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FOR RELEASE: May 30, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Tobacco Industry Blows Smoke to Protect Cigarette Sales - New Resource Clears the Air

State health officials want to fight tobacco industry misinformation and clear the air on the harm caused by secondhand smoke. They’ve launched a new Internet resource to provide information on secondhand smoke, its health effects, its prevalence in Oklahoma, and laws on smoking in public places. The Web page can be viewed at http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tobac/secondhand.htm.

The Web page also includes several articles and recent research papers from scientific journals that document tobacco industry activities to fight against restrictions on smoking inside public places and workplaces.

“The tobacco industry has spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists, attacking legitimate scientific research, producing bogus studies, and trying to create controversy about secondhand smoke,” said Doug Matheny, chief of the state health department’s Tobacco Use Prevention Service.

Matheny said claims by the tobacco industry that smoking restrictions hurt restaurant business are contrary to published studies on the economic impact of smoking restrictions in more than 80 localities in six states, including Texas. These studies demonstrate that smoke-free laws have no negative effect on restaurant sales.

“This is a misleading scare tactic that has been used for years by the tobacco industry,” Matheny said. “Internal documents show that their real concern is that smoking restrictions result in fewer cigarettes being smoked and increase the chances of many smokers quitting for good.” Matheny said that statewide polls show that the vast majority of Oklahoma smokers want to quit smoking.

National scientific research groups estimate that between 35,000 and 62,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of heart disease caused by exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Lung cancer deaths caused by secondhand smoke are estimated at 3,000 each year nationwide. The estimated death toll in Oklahoma due to secondhand smoke is 750 each year.

Among the ingredients of secondhand smoke are at least 250 harmful substances including mutagens, carcinogens, eye and respiratory irritants, systemic toxicants, and reproductive and developmental toxicants. Irritants and systemic poisons include ammonia, acrolein, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, nicotine, nitrogen oxides, phenol, and sulfur dioxide. More than 40 compounds in secondhand smoke are known or suspected human carcinogens, including benzene, hydrazine, vinyl chloride, aromatic amines, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and nickel.

Secondhand smoke exposure causes both children and adults with asthma to have more frequent and more severe attacks. Young children are especially vulnerable. Because children’s lungs are smaller and their immune systems are less developed, they are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses and ear infections from secondhand smoke. At least 10,500 physician office visits for ear infections among Oklahoma children are caused by secondhand smoke each year. Also, at least 2,250 cases of bronchitis or pneumonia occur annually among Oklahoma infants and toddlers due to secondhand smoke, with over 100 cases requiring hospitalization. Some cases result in death.

For more information on secondhand smoke, call toll-free 1-866-ONLY-AIR.


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