Surgeon General’s Report Called ‘Unscientific’ and Potentially Unethical

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A renowned member of the Boston University School of Public Health and members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association are challenging as unscientific and potentially unethical this week’s report from the Office of Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General, about the effects of tobacco smoke.

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“It is simply untrue to assert that brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause such results,” added Prof. Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health.

A renowned member of the Boston University School of Public Health and members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association are challenging as unscientific and potentially unethical this week’s report from the Office of Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General, about the effects of tobacco smoke.

The report said that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke – as from one cigarette - can cause cardiovascular disease, trigger acute cardiac events and can damage one’s DNA and lead to cancer. These and other parts of the report are being challenged by the IPCPR which is comprised of some 2,000 members who are primarily small family businesses that operate neighborhood cigar stores or manufacture premium cigars, pipes, tobacco and related accoutrements.

“The mixed signals and misinformation coming from Dr. Benjamin’s office lead one to question everything they say and do,” said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.

McCalla cited the fact that one of the first actions of President Barack Obama’s administration was to push through draconian increases in tobacco taxes to fund an expanded children’s healthcare program. Then the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed, giving new powers to the Federal Drug Administration to reduce smoking in the United States. Now, the Surgeon General is saying, in effect, that walking past a smoker on the street could cause a person to develop cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“It is simply untrue to assert that brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause such results,” added Prof. Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health. “If there is no safe level of exposure to any carcinogen, that would include exposure to automobile exhaust, the sun’s rays, benzene, radon in homes, arsenic in drinking water and many other everyday items.”

Prof. Siegel, who is not associated with the tobacco industry or IPCPR, also said those statements are untrue and that nothing in the actual report supports those assertions.

“There is nothing in the report itself which … supports the assertions that a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease or cancer. These assertions … have been manufactured to create a sense of public hysteria, but they are unsupported by any science whatsoever,” he wrote in his blog at http://www.tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com on Dec. 13, 2010. “This is the second time that the Office of the Surgeon General has misrepresented and distorted the science of … secondhand smoke. The press release which accompanied the Surgeon General’s 2006 report on secondhand smoke made the same false assertion,” he said.

McCalla also cited the fact that, prior to her nomination as U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin served as a trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which contributes tens of millions of dollars every year to promote smoking bans and fund anti-tobacco groups in the United States and internationally.

“Why is this a potential conflict of interest? Because the foundation’s sister organization is Johnson & Johnson, maker of Nicorette, a nicotine replacement product,” he said.

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