Judge Smokes Out Tobacco Lie

By Sidney Zion
Copyright 1998
New York Daily News
July 23, 1998

There is nothing more powerful than a lie whose time has come. Throughout history, tyrants understood this, and so worked up the populace. In this bloodiest of centuries, we've seen it all from Hitler to McCarthyism.

And now we have the truth about the anti-smoke fascists. Last week, a federal judge wiped out the entire basis of all this business about the danger of secondhand smoke, a lie that has transformed our culture, from saloons to our homes.

In a devastating 94-page opinion, Judge William Osteen put the cat to the Environmental Protection Agency. These ideological hustlers are responsible for all the madness we've experienced since 1993, when, without a scintilla of evidence, they declared that secondhand smoke causes cancer.

This "finding" created civil war in America. Suddenly, it wasn't just the smoker who was endangered it was the person at the next table, even the tenant in the next apartment and the guy sitting next to you at Yankee Stadium.

Common sense should have put this into the garbage pail. If secondhand smoke killed, we'd all be dead, especially everybody who worked in newspapers a veritable smoke screen in the old days.

But the media mavens, who knew better, bought the lie and sold it to the public. The audience was there, and the hit men in the Environmental Protection Agency knew it.

They had no proof, but what they had was a new America, a people that made health the be-all. Gyms instead of saloons, diets against burgers.

And, of course, the tobacco industry becomes the pariah, a criminal element, against which everything is possible.

But it was not enough to get the smokers. To change the world, the culture, you had to hit their "innocent" victims the receivers of secondhand smoke.

The EPA was at the ready, helped by Hillary Clinton, whose first edict as First Lady was a no-smoking rule in the White House.

The EPA announced that 3,000 people died every year from secondhand smoke. More people by far die from milk, not to mention bird droppings in national forests.

But the yuppie audience was ready to buy, and the market went through the roof.

In New York, Peter Vallone and Rudy Giuliani banned smoking everywhere but in bars. Yankee Stadium and Shea were out although even the EPA never went beyond indoor smoking.

"Secondary smoke is one of the leading causes of death," Giuliani announced, as he lit up his cigar. At the moment that the Congressional Research Service, an independent arm of Congress, said that there was no scientific basis for the EPA's report.

In March, the World Health Organization was caught with the lie. It is the SS of the Nicotine Nazis. The WHO ran a multi-million-dollar study dedicated to proving that passive smoke causes cancer. It came up empty.

The media censored that story. If you didn't read it in my column, you don't know it. And now the media do virtually the same with Judge Osteen's opinion.

Osteen found as follows: "EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before the research had begun; adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate its conclusion, and aggressively utilized its authority to disseminate findings to establish a de facto regulatory scheme to influence public opinion."

In other words, the government lied. And in response, the government says: "People should understand that secondhand smoke is a real health risk."

It's as if Ted Turner announced about the discredited CNN report on nerve gas, "We stand by our story." The difference here is, the media stand with the lie, whose time, alas, remains.

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14 may 2003