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June 1998
Volume 25
Number 3

STATISTICAL EVIDENCE IN SHORT SUPPLY

The Crux of the anti-smoking movement's success over the past 15 years has stemmed largely from efforts aimed at bolstering the fears of non-smokers. Flawed or inconclusive studies citing increased risks for non-smokers due to secondhand smoke have formed the basis for the majority of smoking restrictions nationwide, and even throughout the world.

Now, the results of the only definitive research study on "passive" or "secondhand" smoking, sponsored by the World Health Organization, have been tabulated and analyzed. Ten years in the planning, it is the evidence that was supposed to set the record straight, once and for all.

You didn't hear about it?

That's because the study was entirely inconclusive, failing to find any association between passive smoking and cancer risks among exposed non-smokers. In fact, WHO decided not to publish the results at all, just an internal summary of its findings which quickly made its way to the pages of Britain's Sunday Telegraph, followed a week later by the Wall Street Journal.

It certainly wasn't what WHO had been hoping for evidence to support its current position on secondhand smoke. In 1988, a subgroup of WHO called the International Agency on Research on Cancer declared tobacco smoke a carcinogen. The conclusion that secondhand smoke has a similar, if less potent, effect on exposed non-smokers was merely an extrapolation of existing facts. Science, it was assumed, would soon produce the necessary substantiation.

Ten years later, WHO is still searching for that evidence. Publicizing the results of the 1998 study would only serve as a setback to WHO's anti-smoking stance, and the fanaticism it has spun off. So much for the truth setting you free.

Meanwhile, the cigar industry has bolstered its efforts to fend off further Congressional scrutiny and regulatory interference, taking steps to keep cigar marketing and promotion from facing the same future that has befallen the cigarette. The Cigar Association of America (CAA) launched a retailer compliance and information program, "Banding Together:Keeping Kids Away from Cigars," designed to disseminate key facts about the cigar industry's responsible marketing practices and promote adult-only cigar sales. As scrutiny of cigars increases, instigated by many of the same fact-poor anti-smoking groups that have already been hard at work over the past decade, the public is once again presented with flawed impressions. Retailers are urged to comply with the program, and help spread reliable information to cigar-smoking consumers (see story, page 16).

Despite the numerous shifts occurring in the cigar industry, retailers will be pleased to know that overall the industry remains abuzz: A preview of this year's RTDATrade Show and Convention reveals yet another record-sized event, and not by a small margin, either. We look forward to seeing you in Nashville!

E. Edward Hoyt III