance of the paper or the wishes of advertizers. This is the letter as it appeared today:

Smoky numbers

The American Cancer Society promoted a smoking ban to the public and pressured the Illinois General Assembly to enact it with an entirely misleading claim, which it used again in a recent letter: "One eight-hour shift in a smoke-filled workplace is the equivalent of smoking 16 cigarettes."

Sixteen cigarettes is a deceptive number, and the ACS knows it. The ACS is saying that the chemical NDMA (N-nitroso-dimethylamine) is more present in secondhand smoke than in actively inhaled smoke. It takes 16 cigarettes actively smoked to equal the NDMA exposure a bartender receives after eight hours at work in a smoky bar. Does this mean that a nonsmoker becomes almost a-pack-a-day passive smoker by taking a job in a smoky bar? Hardly. The actual smoke a bartender breathes in the smokiest bar as measured by total tobacco-specific particles inhaled equals about one-fifth of a cigarette per eight-hour shift, or one cigarette per 40-hour week.

Public health laws such as the Illinois smoking ban should be based on accurately stated science, not trick formulations meant to scare the public and fool lawmakers.