According to a public statement made by a prominent anti-smoking group: "Drifting tobacco smoke already kills more people than motor vehicle accidents, all crimes, AIDS, illegal drugs, etc. In other words, people are statistically more likely to die as a result of drifting tobacco smoke than by a car, gun, or the AIDS virus."
The Rest of the Story
Is there data to support this assertion that secondhand smoke kill more people than motor vehicle accidents, firearm deaths, and AIDS?
Even taking the most liberal estimates of annual deaths from secondhand smoke that I am aware of, secondhand smoke could be claimed to take the lives of about 65,000 people each year. These are upper-bound estimates found in the 1997 California EPA report on secondhand smoke.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, firearm deaths, and AIDS in 2002 (the most recent year for which data are available) were:
Motor vehicle accidents: 45,274
Guns: 30, 279
Thus, the number of deaths from secondhand smoke, even under the most liberal of estimates, does not exceed the number of deaths from car accidents, guns, and AIDS, and people are not statistically more likely to die from drifting tobacco smoke than from these 3 other causes.
Now one could make the argument that the anti-smoking group in question is claiming that secondhand smoke causes more deaths than any single one of these causes, taken alone. But unfortunately, that is not what they said, and it would have been eminently easy for them to have clarified the statement.
The important point to me is that they chose not to. The statement, as it is, implies to a substantial number of readers (if not most) that secondhand smoke causes more deaths than cars, guns, or AIDS combined. That is certainly how I interpreted the claim. And that claim is wrong.
I have no doubt that this misleading statement will be corrected immediately. You can check here to find out if I am correct about that.
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