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posted: 5/26/2014 5:01 AM

Learn from history this health lesson

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I am old enough to remember when cigarette smoking in public was commonplace, even among celebrities. When evidence first arose connecting smoking to lung cancer and other maladies, the tobacco industry claimed that there was no proof, that more studies were needed. Yet, people continued to smoke and die, and legislators continued to cash checks from tobacco lobbyists, who insisted that money spent combating smoking could better be spent finding cures.

Finally, after thousands had died, even contribution-hungry Congress members had to concede to the obvious. However, the battle had been won, but not the war, there was still the issue of secondhand smoke, and the tobacco industry insisted again that no connection between secondhand smoke and cancer had been established, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Once again science prevailed, and we now have laws against smoking in public places.

Replacing cigarette smoking on the "big money vs. science" battleground is the issue of whether human activity has contributed to global climate change, and it is no small coincidence that many of the same voices who called for "more studies" on cigarettes are now saying the same things about carbon gases and global warming. Only the campaign contributions are coming from a different set of industry lobbyists.

Perhaps the scientists who argue in the affirmative are wrong, but isn't it much better to err on the side of caution when the health of our planet is at stake? Imagine how many lives would have been saved if we had outlawed smoking in public places 20 years earlier. Is it really too much to ask that we make substantive changes, now, concurrent with additional scientific investigations to determine the validity of our efforts? We have more to gain than lose, by doing so.

Richard A. Kosinski


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