Tuesday, June 12, 2001

State should rethink
passive smoke campaign

The issue: The state Department of Health
has begun an advertising campaign for
support of a ban on smoking in public places.

BARS and restaurants have been successful in persuading the City Council to allow smoking and nonsmoking areas instead of declaring a ban on smoking in their establishments. However, opponents of secondhand smoke have convinced the state to launch an expensive campaign to drum up support for such a ban. State campaigns aimed at persuading people to stop smoking reflect public policy and are worthwhile. Campaigns intended to affect legislation and thus change public policy are inappropriate and should be avoided.

In past years, proponents of smoking bans in public places have cited a 1993 Environmental Protection Agency report that secondhand smoke creates a significant risk to nonsmokers. The report determined that a nonsmoking woman who lives with a smoker is 1.19 times more likely to develop lung cancer than a woman living with a nonsmoker.

However, the EPA report has been debunked in court because it ignored standards by epidemiologists that an increased risk of less than 1.3 percent is weak. An American Cancer Society study concluding that lung cancer among women living with smokers was increased by 20 percent has been criticized on a similar basis; less than 30 percent is considered weak.

Proponents of a smoking ban in public places now cite a California study. They say the study indicates waiters and waitresses have a 50 percent to 90 percent increased risk of dying from lung cancer because of exposure to smoke in restaurants.

Results of that study may be useful to present to the City Council, but the state Department of Health may be less than confident that it will carry the day. Instead, the department has allotted $850,000 to a media campaign -- in partnership with Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, an advocacy organization -- aimed at the electorate. The campaign will include advertisements at malls, at Aloha Stadium, on the bus and on radio and television.

"Since the current law is consumer-driven, the focus is to educate the consumer," says Julian Lipsher, director of the Health Department's Tobacco Prevention and Education Program. He says the facts about passive smoke are known and it is "now up to public policy" to make changes.

Lipsher has it backwards. He does not seem to understand that public policy means governmental policy as embodied in law. What he hopes the campaign will do is alter people's opinions to bring about a change in the law and, ergo, public policy.

If the state neglects to point out conflicting conclusions of studies about passive smoke, its campaign will amount to propaganda, not education. Instead, it could educate people about the basis for public policy, not what it would prefer public policy to be.

Plywood business
needs close scrutiny

The issue: The state land board
has approved a license for a forest
product company that could help
the Big Island economy.

A plywood industry would bring some economic benefits to the Big Island, primarily much-needed jobs, but its potential effects require government officials to keep a close watch on each step of its development. Traffic hazards, taxpayer support of infrastructure and environmental damage should not result from the new industry.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources last week granted Tradewinds Forest Products a license to harvest non-native timber on about 9,000 acres in the Waiakea Timber Management Area about five miles south of Hilo. Timber also would be cut from acreage on the Hamakua Coast to the north. Tradewinds plans to build a mill at a yet-to-be determined site in Hamakua where the plywood would be produced.

Previous proposals for a pulp mill and wood chipping operation were rejected, largely because of the community's fear of environmental damages. Tradewinds plan would not involve any native forests; trees that would be harvested were planted decades ago in anticipation of potential forest-product development, according to the Hawaii Forest Industry Association.

Still, questions remain about the effects of the industry.

Although state officials say forest depletion would not increase flooding hazards, surveys were not conducted to mitigate that concern, a dubious decision in a region that receives as much as 200 inches of rain annually.

The Stainback Highway, which runs through the harvest area, is in poor condition and would need improvement before it can support the trucks that would haul the logs. Tradewinds has agreed to pay $1 per ton of timber for road maintenance, but the state would have to front money for the initial work, and it is uncertain if the fee would cover continued maintenance on Stainback.

Tradewinds says it anticipates only six truck trips a day on Highway 11, the main road through Hilo, but the area where Stainback intersects with Highway 11 already is congested and will become increasingly so because several other new projects are being developed in the vicinity. Further, Highway 11 outside of Hilo runs just two lanes up the Hamakua Coast.

Tradewinds is about two to three years away from beginning operations; it must first obtain financing and permits from the federal, state and county governments. Because this is the forest industry's first foray on the Big Island, government agencies should be painstaking in assessing its impact. If the industry can do business cleanly, it will be a tremendous economic boost. If not, it will be another disappointment for the struggling community.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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