EMFguru #4-96, Tobacco/EMF

Hi everybody:

There has been a dearth of EMF news since the brief excitement that was created by the "radon daughters" research in the U.K. Nevertheless, something terribly interesting is stirring on the tobacco scene which may be giving us a glimpse of the future of the legal issues in EMF. First, let's be precise about what is now occurring in the tobacco industry.


  1. Finally, the U.S. government has begun to treat the tobacco industry's exploitation of public ignorance with some seriousness. The latest is that the Justice Department (Attorney General Reno, one of the few Clinton appointees that guru genuinely admires and respects) has greatly expanded its criminal and civil investigations of the tobacco industry's handling of the health consequences of their product.
  2. Grand jury proceedings are now in progress in five (yes, "five") different locations. These inquiries are looking into allegations of fraud and perjury by tobacco executives. The questions have to do with "how much" these executives knew and "when" they knew about the "hazards" of smoking. (Please note: The issue is NOT whether "cancer has been proved." Rather, the issue is all the various health hazards of tobacco!)
  3. Another issue is whether these tobacco executives "deceived" (with-held and/or dissembled information) about tobacco hazards from their stockholders and the public.
  4. Other grand jury inquiries are looking into the activities of "industry financed" research groups and whether they have fraudulently operated as public relations (there's that "P.R." word) shields for the industry. (This -- guru finds extremely interesting.)
These recent Justice Department actions culminate investigatory activity going back a number of years. And of course we all know that the Justice Department is the "Johnny come lately" activist in the "tobacco exploitation of the public" game -- following by a decade or more the work of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the Surgeon General's Office.


These latest Justice Department moves are precipitated in part by recent disclosures from industry "insiders" which reveal (in some cases through documents) the extent to which the industry has allegedly dissembled and with-held its true state of knowledge about possible adverse public health consequences.


All of the above sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?! -- "Dissembled and with-held knowledge" ... "Possible adverse public health consequences" ... "Industry financed research groups acting as 'P.R.' shields."

We think particularly noteworthy in these developments is the role that has been played by a number of the state governors and attorneys general in bringing civil action against the tobacco companies to reimburse some of the costs of treating tobacco related illnesses.


There are differences, of course. But there are surely condemning similarities as well.

In both cases, the responsibility of the industry to "inform" is a "given" in the law.

i.e., There is a well established principle which runs throughout American law (federal and state) that the provider of any product or service has a legal responsibility to inform the public -- or anyone else who might encounter the hazard, e.g., property owners or residents adjacent to power lines -- of the possible hazards to public health or safety that result from the product or service of the provider. (Guru wrote about that same legal principle before in EMFguru #6-95, when discussing the recent legislation in New Jersey.)


We think the most important "difference" between the EMF and tobacco scenarios is the question of "choice."

Those who become exposed to the hazards of tobacco largely are in that situation as a matter of their own choice. (We know of the "second hand smoke" case, but it is marginal in comparison to the direct exposure.)

Those who become exposed to the hazards of EMF, however, are not acting so much out of choice as they are out of unawareness ...

... or (as with property owners and tenants alongside power lines) out of the situation being forced upon them.

From time to time, someone says to guru, "How do you reconcile your attitude about the EMF hazards with the fact that electricity is a genuine essential of our economy and our society today?" It is "ubiquitous" as the EMF book authors are fond of writing.

Our answer is that: Of course electricity is an essential in our life today. More than that -- guru regards electricity as perhaps the greatest bargain and blessing that man's power of invention has bestowed upon us. We are NOT arguing for an end to our use of, or reliance upon, electricity. That is not going to change and guru does not advocate that.

BUT ... to stop the discussion there is to "cop out" on the many things that we can do (and we know how to do) to make electricity safer or to mitigate the EMF consequences.

Just as early man had to learn how to use fire safely, modern man must learn how to use electricity.

In part, it is because electricity is such a bargain (both cheap and efficient) that we can and should make the necessary adjustments in our cost structure.

Society has made such cost adjustments before -- in the added costs of safer mining practices, for example, in the case of coal. There are many such examples.

Yes, the cost dimensions of the electricity scenario are greater. But they are not so much so that they cannot be dealt with. And they are not as great as industry propaganda has led the public to believe.

It is the political "will" that is lacking.


One of the regrettable flaws of the much envied American laissez-faire capitalist system is that, if it is left to its own natural momentum, it tends to put "money" or "profit" values ahead of human values.

Guru believes that -- in the EMF case -- we can easily afford to put human values first in priority.

We have finally begun to do so in the case of tobacco. So also we will someday (perhaps sooner than later) do the same in the case of EMF.

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