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TOBACCO FIRMS TRY TO DENY SCIENCE

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Leaders of the U.S. tobacco industry are still trying to deny the obvious. They have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency challenging the agency's report released last January that said secondhand smoke causes cancer.

The move should come as no great surprise since the industry still hasn't even acknowledged that smoking itself causes cancer - let alone secondhand smoke.Six tobacco companies and organizations said they are pursuing the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., in an effort to get the study and the EPA's assessment of secondhand smoke declared "null and void." They should not prevail.

The tobacco industry representatives claim the EPA did not follow its own guidelines in preparing the study and the evidence the agency found does not warrant classifying secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke, as a human carcinogen.

But EPA spokesman Dave Ryan says the agency supports the scientific validity of the study. He said the report was reviewed twice by an independent science committee made up of outside experts, and the 16 members "unanimously endorsed our conclusion that passive smoking is a known human carcinogen." That's pretty solid scientific backing.

Add to that last year's finding by the American Heart Association - backed by the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. Those findings linked passive smoking with tens of thousands of heart-disease deaths each year.

That makes passive smoking the third leading cause of avoidable fatal disease. Only smoking itself and alcohol use rate higher.

The tobacco industry refutes the American Heart Association's figures, too. About the only thing the industry recognizes is that smoking is a risk factor for a number of diseases, but it is adamant that smoking isn't the cause of cancer and other health problems.

But it seems that any person with at least some hint of intelligence knows that that just isn't the case.

Besides, the medical community is constantly providing new evidence that smoking is dangerous; evidence that bolsters the EPA's stand.

So how many times does the medical community have to say that all forms of smoking - both active and passive - are dangerous?

And how many times will the tobacco companies try to salvage their profits - and their reputation - by debunking reputable evidence?

The industry's smoke-and-mirrors games - such as this latest lawsuit - may have worked in the past, but when the smoke finally clears . . . the tobacco industries will still be wrong: Tobacco smoke is a killer.