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The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance's Letter To Ash On Smoking And Sids

The following is a letter sent to John Banzhaf of ASH from the SIDS Alliance in response to ASH's claim that secondhand smoke is "killing 2,000 babies each year" . The Alliance spokesperson Phipps Cohe voices strong opposition to ASH's use of misleading data and terminology.

FORCES feels that if the anti-smokers hold the tobacco companies and smokers' rights groups liable to the public to tell the truth, then anti-smoker groups and coalitions, such as ASH, are just as liable to the public to tell the truth under ALL circumstances!

Regardless of their feelings that the benefit outweighs the public's right to know the complete truth, scientific proof is lacking in many of their statements and "fact sheets".

 

The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance

13l4 Bedford Avenue
Suite 210
Baltimore, Maryland 21208
410-653-8226
800-221-7437
FAX 410-653-8709 

December 4,1996

John F. Bazhaf III, Esquire
Executive Director
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
20l3 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20006-4207 

Dear Mr. Bazhaf,

We, at the SIDS Alliance applaud your efforts to bring to the attention of the American public the hazards associated with smoking and smoke exposure; we must, however, object to your organization's use of misleading data and terminology when linking Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to your cause.

Statistically, passive smoke exposure is a recognized, significant factor for SIDS. To date, no direct causal relationship has been established. In fact, the vast majority of infants born to smoking parents do not die of SIDS. And, since many SIDS deaths occur in a smoke-free environment, we must refrain from making smoke exposure appear to be linked to all SIDS deaths.

The sensational heading for one of your recent Internet reports [07/30] "Smoking Parents Are Killing Their Infants" has gone too far. The fact is, researchers still do not know what causes SIDS. Avoiding known risk factors for SIDS may reduce its incidence for some babies, but offers no guarantee for every baby. Risk factors alone do not cause SIDS.

It is likely that SIDS may be caused by a subtle developmental delay, an anatomical defect, or a functional failure. The first year of life is fraught with periods of rapid growth and development, during which a baby's system may become unstable; during such periods any baby may be vulnerable.

It is also important to realize that SIDS can claim any baby, in spite of parents doing "everything right." Insensitive generalizations about SIDS broadcast through print or the electronic media serve only to perpetuate the public's misconceptions. The last thing we need to do to parents who suffer this tragedy is stigmatize or marginalize them. The simple truth is that many SIDS victims have no known risk factors; and, most babies with one or more risk factors will survive.

Your literature states that smoking "kills more than 2,000 infants each year from SIDS." Any published figures are sheer speculation, or guesses, not grounded in actual experimentation. The best we can do at this juncture is talk in terms of attributable risk--and there is no consensus on what that might be.

So where does current scientific understanding leave us" It leaves us with a stronger than previously thought link between passive smoke exposure and SIDS. It adds weight to the recommendation that parents refrain from smoking during pregnancy and the critical first year of life. But it also leaves us still searching for the mechanisms behind SIDS, and a means of early detection and prevention.

The SIDS Alliance is a national, not-for-profit voluntary health organization dedicated to the support of SIDS families, public education, and medical research. You may be interested to know that three of the six new scientific projects we are funding during this year's cycle of research are focused on the effects of nicotine exposure on the developing infant. Perhaps ASH has the resources available to help us transform speculation about the impact of smoke exposure on the developing infant into verifiable facts"

Based on the copy retrieved over the Internet and the direct mail appeal recently brought to our attention (see attached), we respectfully request that you adjust your message as far as SIDS is concerned. While we support your cause, we can not do so at the expense of the tens of thousands of families we represent.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. A copy of our latest information brochure is enclosed.

We welcome your reply.

 

Sincerely,

Phipps Y. Cohe
National Public Affairs Director


PO Box 591257
San Francisco, CA 94159
1-415-824-4716

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