Smoking Blown Away

January 10, 1993

It took the Orioles less time in Camden Yards than it did the Environmental Protection Agency in its labs and offices to decide that cigarette smokers can kill others as well as themselves. The Orioles are going to prohibit smoking in ballpark seats next season. Anyone who still needs to know why need only read the EPA report on the dangers of second-hand smoke fumes also released Thursday. And then wonder how long it will be until smoking is banned in virtually all public places.

The EPA took much too long to publish its report on the damage done to innocent bystanders by people who smoke in public places. The study was ready nearly two years ago but was held up by tobacco industry politicking and bureaucratic nitpicking. Though the study was stripped of some of its more devastating statistics, it ranks cigarette smoke inhaled indirectly through the air with such cancer-causing substances as asbestos and benzene. Perhaps worst of all, smoking inflicts respiratory diseases and aggravates asthma attacks on hundreds of

thousands of children each year.

Left out of the EPA report was additional evidence that other peoples' smoke kills even more non-smokers -- tens of thousands a year, in fact -- by contributing to heart attacks than are afflicted by fatal cancers. Leading health researchers concluded last year that non-smokers had a 30 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease if they are exposed to other peoples' fumes at home.

The tobacco industry and some of its captive experts will doubtless respond once more that the link between cigarette smoke and fatal illness is not scientifically established. Rubbish. From successive U.S. surgeon generals to the overwhelming majority of independent scientists, the poisonous nature of tobacco smoke and so-called smokeless tobacco is firmly established.

The tobacco industry fertilized the coffers of congressional candidates in the last election campaign with an estimated $1.7 million in contributions, according to one advocacy group. But it's a losing cause. More and more the owners or operators of public facilities like the Orioles are sending tobacco smoke the way of flaking asbestos -- and for the same reason. It kills innocent people.

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