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Bush Administration Tried to "Water Down" Landmark Report on Secondhand Smoke
Former Surgeon General Carmona claims politics came before public health

BERKELEY, CA (July 11, 12007) - According to testimony by former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing yesterday, top officials in the Bush administration delayed for years and tried to "water down" last year's landmark Surgeon General's report on the dangers of secondhand smoke. After much delay, the Surgeon General's Report on secondhand smoke, entitled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, was finally released on June 27, 2006. This administration has routinely put politics ahead of science, but this example is particularly shocking because the delay in issuing the report undoubtedly caused thousands of needless deaths.

Among other things, the report found that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, that even brief exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to nonsmokers, and that establishing smokefree environments is the only proven way to prevent exposure. The report also finds that many millions of Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke indoors, despite substantial progress in tobacco control. The release of this landmark report spurred numerous states and localities to enact strong smokefree laws to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke. If the report had been released earlier, as intended, these laws may have been enacted sooner, preventing a great deal of needless death and disease.

Although Dr. Carmona's testimony is shocking in its implications, it should hardly be surprising to anyone familiar with the politics of tobacco control. For more than 30 years, the tobacco industry has used its political clout at all levels of government to prevent effective action to protect nonsmokers from the health hazards of secondhand smoke. At this very moment, key legislators in Pennsylvania, influenced by tobacco industry lobbyists, are attempting to scuttle or seriously weaken a proposed statewide smokefree law, despite all the scientific evidence to support it.

We are deeply troubled to hear of Dr. Carmona's reports on the Bush Administration antics, and salute him for his tenacity in making sure the report was released and his courage for exposing this political interference. Public health should always come before politics, especially when so many lives are at stake. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights urges all elected officials to follow the science of secondhand smoke and not the money and political influence of the tobacco industry and its allies. The health of all of our citizens demands that elected officials act in the public interest and not in the interest of big tobacco, an industry whose products kill people when used as intended and that was recently found to have violated federal racketeering laws in a 50-year campaign to undermine the scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) is the leading national lobbying organization (501 (c) 4), dedicated to nonsmokers' rights, taking on the tobacco industry at all levels of government, protecting nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke, and preventing tobacco addiction among youth. ANR pursues an action-oriented program of policy and legislation.