Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy
David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.
In July 1995, a U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., set aside a
risk assessment on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) made by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The authors of Passive Smoke
reproduce the full court decision and offer an exhaustive and scathing
critique of the EPA’s decisionmaking procedure in the case.
If this were the limited aim and achievement of the exercise, Passive
Smoke would have been a good book. Unfortunately, the work is colored by
such a pervasive ideological bias that it totally undermines the
authors’ scientific critique. They give their own game away by stating
at the outset that smoking should never be regulated by the state,
implying that no amount of scientific reasoning will ever be a
sufficient foundation for regulatory activity. If epidemiology is the
foundation for risk assessment and it is not a science, no risk
assessment can ever be valid, and regulatory activity will never be
Gio Gori has held senior positions in the Cancer Cause and Prevention
Division and the Smoking and Health Program at the U.S. National Cancer
Institute. The NCI has an abysmal record in the primary prevention of
cancer and in advocating the regulation of smoking. With ideologues such
as Gori driving NCI policy, it is easy to see why.
Both Gori and Luik have worked as consultants to the tobacco industry,
which brought the 1998 case to court. Thus, instead of drawing attention
to the “junk science” peddled or concealed by the tobacco industry,
they repeatedly make the entirely unwarranted claim that the EPA
“corrupted science.” The court made no such finding. The authors
themselves are guilty of corrupting science by their own ideological
bias. What appears initially to be a defence of public rights is
actually an apologia for corporate freedom, set against the advocates of
This book has no special relevance to Canada. The Fraser Institute
evidently published it because of the ideological pretensions, solemnly
posing as science, of a pair of accomplished intellectuals who abuse
their own calling and who ought to know better.