What's EPA Smoking?

By Steve Milloy
December 3, 2012, Washington Times

Fewer than 1 in 5 Americans has any use for cigarettes nowadays, but here’s why the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made smoking important to us all.

The EPA plans to issue in mid-December more stringent air-pollution standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), soot and dust roughly the width of a human hair. The agency has determined that any exposure to PM2.5 can cause death within hours or days of exposure, and there is no safe exposure to PM2.5. Those claims are not without controversy.

The Clinton EPA first began regulating PM2.5 in 1997, setting an average daily limit of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Now the Obama EPA wants to tighten the average daily limit to somewhere between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter, even though the average U.S. air purity is at 10 micrograms per cubic meter and falling.

The EPA says the new standard will bring health benefits worth $88 million to $5.9 billion annually while costing just $2.9 to $69 million per year.

More than 98 percent of those claimed benefits are based on the EPA’s assertion that PM2.5 kills people and each death costs society about $9 million, regardless of age, remaining life expectancy, health status and income prospects.

So what’s all this got to do with smoking cigarettes?

The average adult inhales about 11,000 liters of air per day, equivalent to 11 cubic meters of air. Keeping in mind that indoor levels of PM2.5 easily can exceed outdoor levels, assuming someone inhales average outdoor air all day, that person would inhale about 240 micrograms of PM2.5.

The EPA says smoking a single cigarette can expose a smoker to 10,000 to 40,000 micrograms of PM2.5. It would take a nonsmoker breathing average outdoor air something between 40 and 160 days to inhale as much PM2.5 as someone smoking a single cigarette.

To make this more interesting, let’s say someone smokes one half-pack of cigarettes per day for just one year. That person would have inhaled between 36.5 million micrograms and 146 million micrograms of PM2.5 during that year. It would take a nonsmoking average-air breather 417 to 1,668 years to inhale as much PM2.5 as the smoker.

What’s the practical significance of this thought experiment? Although smoking is not a healthful activity, the health risks associated with it are a matter of dose — i.e., the more one smokes, the greater the risk of health problems.

However, as reported in an October 2003 study published in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine, the risk of sudden death among those who smoked as long as 10 years was zero.

If you can smoke for 10 years and have zero chance of sudden death, you can breathe average U.S. air for thousands of years with zero risk of sudden death. Given that the “worst” U.S. air has, perhaps, twice the level of PM2.5 as average U.S. air, you even could breathe the “worst” U.S. air for thousands of years with zero risk of sudden death.

Therefore, the EPA’s claim that PM2.5 is killing people and the nation stands to reap billion of dollars’ worth of health benefits from its new rule are without merit.

What’s the harm of cleaner air? Aside from the perpetuation of EPA junk science, as there likely are no health benefits from the rule, any cost is simply too much. While the EPA has capped compliance costs at a seemingly paltry $69 million per year, the agency has omitted mention of the more significant costs.

The proposed rules are national standards for air quality and, as such, do not prescribe specific emissions limits for, say, industrial facilities, vehicles, agricultural burning or residential wood-burning. The EPA, however, can punish states that fail to meet the standards by withholding the state’s federal highway money.

Though this withholding rarely if ever happens, that is only because the states almost always comply. They would rather forego new industrial facilities and new roads, or clamp down on other air-pollution sources than risk their highway money and endure the slings and arrows of environmentalists and the media.

So the real costs of the EPA’s PM2.5 proposal are not millions of dollars in compliance costs — they are tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in lost economic opportunities.

None of this is rocket science. The EPA knows very well that the science of smoking debunks its effort to alarm the public about air quality.

Readers of this column know that the American Tradition Institute has sued the EPA for conducting illegal human testing. As part of its defense in that case, the EPA is asserting that concentrated diesel exhaust, which is largely composed of PM2.5, is less of a health risk than very light smoking.

American air is clean and safe. The EPA is what needs to be cleaned up.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).

28 thoughts on “What's EPA Smoking?”

  1. This piece is now more important than ever, since so many people living in northern climates and dependent on woodstoves as their sole source of heat could confront freezing to death, merely to advance the same global Agenda that saw tobacco smokers unjustifiably demonized as pseudo-murderers.

    “The EPA is what needs to be cleaned up.” I would personally prefer it abolished; its doctrinal roots dug out of their long-established ground, publicly exposed to the cleansing light of scientific scrutiny/ fact and forever denied use as a tool for guiding public policies for achieving population behaviour Control by Big Gov’ts and global elitists worldwide. This could be the only hope for Canadians to see sanity returned to their nation as well?

    North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA – environmental “side accord” to NAFTA):

    Also see: the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (Canada, USA, Mexico):

  2. The correct deduction, in my opinion, is that such manifest malfeasance with respect to air quality regulation makes ALL EPA regulation suspect. Get rid of EPA entirely.

  3. Also, I was wondering whether the EPA have done studies on the hazards of inhaling particulates larger than PM2.5, say, the entire diesel truck?

  4. As the wife of a pipe smoker, I applaud your new atttitude. We live in Alaska, and there is no place he can smoke, inside, except at home. It is -10 this morning. I don’t smoke but my whole social life is controlled by rude laws against smokers.

  5. I am not a smoker. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, and the odors that are left on the smokers themselves. It is a personal problem. I used to applaud the laws against smokers, but it was because I did not understand the true nature of what was being done. The reality is that, other than a few useful idiots, nobody who makes laws really cares one-way-or-another about whether the smoker is getting sick or the smoke is a hazard. What the rule-creators do care about is putting more-and-more controls on ordinary people’s lives. It is the slow erosion of personal liberty that is occurring. Throughout my life I have seen this done “for the children” or “for the good of society”, and when I look back the only results have been for the ruling class to have more control of the country class. I do try to be less rude to smokers nowadays.

  6. So, if you have zero chance of sudden death, eve if you smoke for ten years, according to the AMA’s 2003 study, but people do experience sudden death, does that mean that smoking protects you from sudden death? My head hurts; no more thought experiments!

  7. Crap. I was going to start smoking again (40 years of intense pack-a-day PM2.5 thrown away 3 years ago) once they put me in a nursing home so I wouldn’t have to stick around. Guess I’ll have to start eating farm-raised salmon instead. Inorganically grown gentecially modified fruit? Oh, well … far more likely that it will be the death panel and government healthcare that gets me than these “risks”.

  8. You cannot mock the nannies. Movies are rated and one of the things I saw recently was the noted factor of smoking scenes in the movie. My frequent reminder: There is no such thing as zealotry in regulation.

  9. I always worry that I’ll get lung cancer or emphysema from watching all of those Hollywood types smoke in the movies. I wonder why OSHA tolerates this obvious workplace hazard (and EPA, the passive smoking hazard to movie watchers).

  10. I do not understand claims of having less smokers saves money. Smokers may quit and live longer, but they will eventually die because of some illness and this illness will, of course, be treated, require medical expense.

  11. They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
    World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

    What do the studies on passive smoking tell us?

    PHILIPPE EVEN. There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

    It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France …

    I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

    Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

    They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor … but not greater than pollen!

    The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

    Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor’s note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It’s everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

    Why would anti-tobacco organizations wave a threat that does not exist?

    The anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette prices having failed, they had to find a new way to lower the number of smokers. By waving the threat of passive smoking, they found a tool that really works: social pressure. In good faith, non-smokers felt in danger and started to stand up against smokers. As a result, passive smoking has become a public health problem, paving the way for the Evin Law and the decree banning smoking in public places. The cause may be good, but I do not think it is good to legislate on a lie. And the worst part is that it does not work: since the entry into force of the decree, cigarette sales are rising again.

    Why not speak up earlier?

    As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

    Le Parisien

  12. This sounds like the age old problem of civil servants with too much time on their hands creating work to do in order to justify their own existance.

  13. Does this mean USEPA will be against the new pot laws in Colorado? What is the PM2.5 of a joint?

  14. The West Taxas Panhandle area had a run in with the EPA a couple of decades ago. These wonderful poeple decided that the amount of dust in the air was over the maximum specs they found acceptable. The short of the story is the EPA began proceedings to fine our lovely town due to the precieved problem. Due to the fact that per their study, dust from ALL the surrounding states and from states as far away as California. Now Im not too sure how this town would or could counter the “dust problem” as the wind in our area normally runs in the 10 to 15mph zone and in a bad storm has been measured in access of 80mph. Thankfully someone with two brain cells at the EPA figured out there is no answer to this problem and the fines were dismissed.
    Looks like this perticular history will be in the repeat cycle soon, I wonder if there are two brain cells available at the EPA this time around.

  15. Excellent article. But….. is “fine particulate matter (PM2.5), soot and dust roughly the width of a human hair” correct? I thought that PM2.5 was a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair.


  16. It is high time to selectively de-fund EPA. This CAN be done if Congress gets serious. Start with elimination of funding for CO2 related regulation, and leave identification and regulation of real poisons and carcinogens intact.

  17. It never was about public health. It is about handing the EPA a gun to put to the heads of those who control the companies in the Energy industry.

  18. Hah! If only. In Europe they are way weirder than that. We wish we had EPA now we have The European Commission for the environment and they make EPA look like easy going pro-pollution.

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