Good policy, bad journalism

I just read a news article in the Victor Valley Daily Press about the San Bernardino Housing Authority going smokefree.  Congratulations to San Bernardino County for this policy success! 

There are now nine housing authorities in California that have required the creation of nonsmoking units.  The Center’s Matrix of Local Smokefree Housing Policies, available at www.center4tobaccopolicy.org/localpolies-smokefreehousing, provides the details on all the local smokefree housing policies in the state.  This document will be updated soon with information about several new policies, including this one from San Bernardino County.   

Housing authority policies are important because they impact people in great need of protection from drifting secondhand smoke; low income and elderly populations.  These populations are often more susceptible to the adverse health effects of secondhand smoke and do not have the option to move somewhere else if their neighbor smokes.

While this policy is good, the news article might as well have been written by the tobacco industry and serves as a good reminder to tobacco control advocates about the types of false claims on the dangers of secondhand smoke that you may come across during local policy efforts.  The article claims that the policy was enacted “despite divided research on the dangers of second-hand smoke” and cites two studies as evidence of this divide.  Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights effectively shows how both the CRS study and Enstrom study have been misused by opponents and the tobacco industry, including the fact that the Enstrom study was funded by the tobacco industry and is full of methodological errors. 

We might expect to see such bogus claims made by opponents of secondhand smoke policy or the tobacco industry.  However, it is shocking and disappointing that a newspaper would report the tobacco industry’s misconstructions of two studies as fact and ignore the more than one hundred peer reviewed studies and overwhelming evidence on the dangers of secondhand smoke, including the conclusion by the U.S. Surgeon General that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure.  What’s next from the Victor Valley Daily Press, an article claiming it is safe to include lead in children’s toys?

Justin Garrett

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