Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Public Health Flim Flam

In the February edition of Reason the magazine's Jacob Sallum reports on the phony furor over second hand smoke, the urban legend kind of science that is disseminated by all of the well-meaning folks who believe that lying is alright as long as it's for a good cause. You might recall that last summer the Surgeon General, one Richard Carmona, claimed that , "even brief exposure to second hand smoke" adversely affected the cardiovascular system.

Since then the anti-smoking crusaders have competed to outdo each other in the effort to quantify just how brief an exposure is actually dangerous. "One of these groups, SmokeFreeOhio, was also claiming that merely twenty minutes of exposure causes a nonsmoker's platelets to become 'as sticky as a smoker's,' increasing the chance of a heart attack."

Topping all of the others for sheer arrogant stupidity is a group in Minnesota that alleged, "just thirty seconds of exposure to secondhand smoke can make coronary artery function of nonsmokers indistinguishable from that of smokers." Of course neither Carmona nor any of these crusader groups offer up even a scintilla of scientific evidence to support claims, that if true, would in Sallum's observation defy, "the rules of toxicology" (Since the effects of smoking takes years to impact smokers and these addicts are, unlike nonsmokers, absorbing much larger amounts of smoke directly into their lungs).

All of which points out just how "good government" or "public health" groups are given a media pass by reporters who generally support the ideologies of these advocates. While they examine carefully the assertions of "special interests" they leave unexamined the ravings of fanatics who are increasingly emboldened by the lack of public scrutiny. In the process science is corrupted for partisan political purposes.