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Tobacco Company Links Lung Cancer Risks To Mik

June 14, 1996

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ A new advertising campaign by tobacco giant Philip Morris is raising eyebrows in America’s Dairyland.

The company that sells Marlboro cigarettes and dozens of other brands says milk drinkers can run as much of a risk of getting lung cancer as people exposed to secondhand smoke.

The company is using print ads and the Internet in Europe to compare the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure to those posed by milk, diets high in saturated fat, cookies and chlorinated water.

State Agriculture Secretary Alan Tracy said the report ``does not make any intuitive sense.″

Milk producers and scholars in Wisconsin say they doubt the campaign will hurt milk sales.

``Milk in general has a fairly strong, wholesome image, and I think people still believe in that,″ said Jason Demeny, sales manager, Wisconsin Whey International.

``Honestly, one study like this is not going to have a very dramatic effect, especially if it’s found to have been somebody like Philip Morris who was behind it. Even after hearing something like this, it wouldn’t have as dramatic an effect.″

Likewise, UW dairy technology scholar Norman F. Olson said he believes ``the average consumer is going to see through this apparent weak linkage.″

Philip Morris representatives deny they’re trying to say that cookies, milk or water treated with chlorine are a health risk.

``It would be ludicrous to suggest that one biscuit or a glass of milk a day is a real risk and should be banned,″ said David I. Greenberg, vice president of corporate affairs for the company’s European Union operations.

``But opponents of smoking want to ban secondhand tobacco smoke, even though the evidence on relative risk is even weaker.″

``Relative risk″ is defined by the company as a statistical measure that expresses the findings of a study of disease in the human population.

A relative risk of 1.0 means no increased or decreased risk of disease associated with something. Between 1.0 and 2.0 is a ``weak association″ from which no conclusion can be drawn. 2.0 or above is said to be evidence of a possible increased risk of disease.

Under the Philip Morris examples in the ads, drinking 1-2 glasses of whole milk a day carries a relative lung cancer risk of 1.62. ``Eating pepper frequently″ has a mortality rate of 1.3.

The other examples include ``diet highest in saturated fat″ (lung cancer, 6.14); ``non-vegetarian vs. vegetarian diet″ (3.08); and eating one cookie a day (1.49). In the low-risk category were ``high vegetable diet″ (0.37) and ``high fruit diet″ (0.31).

``Many people acknowledge the benefits of water chlorination and whole milk,″ said state chronic disease epidemiologist Patrick Remington. ``Yet nobody would say there are benefits to breathing secondhand smoke.″

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