The Tobacco Industry's Latest Attack on the Science of Secondhand Smoke

May 1999

The Fraser Institute, a conservative British Columbia think tank, recently issued a press release announcing the tobacco industry's latest vanity publication "Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy," by Gio Gori and John Luik. The release gave the academic credentials of professors Gori and Luik but failed to mention their long term ties to the tobacco industry.

Gio Gori is a former scientist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) who now works as a consultant to the tobacco industry. Gori has the distinction of being one of 13 scientists who accepted big bucks from the Tobacco Institute to write letters to the editor attacking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) landmark 1992 report, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking," which classified secondhand smoke a human carcinogen and resulted in an onslaught of strong local clean indoor air ordinances.

According to an August 4, 1998 article written by David Hanners in the Pioneer Press, Gori "was paid $20,137 for two letters to the Wall Street Journal, one letter to the British medical publication The Lancet, one letter to the NCI Journal and one opinion piece to the Wall Street Journal, records show. The opinion piece was rejected by the editors of the Wall Street Journal, but that didn't stop Gori from billing the law firm of Covington and Burling $4,137.50."

John Luik is also a long time tobacco industry front man. Tobacco industry internal documents* reveal that Luik is a Rhodes Scholar, with a degree in philosophy. Luik wrote a critique of the EPA report, with help from his tobacco industry friends at Rothmans International and The Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers Limited. He has been featured as a guest columnist on the website of the smokers' rights organization, FORCES (Fighting Ordinances and Restrictions to Control and Eliminate Smoking).

In October 1998, Luik was on the radio talk show circuit, arranged by Planned TV Arts (a media placement service) and public relations firm Ruder-Finn/Washington, which counts tobacco industry giant Philip Morris among its clients. Promotional materials indicated that Luik would "dispute questionable scientific data (i.e., second-hand smoke, salt intake, eggs and cholesterol)." It was no coincidence that Luik was scheduled to visit Portland, ME in October 1998. This was when Big Tobacco was waging a do or die battle to repeal-via referendum-Maine's first 100% smokefree ordinance, enacted by the Portland City Council in April 1997. We can't top former EPA scientist James Repace's response to what is simply the latest installment of the tobacco industry's serial jihad against the EPA report, so we present it here as it was originally written in letter form.


 

April 26, 1999

Mr. Garfield Mahood
Nonsmokers' Rights Association
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2T9

Dear Mr. Mahood:

You have asked me to comment on the book "Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy," by Gio Gori and John Luik, The Fraser Institute, Vancouver, 1999. These tobacco industry consultants accuse the United States Environmental Protection Agency of engaging in a "corrupt misuse of science," a "conspiracy of public disinformation" and "deception" in its 1992 Report which concluded that secondhand smoke was "a known human carcinogen." They make these grave accusations in the context of discussing a decision handed down by North Carolina judge William Osteen "nullifying" EPA's risk assessment at the request of the tobacco industry. The Osteen decision, and the polemic by Gori and Luik, simply repeat erroneous tobacco industry pseudo-scientific arguments (cloaked in ad hominem invective) which have been analyzed and rejected by mainstream science. A point-by-point rebuttal would require a lengthy effort, which I am prepared to undertake if necessary.

I will simply observe the following: The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is America's premier institution of research into cancer cause, cure, and prevention. In 1993, the NCI reprinted the 1992 EPA Report on Passive Smoking in NCI's Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 4. In the preface, the NCI ringingly stated: "Tobacco smoke represents a substantial environmental and ... occupational carcinogen." The NCI said that while the practice of smoking may be legal, "policies [protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke] are medically justified and consistent with our responsibility to protect the public from a demonstrated health risk." In its Monograph 9, the NCI listed 60 agents in cigarette and cigar smoke that are animal carcinogens, and observed that 9 of these were known human carcinogens. Do Gori and Luik think the NCI performs corrupt science?

On one side, the EPA Report on Passive smoking is just one of a sea of authoritative reports by expert panels of the Surgeon General, the National Academy of Science, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the EPA's Science Advisory Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the California EPA, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. National Toxicology Program in the U.S., the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, and the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health in the U.K. have all condemned ETS as a carcinogen. On the other side, a hand-picked tobacco state judge with no discernible scientific credentials, and a couple of industry consultants whose secondhand smoke credentials remain to be discovered. The polemic by Gori and Luik, like secondhand smoke itself, is toxic waste. It should be disposed of safely in a sealed container.

James Repace, MSc. Physicist

*To view copies of the Luik memos from the Philip Morris web site, visit http://www.tobacco.org/Documents/93luik.html