MPs misuse research on smoking – Study

Published: Mon 10 Dec 2007 10:15 AM
MPs misuse research on smoking – Study
A new study has found that denial by New Zealand MPs of the risks of second-hand smoke (SHS) was common during 2000-2005. Almost half of the 21 MPs who spoke about health research on SHS denied or were sceptical that it was harmful, according to the University of Otago, Wellington study.
At least five of these MPs also used tobacco industry versions of research, which diminished or denied the health risks from second-hand smoke.
“The research clearly shows a need for the health sector to counter tobacco industry misinformation” says Dr George Thomson from the University’s Department of Public Health.
The research covered the period from 2000-2005, when there was intense debate about the extension of smokefree legislation to include bars and clubs. There was also strong opposition from much of the hospitality industry to the new legislation.
The research analysed parliamentary debates, media reports, parliamentary communications and media releases for statements on SHS. It found repeated attacks by MPs on the key research conducted by Professor Alistair Woodward and Dr Murray Laugesen. This research gave an estimate of nearly 400 deaths per year in New Zealand from SHS.
Over the six years, at least nine MPs from four different parties cast doubt on the research evidence of harm to health from SHS. They were: Doug Woolerton and Dail Jones (NZ First), David Carter and Richard Worth (National), Heather Roy and Deborah Coddington (ACT), and Peter Dunne, Marc Alexander and Paul Adams (United Future).
David Carter, amongst other critical statements, described the New Zealand SHS death estimates as a “huge manufacturing and embellishment of the story about the effect of second-hand smoke on peoples’ health.” This is despite extensive international scientific evidence supporting these estimates.
Dail Jones stated that ‘Custard is more dangerous than second-hand smoke. …[and] milk …is worse than second-hand smoke.’
“This study indicates how research can be denied, misrepresented and distorted by some politicians, even when the science is clear, and 90% of voters believed SHS is harmful,” says Dr Thomson.

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