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Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy

Type: Books
Date Published: January 1, 1999
Authors:
Research Topics:
Risk & Regulation

With his public choice theory, Nobel laureate James Buchanan pointed out how public interest groups, including public servants, end up working for themselves at the expense of the public. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long fulfilled this prediction. In fact, in 1980 blue ribbon panel concluded that the EPA's work was rife with what become known as "junk science": a habit of selectively citing data designed to support preconceived and self-serving ambitions and policy goals.

A 1993 EPA study concluded that second-hand cigarette smoke caused around 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year among non-smokers. Anti-tobacco activists used the report to secure full or partial bans on indoor smoking in the US and Canada.

Recently, however, a US Federal Court declared the EPA's risk assessment of ETS null and void, finding that the agency acted illegally and corrupted science to engage in a campaign of public disinformation.

If the science underpinning public policy is purposefully distorted, then the public's trust in regulatory decisions will be lost - with disastrous consequences. Reflecting on the facts, this book raises fundamental questions about the endemic abuses of power by public bureaucracies.

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