Thursday, February 23, 2006



As some of you are a aware, I have been working on an Op-Ed on secondhand smoke that is a response to a public health study by Hugh Waters of Johns Hopkins University.

Most of the information I have read and collected implies that 'we' (media, general public, and legislators) grossly exaggerate the harm of secondhand smoke. Additionally, because of this, Water's rate of risk is artificially high and the diseases related are just that -- related. I have yet to see any definite connection (causation) between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and the numerous diseases that are cited in his study. There are many issues to the common perception of smoking and secondhand smoke. I am trying to finish up the Op-Ed and then I will link it in the next couple of days.

Here is a book by Kip Viscusi of Harvard on the costs of smoking.

Additionally the Congressional Research Service has put into question the notion that smokers don't pay their way.

Okay...this is a rights question as well. Since we do not have anything set up to perfectly internalize the effluence -- i.e. no property rights of air, what do we do? How should one group be compensated for damages and the other pay for those damages that they inflicted on another person. We can use a Coasian approach, but since property rights have little history of being allocated (except through pollution permits), how do we come to a decision on this? Surely an all out ban in public places (which also happen to be private property) is not the proper approach.

I would point out that assigning property rights to one group probably wouldn't do the trick. I would imagine that transaction costs are too high for contracting to be effective.

BTW: Where are you getting your information on the effects of second hand smoke being exagerated? I would like to take a look.
Everything I have read gives me the impression that the "social costs" have been significantly exaggerated.


Robert Levy of Cato, Jane Gravelle of CRS, Johnathan Gruber of MIT,and Kip Viscusi of Harvard Law School.

Additionally there are BMJ, JAMA, and NE Journal of Medicine articles stating that there is no causal relationship associated with secondhand smoke.

There is correlation and relationships, but when corrected for income, lifestyle, obesity, education, and a variety of other things, there is little evidence.
Additionally EPA's 1993 study on ETS was thrown out of court by U.S. District Court Judge Osteen in 1998 for "cherrypicking" their data.
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