Let's Be Reasonable
Newspaper, Magazine and Periodical Columnist's Opinions & News
When you're done with this collection
P. J. O'Rourke - Cato Inst.
we have is the belief that people should do what people want to do, unless
it causes harm to other people. And that had better be clear and provable
harm. No nonsense about second-hand smoke or hurtful, insensitive language,
There are just two rules of governance in a free society: Mind your own business. Keep your hands to yourself.
rather smoke than kiss
National Review - Florence King - 7/9/90
misanthrope is someone who hates people. Hatred of smokers is the most
popular form of closet misanthropy in America today. Smokists don't hate
the sin, they hate the sinner, and they don't care who knows it.
Their campaign never would have succeeded so well if the alleged dangers of smoking had remained a problem for smokers alone. We simply would have been allowed to invoke the Right to Die, always a favorite with democratic lovers of mankind, and that would have been that. To put a real damper on smoking and make it stick, the right of others not to die had to be invoked somehow, so "passive smoking" was invented.
The name was a stroke of genius. Just about everybody in America is passive. Passive Americans have been taking it on the chin for years, but the concept of passive smoking offered them a chance to hate in the land of compulsory love, a chance to dish it out for a change with no fear of being called a bigot. The right of self-defense, long since gone up in smoke, was back.
The Sound of Music will disappear in smoke
New Zealand Herald - Stephen Ross - December 29, 2004
don’t smoke, but I sat in a bar once with someone from Ash, and had I known
they were from Ash I’d have had a "serendipitous moment". I’d have lit
up. And if no cigarettes had been handy, I’d have smoked a chair leg.
Like most New Zealanders, I don’t like being told what to do by a bunch of people who have designated themselves "mother".
Well, the mothers at the Health Ministry have succeeded in outlawing smoking in bars - and pretty much anywhere else human beings gather to socialise.
I don’t smoke and I rarely frequent bars, so it will have little effect on me, but it still annoys me. What if I wanted to? And anyway, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in a bar?
What really annoys me is the Health Ministry’s latest proposal - to go after the movies. Flush with success from its victory in the bars, it now wants to place an age restriction on films that feature smoking. The head of Ash suggested 18 would be a good age.
Excuse me? But just how do you passive-smoke a reel of celluloid?
It’s bad enough that this month’s legislation makes it illegal for actors in live theatre to light up, even if the script depends upon it - live theatre is a work environment.
Actors on the stage can perform in the nude, they can drink and swear, simulate sex, rape and vomiting. They can unleash practically any manner of bodily carnage a script calls for, but if they light up a cigarette they’re going straight to hell.
I imagine the Health Ministry’s concern about movies is not the issue of passive smoking, but rather a desire to prevent the little ones from seeing people engage in the act of having a puff - so they don’t get the idea to try it themselves when they grow up. Brilliant: it’s not like people actually smoke in real life, now is it?
And there’s the rub. In real life people smoke, and that’s what films do - they reflect real life. Age-restricting films that feature smoking would be about as logical as banning films that feature actors with red hair.
And anyway, have the mothers from the ministry thought this through? All three of the Lord of the Rings films would suddenly be restricted to adults-only, as would nearly all the works of Steven Spielberg, not to mention a fair chunk of the Disney back catalogue.
Not even The Sound of Music would be safe. That archetype of wholesome entertainment would be relegated to the restricted section of your local video library. Julie Andrews would be sharing shelf space with the likes of The Happy Hooker and Debbie Does Dargaville.
It would come down to this: if you’re a kid, you can forget about watching virtually any film made between 1901 and 1990 that has adult human beings in it, because it’ll probably have at least one instance of someone lighting up.
And for those of us old enough to still get into the movies, will our ticket stubs then come with health department warnings?
I have a fondness for the movies of the 1940s and 50s, when cigarettes were de rigeur. I grew up on a regular diet of James Dean, Barbara Stanwyck and Humphrey Bogart, whose first words were most likely, "Got a light?" Does this mean I’m now more likely to succumb to cancer? Can I sue Phillip Morris?
And what about television? Will this be restricted, too? Smoking might not feature so prominently in American-made television anymore, but it’s still there by the ashtray load in British productions. And, kids, say goodbye to The Simpsons.
It’s a shame the anti-smoking brigade weren’t around a few years back. In days gone by people used to smoke in the audience as well as up on the screen.
That would have put a whole lot of something in their pipes to smoke.
The Government, fortunately, has pretty much nixed the Health Ministry’s new idea - for now. But you can guarantee it still smoulders in the darkest veins of the ministry mothers. And remember, people laughed at their proposal to ban smoking in bars.
It’s really bad enough you can’t smoke in a pub anymore. They’ll ban the alcohol next - that’ll be the next serendipitous moment, just you wait and see, and then it’ll be a bunch of folk sitting around playing Scrabble, with an official from the Government standing over them vetting the words.
of freedom lost in hazy cloud of secondhand smoke
Columbia Journal - Tony Messenger - December 1, 2004
is smoking night.
Actually, it’s bowling night, but judging by the reaction of my family when I return home each week, I might as well have been sucking down a pack of Marlboros rather than rolling a ball down a lane and trying to hang on to my pitiful 136 average.
Each Monday night, I proudly don my "Big Mess" bowling shirt, and several hours later I immediately take it off and try to protect it from a ceremonial burning as I walk into my house to shrieks of "Gross!"
There’s no doubt that I arrive home smelling like a giant smoldering cigarette even though I haven’t smoked one all night. In fact, except for a couple of college nights of foolishness and the occasional celebratory cigar, I’ve never smoked. Such is life in the bowling alley world, however. Many folks in the Monday night league are smokers. They have their section, back away from the bowling area, and those of us who don’t smoke play a weekly game of trying to get a table that keeps us from direct contact with wafting smoke. It’s impossible really, but we try anyway. Even on nights when we’re successfully free of the blowing smoke zone, we still come home reeking.
A group of Columbians is in the process of trying to change that. Along with like-minded folks all over the nation and the world, the group is trying to move Columbia into the realm of a smoke-free society. The movement is picking up steam in the United States, with places from Boulder, Colo., to New York City banning smoking in public places, even restaurants and bars, even bowling alleys. Like a fast-moving locomotive, support is building for a vote that will add Columbia to the list of healthy cities that make it possible to go out and have a night of bowling without coming home and smelling like an ashtray.
It sounds like a fair enough idea. Smoking is unhealthy. With the exception of a few stubborn teenagers who believe they’re invincible, every breathing human being in the United States knows that. Smoking kills. Secondhand smoke kills, too. Besides that, it smells. It’s dirty. You can’t walk into a smoky bowling alley or a bar without coming out smelling like somebody flicked ashes all over you for a couple of hours.
It’s why this issue is so important to Columbians. It’s time to take a stand.
That’s why - with apologies to my wife and children, and particularly to the abuse I heap upon my poor bowling shirt each week - I stand firmly for the only value that should matter when it comes to banning things in Columbia or anywhere else.
I stand for freedom.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t smoke. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like the smell. It doesn’t matter that I think the industry puts profits over health. It doesn’t matter that I hate the fact that my 21-year-old son smokes and that my grandfather’s life was cut short because of years of tobacco abuse.
It matters that our country, in the name of one group’s vision of a healthy society, has found it appropriate to ban legal substances and cause irreparable harm to businesses whose only sin has been following the law. My friend Ron Leone, another nonsmoker who believes in freedom, put it best in an opinion piece he wrote a few years ago: "Freedoms once lost are all but impossible to restore."
How perverted have the attempts by healthy special interests been to change our laws by banning legal activity? The latest health bandwagon has been the anti-obesity efforts, built on what many scientists have called flawed statistics that show America getting wider around the middle. Last week’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that its recently released obesity morbidity statistics were off by 80,000 or more is a case in point. Advocates pointed to the numbers as a sign that obesity is overtaking smoking as the leading cause of death, but the fact is it’s not true.
Meanwhile, we have local governments forcing changes in what our children are eating, affecting market economies because of special interest pressure.
It’s un-American, I say.
Smoking is still legal in this country. So is sucking down an extra-large Imo’s pizza. Healthy? No. But until pizza and cigarettes are illegal, then it’s not government’s place to affect their status in the marketplace.
Unless government commits to the same process that occurs when it takes a person’s land so it can build a new highway - reasonable compensation determined by the market - this movement to ban smoking in private businesses that make their living on folks who want to come in and have a beer and a cigarette is an unconstitutional taking.
How silly will Columbia look if it bans smoking months after passing an ordinance to make it easier to possess marijuana, an illegal drug? How inconsistent is it that some of the same folks who rail against the Patriot Act for taking away our freedoms want to do the same thing to merchants who happen to participate in a business that some folks simply don’t approve of?
On Mondays, I smell like smoke because I like to bowl. That’s my choice. Just like it was my grandfather’s choice to smoke cigars until it killed him. I still remember a birthday one year when my grandmother bought a cake for me. My party had to be moved back a day because of a snowstorm, so she stored the cake in her refrigerator. When she and my grandfather came over the next day, all of us bit into our first bites of birthday cake and stared at each other as we tried to determine the flavor.
It was Cohiba, I believe. After one day at my grandfather’s house, nothing escaped the stench of cigar smoke.
I ate the cake and asked for a second piece.
Smoke be damned, I thought. It’s my birthday, and I’m eating my cake.
Let the anti-smoking crusaders eat their cake, too, I say. But keep their unconstitutional laws off our books.
Otherwise, our freedom will go up in smoke.
our own business
The Cavalier Daily - Eric Wang - December 1, 2004
THE family fissures that sometimes erupt during holiday gatherings, the
"public health" community couldn't keep it together last week. Incensed
by a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that obesity was Public Enemy
Number One -- killing more than 400,000 Americans each year -- the anti-tobacco
lobby sprang into action. Smoking opponents just couldn't stand playing
second fiddle to their anti-obesity comrades. Although both are supposed
to be concerned about public health, one is just more concerned than the
other. Thus, the anti-tobacco lobby forced the CDC to slim down the obesity
statistics and restore smoking to its rightful place as the leading public
While the tobacco prohibitionists got to keep their "street cred" and public funding for pet programs on how to run other people's lives, the obesity police were left licking their wounds. Oh, can't we all just get along? Can't we all just stop worrying about other people and mind our own business? Can't the nattering nabobs of nosiness please just give it a rest?
Since the latter half of the last century, our society has been rolling back regulations into personal lives. From contraceptives to abortion to same-sex relationships, prudes and puritans have consistently lost to the enlightened elite. But the same liberal promoters of personal choice, who turned their noses at prying behind bedroom doors, began sticking their noses into some of the most common activities.
Today, in many cities in our alleged land of freedom, you can't even willingly walk into a bar where people smoke; smoking is not allowed -- anywhere. Bartenders, waiters and waitresses can't assume the risk of working in an environment where it's known that they will voluntarily expose themselves to second-hand smoke. Thank goodness the anti-obesity lobby is too busy fighting the anti-tobacco lobby over who's number one. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to walk into the bar and order a cheeseburger either.
The public health elite needs to put its ego on a diet and stop treating everyone as if they need protection from themselves. Originally understood as a centralized effort to prevent highly communicable diseases like smallpox and influenza, the public health movement has morphed into a lifestyle Taliban. Eating too much cholesterol or too many calories? Ten lashes of the whip for you.
The danger posed to individual autonomy by treating all of our activities as public health issues is not limited to smoking or eating too much. Because there is no principled public health distinction between these activities and drinking, having sex and other activities that college students like to engage in, there is no telling where the fickle public health fiends will strike next.
Many alarmists justify the current anti-obesity crusade by pointing to skyrocketing health insurance costs and the rising number of Americans classified as obese. But if there is any causation between these phenomena, that is solely because we make it so. In any other line of insurance, individuals must pay premiums that are adjusted for their particular risk factors. Thus, people who buy dangerous vehicles or live in flood plains must pay more for coverage, if they are able to buy any at all.
When it comes to health insurance, however, sedentary overeaters pass the costs of their lifestyle on to the most avid health nuts. Some would object to insurance premiums based on a body mass index or physical exam as unfairly punitive against those with inherited conditions. But in many obesity cases today, we are clearly confronting matters of lifestyle. Unless the human gene pool is somehow mutating to produce more fat people, personal behavior is the only explanation for the ever-greater percentage of the population that is obese.
Even if the obesity epidemic were a genetic problem, it would still not be unfair to charge a premium for this risk factor. After all, there are plenty of other immutable characteristics that force us to pay more, such as being male in the case of car insurance, or being old or predisposed to a disease in the case of life insurance.
Putting aside the problem of external costs, which is easily resolved if only we had the political will, there is no principled reason for treating obesity any differently than any other lifestyle choice. An individual's body weight is nobody's business but his own, and the public health busybodies should butt out.
smoking? It's all lies, damn lies and statistics
In the absence of proof, health campaigners use smoke and mirrors
Telegraph - Robert Matthews - November 21, 2004
can hardly say they didn't see it coming. The partial ban on smoking in
public places proposed in last week's White Paper has been on the cards
ever since 1997, when scientists claimed to have conclusive evidence that
smokers were killing innocent bystanders via "passive smoking".
Until then, the idea that non-smokers could also die from cigarette-induced lung cancer and heart disease had seemed like health-zealot paranoia. For decades scientists had tried to measure the risk in dozens of studies, but three-quarters of them came up empty.
Then, in October 1997, the British Medical Journal published two studies by researchers from St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, which pulled all these inconclusive studies together and put them through the statistical mangle.
Out dripped the result that many just knew was in there: evidence that passive smoking leads to a 26 per cent increased risk of lung cancer, with a similar increase for heart disease.
This was the turning point in the long-running debate over smoking and health. For years, anti-smoking campaigners had sought ways of getting the habit banned, but had been frustrated by the lack of proof that smokers were harming anyone but themselves.
Now they had what the scientists themselves hailed as "compelling confirmation" that passive smoking causes lung cancer and is an "important" cause of ischaemic heart disease, or stroke.
Ever since, it has been open season on smokers, who are now routinely accused of killing 1,000 people each year in the UK. Meanwhile, the scientific foundation of such claims has steadily vanished behind a veil of political correctness.
Even if the results are accepted at face value, the impressive-sounding risk figures for lung cancer and heart disease imply that passive smoking accounts annually for one extra death in every 10,000.
Yet those who attempt to question the reality - let alone the importance - of the threat from passive smoking are condemned as fools or lackeys of the smoking industry.
No one knows this better than Professor James Enstrom of the University of California. He was the principal investigator on a huge study of the health effects of living with smokers, which was begun by the American Cancer Society in 1959. Covering more than 100,000 people, it was expected to produce the definitive answers that had eluded smaller studies.
By the late 1990s, it became clear what that answer would be; unfortunately for Prof Enstrom, it was not the right answer. Funding for the study was suddenly cut off and he was compelled to accept funding from the only organisation apparently interested in the outcome: the tobacco industry.
Despite insisting that his results were in no way influenced by the industry, Prof Enstrom's study was rejected by several journals.
His paper finally appeared in 2003 in the British Medical Journal - and showed absolutely no evidence for a link between passive smoking and either heart disease or lung cancer.
Prof Enstrom was immediately attacked for failing to reach the right result. Critics seized on his acceptance of tobacco-industry funding, with even the American Cancer Society, which had set up the study, dismissing the study as nothing more than a propaganda exercise.
Such tactics have become a standard feature of the passive smoking debate. After reporting the failure of a World Health Organisation study to confirm the supposed risks from passive smoking, campaigners attempted to have this newspaper censured by the Press Complaints Commission; they failed.
Privately, some scientists and anti-smoking lobbyists concede that the evidence for the lethal effects of passive smoking is less than compelling.
Yet they insist that qualms over the scientific evidence should not get in the way of the ultimate goal: the elimination of an avoidable cause of more than 100,000 deaths in the UK each year.
It is a line of argument with potentially lethal consequences. For despite all the efforts of campaigners and governments, around one in five people on the planet are smokers. Passive smoking is thus ubiquitous, and its effects must be taken into account in any study into potential causes of cancer or heart disease. If the risks from passive smoking have been exaggerated, there is a real danger that the risks from other causes will be underestimated - with untold consequences for human health.
Smokers are the new lepers
Spiked Online - Jamie Douglass - November 18, 2004
smoking bans is frighteningly easy: public health, shouldn't be subjected,
passive death, poisoning yourself and others, hurts your children (that'll
hit 'em hard), dries out your skin (get the vain ones), guilt, guilt, guilt.
Add to this the fact that many smokers are self-flagellatory to a point
that would unnerve the most pious of Cistercian monks, and the argument
doesn't even need to take place. Which is good news, really, because it
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, stated that 'the time [had] come for a ban on smoking in public places', but noted that 'some people have yet to be persuaded', which - given that the public have yet to be consulted - augurs badly for an impartial, democratic discussion. The final nail in the coughing was the encouraging proclamation that this ban would help the '70 per cent of smokers who desperately want to give up'. Even if this figure is correct - and one wonders how the data was garnered without public consultation - that's an awful lot of very weak-willed people. Seventy per cent thinking it would be a good idea to give up is plausible - 70 per cent wanting to give up, but finding it a bit hard, is credible. But in desperation? With emotive and seemingly unjustified statements like these, it appears that the ban will go through nae matter how the populace feels.
But this may not just be an attempt to boldly follow the trail blazed by the Celtic Tiger. It does not require conspiracy-theorist paranoia to wonder if this is in fact a vanguard action to assess how a ban might work in England and Wales. Already smokers are the subjects of numerous attacks. Actually banning smoking would be rather counterproductive, given that the tobacco industry produces annual revenue of £9.5billion, but smoking is now verboten in almost all buildings, transport, many restaurants, and at most bars.
Furthermore, even where you can smoke you'd better not leave any evidence behind. Many cities have now started to issue on-the-spot fines of £50 for dropping a cigarette end in the street, and in London the number of wardens empowered to enforce this has trebled to 750. In fairness, London mayor Ken Livingstone is planning to distribute 15,000 'heat-resistant cigarette butt pouches' so that smokers can carry around their litter like a carcinogenic kangaroo, but this is in keeping with the tenor of that attack, which is being billed as an initiative to protect London from the alleged 2,700 tonnes of cigarette related litter produced each year. Since this cannot save money (the employment of 500 extra wardens will surely swallow any profits generated by not having to sweep up those tabs at the same time as you sweep the rest of the street), and won't make London look any cleaner (not while there's all that chewing gum on the pavement) it comes across as a thinly veiled attack on smokers.
Smokers are the new lepers. Practically the only place where a quiet cigarette can be enjoyed unmolested nowadays is around a corner and up against an outer wall, which puts me, for one, in mind of blindfolds and barked orders. Every packet of cigarettes you buy carries dire warnings of what they will do to you, and there has even been talk of putting photos of cancerous lungs under the cellophane as well, in case smokers can't read.
No discussion of the issue is complete without at least one person declaring that smoking is 'a disgusting habit'. It isn't. It may be a habit that some people find disgusting, but it's really only the enjoyment of the by-products of combusting fossil fuels, and if you find that 'disgusting' then you'd better have forsworn your car, which works on the same principle. Passive smoking is not nice, but in pollution terms it's peanuts - which, given the rising number of allergy sufferers, are probably more statistically dangerous anyway. Smokers are easy to bash because they're a minority, albeit one that pays an awful lot of tax.
When UK health secretary John Reid recently suggested that smoking was one of the few remaining pleasures left to some, he was shouted down by those on his own side concerned he might have strayed off-message, as well as anti-smoking campaigners desperately worried that he might have a point.
As a former 60-a-day man who has now given up - and is in charge of creating a viable national health strategy - one could be forgiven for assuming that Dr Reid was well-placed to make an even-handed judgement on the issue, unlike, say, the single-issue lobbyists of ASH. But he was defending the indefensible. Smoking is the one vice guaranteed to get everyone's thermals in a twist because it represents the last dying (emphysemic) gasp of the freedom to take the consequences for your own actions.
Smokers engage in an expensive activity that may well kill them in return for transitory pleasure. What with all the government awareness campaigns, it follows that they do so knowingly and willingly. The argument that they are physically craven addicts (no pun intended) does not wash, as nicotine leaves the body within half an hour - were this so, all smokers could use patches, and the problem would end. No, smokers do it because they enjoy it. And we all reap the benefits (it would, no doubt, be somewhat easier to swallow the New Labour cant if they renounced all tobacco revenue. How can they profit from such evil?). Philosophically, smoking represents the freedom to damage yourself if you wish to, unsupported by popular sanction, and unplanned by government strategy. No wonder they hate it so much.
Only time will tell if the Scottish Plan works out. The evidence from Ireland is that trade in pubs has not suffered from the ban, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the Irish didn't like smoking, more that they still like drinking. If there isn't a public outcry, rioting in Leith, and queues of quivering addicts down the Royal Mile crawling in search of an angry norepinephidrine fix, then we may well find ourselves saddled with a smoking ban this side of the border.
No doubt some people will be happier that the air around them no longer hangs thick with the pall of a thousand tabs, but I, for one, will watch with wrathful regret as one more freedom vanishes in a puff of...what?
nagging the smokers, will ya?
Bucks County Courier Times - J.D. Mullane - November 18, 2004
is the day we set aside each year to badger, harass and pester that marginalized
subculture of Americans, the Doorway People.
You know the Doorway People. They stand in doorways at work or at the mall smoking cigarettes because lighting up in mixed company has become as distasteful as nose-picking.
Yes, today marks the 27th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, where modern incarnates of pinch-mouthed prohibitionists attempt to further ghettoize smokers.
Now, it's not that I think smoking is good. I have friends who smoke. I wish they didn't. On average, they will trade 10 years of their lives to enjoy their habit. But we're all grownups. Smoking is their demon and I have enough of my own demons to wrestle with.
But, unlike anti-smoking zealots, I sympathize with smokers.
That's because I was a smoker. When I quit for good in 1996, I was burning through 2 1/2 packs a day. I ditched the habit because each time I coughed, my lungs rattled as if someone had backed into metal trash cans.
Still, I loved every puff. I still miss it. In fact, I still have nicotine cravings.
So I'm sympathetic to smokers and believe they should be free to enjoy their addiction, which, last I checked, remains legal. Which is why I dislike the anti-smoking scolds. They are trying to criminalize smoking.
From New York City to Dallas, from Toledo, Ohio, to Eugene, Ore., anti-smoking zealots have racked up successful campaigns to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, the last bastion of peace and acceptance for smokers.
Eventually, the anti-smoking "movement" will have won enough smoking bans in enough cities in enough states to introduce national no-smoking legislation, said Zoe Mitchell, co-founder of Ban the Ban, which recently defeated efforts to enact similar no-smoking legislation in Washington, D.C.
"Ultimately, their goal is to make it a national issue based on their success at the local level," she said.
Anti-smokers say they're acting in the best interest of public health.
They say all those smokers burden the healthcare system with their cigarette-related maladies. It costs all of us more in healthcare premiums, they say.
Nonsense. Smokers die sooner than most of us nonsmokers, never collecting a cent from Social Security, which they've paid for decades.
Also, smokers pay outrageous cigarette taxes on each pack of smokes, which pours billions of dollars annually into government coffers.
At best, the money argument is a wash.
When an anti-smoking nut steps into a place like the Puss N' Boots Tavern in Fairless Hills, all they see is the blue-gray cloud of smoke hovering over the patrons crowded around the bar.
When I walk into the Boot, I see it differently.
I see a local cop who's seen more than his fair share of tragedy.
Or an emergency room nurse who was up to her elbows in blood just a few hours before.
Or a construction guy who's sacrificed years of Saturdays to work overtime so he could save for his kid's college tuition.
Or a middle-aged father worried about his son, who's fighting the war.
These are the good people the anti-smoking zealots want to stigmatize as public health leeches.
And if they accomplish their goal, they won't go away.
They will persecute the overweight, stigmatize SUV drivers and haul into court those who don't recycle.
They've got the money and the time and the lawyers.
They're coming for you.
The Independent - November 16, 2004
never been more pressure on Britons to stub out their fags. But the anti-tobacco
lobby exaggerates how dangerous cigarettes really are, says Tim Luckhurst.
Smoking is under attack as never before. Today, the Government is expected to publish a white paper proposing restrictions on smoking in public places in England and Wales. Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive has agreed on a "comprehensive ban" on public smoking. Promoting the Scottish ban on the Today Programme, the country's deputy health minister, Rhona Brankin, declared "One in four of all deaths in Scotland is directly attributable to smoking." In a separate interview she said "one in four of all deaths (is) attributable to smoking. About 13,000 people die every year as a result of smoking." She was wise to omit the "directly" that sneaked onto Today.
The most recent statistics reveal that 57,382 people died in Scotland in 2001. If one in four of them died for the reasons Rhona Brankin offers that would give a smoking-related death toll of 14,345, not 13,000. So is the minister guilty of modest exaggeration in the service of a noble cause? The one- in-four statistic is more than that; it is an article of faith among anti-smoking campaigners, but it is not as straightforward as it sounds.
These are not just lung-cancer deaths. Brankin's toll includes every Scot who has died of "smoking-related complaints." To get into that category alleged victims of smoking do not need to have smoked. They are counted in on the basis that killers including heart disease, strokes and bronchitis can be caused by smoking. Nobody checks the lifestyles of the victims to ascertain that they did smoke.
Some of these dead Scots did smoke, but died at or beyond the average Scottish lifespans of 73 years for men and 78 years for women. The same applies to many of the 140,000 English men and women whom the leading anti-smoking charity, ASH, asserts die each year as a result of smoking. ASH justifies including them on the grounds that deaths from smoking can follow years of painful disability and are thus worth preventing, even if they have not technically shortened a life.
The issue here is not whether smoking kills, but whether it is legitimate to lie in the service of a good cause. Amanda Sandford, the head of research at ASH, offers an intriguing response. "Smoking is the biggest single cause of preventable death, and anti-smokers do not deliberately abuse statistics. But I don't really want to be drawn into that. It isn't black and white." Pushed to explain precisely what she means, Sandford says: "Epidemiology is not a direct science. Our business is promoting public health. It is possible that in certain cases some anti-smoking campaigners do exaggerate [she is adamant that ASH does not] but if statistics lied it would be bad. There needs to be a justification for it. To deliberately distort would not be acceptable. If there is an element of doubt we should express that. Scientists usually express their statements in terms of caution."
She acknowledges that figures like Rhona Brankin's 13,000 deaths and ASH's 140,000 are sometimes "rounded up" but insists that any inflation is slight and is ironed out by annual variations in death rates.
ASH has excellent motives. The problem is that the degree of exaggeration that has converted hostility to tobacco from a health cause to a neo-religious crusade does not look slight when it is exposed to careful analysis. It has created a very misleading impression about the real chance of a smoker dying from lung cancer.
Habitual, lifelong smokers face a 30- to 40-fold higher risk of contracting lung cancer than non-smokers. That sounds massive and many smokers are persuaded to quit because they believe it is. But, since the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers is minuscule it does not amount to an objectively high risk. Amanda Sandford admits "Smokers are more likely to die of heart disease than lung cancer." The pro-smoking campaigner Joe Jackson argues "Even if you're a heavy smoker, your chances of NOT getting lung cancer are still more than 99 per cent."
Jackson's claim is based on Professor Sir Richard Doll's research on smoking and lung cancer. It calculated that 166 smokers in every 100,000 died from lung cancer. Subsequent research has proved that conservative. One doctor says "If you smoke 30 a day for 50 years you probably face a one-in-10 chance of developing lung cancer. It is a horrible way to die."
For that reason, the demonisation of tobacco companies as merchants of death does not offend me. Above the desk in the office where I used to smoke 15 cigarettes a day, until health concerns persuaded me to give up, hangs a reminder of the lies told in defence of a vicious business. It is a Camel advertisement from about the time of Professor Doll's ground-breaking report. Beneath the question "How mild can a cigarette be?", it asserts that there has been "not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels" and supports this with the evidence of "noted throat specialists".
Cigarette manufacturers have murdered facts and perverted science to persuade consumers to continue smoking. When they first learnt that cigarettes killed, they responded by deliberately advertising preposterous claims about health benefits. Smokers of my father's generation were told that the habit eased digestion by increasing the flow of digestive juices and the alkalinity of the stomach.
But, as Scotland's devolved administration leads Britain towards a ban on the public indulgence of a dangerous but legal habit, it is worth recognising that the lies told by anti-smoking campaigners are substantial as well. Their intentions may be magnificent, but their tactics are not. If objective truth counts for anything then the title "merchants of sanctimony" is too generous. Anti-smokers have allowed their moral antipathy to smoking to distort their scientific advocacy. In private, many scientists and some doctors acknowledge this.
Dr Ken Denson, of the Thame Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research Foundation, says: "I simply do not know where they conjure up their statistics. The statistics for passive smoking, in particular, would not be published or even considered in any other scientific discipline. Deaths from smoking in general have been grossly exaggerated, particularly in relation to heart disease. " Dr Denson is a medical scientist. He has published peer-reviewed research in respected academic journals. He is not funded by tobacco companies.
Is he right? The method by which Rhona Brankin arrived at her "one in four" claim and from which ASH derives its 140,000 deaths categorises 16 diseases as "smoking-related". Many of them are also caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity and other poverty-related problems that are regrettably common in urban Scotland and similar post-industrial areas. If you use cigarettes and are poor, fat and reluctant to eat vegetables, you are substantially more likely to die young than a smoker who is affluent, active and well-fed. "One in four" includes people who would have died when they did without smoking a single cigarette. It also includes affluent smokers who pass away from heart attacks in their late eighties.
The evidence that passive smoking harms health, on which the Scottish and UK governments both base their arguments for statutory restrictions, is even more inflated. Dr Denson, whose work on passive smoking has been published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, says much of the evidence that passive smoking harms health "has been exaggerated, contrived, or at worst falsified". Even Amanda Sandford admits: "A lot of the studies that have been done on passive smoking produce results that are not statistically significant according to conventional analysis." But she still insists that passive smoking is a real health risk, made worse by the fact that it is involuntary.
There might appear to be no objective difference between overlooking conventional scientific method and deliberate distortion. But that is the problem with the modern debate about smoking. It is no longer conducted between good people who say that smoking kills and liars paid to deny it. Now it involves an industry that has, belatedly, been forced to admit that smoking kills and campaigners who are simply not satisfied with that. They want to convince the public that death is always the result and that every smoker and many non-smokers are at risk. They see no moral fault in lying to advance their case. Perhaps they are right and the end does justify the means. But I suspect their tactics may make the remaining minority of smokers still more determined to smoke. As one GP told me: "The danger of overstating a very real problem is that people always know anecdotal exceptions. They say, 'I ken Tam and he's smoked 40 a day since the battle of Narvik and never had a day ill in his life.' We might do better to admit that people like that exist, and even to speculate about why. That would lend authority when we point out the real risks."
The willingness of militant anti-smokers to corrupt a good case has turned the smoking debate from a laudable campaign to improve public health into a bitterly resented attack on the minority who choose to risk smoking. One medical researcher says: "Statistically the evidence for the evils of smoking has been grossly distorted. For many people the ideal of a complete end to smoking has become a sort of Holy Grail with a limited basis in fact. More of us would say this, but it is politically unacceptable to speak the truth about these things." He suggests that rabid anti-smokers should look at the prevailing rates of smoking among young people born after the relationship between smoking and cancer was admitted by the tobacco industry - and remind themselves what happened to the boy who cried wolf.
have ways of making you stop smoking
The parallels - and differences - between Nazi Germany's 'war on cancer' and New Labour's crusade against the evil weed.
Spiked Online - Dr Michael Fitzpatrick - November 15, 2004
is] 'one of the most deadly poisons'.
-Adolf Hitler, 1941
There are striking parallels between the Nazi 'war on cancer' and the New Labour crusade against smoking (1). In Nazi Germany, every individual had 'a duty to be healthy'; furthermore, to ensure that individuals fulfilled this duty, the government insisted on 'the primacy of the public good over individual liberties' (2). Tony Blair acknowledges that smokers - and non-smokers - have rights. More importantly, however, 'both have responsibilities - to themselves, to each other, to their families, and to the wider community' (3).
To ensure that smokers meet these responsibilities, the government is planning further bans and proscriptions on their activities. In Germany in the 1930s, the medical profession played a leading role in the state campaign to restrict smoking. In Britain today, doctors again provide medical legitimacy and moral authority for state regulation of individual behaviour.
There are of course also striking differences between the Nazi and New Labour anti-smoking campaigns. The anti-Semitic and eugenic themes of the 1930s are absent today; many of Germany's leading anti-tobacco activists were also war criminals (4). Another difference is in the consequences of an authoritarian public health policy for science. Whereas in Nazi Germany pioneering scientific research took place into the health effects of tobacco, we find today in Britain that epidemiology has been degraded in the service of political expediency.
There has been a marked reluctance among British medical authorities to acknowledge German achievements in research into the health effects of smoking. Yet according to Robert Proctor's authoritative account, The Nazi War on Cancer, up to the Second World War, 'German tobacco epidemiology was the most advanced in the world'. In 1929 Franz Lickint, a physician from Chemnitz, published the first statistical evidence - a 'case series' study - suggesting a link between cigarettes and lung cancer (5). He went on to become a leading campaigner against smoking in the Nazi era.
In 1939 Franz Muller at the University of Cologne published the first controlled epidemiological study - according to Proctor, 'an exquisite piece of scholarship' - establishing a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer (6). As late as 1943, Eberhard Schairer and Erich Schoniger, working at the Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research at Jena, produced a 'very subtle study', providing 'the most conclusive epidemiological evidence up to that time, anywhere in the world, that smoking posed a major lung cancer hazard' (7). It was more than a decade later that researchers in Britain and the USA confirmed the findings of the German scientists, claiming these discoveries as their own.
Sir Richard Doll is the leading figure in smoking epidemiology in Britain. He was a co-author of the 1954 study, which showed the link between smoking and lung cancer among British doctors, and also of the 50-year follow-up study of the same population, published earlier this year (8). The headline conclusion from these researches was that smoking leads, on average, to a 10-year reduction in life expectancy. In recent years, however, the focus of the anti-smoking campaign has shifted from the (firmly established) dangers of smoking to the smoker to emphasising the (more contentious) dangers of smoking to others, particularly to non-smokers. In the process, the science of epidemiology appears to have surrendered to the demands of public health propaganda.
In 1988, the Froggat Committee, an independent scientific committee on smoking and health, estimated that passive smoking caused an increased risk of lung cancer of between 10 and 30 per cent and recommended restrictions on smoking in workplaces and in public (9). The case against passive smoking gathered momentum through the 1990s. In 1997 meta-analyses confirmed increased risks of lung cancer (24 per cent) and coronary heart disease (23 per cent) (10, 11). A re-analysis of the same studies three years later acknowledged a 'modest degree of publication bias' (a result of the fact that studies which reveal no increased risk are less likely to be published) and adjusted the excess risk of lung cancer down from 24 per cent to 15 per cent (12).
Despite the growing medical (and political) consensus about the dangers of passive smoking, the issue has remained controversial. The Swedish toxicologist Robert Nilsson, while accepting the plausibility of the lung cancer link and the fact that numerous studies appear to show a statistically significant increase in risk, has questioned its epidemiological significance (13). He offered estimates of the annual incidence of cancer in a population of 100,000 resulting from various environmental factors: unknown (177), diet (135), smoking (68), other lifestyle factors (45), sunshine (23)...environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) (2). By contrast, in a population which consumes Japanese seafood (which contains Arsenic) this will cause 12 cases of cancer, where there are traces of natural Arsenic in drinking water, this will cause five cases; eating mushrooms will cause three cases. In other words, the risk of ETS is comparable with that of environmental agents that are generally regarded as an insignificant threat to health.
Perhaps the most fundamental defect of the presentation of the risk of passive smoking is the failure to distinguish between relative and absolute risk. In a critical commentary, the Australian medical research scientist Raymond Johnstone noted that the annual death rate from lung cancer among the non-smoking wives of non-smoking men is around six per 100,000, whereas among the non-smoking wives of smoking men the corresponding figure is eight per 100,000. Now this may be reported as an increased (relative) risk of 33 per cent. Yet in absolute terms it amounts to an absolute (or exposure) risk of one in 50,000, which is, for practical purposes, negligible.
Johnstone's conclusion was that 'the most that one can say about the alleged link between passive smoking and lung cancer is that if there is one, then it is so small that it is difficult to measure it accurately and the risk, if any, is well below the level of those to which we normally pay attention' (14). The alarming estimates of deaths attributable to passive smoking result from multiplying miniscule risks of dubious validity by vast population numbers - an effective propaganda device but statistical sharp practice.
The intense moral fervour and political commitment now driving the campaign against passive smoking has created a climate inimical to serious scientific inquiry. In 2003 the British Medical Journal published a study of 120,000 adults in California over a 40-year period, which concluded that 'the results do not support a causal association between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality, though they do not rule out a small effect' (15).
The authors, James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, were subjected to a barrage of personal attacks and unfounded insinuations of dishonesty. In response, they pointed out the selective reporting of the anti-smoking campaigners and their attempts to suppress divergent data (16). They noted that 'what is most dangerous is the willingness to distort the truth to defend one's position, claiming all along that science and righteousness are on one's side'. In an editorial published alongside the original paper, George Davey Smith, one of Britain's leading epidemiologists, tried to bring some reason into the debate, pointing out that 'the considerable problems with measurement imprecision, confounding, and the small predicted excess risks limit the degree to which conventional observational epidemiology can address the effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke' (17).
The fact that Davey Smith is well known for his hostility to the tobacco industry, and for his earlier writings exposing its apologetic use of science, did not save him, the authors or the BMJ from the wrath of the anti-smoking campaigners (18).
The drive to impose restrictions on smoking in workplaces and in public has not been in the least inhibited by expert doubts about the validity of the evidence on which it is based. Indeed, as medical historian Virginia Berridge has observed, 'the coalition advocating those restrictions pre-dated the evidence' (19). Yet, as she acknowledged, 'by the mid-1990s, there was widespread agreement that the epidemiological evidence on passive smoking was at least debatable'.
When Sir Richard Doll was asked in 1998 to compare the epidemiological evidence on passive smoking with his work in the 1950s, his response was 'it's utterly different' (20). Recalling that his study had shown a fifty-fold increase in risk for heavy smokers, he commented that 'for passive smoking the evidence is qualitatively different'. While indicating that he did believe that passive smoking was harmful, he conceded that 'the quantitative relationship is very weak', suggesting that his belief was more grounded in loyalty to the anti-smoking cause than his confidence in the figures. When he appeared on Desert Island Discs in February 2001, Doll told Sue Lawley that 'the effects of other people smoking in my presence are so small that it doesn't worry me'.
Recent headlines quoting British chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson's statement that 'we are in the grip of a smoking epidemic' mark a new low point in the abuse of science in the anti-smoking cause (21). Reports quoted Professor Donaldson's statement that 106,000 people were 'dying needlessly' in the UK every year. Some newspapers provided the further breakdown detailed in the Health Development Agency press release: 1,600 deaths a week, 230 a day, 10 every hour. This alarmist rhetoric disguises the fact that mortality from lung cancer has been declining in Britain since the 1960s; over the past decade it has fallen by more than 25 per cent among men (who account for 60 per cent of deaths).
Closer scrutiny of the report on which these accounts are based reveals that the figures presented are not of recorded deaths but 'are estimates and should be treated as such'. They are derived from a novel technique known as 'synthetical statistical estimation': they 'reflect expected values for the topics under investigation…and should not be regarded as absolute or exact'. The authors warn that their results 'must be used with caution' - a caveat that does not appear in any of the newspaper reports, or indeed in the HDA press release. Though such estimates may be of value for research or policy purposes, using them to scare the public cannot be considered legitimate.
If anti-smoking campaigners have been slow to recognise the German contribution to tobacco epidemiology, they have been even more reluctant to acknowledge the parallels between their public health policies and those pursued by the Nazis. Yet the similarities are remarkable. According to Proctor, the government in Germany in the 1930s 'launched an ambitious anti-smoking campaign, involving extensive public health education, bans on certain forms of advertising, and restrictions on smoking in many public spaces' (22).
Women and youth were a particular focus of anti-smoking propaganda and restrictions on sales. Furthermore, 'activists called for bans on smoking while driving, for an end to smoking in the workplace, and for the establishment of tobacco counselling centres' (23). Enterprising firms marketed a range of anti-smoking preparations, from mouthwashes to intravenous infusions. Therapists offered hypnotism and a range of counselling techniques to encourage people to quit smoking.
A number of themes recur in the anti-smoking campaigns. In Germany, campaigners asserted that smoking caused infertility among women and impotence among men, dubious claims echoed in the recent British Medical Association report on 'the impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health' (24). Anti-tobacco activists have consistently emphasised the particular vulnerability of women, both to the physical effects of smoking and to the seductive power of cigarette advertising. National socialist propagandists railed against 'tobacco capitalism' and stigmatised tobacco as an 'enemy of the people'; they condemned 'smoking slavery' and even 'tobacco terror' - slogans with an alarmingly contemporary ring.
Scaremongering about smoking as an 'epidemic', even a 'plague', was as familiar in Germany in the 1930s as it is in Britain today. At the founding conference of the Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research in 1941, Professor Otto Graf warned of the dangers of 'passive smoking' and called for a workplace ban.
There are also differences in the anti-smoking campaigns. The Nazi emphasis on smoking as a threat to racial purity and national efficiency is absent in modern Britain. Similar themes today assume a more individualistic form: smoking is depicted a threat to the body, now replacing the nation as a 'fortress of purity, cleanliness and muscular macho health fanaticism' (25).
However, the recent advertising campaign featuring cigarettes oozing a viscous paste over a convivial group of young smokers identifies smoking as a source of social, as well as individual, pollution and contamination. The Nazis were more concerned about the economic burden of smoking-related ill-health and the resulting loss of skilled and professional manpower. In Britain, the anti-smoking campaign has recently focused particularly on the differential impact of smoking on poorer communities, a particular theme of the 'smoking epidemic' report, which implies that cigarettes are the main cause of class differentials in health in Britain. Whereas the Nazis associated cigarettes with communism, for New Labour it seems that the prohibition of smoking now points the way forward on the British road to socialism (though this goal is not apparent in other areas of government policy).
In this era of evidence-based policy, we can look back on the German public health experiment in relation to smoking and ask - did it work? Needless to say, this is not an easy question to answer. According to Proctor, the Nazi campaign did not succeed in reducing overall tobacco consumption until the later stages of the war (when production and supply were disrupted). After the war, poverty and rationing may have curtailed smoking. He believes that whereas Nazi militarism led to an increase in smoking among men in the armed forces, Nazi paternalism was effective in discouraging women from smoking. Whatever the reason, women in Germany took up smoking at a much slower pace than women in the USA. Proctor calculates that this delay may have contributed to a reduced rate of lung cancer among women, possibly preventing 20,000 deaths over the postwar decades.
The experience of anti-smoking measures in Britain over recent decades is also inconclusive. Contrary to the impression created by the doom-mongers, there has been a dramatic decline in smoking since the dangers first became widely publicised in the 1960s. Interestingly, the sharpest fall took place in the 1970s and 80s, before the current wave of anti-smoking measures. The intensive anti-smoking policies introduced in the 1990s, with further restrictions on advertising, workplace bans and the promotion of a panoply of 'smoking cessation' therapies, appear to have had relatively little effect.
There is some evidence that among young people, these measures may have been counterproductive - a danger recognised by the Nazi public health authorities who recognised that 'forbidden fruit is tempting'. However, the ineffectiveness of more coercive measures in Britain has not led to any questioning of the policy, but simply to calls for more of the same.
For the anti-smoking zealots, the loss of civil liberties resulting from their widening range of bans and proscriptions is justified by the anticipated health gain. Yet, as the great microbiologist Rene Dubos observed, health should not be considered an end in itself, but as 'the condition best suited to reach goals that each individual formulates for himself' (26). By curtailing the autonomy of the self-determining individual, authoritarian public health policies infantilise society, weaken democracy and diminish humanity.
(See article at http://www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CA7A4.htm for footnote citations)
got to stub out that irritating fact
Times Online - Mick Hume - October 16, 2004
AM an ex-heavyweight champion smoker. From my teens to my thirtieth birthday,
I happily got through 20 to 40 Player’s No 6 (the schoolboy’s choice) a
day. It may not have been a coincidence that, shortly after I gave up,
they stopped making that brand of little coffin nails altogether. As a
“recovering” smoker, it is often assumed that I must hate anybody else
indulging the dirty-but-delicious habit. True, other people’s smoke gets
in my eyes. But not as much as the self-righteous “ban public smoking”
crowd get up my nose.
Come round the back of the bike sheds, I want to tell you something that some in high places don’t want you to hear. Did you know that there is another Weapon of Mass Destruction that we have been warned about for years, but which does not really exist? This illusory WMD goes by the name of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) — passive smoking to you.
Yes, of course it is true that smoking tobacco can cause cancer and terrible illnesses. But the scientific case against passive smoking is far cloudier. Just about the only thing we know for certain is that inhaling other people’s second-hand smoke can cause some irritation and the odd argument.
If you are wondering why the well-founded doubts about passive smoking are rarely aired, look at the extraordinary episode reported in The Times this week. The Royal Institution in London, a famous centre for scientific research and debate, has hired out its rooms to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, for a one-day event entitled “The Science of Environmental Tobacco Smoke”. As a result, the Royal Institution finds itself under heavy fire from anti-smoking crusaders and senior medics for whom any debate about the effects of passive smoking must be stubbed out before it starts. Professor John Britton, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians’ tobacco advisory group, warned the Royal Institution that the tobacco manufacturers “want to create the impression that Britain’s top scientists are debating these issues, and there is no such debate”.
Not content with demanding a ban on smoking in public, it seems that the anti-ETS lobby wants a ban on talking about smoking in public too. Stub that fact out and extinguish that opinion immediately, my lad! This affair is a symptom of the spreading epidemic of tobacco intolerance — not a medical condition, but a new moral orthodoxy. It may soon be easier to smoke a joint than a cigarette on the street.
I detest any attempt to prostitute science for political or moralistic ends. Campaigners emphasise how Big Tobacco tried to bury the evidence that smoking causes cancer. Yet the Big Prohibition supporters can be accused of being cavalier with the facts today. They broadcast claims that passive smoking causes ill-health, while ignoring reports that suggest otherwise. In a recent letter to The Times, one over-excited professor of public health declared that research proves “ second-hand smoke is more dangerous than directly inhaled smoke”. Perhaps the healthy option is to leave that fuggy pub, and go smoke a few fags in the fresh air.
Far more than wanting smokers to stub their fags out, I want the illiberal liberals now running health policy to butt out of people’s personal habits. This week, an unapologetic Tony Blair made clear that he will use the dodgy intelligence on ETS to launch a war against smoking in public. However, Mr Blair is still too soft on smokers for some tastes; one leading medical journal wants him to ban tobacco altogether. There is no “right to smoke”; but that is no reason to tolerate smokers being burnt at the stake for infringing the new conformism.
Worst of all, I cannot stand the way that passive smoking has been turned into a metaphor for that mantra of modern miserabilism: “Other people are ruining my life!” This was the spirit of morbid self-pity that Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, tried to tap into, arguing that restrictions on public smoking would ensure that “nobody will be bullied into a lifestyle they do not wish to join.” If lighting up in a bar means bullying (grooming?) others into adopting a hostile lifestyle, who could object to banning such abuse?
The unhealthy assumption behind all this is that smokers are helpless addicts in need of drugs and psychotherapy to save them from themselves, while the rest of us are hapless victims in need of state protection from other people’s putrid lifestyles. Never mind about passive smoking, how about launching a war against the cancer of passive living?
NY Post - Robert A. Levy - October 12, 2004
Robert A. Levy is a Cato Institute senior fellow. His book "Shakedown: How Corporations, Government and Trial Lawyers Abuse the Judicial Process" is out next month.
love to criticize judicial shakedowns — using the court system to redistribute
income from unpopular industries to "more deserving" plaintiffs. So why
has a Republican-run Justice Department embraced the mother of all baseless
lawsuits — the crusade against tobacco?
If ever there were an appalling example of government's addiction to litigation (and a waste of $136 million in taxpayer money as the trial began), this lawsuit is it.
Basically, the executive branch is trying to bypass Congress and legislate via the courts — a tactic the Bush administration denounces whenever it's used by the reviled trial lawyers.
Justice accuses cigarette manufacturers of making false statements, manipulating nicotine content, marketing tobacco products to kids and misleading customers about less hazardous cigarettes. For those misdeeds, Justice wants $280 billion, to be disgorged under the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
But government investigators already rejected these charges: In a five-year, multimillion-dollar inquiry by two dozen prosecutors and FBI agents, the Justice Department came up dry. Prosecutors probed allegations that tobacco executives perjured themselves when testifying before Congress and plowed through documents for evidence that cigarette makers manipulated nicotine levels. Whistle-blowers and company scientists testified before grand juries. The outcome: not a single indictment of a tobacco executive. Still, the civil trial moves forward.
If the Court of Appeals rejects the government's demand for disgorgement of "ill-gotten" gains, as it should, the case will likely be settled: The only dispute remaining would be over Justice's insistence on industry behavior-modifications, none of which goes much beyond what the tobacco companies already agreed to in their 1998 settlement with 46 states.
But if $280 billion remains on the table, don't count on a settlement.
This case is not like the state Medicaid recoupment suits, when the cigarette giants rolled over for $246 billion. The industry covered that price tag with some sleight-of-hand that the public hasn't fully digested. Essentially, the major companies, state attorneys general and soon-to-be-billionaire tobacco lawyers colluded to "cartelize" the industry — requiring tobacco companies that didn't agree to the settlement to post damages in escrow. That sufficed to prevent those companies from cutting prices to capture market share. That way, the four large cigarette makers could raise their prices with impunity, foisting the entire cost of the settlement onto their customers.
Not even the politicians are willing to burn smokers with yet another quarter-trillion-dollar cost. Thus the cigarette giants, who'd have to raise prices significantly to cough up $280 billion, won't be protected against price-cutting rivals. So the major companies must 1) resist the Justice Department suit with all of the weapons in their considerable legal arsenals, or 2) be forced into bankruptcy, or 3) reduce their payments to the states.
The 1998 settlement provides for cuts in those payments if cigarette sales fall markedly. But the states won't sit still for that: How would they fund their favorite "tobacco-cessation" programs like improved sidewalks, cuts in college tuition and flood control?
Assume the cigarette companies did exactly what the Justice Department claims. Who were the victims? Smokers? If so, let them sue for damages: Several have done so — somesuccessfully — in private lawsuits. The Medicare system, which paid for smoking-related injuries? Sorry, a federal judge has already dismissed that claim.
Instead of helping smokers or Medicare, the federal lawsuit is designed to punish an industry for quasi-criminal infractions for which federal investigators could not produce sufficient proof. This suit is a second bite at the apple, a blatant and shameful attempt to extort money from a tobacco treasure-trove perceived as bottomless.
Plain and simple, the Justice Department is engaged in double dipping — a failed criminal investigation has given way to a new civil suit by that same government for the same charges originally found wanting.
Tech Central Station - Sandy Szwarc - September 30, 2004
are about to learn of a beverage so dangerous, that we must ban or restrict
its sales, or at least enact tax penalties on it to deter consumption.
Here's what the research shows:
• Every American who drinks it dies.
• It's been linked to obesity: in fact, bigger people drink the most of it.
• It's associated with type 2 diabetes and all diabetics drink it in especially large amounts.
• All heart attack victims drink it and it's a known factor in heart failure.
There are been hundreds of studies finding these correlations -- correlations so strong they make the evidence irrefutable. This is bad stuff.
Everything you've just read is true. What is _it ?
Of course, you could have filled in the blank with anything that today is frequently blamed for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or premature death: sodas, high fructose corn syrup, dietary fat, carbs, high cholesterol, prediabetes, fast food, snacking, trans fats, watching television and all sorts of things others want to fix in us. And they're all just as spurious as water.
This illustration demonstrates just how easy it is to think that correlations (links between things) mean anything at all. Just because certain lifestyle or dietary habits, laboratory values or numbers on the scale, rise or fall in synch or appear together, doesn't mean they have anything to do with each other. Yet, we hear assertions made every day by mainstream scientists and medical professionals, reputable healthcare organizations, public policy makers and, most of all, media in which correlations are used as proof of a cause. These are taken as facts, not because of any sound evidence, but because they seem intuitively correct and match what "everybody knows."
But correlations taken as cause become even more nonsensical ... and dangerous ... when the link is turned backwards to say:
"Therefore, restricting or eliminating water ("it") will prevent or cure obesity, heart disease or type 2 diabetes."
Please don't try that at home. It's clearly a preposterous and groundless cure.
We should all be concerned by how correlations found in "studies" or even simply incorrectly assumed, are being used to support healthcare guidelines and public regulations, with absolutely no proof that such solutions work. Even worse, they completely disregard the harm that can result. For instance, people at risk for type 2 diabetes, believing sodas and sweets are the cause, might change their diets but fail to do the very thing that averts, minimizes and even reverses the condition: physical activity. This mistake could cost them their lives, vision or limbs. People might restrict their calories, fats or carbs (dieting) in futile attempts at weight loss, but fail to do the one thing that would avert, minimize and even reverse supposed "obesity-related" health concerns: physical activity. This could significantly increase their risks for premature death, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancers.
To protect yourself from making unsound health choices for you or your children, or putting your support behind costly public health solutions, learn to identify "data dredge" studies -- where correlations frequently come from -- and to differentiate them from evidence you can trust to mean something. Data dredges, are among the weakest types of epidemiological studies upon which we can base any meaningful conclusions about our own health.
Data Dredge of the Week
Last week, a study led by Barry Popkin, PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was released which claimed soda consumption had increased 135% since 1977 and since rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity were rising, too, that was evidence that "consuming these [drinks] increase weight gain in children and adults."
Based on that correlation alone, they then leapt in reverse to conclude, "reduced soft drink and fruit drink intake ... would seem to be one of the simpler ways to reduce obesity in the United States."
Did you catch the fallacies in this example? Just because consumption of a certain food goes up or down among an entire population does not demonstrate that only fat people are eating that food or that that food is the cause of obesity or type 2 diabetes. Such correlation-generated claims rely on the belief that fat people eat differently. But consumption of sodas and sweets, for instance, have been shown to actually be as high or higher among thinner, more active people. Such claims also rely on the belief that sugary foods and beverages cause obesity and type 2 diabetes. But sugar has been studied probably more than any other food ingredient in history and it's been repeatedly found to not cause obesity, type 2 diabetes or any chronic disease. In fact, a surprising number of studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between dietary sugars and obesity.
Popkin cited a study led by David Ludwig of Boston Children's Hospital in 2001 to support sweet beverages' role in obesity, which Popkin said "showed the effect of increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on increased energy intake and obesity among U.S. teens." But Ludwig's study actually found no difference in the BMIs of children consuming the most and least amounts of sugar and the researchers noted "there is no clear evidence that consumption of sugar per se affects food intake in a unique manner or causes obesity."
The Popkin study was a "meta-analyses," lumping together five different dietary surveys (telephone surveys to questionnaires) gathered over the decades from a total of 73,345 random individuals. These one- and two-day population dietary surveys were all done using different methods and also underwent significant redesigns over the years to probe for more complete information and lessen under-reporting, meaning the earlier surveys would be more likely to under-estimate how much people actually ate and using them would accentuate perceived increases. Like all meta-analyses, when researchers combine data from several different sources trying to create something bigger and more convincing, their results are actually more untenable. I call them Rorschach2 studies. That might explain why sounder studies, such as those at the University of Michigan led by Youngme Park which closely following the diets for weeks at a time for years of a total of 12,000 children, have found no increase in soda consumption and no evidence that sodas were reducing milk consumption.
Of the thousands of foods and beverages people consume, this study chose sodas. But in typical data dredge fashion, Popkin could have mined that databank and pulled out anything...and has. For example, in a previous study he found grains, legumes and low-fat milk intake up among adults since 1965, along with significant decreases in calories and percentages of dietary fat. Yet he didn't tie these overall "healthful" eating trends to rising rates of obesity or type 2 diabetes. Why, that wouldn't have made sense.
lights up elitist force
The Australian - September 23, 2004
who has read Alan Bullock's esteemed history, Parallel Lives - meticulous
portraits of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin - would be aware how the extreme
political Left can so easily enmesh with the extreme Right. The political
spectrum isn't linear, it's circular. The aims and philosophies of Hitler
and Stalin met so often that Left and Right became meaningless, mocking,
Those listening a week or so back to Sandy McCutcheon's Australia Talks Back (Radio National, 6pm) program about tobacco smoking might have mused on how easily this political convergence can occur. You could hear callers you sensed would almost certainly regard themselves as "progressive" to the Left of Centre becoming increasingly authoritarian and inflexible. Smoking is Totally Undesirable and that's all there is to it. The faintest deviation from this dictum Is Wrong. It was one of those very few occasions when the courteous, pleasant, usually fair McCutcheon seemed to take sides. You had this intimation the sighting of a single strand of stray tobacco would be enough to melt RN's transmission cable.
The bossy, semi-bullying, know-all tone pervading some callers and studio experts may well have deterred many smokers from bothering to contribute. The self-righteous, the moral high-groundists, the self-appointed guardians of community behaviour, certainly hadn't ignored a forum from which to prove Left can become Right at the flick of a wireless switch.
In truth, the media at large has become a helpless captive of the anti-smoking lobby. Newspaper anti-tobacco stories would probably outnumber individual choice stories by about 500 to one. It's an overwhelmingly one-sided debate. Anti-smoking idealists are effectively organised via a host of official bodies providing natural platforms from which to sell a receptive media their largely unchallenged pronouncements. Pro-choice individualists are not organised. Their only outlet is often the letters-to-the-editor page.
So it is that the anti-smoking lobby wins the battle for media exposure. It's virtually unopposed. Politicians -- the Premier of NSW, Bob Carr, being the latest -- blithely pronounce a pub smoking ban is "inevitable" and no one demurs. No one from the other side is even half-organised enough to author a media release pointing out the vast majority of the world doesn't find it in the least inevitable. Pubs, particularly small country pubs in isolated regions, are natural meeting places where generation after generation have congregated for a talk, a beer and a smoke.
It's a fair bet a smoking ban would send many such pubs out of business. To say - as Carr's Queensland counterpart, Peter Beattie, informed McCutcheon - that Queensland's ban will result in greater patronage of pubs is, of course, patent nonsense. Ask the operators of non-smoking casinos and thousands of restaurateurs. It's further proof, following on from the republic referendum campaign, that an "elite" - media, politicians and a handful of fevered zealots - are frequently out of step with a significant proportion of the community.
Ironically, the scribe once found himself out of step on this issue. In war-threatened Zagreb, several years ago, he was summoned to a meeting with various dignitaries. Conditioned by anti-smoking hyperbole in Australia and deciding to get the tobacco issue out of the way from the beginning, the scribe asked timidly if he might smoke. After a short silence, everyone burst out laughing and began waving cigarette packets above their heads. Eventually a Croat-Australian across the table said: "Mate, you'll find people here have a bloody sight more to worry about than that." Other travels over the years indicate restaurants and pubs in a vast variety of countries jog seamlessly along simply by designating smoking and non-smoking areas. The scribe once lived for several months in a smoking/non-smoking hotel while working for this journal in London. There were no huddles of smokers outside on the pavement, notobacco-related theatrics, at least none the scribe ever witnessed. In media terms, it was a hotel in which smoking was a non-story.
The scribe is aware he doesn't stand the slightest chance of influencing this lop-sided, one-eyed discussion. Nor will he prevent whatever the latest raft of anti-smoking legislation may be. The media has already connived - albeit, perhaps, in an unwitting, de facto, tacit kind of fashion - in a debate largely involving an unelected elite from which a foregone conclusion was always going to emanate. The debate is so exclusive there's small purpose even in pointing out humankind has always used recreational drugs which, if overused, harm the user and others. Alcohol is an obvious modern example. Nor is there any point in suggesting those who are prevented from using tobacco will very probably start using Something Else and that whatever it is could well be more harmful than the occasional cigarette or cigar. The debate is so grotesquely skewed there's no dividend in pointing out that idling motor vehicles pour out more poison in a few seconds than any number of cigarettes. So one-sided and over-blown is it that there's no purpose to hauling out a host of ancillary argument which dents and contextualises much anti-smoking hysteria.
The scribe, as some would be aware from previous missives, is a smoker. But even if he wasn't the bigoted, media-encouraged tone of many of those from the other side might ensure he took it up.
The moral high ground is one thing. Fussy, nosy, prissy, bossy Nanny Stateism is something completely different.
the Tobacco companies fool anyone or everyone?
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - September 17, 2004
Tobacco used to promote its Carlton brand with the soft-sell slogan, "If
you smoke, please try Carlton." Philip Morris has taken this approach a
step further: If you smoke, please stop.
"Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers," the cigarette manufacturer's Web site warns. "If you're a smoker and you're concerned about the health effects of smoking, you should quit."
Although "cigarette smoking is addictive" and "it can be very difficult to quit," Philip Morris adds, "this shouldn't stop you from trying to do so." It provides links to several sites that offer advice to would-be ex-smokers.
This is the new face of Philip Morris. The company hopes it will help fend off a potentially ruinous federal lawsuit that portrays the leading cigarette manufacturers as participants in a five-decade conspiracy to defraud the public. As the trial, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, gets under way, the tobacco companies want everyone to know that 1) they didn't really do anything wrong and 2) they've changed their ways.
If that seems contradictory to you, you should have a look at the Justice Department's case. The government argues that the tobacco companies conspired to refrain from marketing reduced-risk cigarettes because they were loath to admit there was any risk to be reduced. At the same time, it faults them for selling lower-yield cigarettes as safer alternatives to full-strength brands.
It's true that lower-yield cigarettes did not deliver the substantial health benefits that were originally expected. The main problem is that people do not smoke cigarettes in the same way as the machines that are used to measure "tar" and nicotine delivery.
If you reduce nicotine along with the "tar," which is what the cigarette manufacturers generally did, smokers tend to compensate by taking more puffs, inhaling more deeply, holding the smoke longer, and subconsciously covering ventilation holes. The upshot is that they may not be significantly reducing their exposure to the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke.
A logical response to this problem is to maintain nicotine levels while reducing "tar" delivery. But this requires "nicotine manipulation," which the government portrays as a sinister plot to keep smokers hooked, part of the "pattern of racketeering activity" for which it is suing Philip Morris et al. under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Another problem with attacking the tobacco companies for conspiring to falsely reassure smokers by introducing lower-yield cigarettes is that the government was part of this conspiracy. It approved the testing method and required the inclusion of "tar" and nicotine ratings in cigarette ads.
Although doubts about the reliability of the ratings were publicly expressed early on, it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, and the initial epidemiological evidence was promising. Only relatively recently have public health officials started emphasizing that "there is no conclusive evidence of reduced risk from 'low-tar' cigarettes," as the National Cancer Institute put it in 2001.
By contrast, the health risks of smoking have long been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, something the tobacco companies acknowledged so belatedly that their intransigence became a joke. The question is whether we should now consider it an outrage.
At the heart of the government's lawsuit is the claim that 33 million Americans were tricked into smoking because they didn't understand the health risks, even though these have been a matter of common knowledge for decades, and/or didn't realize it might be difficult to quit, even though people have been remarking on the difficulty of breaking the tobacco habit for centuries. Because all these smokers were defrauded, the government demands the "disgorgement" of $280 billion in "ill-gotten gains."
Indeed, the Justice Department says this enormous sum -- the proceeds, with interest, from cigarette sales to "youth-addicted" smokers from 1971 to 2001 -- is a conservative estimate. "All of Defendants' sales to all consumers from 1954 to 2001 were inextricably intertwined with this massive scheme to defraud the public," it says, so "the United States would be justified in seeking disgorgement of the proceeds from all sales to people of all ages from 1954 into the future."
The implication is that no one knew smoking was dangerous until the tobacco companies admitted it. Not only that, but given the industry's history of dishonesty, continuing to sell cigarettes amounts to "racketeering." In this light, Philip Morris's strategy of urging the public not to buy its products makes even more sense.
a Risk Factor Frenzy
Tech Central Station - Jon Robison, PhD, MS - August 25, 2004
article in the August 25th issue of the Journal of The American Medical
Association, "Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of
Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women," adds yet another chapter
to the feeding frenzy that drives our nation's love affair with epidemiological
This article is a textbook case
study in the misuse of epidemiological research for the development of
health recommendations for the public.
The article is strewn with misleading and sometimes inaccurate statements and enough statistical hocus pocus to make all but the most adept junk-science sleuth dizzy. Perhaps the most glaring problem with this article, however, is the blatant blurring of the distinction between correlation (or association) and causation. A correlation describes the strength of a relationship between two factors. It turns out, for instance, that there is a correlation between baldness in men and heart disease. This simply means that there is some relationship between baldness and heart disease. If we observe a large group of men over a period of years, those who are bald are statistically more likely to have a heart attack than are those with a full head of hair. We say that the correlation or association between these two variables is positive, and that baldness is a risk factor for heart disease in men. 1
Despite the evidence that bald men have an increased risk of heart disease, however, certainly no one would claim that giving a bald man a toupee would decrease his risk! This is because baldness does not have any influence on heart health, but is simply a factor that happens to be found more often in men with heart disease. Therefore, when we say that any two factors such as baldness and heart disease are positively correlated, we are saying nothing about whether one causes or even affects the other.
Here's how the same problem occurs, as it does in this article, with nutrition research. In a certain population being studied, a particular disease is found to be positively correlated with eating a specific food. This means that people who ate this food were more likely to develop the disease in question than people who didn't eat the food. It is then reported that eating this food increased the risk of getting this disease. If the report garners enough attention health professionals may well begin to make recommendations for changes in people's eating habits based on the reported findings.
In this particular article, the diseases in question are obesity and diabetes and the food involved is the much-maligned sugar in sweetened beverages. The problem is that the identification of this food as a risk factor in this study may or may not mean there is a causal link with the diseases in question. It is entirely possible that subsequent studies will not find an association between this food and these diseases. In fact, previous studies have actually suggested the opposite association between sugar consumption and obesity,2,3 and after reviewing the relevant research, The American Diabetes Association concluded in a recent Position Statement that "intake of sucrose and sucrose containing foods does not need to be restricted because of concern about aggravating hyperglycemia." 4
In a discussion on the limitations of epidemiological research in the journal Science, Leading UCLA epidemiologist Sander Greenland summed up the complexities involved with obscuring the differences between correlation and causation by saying,
"There is nothing sinful about going out and getting evidence…nothing sinful about seeing if that evidence correlates…the sin comes in believing a causal hypothesis is true because your study came up with a positive result…" 5
Unfortunately, this "sin" is committed numerous times in this article, as the critical distinction between correlation and causation falls by the wayside. In setting up their argument in the very first paragraph, the authors state "recent evidence suggests an association between the intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and the risk of obesity in children." In the very next sentence they make the unwarranted jump to causation saying, "besides contributing to obesity, sugar-sweetened drinks might…." So, in fact, they have already concluded that half of their hypothesis is correct, before even presenting the evidence.
Even more blatantly, in their closing comments the authors conclude, "because of the observational nature of the study, we cannot prove that the observed associations are causal." Yet this does not stop them from making the jump to causation in the next paragraph by recommending that, "Public Health Strategies to prevent diabetes and type 2 diabetes should focus on reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption."
Interestingly, a closer look at the findings shows that even the proposed associations between the variables are questionably weak at best. After correcting for confounding factors, the relative risk of developing diabetes in women drinking the greatest vs. the least amount of sugar-sweetened beverages was 1.32. Epidemiologists generally agree that relative risks less than 2 should be ignored or at least viewed with extreme skepticism, particularly when there is conflicting research available. 5
Applying epidemiological research in this fashion is simply bad science. It tends to scare and confuse people and it greatly oversimplifies the complicated etiology of the types of chronic conditions in question. A number of leading scientists involved in conducting this type of research have acknowledged the significance of this problem. Perhaps those who have not should heed the warning of Dimitrios Trichopoulos, head of the epidemiology department at Harvard School of Public Health:
"We are fast becoming a nuisance
to society…People don't take us seriously anymore, and when they do take
us seriously, we may unintentionally do more harm than good."
1. Lotutu PA, Chae CU, Ajani VA, Hennekens CH, Manson JE. Male Pattern Baldness and Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med 2000:160:165-171.
M., Siman-Grant, M., Stanton, J., Keast, D. Consumption of Sugars.
3. Ruxton, C., Garceau, F., Cottrell R. Guidelines for Sugar Consumption in Europe: Is a quantitative approach justified? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999;53(7):503-513.
4. American Diabetes Association Position Statement. Evidence-Based Nutrition Principles and Recommendations for the Treatment and Prevention of Diabetes and Related Complications. Diabetes Care 2002;25(1):202-212.
5. Taubes G. Epidemiology Faces It's Limits. Science 1995;269:164-169.
clouds the issue
PittsburghLive.com - Dimitri Vassilaros - July 30, 2004
Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, is so concerned about secondhand
smoke that he will introduce a bill to ban smoking in all restaurants and
bars in Pennsylvania. Greenleaf is convinced that secondhand smoke kills
more than 50,000 Americans every year, including "a good many" in the commonwealth.
He also believes it is more deadly than firsthand smoke.
And yet Greenleaf cannot name one person -- not one -- who was killed by it. Not even his mom, a nonsmoker who died of lung cancer.
Sometimes facts get in the way of good intentions.
How do social conservatives rationalize their love of the nanny state?
"Government has one function that even a conservative should agree with: Government should be limited, but responsible for health and safety," he said. Which means it can stick its nose into any area of your life.
So much for limited government.
Anti-smoking do-gooders have been demonizing smokers for years. Now smokers are being blamed for killing innocent bystanders.
Secondhand smoke supposedly is such a threat that restaurants and bars must build special cigarette ghettos ("cighettos") for smoking customers. And the government mandates that all employers should make life miserable for those who enjoy nicotine-laced weed.
Big Government now is protecting us from the supposed harmful effects of Big Tobacco, once removed.
Greenleaf could not name one person whose death certificate even mentioned secondhand smoke, but surely others could.
"I do not think you can clearly implicate secondhand smoke," said Dr. Bruce Dixon, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
"I think it's more a conjectural argument. If somebody is exposed, you can conjecture some possibility of likelihood, but you cannot show cause and effect. I cannot point you to a case where someone has died from secondhand smoke."
Allegheny County, with more than 1 million people, must have had some deaths attributed to it.
"As far as I know, there is no death certificate that has mentioned secondhand smoke as the immediate or contributing cause of death," said Dr. Steven A. Koehler, a forensic epidemiologist in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office who has worked there for 15 years.
Pennsylvania, with a population of 12.5 million, does not even have a category for death from secondhand smoke, according to a spokesman in the Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot name even one American whose death was attributed to secondhand smoke. But the CDC has done the math.
Its mathematical formula is based on the "attributable fractions" of a study in Oregon that supposedly proves it kills 38,000 to 60,000 annually.
"There is a wide range for the margin of error," according to Terry Pechacek, associate director for science at the center. Well, what about Pennsylvania?
"There are many variables that require more research to be able to identify accurate numbers at a local level," said Joel London a CDC spokesman. "At this point we have only national numbers." But still no names.
The fuzzy math suggests many victims, but it still adds up to zero.
If secondhand smoke were a real threat, your so-called public servants would have at least one smoking gun.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Editorial - July 29, 2004
smoke is not as dangerous as secondhand freedom.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, is looking for co-sponsors for a bill to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants in Pennsylvania. If it becomes law, it would close the loophole of freedom that allows some establishments the liberty of welcoming customers who smoke.
The bill is based on the controversial premise that secondhand smoke kills innocent bystanders -- such as restaurant and bar servers who do not smoke and other nonsmokers in other businesses.
However, the premise that it should be outlawed for the public good is based on a much more controversial one, that adults should be prevented from exercising free will.
Deciding how to live, including where to eat, drink, shop or work, is the essence of freedom.
Allowing others to decide for you is the very definition of secondhand freedom.
If the Legislature passes the bill and the governor then signs Greenleaf's expansion of the nanny state, homes could be next.
His bill does not prohibit smoking in home businesses, but that inevitably would be the next target for tobacco prohibitionists.
And then, surely a smoking ban for households with children.
After the state protects your progeny, you eventually will become aware of the next prohibition.
But you will learn about it secondhand.
in a Stetson
Edward Cline - July 27, 2004
of the most enduring clichés of modern times is that of Nazism,
whose malign icon is a clean-shaven, blue-eyed man in a gray or black uniform,
jackboots, high-peaked cap, sporting a swastika armband and wearing an
icy, nearly prissy expression. But, what does the icon represent? There
were plenty of Nazis in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark; even Harrison Ford
donned a Nazi officer’s uniform as a ruse, and looked credibly menacing
Even though the actors playing the stock Nazis in the film were convincingly repellent, neither Steven Spielberg, the director, nor George Lucas, the writer, bothered much to say why they were so repellent. They were, prima facie, “self-evident” icons, evil incarnate (Spielberg did a better job of it in Schindler’s List). There was no indication of a regimented, nationalized German economy, no hint of concentration camps, no explanation at all of why Nazis were evil. They were portrayed as villains without a philosophy, who somehow popped into existence, took over a country, and proceeded with plans to conquer the world.
Nazism, of course, means “national socialism.” That term did not occur once in Raiders, nor has it ever been pronounced in any Hollywood film that has dealt with Nazi Germany. Nazism is nearly synonymous with fascism; in practice, the distinctions between the two totalitarian systems are minor. However, it is no accident that Iraqi “insurgents” and Islamic terrorists are referred to, when news writers dare to employ the term, as “Islamo-fascists.” The sight of hundreds or thousands of mindless manqués stabbing the air in massed, clenched fist salutes to their Moslem führers has clicked in some columnists’ minds, as well, and light is dawning.
Add a new icon to the menu of fascism: The Marlboro Man. And he’s wearing a swastika armband. He’s been tapped to ride herd over his fellow cowboys and corral them into the nanny state, at the point of a gun. The symbol of independence and hard work is about to morph into one of a storm trooper in Western mufti.
A July 20th Wall Street Journal editorial, “Congress’s Marlboro Men,” did not conclude its excoriation of the new tobacco “settlement” that was cooked in the Senate -- rife as it is with venal logrolling by special interests and corruptible politicians -- with the obvious observation, by calling what it fundamentally is: fascism.
What is fascism? One dictionary defines it as “a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation, emphasizing an aggressive nationalism.” (The American College Dictionary, 1957) Another defines it as a “centralized autocratic national regime…exercising regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible suppression of opposition.” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1956)
The violation of the tobacco industry’s First Amendment rights to free speech --in the realm of advertising, designated by courts as a second-class application of speech not worthy of protection -- followed over thirty years later by the old tobacco “settlement” of 1998, prepared the way for the new tobacco “settlement.” But, both settlements fit the definitions in every particular. In practice, the new deal approved by the Senate is a proposed government/industry “partnership,” the government allowing the industry to produce in exchange for an extortionate cut of the industry’s revenues among other statist fringe benefits. Boil down all the fancy language, discard all the irrelevant issues -- and the medical, health and social issues are indeed irrelevant -- and that is what one will see at the bottom of the pot.
The Wall Street Journal did understand that particular issue. “…The tobacco giant knows that Food and Drug Administration regulators would severely restrict marketing, which gives it (Philip Morris) an advantage over lesser-known rivals and lower-priced competitors. Put another way, the federal government would become not only a partner of tobacco but a partner of tobacco monopolists.”
Just as Krupp, Grundig and many other corporate giants were “partners” with the government when the Nazis ruled Germany. Not to mention the German tobacco industry, which also filled the Nazi war chests in cowardly, pragmatic submission to the state.
Yet, the WSJ would not take that last, crucial step, and identify the phenomenon. Perhaps it was too frightening a realization. Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand called such a refusal “blanking out.” But, blanking out a fact will neither change its identity nor cause it to go away.
Of course, the simplest solution would be to abolish the controversial Depression Era subsidies, as well as federal taxes on cigarettes, and repeal the law that prohibits tobacco companies from advertising its products. But, there is loot to be had, and victims willing to be looted, such as Philip Morris, the tobacco giant probably the guiltiest of all the tobacco companies of its hasty submission to collectivism and of the scope of its own self-immolation. Liberty? Property rights? Freedom of speech? All sacrificed or surrendered to the Janus-faced god of the “public good.”
The “new” settlement would also give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco according to its skewed lights in exchange for a $13 billion buyout of tobacco farmers. Not to be left out of this stealthy parade of crypto-fascists, many state governments, having squandered their cut of the 1998 settlement and facing massive budget deficits, are rushing to don their own armbands by raising sales and other taxes on smaller tobacco manufacturers, even though, according to the WSJ, they will this year receive about $11.4 billion as part of the old settlement. Leading the campaign against the smaller manufacturers in these smoke-free legislative chambers is Philip Morris.
The tobacco industry was de facto nationalized by the 1998 settlement. It exists by permission of the federal government. The settlement recently brokered in the Senate is the formal nationalization of the industry. Its point man is Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.
There is soft-pedaled socialism -- see the incremental nationalization of medical care for details -- and there is national socialism, its more aggressively virulent brother. It can’t happen here? Think again. It is.
Sieg heil, Uber Tabak Fabrikant! But, be warned: This writer has bought his last carton of Marlboros. It would be justice if every other smoker followed suit in protest of Philip Morris’s betrayal, and found a rival brand.
Spiked Online - Dr Michael Fitzpatrick - July 19, 2004
government is at pains to avoid being accused of "nanny statism" - the
current code for unwelcome interference in personal freedom. I have not
heard a single speech by a health minister in recent months without this
terrifying prospect being wheeled out.'
So wrote Anna Coote under the headline 'Nanny madness' in the UK Guardian on 26 May (1). But who is accusing the government of 'nanny statism'? It may be possible to hear such criticisms from retired colonels in gentlemen's clubs in London or read them in the letters pages of the Daily Mail or Telegraph, but they are, like the Conservative Party, of marginal public influence. The only significant pressure on health ministers is urging them to pursue more interventionist policies. This indeed is the point of the article by Anna Coote, health policy director of the King's Fund thinktank, who asks 'what's so terrible about the nanny state, anyway?'
In its response to the government's public health consultation paper Choosing Health?, the British Medical Association echoes Coote's view, arguing that 'in relation to certain areas, a greater danger than nannyism is abdication and a failure to act - the Pontius Pilate approach' (2). Given the BMA's apparent conversion to the gospel according to Mel Gibson, it may be worth recalling that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem a few years after Pilate's controversial hand-washing incident suggests that the Roman state was not entirely averse to coercive interventions. The BMA's contribution varies between the silly ('the only difference between smoking and Russian roulette is the delayed effect'; 'smoking is so dangerous, on a par with heroin or duelling') and the incomprehensible ('to some extent, "joined-up" policy that is cognisant is the holy grail of public health'). If an organisation as cautious and conservative as the BMA can dismiss the danger of the nanny state, this is a sure sign that the danger is non-existent.
The term 'nanny state' is a misnomer for the current form of authoritarian government. The concept of the 'therapeutic state' better captures the distinctive character of public health under New Labour. The target of government measures aimed at changing a wide range of behaviours deemed to be unhealthy is the individual citizen who has internalised a sense of personal inadequacy and responsibility for health. Though government intervention is more coercive and intrusive than in the past, it is mediated through a range of 'caring' professionals and its authoritarian character is obscured. Nanny is a straw person, the counsellor is the personification of the therapeutic state.
A nanny state is one that is authoritarian but paternalistic, bossy but benevolent. Nanny forces the children to eat their greens and to take their medicine, but it is only for their own good. In some respects, the British government during the Second World War behaved in this way, imposing food rationing, media censorship, restrictions on travel, blackouts, etc. Emergency measures to contain epidemics, from smallpox and cholera in the nineteenth century to SARS in the twenty-first, involve restrictions on civil liberties, such as quarantines, to limit the wider threat to society. Regulations to reduce death and injury on the roads - speed limits, breathalyser tests, seat belts, motor cycle helmets - are more familiar examples of 'nanny state' initiatives.
Nanny state measures tend to be imposed collectively and temporarily, justified by exceptional circumstances, such as war or pestilence. If, like driving regulations, they are introduced with long-term effect, this requires convincing evidence that they achieve the desired benefits (which was rapidly produced). It is worth noting that, even when these conditions have been fulfilled, there has often been considerable popular resistance to such measures. Though the nanny state has generally been able to rely on support from doctors and other professionals for its policies, it has also had to resort to coercive powers to enforce compliance with regulations introduced to enhance public welfare.
The most striking contrast between today's therapeutic state and the nanny state of the past is the absence of popular opposition. On the contrary, opinion polls reveal substantial majorities in favour of measures currently under discussion, such as bans on smoking in public places and restrictions on advertising of 'junk food'. Where is the campaign to uphold the rights of smokers in pubs and restaurants? Have we seen demonstrations demanding the right to eat junk food or indulge in binge drinking?
The tobacco, food and drink industries have become so demonised in the eyes of public opinion that they are reduced to defensive rearguard actions to limit the damage to their trade that is likely to result from further government restrictions. The success of the new ideology of public health can be measured by the fact that government ministers can indulge in (wholly disingenuous) postures that, in introducing further curbs on unhealthy lifestyles, they are merely responding to the clamour of public opinion.
The transformation in popular attitudes to interventionist public health policies is all the more remarkable given the dramatic expansion in the scale of such initiatives. The government is currently considering drastic measures to curtail smoking, to curb the consumption of 'unhealthy' foods, to increase levels of exercise and to restrict the consumption of alcohol. Given that, according to official statistics promoted with varying degrees of hysteria, around a quarter of the population smokes, more than one in three are overweight, 25 per cent are obese, most take insufficient exercise and many, particularly young people, drink too much alcohol, the achievement of government targets in these areas demands dramatic changes in lifestyle for a substantial proportion of the population.
It is also striking that whereas the health benefits of quarantine or seat belts are clearly evident - even to those who defy them - those associated with current policies are dubious and contentious. For example, the dangers of passive smoking have been the subject of academic debate for more than 20 years. (3) The current consensus that banning public smoking will save up to 1,000 lives a year is a triumph of propaganda over science. At least there is some evidence in this area: in relation to the health benefits of advertising bans and food-labelling regulations there is none at all.
The apparently unstoppable momentum of the campaign for a ban on public smoking reveals the key dynamics of the therapeutic state. Not only is it supported by non-smokers, but a majority of smokers also approve of a measure which will prevent them from pursuing this traditionally convivial activity in pubs, clubs and restaurants. This reflects the fact that many smokers have internalised the way in which smoking has been re-conceptualised in the public health campaigns of recent years. Up to the 1990s, smoking was generally regarded as a bad habit, if one that provided some respite from the cares of work and family life. This view of smoking was confirmed by the fact that, in response to mounting publicity about the link between cigarettes and lung cancer from the early 1960s onwards, several million people abandoned the habit. Furthermore, most did this without the benefit of any professional intervention.
In the 1990s however, the focus shifted from the activity of smoking to the personality of the smoker, who was now found to be an addict in the grip of a chemical dependency (on nicotine) and the dupe of cigarette advisers ('a consumer inveigled into smoking by sophisticated and misleading marketing', as the recent BMA report puts it).
The smoker is not only a pathetic loser, but is also to blame for polluting the atmosphere and for damaging the health of a lengthening list of innocent victims. A man who smokes is guilty of poisoning his family (reducing his own fertility, giving his spouse an increased risk of cancer, his children an increased risk of cot death, asthma and other respiratory disorders); he is also a menace to his workmates, and even to the non-smoking staff in public places that continue to tolerate this evil practice. The female smoker is guilty of all these crimes and worst of all, of damaging her unborn baby by continuing to smoke during pregnancy. Recent television adverts reinforce smokers' guilt with children's accounts of their parents' deaths from smoking-related illnesses.
The smoker - addicted and duped, defiling and corrupting, morally defective and socially irresponsible - needs professional intervention. He or she needs medical treatment (in the form of nicotine replacement therapy or other medication to help overcome addiction), psychological and spiritual treatment (counselling or 'support', often combined with complementary therapies, help through the processes of withdrawal and rehabilitation). The morose atmosphere in the smokers' huddles that formed outside many workplaces in the 1990s confirmed the impact of the denigration of the smoker on smokers themselves. Far from being united in defiance of petty regulations, they were, like members of a therapy group, united only in their existential suffering, in their self-loathing, in becoming pariahs in a society dedicated to clean and virtuous living.
The proposal for a ban on smoking in public places in Britain was first made in 1988. Why has it taken more than 15 years for this measure to become a serious policy prospect? The growing popularity of the measure cannot be attributed to the growing strength of scientific evidence in support of it - this is just as weak now as it was then. Nor can it be attributed to any significant change in the enthusiasm of government for interventionist public health policies: Margaret Thatcher and John Major were just as keen on authoritarian health policies as Tony Blair.
The decisive shift that has paved the way for the advance of the therapeutic state is the enhanced sense of individual frailty and vulnerability that has resulted from the demise of politics and the decline in social solidarity over the past decade (4). The individuation and powerlessness experienced with a particular intensity by smokers have made them responsive to the redefinition of personal difficulty as a form of pathology that requires professional management. Hence they are receptive to any government measures that offer to provide help in overcoming their personal inadequacies - even though such measures may only compound their incapacity.
When smokers confessed that they welcomed bans on public
smoking as a further measure to protect them from themselves, the public
health zealots recognised the triumph of their bleak ideology (5). The
stage was set for the leaders of the British Medical Association to march
to Downing Street bearing aloft a banner in the form of a supersized cigarette
packet carrying the legend 'Passive Smoking Kills'. If the nanny state
is a paper tiger, the therapeutic state is a much more formidable adversary,
not least because so few even recognise it as an enemy.
(1) Nanny madness. What's so terrible about the nanny state, anyway?, Guardian, 26 May 2004
(2) BMA response to the consultation: Choosing Health, British Medical Association, July 2004
(3) The tyranny of health: doctors and the regulation of lifestyle, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, Routledge, 2001
(4) Therapy culture: cultivating vulnerability in an uncertain age, by Frank Furedi, Routledge, 2004
(5) Public attitudes to public health policy, King's Fund, 2004
Blasts Senate Tobacco Ad Restrictions, Fears Precedent
Media Daily News - Michael Shields - July 19, 2004
about its potentially crippling effects on tobacco marketers, and what
they believe would be a dangerous step toward more widespread regulation
of the advertising industry, The Association of National Advertisers on
Friday blasted the U.S. Senate's decision to pass major regulations over
ANA Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe issued a statement on Friday saying: "We are extremely disappointed by the Senate's action."
Last Thursday, the Senate passed legislation that gave the Food and Drug Administration governance over tobacco while placing severe restrictions on cigarette advertising, which Jaffe called "unprecedented."
Essentially, the tobacco industry agreed to the legislation in return for a government buy-out of the nation's tobacco farmers, ending depression-era tobacco price supports. Jaffe complained about the nature of the regulation's passage, contending that lawmakers snuck in this regulation onto an unrelated corporate tax law. "These are very separate issues," he said.
The legislation now goes before the House of Representatives. If passed, it is likely to destroy tobacco advertising in its current form. "Certainly, it would make it virtually impossible to advertise effectively on a national basis," Jaffe said.
Under the new legislation, advertisers would be prohibited from using color in their print ads, and would be required to include more disclosures in each ad.
In addition to the federal regulation, individual states would be free to modify the legislation's stipulations as they see fit. Thus, producing a national print campaign that meets all federal and state requirements would be exceedingly difficult for any tobacco marketer.
Beyond the ramifications for the tobacco industry, the ANA is fearful of the precedent this legislation will set for all advertisers. "This amendment goes a long way to create dangerous precedents that are likely to be imposed to restrict other types of advertising using the children's protection argument," Jaffe said.
Jaffe mentioned that the Supreme Court has gone out of its way in recent years to disallow the categorization of products so that they would be subject to different laws.
Therefore, regulation of tobacco would open up the doors for similar regulation in other categories.
He believes that the Senate is using the idea of protecting children to further an anti-political agenda. Requiring advertisers to completely avoid children is impossible, he says. "We don't live in a society where you can hermetically seal people who are 21 and over," he said.
In criticism of the legislation's legality, Jaffe cited the opinion of various legal experts as well as officials from such disparate groups as the Washington Legal Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union. According to Jaffe, they all say that this new legislation is identical to a proposal that in 1996 was found to be in violation of the First Amendment.
Jaffe said the next step for the ANA was to continue lobbying against the legislation. Yet he acknowledged that challenging the law's constitutionality may not ultimately matter. "Just because something is unconstitutional doesn't mean it won't pass Congress," he lamented.
blow smoke on property rights
Bluegrass Institute - Jim Waters - July 15, 2004
by their success in forcing an un-American smoking ban on the private business
owners of Lexington, Kentucky’s anti-smoking Taliban is now conducting
operations across the Commonwealth. For these zealots, anything short of
a total prohibition will not suffice.
“Smoking is not a constitutional right,” they preach. “Besides, it’s bad for your health.”
Both statements are true yet equally irrelevant when considering whether government force can be enlisted to ban smoking on private property.
Smoking is neither politically popular nor a constitutional right, per se. Yet it remains a legal activity. If successful, we wonder what government will try to ban next – screaming babies or perhaps fatty foods.
After all, nothing in our Constitution addresses eating Big Macs at McDonald’s either, yet the high fat content makes doing so an unhealthy practice, too. How long will it take the “obese police” (funded by an obesity lawsuit) to show up at city council meetings and demand that Big Macs be outlawed?
These government do-gooders seem interested only in bullying industries that happen to be politically incorrect at the time. After all, it’s much easier to persuade citizens who may just happen to dislike smoking or fast food to side with them. But if unchecked, government’s appetite for confiscation and power will never be satisfied.
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground,” warned Thomas Jefferson.
America’s founders reasoned that when the rights of private property owners are trampled under, other constitutional privileges would soon be endangered. Philosopher John Locke described private property as a protective “fence” to corral a person’s liberty and protect the rest of his rights.
“Property rights have crucially contributed to our freedom and prosperity,” concurred Kentucky Supreme Court Justice William Graves in a courageous dissent regarding a ruling that upheld Lexington’s smoking ban in public places. Tragically, Graves’ well-reasoned argument failed to slow the court’s 6-1 stampede over rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
The meddlers claim they do not intend to impede our property rights. “We just don’t think smokers should pollute our air,” they reason. They forget that in the United States of America, a majority cannot force a minority to abide by its demands, however distasteful the latter’s actions – if legal – might be.
We don’t like smoke blown in our faces either, but we dislike government intervention in areas in which it has no authority even more!
Customers seeking a nonsmoking atmosphere today have a lot more choices than the days of old, in which only fast-food restaurants prohibited customers or employees from lighting up.
In Bowling Green, for example, David Towell, owner of the Iron Skillet, a local restaurant with quality fare, has enacted a voluntary smoking ban in its eating section. However, customers in the restaurant’s lounge can still light up. Other restaurant owners have decided that going smoke-free would not be the best policy for their business.
In a recent anti-smoking forum in Bowling Green, Dr. Richard Wilson, a member of the Barren River Tobacco Coalition and professor at Western Kentucky University’s Department of Public Health, spoke fervently about “the very clear evidence” that voluntary smoking bans have, in some cases, improved restaurants’ profit margins.
Thus Wilson himself makes a strong case against a government-enforced smoking ban in restaurants. If, as he claims, an increasing number of businesses are enacting voluntary smoking bans, why is he battling for another law intruding on some of Kentuckians’ most sacred rights?
When presented with credible information, restaurant owners, who often operate on razor-thin profit margins, will make the right decisions for their operations. As a result, an increasing number of companies are going smokeless.
When Lexington’s ban was enacted, 47 percent of the community’s food establishments had voluntarily enacted smoking bans.
“I think we should let restaurants decide how to serve their patrons,” wrote Julian Tyler in a letter to the (Bowling Green) Daily News.
But allowing restaurant owners to decide whether they will allow smoking and then leaving it up to individual customers is “not enough,” one of the leaders of Lexington’s smoke-S.W.A.T. team told a reporter.
Absurd, isn’t it, that an increasing number of business owners are making what smoking nannies believe is the right choice – voluntarily – and still it’s “not enough”?
In the battle of ideas between government force and the free market, the forces of regulation can never get enough. Meanwhile, lovers of freedom strive valiantly to preserve the remnants of their God-given liberties. At stake is the quality of our future.
Will our future be one determined by the heavy hand of government, or open to the creative, uplifting spirit of human liberty?
at the Justice Department
Fox News - Steven Milloy - July 9, 2004
are criticizing John Kerry's choice for vice president because of John
Edwards' trial lawyer background and connections. I'm hoping that maybe
someone in the Bush administration will take this criticism to heart and
do something about the most egregious trial lawyer operation of all time
— the Bush administration's Department of Justice.
In a 2,500-page document filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice set out its central accusations in its $280 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry (search). The lawsuit was initially filed by the Clinton-era DOJ, and the Bush administration has continued to press it.
In the section of the document titled "Summary of the Defendant's Scheme to Defraud and Disgorgement," the DOJ alleged that "the Defendants devised an extensive scheme to defraud the public of money that they have executed for nearly 50 years, and which continues to this day. Defendants have carried out this massive scheme to defraud through a variety of means, including, but not limited to, causing the public dissemination of numerous false, deceptive and misleading statements that, among other things: denied that smoking and secondhand smoke cause disease and other adverse health effects; denied that cigarettes are addictive; and denied that tobacco products were marketed to young people."
The Bush DOJ apparently believes that it is a prosecutable offense — under the made-for-mobsters Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (search) (RICO), no less — for legitimate businesses to defend their products.
Let's take the issue of secondhand smoke, for example, and see who else may have run afoul of the Bush DOJ's dim view of those who have denied that secondhand smoke (search) is a health threat.
First, there's Judge William Osteen of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina who vacated — that is, vaporized — the Environmental Protection Agency's 1993 conclusion that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
Osteen "denied" that the EPA scientifically proved that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer by ruling that "the EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information; did not disseminate significant epidemiologic information; deviated from its [standard] procedures; failed to disclose important findings and reasoning; and left significant holes in the administrative records. While doing so, the EPA produced limited evidence, then claimed the weight of the Agency's research evidence demonstrated [secondhand smoke] causes cancer."
Then there's the New England Journal of Medicine (search ), one of the world's pre-eminent medical journals, which permitted University of Chicago Hospitals Health Studies Chairman John Bailar in 1998 to expose as junk science research that alleged secondhand smoke was associated with heart disease. We can't forget about New York University professor Mort Lippman — also the chairman of the EPA Science Advisory Board's Indoor Air Quality Committee that reviewed the EPA report on secondhand smoke — who famously noted in 1991 that the health risk from secondhand smoke was so small that it was "probably much less than you took to get [to the EPA building] through Washington traffic."
There are also the tobacco industry's courtroom victories against secondhand smoke claims. Six lawsuits by flight attendants have gone to juries. The tobacco industry has won five of those six. These are but a few of the many who have been critical or skeptical of allegations that secondhand smoke is a scientifically proven health risk.
So let me see if we can make sense of this. A federal judge says the EPA trumped up the evidence that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer. A prestigious medical journal publishes an editorial by a prominent health researcher criticizing a purported link between secondhand smoke and heart disease. The chairman of the EPA's review panel compared the risk of secondhand smoke to cross-town traffic. And juries don't seem inclined to reward secondhand smoke lawsuits.
But it's a RICO offense for the tobacco industry to say and do these same things?
President Bush was critical of the DOJ suit during the 2000 campaign, saying that he was "troubled by the Justice Department's reversal" of a previous position that there was no merit for a federal lawsuit. President Bush added that he hoped "the era of big government is not replaced by the era of big lawsuits." If the president doesn't get a grip on the Department of Justice, businesses could be threatened in the future with similar RICO lawsuits anytime they find themselves disagreeing with the government over scientific issues — blaming the food industry for obesity and the energy industry for global warming (search ) are two ongoing controversies that come to mind.
Until the president does something about the DOJ's rogue $280 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry, cries about John Edward's trial lawyer connections will ring hollow.
Defense of Smokers
OpinionEditorials.com - Ryan Walsh - June 28, 2004
Ryan Walsh is a columnist for www.therightreport.com and a high school student
We have hope for our youth!
City Councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul are now “considering” imposing
a smoking ban on all bars and restaurants.
First Ireland, then New York City, and now the nearby Twin Cities—the totalitarian tentacles of the “public health” movement continue to ensnare countries, cities, and counties across the globe.
Smoking ban advocates argue that employees and customers who are exposed to large amounts of ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) experience discomfort and health problems at high rates. The dangers of secondhand smoke have become so obvious to everyone that to question the science behind anti-ETS studies would be to admit allegiance to Marlboro or Camel—in other words, a lackey for Big Tobaccy.
I remember learning about secondhand smoke through the DARE program in elementary school. We fifth graders were taught that every hour spent in a smoke-filled room had the same negative effect as smoking one cigarette. By implication, all of our seemingly sweet 76-year-old grandmas and grandpas were slowly murdering us every time they lit an Old Gold in the house.
There are numerous “studies” and “statistics” that ostensibly correlate ETS and increased cancer or heart failure rates, but the cornerstone of the anti-ETS movement goes back to January 1993, when the EPA estimated that secondhand smoke caused thousands of lung cancer cases annually. Yet upon appeal, a federal judge declared the statistics junk science and accused the EPA of “cherry picking” one-sided data.
Respected medical journals of all sorts agree that the threat of ETS has been hyped. In 1996, the American Heart Association noted no empirical correlation between ETS exposure and coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization refuted any significant connection between childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and lung cancer. Furthermore, in May 2003, the British Medical Journal found no verifiable connection between heart disease or lung cancer to any level of ETS exposure at any time.
Granted, secondhand smoke is not good for you. In most cases, ETS aggravates sinuses, sensitive eyes, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma. As for the more malignant sicknesses, journalist Jacob Sullum writes, “Epidemiological research suggests, for example, that living with a smoker for decades may slightly increase your risk of lung cancer, which for a nonsmoker is tiny either way. The increase is so small that it's hard to tell whether the effect is real.”
Still, secondhand smoke drives some people crazy. They exclaim, “Let’s get the government to ban smokers from all public places!” Hmm, not a bad idea. Say, I don’t like when people stare in public or chew with their mouths open. Since most people share this sentiment, I suggest we form a coalition aimed at banning these deplorable habits from all public places. Who’s with me?
If there is such a demand for smoke-free bars and restaurants, the free market will provide. Commercial airplanes used to allow in-flight smoking, but eventually the wishes of non-smokers overpowered those of smokers and things changed.
Voluntary exchanges in the marketplace constitute a free society. An employee voluntarily exchanges his labor for compensation, and a customer freely exchanges her capital for goods and services. Nevertheless, as centuries of economic theory demonstrate, the viability of the free market depends absolutely on the security of constitutional property rights.
A smoking ban, a purported win for “public health,” is a loss for the Constitution.
The Government-Backed Tobacco Cartel
CNSNews.com - Christine Hall - June 28, 2004
Christine Hall is director of research at the Competitive Enterprise Institute
news: At long last, an American company has sued New York Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer, rather than the other way around. Now here's the bad news:
The lawsuit stems from the alleged failure of Spitzer and his fellow state
AGs to make good on their promise to protect an industry cartel.
That failure, the suit claims, has facilitated a "huge increase" in the number of "renegade companies" selling "very cheap" products and making unprecedented gains in market share. Welcome to the strange world of tobacco regulation.
The plaintiff in the case against Spitzer is Commonwealth Brands, a Kentucky-based maker of discount-cigarette brands such as Malibu, USA Gold, and Sonoma that signed the 1998 tobacco-settlement agreement. Commonwealth charges that Spitzer and other state AGs have failed to collect mandatory escrow payments from companies that never signed the 1998 tobacco settlement.
But this is an adversarial "lawsuit" in name only, for the plaintiffs are in bed with the nominal defendants.
Americans have been led to believe that tobacco companies were punished by the $200-billion-settlement agreement signed with 46 states. But the reality is that state attorneys general and major tobacco companies forged a government-backed tobacco cartel. The states got cash and major tobacco companies got a measure of protection against competition.
Like the "Big Four" companies that originally negotiated and signed the settlement, Commonwealth is required to make annual payments to states based on its share of the U.S. cigarette market. But to ensure that the companies could pay the states and their trial-lawyer cronies hefty "damages" (taxes) without suffering market-share losses, the tobacco settlement obligated the states to enact laws that would "effectively and fully neutralize" lower prices offered by competing, much smaller cigarette manufacturers that had not signed the agreement.
Despite the fact that many non-signatories - officially dubbed Non-Participating Manufacturers, or NPMs - didn't even exist when the major companies were accused of marketing to kids and lying about the health consequences of smoking, the NPMs must still make annual escrow payments to the states. State AGs must "diligently enforce" those terms.
The signatories hoped that escrow-payment obligations would keep competing companies at bay. But things haven't worked out that way. Because NPM payments are based on sales volume (rather than market share) and made only to states where a company's cigarettes are actually sold, some NPMs have been able to offer their products at competitive prices and prosper.
Over the five years since state ratification of the "Master Settlement Agreement" (MSA), the "renegade" companies have increased their market share some five-fold, from around 2 percent to somewhere between (the figure is disputed) 8 and 15 percent of the U.S. cigarette market.
Commonwealth and other signatories want this "loophole" closed. They have lobbied state lawmakers across the country to pass "allocable share" laws making NPMs pay hundreds of millions of dollars more to the states, which would drive many NPMs out of business. In Kentucky, Commonwealth's own general counsel sponsored such a bill while wearing his other hat - as a state legislator.
The bottom line is that attorneys general and companies in the MSA both want to sock it to outside competitors and their price-conscious consumers. So they're trying to get a court order to accomplish what the tobacco settlement itself, despite the signatories' clever intention, has failed to achieve.
Such increasingly desperate attempts to salvage the tobacco settlement reveal it as nothing but a rank, state-sponsored cartel -- a scheme to limit competition and to fix prices under an umbrella of government protection. It's a bad precedent for a free country, and it shouldn't be allowed to stand.
WorldNetDaily - Joel Miller - June 26, 2004
the movie "Hope Springs," Minnie Driver's character, every bit as British
as she is, constantly carps during her American sojourn that she is forbidden
to smoke. Everywhere she lights up – restaurant, hotel, golf course – someone
politely informs her that smoking is verboten. Eventually, she sets off
the fire alarm in her room and escapes soaking wet from the sprinklers.
Increasingly in America, we are all a bit wet, thanks
to the machinations of various health nazis and busybodies. Their reach
extends into the choices we make regarding our food, our drink, whether
we inhale the fumes of smoldering tobacco, even our choices in medication
and chemical recreation.
Start with food. More and more in America, buttinskis are coming over for dinner, leaving their etiquette books at the door. Enemies of liberty and affluence, they seek to boss us about what we eat. Like prohibitionists in an age past, these calorie crusaders (though some quite overweight themselves) are trying to dictate the diets of the rest of us, mangling individual choice and responsibility as they ram their way of life literally down our throats.
Their weapons: lawsuits over fatty foods; fat taxes; absurd health campaigns and food regulations; politically motivated junk science; even price controls.
Yale's Kelly Brownell is the most notorious of these nanny statists. As one of the first to recommend taxing tasties and price-controlling pastries, Brownell's ideas are catching on. Nutty Oakland, Calif., Mayor Jerry Brown is now gung-ho on taxing high-calorie foods.
Paired with another calorie crusader, Marion Nestle (and how's that last name for ironic?), Brownell stepped up his assault on personal choice and responsibility in a recent issue of Time: "Why quarrel with the personal responsibility argument?" they ask, regarding whether people are accountable for their own waistlines. "First, it's wrong." It is also, Brownell and Nestle say, ignorant of human biology, not helpful for fighting obesity, and "a trap." It's not your fault you can't fit into your trousers; it's Big Food's.
Ergo, rather than expect and encourage people to take responsibility for their choices, Brownell and Nestle want the state to do "everything it can to create conditions that lead to healthy eating ..." But be warned: Once you scrap responsibility, freedom to choose is next to go. If these fat agitators get their way, should you desire to enjoy the fruit of your labor, then it had better be low-fat, nutritious and conform to their standards of health. In other words, don't count on enjoying anything.
Especially not a drink.
In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the 21st Amendment – the one that put the cork in Alcohol Prohibition – the Cato Institute's Radley Balko published a warning blast on the new war against booze: "[I]nstead of holding drinkers responsible for their actions," Balko fingers a shift of "law enforcement resources away from catching heavily intoxicated drunk drivers, who pose a risk, to harassing responsible social drinkers, who don't."
The tactics of this neoprohibitionist movement are strikingly similar to those of the anti-fatties. They want to jack up taxes, tighten licensing laws, hamper advertising and use zoning restrictions and other regulations to make the liquor biz uneconomical.
Next, similar to Brownell's assault on his ludicrously conceived "toxic food environment," these postmodern Carry Nations rail against the "environment of alcoholism." Both schemes divorce people from their responsibility and deny them their right to choose their own lot by vesting strange powers in vague notions and abstractions instead of flesh-and-blood people with functioning brains in their skulls.
The same goes for Lady Nicotina. Any use of tobacco – however self-controlled, occasional or moderate – sends anti-smoking crusaders into apoplexy. And like all health nazis, they flail and beat their neighbors in their spasmatic fits, using the law to pummel everyone else into compliance with their coercive vision of right and wrong. In places like New York and California, they send tobacco taxes through the roof and ban smoking in, of all places, bars.
The reach of the risk-averse busybodies is best seen in the drug war. Not only will intoxi-cops stop someone from doing a line of coke or smoking a joint, they will arrest him, seize his property, and throw his bum in prison – because being penniless and imprisoned with rapists and muggers is apparently better for the individual than chemical recreants.
In fact, as I argue in my new book, "Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America," by ceding ground to prohibitionists regarding drug use – however noble the intention might have been – we inadvertently provided much of the cultural and intellectual support for the current war on delectable food, booze and tobacco. After all, if you can jail someone for harming his body with heroin, certainly you can force someone to forgo the chocolate and eat his veggies. Two sides of the same fascist coin.
In all its forms, the prohibitionist approach to life – e.g., ban or restrict all things remotely troublesome or messy – is not only profoundly un-American (notice the Constitution gives the federal government no power to control these facets of our lives), but it is also based on an incredible contempt for individual freedom and responsibility. To them, human liberty is as deplorable as crack.
So next time you're sitting around the table slicing through an extremely rare steak, hoist your cabernet and drink ill health to the low-calorie commissars. May they live to be 120 and hate every day of it.
Don’t bother packing your smokes.
National Review - Robert A. Levy - June 24, 2004
Robert A. Levy is senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute.
we go again. First it was the health police in Santa Monica, Los Angeles
and Malibu. Then the buttheads in Los Angeles County. Now it's the legislature,
about to consider a bill to shield every sun worshipper statewide from
the tribulations of beach smoking, and defend every grain of sand along
the 1,100-mile coastline against cigarette litter.
One argument for the beach ban goes like this: Cigarette butts are a major source of litter. On cleanup days, volunteers say they pick up an average of more than 300,000 butts along the beach. If so, that's a powerful argument — but against littering, not against smoking. A ban on smoking is both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. It's over-inclusive because responsible smokers who properly discard their cigarette butts do not contribute to litter. It's under-inclusive because irresponsible non-smokers who improperly discard food wrappers and soda cans are major contributors to litter. By all means, let's keep the beaches clean. Anyone who flips a cigarette butt onto the sand may deserve to be fined. But let's reserve our ire, and our legal remedies, for those who actually do something wrong.
The second argument against beach smoking is that secondhand smoke, even a wisp on breezy days, is a health hazard. The short answer is that no evidence exists to support that bald assertion. Indeed, a substantial body of evidence cuts the other way. In 1996, the American Heart Association journal, Circulation, reported no increase in coronary heart disease associated with secondhand smoke "at work or in other settings." Two years later, the World Health Organization reported "no association between childhood exposure to environmental tobacco smoke [ETS] and lung cancer." A 1999 editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded, "We still do not know, with accuracy, how much or even whether [ETS] increases the risk of coronary heart disease."
Then there's the granddaddy of all secondhand smoke studies: the landmark 1993 report by the Environmental Protection Agency declaring that ETS is a dangerous carcinogen that causes 3,000 deaths annually. Five years later, a federal judge lambasted EPA for "cherry picking" the data, excluding studies that "demonstrated no association between ETS and cancer," and withholding "significant portions of its findings and reasoning in striving to confirm its a priori hypothesis."
More recently, in the May 2003 British Medical Journal, researchers found that passive smoke had no significant connection with heart-disease or lung-cancer death at any level of exposure at any time. Those results, stated the American Council on Science and Health, are "consistent" with studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what?, you might argue. Maybe secondhand smoke doesn't kill people, but how about the harm to people with pre-existing asthma, respiratory infections, or eye allergies? After all, public beaches belong collectively to the citizens of a community. Why shouldn't those citizens decide, through their elected representatives, what conduct is permissible and what is not? Why should a minority of smokers be able to dictate public policy to a majority of non-smokers?
Ordinarily, in a democracy, we let the political process set restrictions on the use of public property. But there are limits on the exercise of political power. Under our constitutional system, a nonsmoking majority cannot arbitrarily stamp out the rights of a smoking minority. For a regulation to be legitimate, there must be a good fit between the regulation and the goal it seeks to accomplish.
That means smoking should not be banned-even on public property-without showing, first, that the ban will be effective and, second, that it will not proscribe more activities than necessary to reach its objective. Those two showings have not been made. The scientific link between secondhand smoke and various diseases is far from proven-especially on beaches. And regulations often prohibit smoking in locations that are not particularly confining, where patrons can easily avoid harm by taking a step or two away. If the scientific evidence were more compelling and the ban were limited to, say, reading rooms in public libraries, elevators in government office buildings, and restrooms at a state university, then a ban might be warranted. Not otherwise.
Government, not secondhand smoke, is polluting the beaches. Surely we can protect the legitimate rights of non-smokers without prohibiting smokers from relishing an occasional cigarette by the sea.
rise of the Nanny State
Rocky Mountain News - Paul Campos - June 22, 2004
Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado
a resident of Boulder, it comes as a bit of shock to discover that one
is allowed to smoke in the bars and bowling alleys of this Midwestern town.
Boulder, like so many cities and towns across the nation, has made it impossible
for smokers to indulge in their habit inside of public buildings of any
As a non-smoker, I've come to consider smoke-free space something akin to an absolute right. This is because, in part, since I'm almost never exposed to smoking, the smell of cigarette smoke annoys me much more than it used to. Thus I've become deeply intolerant of something I once treated as a minor irritation.
Our health police no doubt count my transformation into a hypersensitive prig as a triumph of public policy. The less tolerant people are of smoking, the less smoking there will be - that is their logic.
And it's sound logic, save for the suspicion that producing a nation full of hypersensitive prigs may be a steep price to pay in return for some marginal improvements in public health.
There has always been a strong puritanical strain in American public culture. A fascinating illustration of the persistance of that strain is provided by Yale Medical School professor David Katz's recent suggestion that "junk food" should be labeled with a scarlet J, to remind we who are about to consume of the depravity of our sinful nature.
A generation ago, a few libertarians joked that things like anti-smoking legislation were the first steps on the road to the serfdom of the Nanny State, in which red meat would be available only by prescription, and a Twinkie would be treated as a dangerous weapon. As is so often the case, a previous generation's morbid humor is rapidly becoming the official position of all right-thinking people.
Let us review briefly the classic rationalizations for handing over our freedom to officious busybodies.
• The average person is an undereducated victim of advertising, who can't be trusted to protect his own best interests. There's a lot of truth to that generalization. Unfortunately, the Nanny State's solution to this problem - turning over decision-making responsibilities to overeducated bureaucrats, who will impose their values on the wretched refuse of our teeming shores - is worse than the problem itself. Why, after all, should the neuroses of the American upper class, in the form of an obsessive-compulsive concern for "health," narrowly defined, be legally projected onto everyone else?
• Unhealthy behavior produces costs that have to be paid by innocent bystanders. This is the favorite argument of those who recognize the force of libertarian objections to regulating private life. In theory, it's a potentially powerful argument. In practice, it depends on assertions that are often poorly supported or simply untrue. For example, the claim that second-hand smoke is a significant health hazard is far more dubious than public health officials would have us believe.
As for the billions of dollars in excess medical costs that this or that vice supposedly imposes on the virtuous, anyone who bothers to actually examine the evidence for such assertions will soon discover that these numbers are the products of something between educated guesses and flat-out fabrications.
Again, cigarette smoking provides a case in point: Serious economists who have studied the issue can't even agree as to whether smoking produces a net cost or benefit to our health-care budget.
What nobody has any idea how to calculate are the costs of intolerance. Nonsmokers might want to think about that as we enjoy our Deviance-Free Zones.
Bill Will Smoke Personal Liberty
Fox News - Robert A. Levy - June 18, 2004
years ago, the Supreme Court held that the Food and Drug Administration
was not authorized to regulate cigarettes. That was the right decision.
Yet, for constitutional purists who are concerned about separation of powers, the Court didn't go far enough. Instead of inquiring whether Congress intended to give the FDA jurisdiction over tobacco, the court might have tackled this more vital issue: May Congress constitutionally assign its legislative role to an executive agency?
The justices may have another bite at that apple if Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, get their way. Along with Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Tom Davis, R-Va., in the House, they have co-sponsored legislation — the Youth Smoking Prevention and Public Health Protection Act — that would give the FDA sweeping powers to regulate cigarette advertising and production, even to reduce (but not eliminate) nicotine, and ban the use of other harmful additives.
Of course, the machinery of regulation, once set in motion, will not stop with ameliorative changes. Listen to former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler, outlining his concept of FDA oversight: "Only those tobacco products from which the nicotine had been removed or, possibly, tobacco products approved by FDA for nicotine-replacement therapy would then remain on the market." In other words, cigarettes as we know them would cease to exist.
In 1919, Americans understood that Congress could not prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages, so Prohibition was effectuated by constitutional amendment. Today, when it comes to tobacco, our lifestyle police argue that we require neither a constitutional amendment nor even an intelligible statute — just an amorphous delegation to an un-elected administrative agency, which can ban ingredients it doesn't think "uninformed" citizens should consume. So much for limited government. We are left with the executive state — return of the king.
Moreover, the neatly wrapped pact between the FDA and industry leader Philip Morris is not likely to protect us from the travails of smoking. Indeed, Philip Morris is tagging along primarily because new advertising restrictions will prevent its rivals from increasing their market share. Meanwhile, after FDA-imposed nicotine restrictions make cigarettes taste like tree bark, we'll see an avalanche of black market sales, hooking underage smokers on an adulterated product, with big bucks generated for criminal gangs and terrorists.
Just as bad, assigning quasi-legislative authority to the FDA will drive another nail into the coffin of personal responsibility. A federal agency will be empowered to dictate the form and composition of a legal product about which consumers have exhaustive knowledge. Throughout this century, incessant warnings about the risks of tobacco have come from doctors, public health sources, and thousands of scientific and medical publications. By the 1920s, 14 states had prohibited the sale of cigarettes. A warning has appeared on every pack of cigarettes lawfully sold in the United States for almost four decades. Nicotine content by brand has been printed in every cigarette ad since 1970.
That isn't enough for the anti-tobacco crowd, for whom cigarettes are only the first in a long list of products that the nanny state will monitor. If we know anything at all about government, it is that bureaucrats are likely to have an expansive view of their mission. So what comes next — coffee, soft drinks, red meat, dairy products, sugar, fast foods, automobiles, sporting goods? The list is endless — all in pursuit of so-called public health.
But smoking is a private, not public, health question. The term "public," if it is to have any substantive content, cannot be used to describe all health problems that affect lots of people. Instead, "public" should refer only to those cases requiring collective action, when individual harms cannot be redressed without a general societal solution. Smoking, for example, would be a public health problem if it were contagious. But it isn't. Similarly, cigarettes do not infect us as they cross state borders. Nor has nicotine shown up in biological or chemical weapons.
An adult's decision to smoke is a voluntary, private matter. As for kids, they're already sheltered from tobacco products by laws on the books in all 50 states. By all means, those laws should be vigorously enforced. But young adults, once they turn 18, are old enough to vote, sign contracts, go to war, get married, even get an abortion. Surely they're old enough to decide whether to smoke.
FDA jurisdiction over tobacco is bad law and bad public policy. It's time to rein in the administrative state and restore a modicum of individual liberty.
The Corner on National Review Online - Andrew Stuttaford - June 12, 2004
John Reid, the UK’s health minister, of all people. Check out this report
from the Guardian:
“Mr Reid said that the middle classes were obsessed with giving instruction to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and that smoking was not one of the worst problems facing poorer people.
"I just do not think the worst problem on our sink estates by any means is smoking, but it is an obsession of the learned middle class," he said. "What enjoyment does a 21-year-old single mother of three living in a council sink estate get? The only enjoyment sometimes they have is to have a cigarette."
He’s right on any number of counts, although, as we have discovered in billionaire Nurse Bloomberg’s New York City, it’s not just the “middle classes” who are obsessed with bossing about the plebs. The war on tobacco has long since ceased to have any connection with public health (everyone knows that it’s a dangerous pastime). What it’s mainly about these days is public penitence (the drama of the ‘reformed’ smoker), power (people like pushing other people around) and an expression of social superiority.
Two other gems from this report: the first was the criticism from the thugs over at Action on Smoking and Health that Reid was somehow being “patronizing”. To hear that claim from an organization dedicated to the proposition that adults are incapable of taking decisions for themselves is, quite frankly, quite remarkable. The second comes from the reliably pointless British Medical Association (it’s sort of like the AMA but, somehow, even worse) gibbering on about the ‘damage’ caused by passive smoking. I always thought that doctors were meant to dispense accurate information. The BMA clearly does not think that rule applies to its own pronouncements. It’s time to scrap it.
smoking or respect the smokers.
Smoking bans are hypocritical and over-reaching government.
The Minnesota Daily - Steven Snyder - June 7, 2004
rarely smoke, and most of the time find it annoying when others do.
The Star Tribune editorial board claims banning smoking at these public places will save lives.
Of course, they’re right. It would likely lead to less smoking which would, in turn, save lives.
My question is this: If smoking is such a terror, why is it not banned altogether? Why would we knowingly allow teenagers and adults to purchase a product that will would kill them?
The answer is as a society we have accepted that some people want to smoke, want to take the risk, and consider it something they enjoy. We have sanctioned the activity, while warning of the risks, and some businesses and establishments have decided it is in their best interest to let people smoke within their structures.
What politicians have been doing across the country recently is damning the activity, while hesitating to damn the participator. They want to shun smoking, push it out into the street and away from where it can be seen. But they also enjoy the tax revenue it generates and will never go so far as to propose banning the product.
Consequently, a disconnect exists. People can smoke legally, but now the government is trying to change where it’’s legal for them to do so. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Bars, restaurants and private establishments have a right to enact their own rules and run their businesses as they see fit, within the law. Since smoking is a legal activity, they have every right to allow smokers to do it on their property.
Those who shudder at such a philosophy and cite statistics... should mount a campaign to ban the substance altogether. If it is so dangerous that people should not be standing near someone smoking, how can it be all right for the person actually putting the lit cigarette into his or her mouth? It would be irresponsible for legislators not to denounce this activity, its industry and its users, and demand sweeping societal regulation.
But no such claims are made. Instead, these recent bans reflect legislation of convenience. Proponents of the bans do not like smoking, much as I do not like it, and are trying to legislate it out of their lives. They are the same ones people who get annoyed in restaurants when other people smoke and give smokers dirty looks at outdoor events.
To those people I say, ban smoking or respect the smoker. There is no in-between. If smoking is legal, businesses should be free to allow it on their premises.
If we are going to start legislating based on personal preference, I have some other bans I’d like to propose. Forthwith, “Legally Blonde” movies, loud public cell phone use and driving at or below the speed limit while in the left lane, are all illegal.
Sound preposterous? So does banning bars from letting patrons use a legal product.
Mike, No Message
Sizing up college grads, secular Europeans, antismoking zealots and John Kerry.
Wall Street Journal - Peggy Noonan - June 3, 2004
reported Monday night that there is a new movement in California to ban
smoking on public beaches. This is much more serious than the fact that
if the law passes young people on beach blankets will no longer be able
to break the ice by asking, "Got a light?" The NBC report came on right
before I watched Tom Selleck chain-smoke through "Ike." It looked like
such a liberated thing to do, smoking without care or guilt.
There is a great lie out there that they didn't know smoking was dangerous in Ike's day, but of course they knew. They knew because they coughed, they knew because their lungs ached, they knew because when they smoked it produced phlegm, they knew because doctors told them smoking aggravates tuberculosis, they knew because they have brains, and they knew because smokers were addicted and there is some rough knowledge within the human soul that when you're addicted to something it's probably not good for you. They knew it was dangerous. Hitler was dangerous too. The world was dangerous. They were planning the biggest amphibious invasion in all of human history. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
I have come to hate the banners. No, I don't smoke. I just believe in the right of people to be human, to be imperfect and messy and flawed. I don't dislike the banners because they're prissy bullies, though that is reason enough. I dislike them because their work forces us to look at the shift in values in our country in our time. As I watched the NBC report, I actually thought to myself: I want to make sure I understand. If you smoke a cigarette on a beach in modern America you are harming the innocent. If you have a baby scraped from your womb, you are protecting your freedom. If you sell a pack of cigarettes to a 12-year-old boy you can be jailed, fined and sent to Guantanamo Bay with the other killers. If you sell a pack of contraceptives to a 12 year old boy in modern America you are socially responsible citizen.
For reasons that call for an essay of their own, and as we all know, the banners of cigarettes are on and of the left, and the resisters of the banners are on the right. Once the banners of liquor were of the right and its legalizers of the left. The banners of drugs were on the right and the legalizers on the left.
Why did the left change its stance on what it calls personal freedom regarding cigarettes and cigars? What was the logic? And please, if you are on the left, would you answer this question for me? How come the only organ the left insists be chaste is the lung? What is this pulmocentrism? Why are lungs so special? Why can't you endanger your own lungs? Why don't you care as much about livers? Don't the Democrats have a liver lobby?
I think that it is true that there is no individual human on earth that I hate. But when I think of the banners I think of what the old news producer told the bureaucrat who fired him in a cost-cutting campaign in "Broadcast News." At the end of their meeting the bureaucrat asked in unctuous tones if there was anything he could do to help. The producer thought. "Well, I certainly hope you die soon," he said. A great cinematic moment. I wish the banners would go away and stop bothering our country.
Tech Central Station - Sean Gabb - June 2, 2004
UK's parliamentary Health Select Committee in the House of Commons has
now reported on obesity. As expected, the report is a health fascist power
grab. It is an impressive mix of junk statistics, unsubstantiated claims,
generalizations from single instances, tear-jerking pleas to "save the
kiddies", claims on our pockets and personal freedoms, and demands for
jobs and status for the usual class of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers,
educators, and politically correct clients in corporate big business. The
recommendations include advertising bans, compulsory exercise for schoolchildren,
and discouragement of fatty food.
Having given them in general, let me proceed to the specific objections to this report.
To begin, food companies should not be blamed if their customers grow fat. People should be free to do as they please. The only limitations on this freedom should be to punish and deter fraud and coercion against others, and to ensure the continued existence of the community as a whole -- this last to be interpreted very narrowly. Any restraint on freedom is illegitimate that cannot be plainly justified on these grounds.
Protecting people from themselves is an illegitimate function. Freedom includes the right to make serious or even fatal mistakes. People should be free to drink and smoke and take other recreational drugs, and to take part in dangerous sports, and to join religious movements that require any extremes of self harm. And they should be free to eat as they please, no matter how unhealthy their food or quantity of food eaten may be supposed to be.
There is a difference where children are concerned. They cannot be presumed responsible in the same way as adults. But this is no reason for the state to interfere in raising them except in case of gross neglect. It ought generally be the duty of parents to look after children. They will usually do a better job than some distant bureaucracy. Whatever the experts say, nutrition is not an exact science. What is good for one person may not be good for another. The proposals for compulsory exercise and cookery lessons at school cannot be tailored to the individual needs of every child.
This assumes that state schools can effectively insist on or teach anything. These notoriously do a bad job at teaching their inmates to read and write. Adding more subjects to the curriculum does not mean they will be taught. Where health and education are concerned, governments are better at claiming abilities than at showing them.
But grant the authorities do know better what is good for children, and are able to enforce their will. This is true in some cases. There are bad parents, and there is always some delivery of basic services that is not wholly ludicrous. Even then, intervention of the sort proposed should be resisted. Perhaps, in certain areas, the government is better able to choose for us than we are ourselves. But unless its effects are likely to be catastrophic, the public good is better served by leaving us alone. Whenever the government does something for us, it takes away from our own ability to do that for ourselves. This diminishes us as human beings. Better, I suggest, a people who often eat and drink too much, and who on average die a few years before they might, than a people deprived of autonomy and shepherded into a few extra years of intellectual and moral passivity.
The problem is that these objections will not be considered in the present moral climate. Where children are concerned, the settled presumption is that no interference with civil rights or the private rights of parents is inappropriate. The idea that the raising of children is a matter wholly for parents -- and that interference is only justified to stop or punish violence or gross deception -- is not so much rejected by most people in this country as never considered. It is taken as common sense that the government is really responsible for the raising of children, and that parents are only allowed a shadow of their former authority in those matters where immediate and local decisions need to be made. Any argument here is over the precise extent of the principle, but not over the principle itself.
In the technical sense, this report is a classic case study in health fascism. With its gathering up and orderly statement of themes, nothing like this has happened before. But it was to be expected. Like a cat poking at a half dead mouse, the health fascists have grown bored with tobacco and alcohol and have been looking for a new cause. What better than obesity? What better than childhood obesity? The answer, I suppose, is passive childhood obesity. Now there is a set of claims worth waiting for.
by bylaw blows, so do smoking Stalinists
Toronto Star - Rosie DiManno - May 29, 2004
am writing this column in a bar, smoking.
Cigarette, beer, rant: A perfect combination.
But, this being Toronto, among the most bureaucratically bullying and nico-fascistic of cities, my conduct will be deemed illegal within days. The behaviour of tens of thousands will be, with an autocrat's pen, criminalized.
Which will not stop me from smoking in bars, of course. Pshaw. I will ignore the expanded anti-smoking bylaw that takes effect Tuesday as I ignored its earlier versions, back when the big-foot weed-wackos were still pretending puffing would be permitted in self-enclosed smoking rooms, thereby conning proprietors into spending thousands of dollars on facilities that will — HA HA — become refuges-non-grata by 2007.
I warned you that this was a lie. But deceit is now considered an acceptable tactic in social engineering by diktat. Even the Toronto Star — which has never met a group of people it couldn't transform into a victimized faction — has endorsed the smoke-room reversal on its editorial page, justifying mendacity because health trumps honour.
Never mind that it's largely junk science at issue, that the risk from exposure to second-hand smoke is unproven, results from its own exhaustive study that the World Health Organization famously tried to suppress. Or that the anti-smoking Gestapo is far more about bludgeoning behaviour it finds distasteful than it is about safeguarding health. They have cloaked themselves in sanctimony and they do not countenance dissent.
But dissent you must, every person who resents the trampling of both individual and collective rights. That is why I urge civil disobedience, a honourable means of protest against dishonourable legislation.
Push me, I'll push you right back.
If smokers don't wish to be in my company — and, indeed, there are many occasions where I don't wish to be in the company of smokers either — then they can stay out of the bars, restaurants and pool halls that I frequent. It's a big city, with room enough to accommodate people of diverse views and conflicting tastes.
Bar owners who complain about an unequal playing field — that they would lose customers to establishments that permit smoking or that shelled out for soon-to-become-obsolete separately ventilated spaces — actually reinforce, with their whingeing, the inherent stupidity of the bylaw. What they're admitting is that, given a choice, smokers will vote to smoke, with their feet. (I don't mean they'll actually smoke with their feet, although I've seen people do this and it's a neat trick.)
The bureaucratic solution of the smoking Stalinists is to offer no choice at all. This is not a solution, it's an inside-out rationalization. It's tyranny by bylaw.
Health advocates — health fanatics — claim that employees should be protected from second-hand smoke, that waiters and bartenders are owed a pristine environment; that, as vulnerable employees, they must be shielded from the bossiness of bosses. But nobody's holding a gun to anybody's head and nobody is forced to work anyplace where they find the environment disagreeable. If the smell of an abattoir makes you sick, you won't be looking for a job there. If water makes you fearful, no one will compel you to work as a lifeguard. If you can't stand the sight of blood, don't become a nurse. Duh. One should not have to point out the obvious but, apparently, this is necessary when dealing with the zealots and the absurdly intolerant.
I know a ton of bartenders and wait staff, and they know that smokers are valued customers and big tippers. They're not the ones who pushed for this bylaw and they object to the paternalistic attitude behind it.
Equalizing the playing field, or the saloon workplace, is a farce.
Worse, the whole contrived dilemma is predicated on subtle class warfare.
While leafing through one of those gossipy magazines in the grocery checkout line the other day, I happened upon a picture of that shiny Hollywood couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. They were in New York City for the premiere of Troy, attending a post-screening reception at a posh club. Now, New York, under gaga anti-smoker mayor Michael Bloomberg, has banned smoking just about everywhere, including underneath sidewalk awnings. But there were Brad and Jen, both smoking. Why? Because the club's owner would never dream of telling the stars to butt out. But a mook like me, or you, would be tossed out on our ear. (One Gotham restaurant, however, does provide a mink coat for female patrons stepping outside for a fag.)
Face it. A lot of working-class people have few indulgences they can afford. A beer and a smoke in a bar, or at the bingo hall, pretty much sums it up. They won't be taking out membership in private smoking clubs. It is appalling to me that the left, in particular — which so often enters into unholy alliances with ideological enemies in pursuit of a higher cause — has sold out its core blue-collar constituency by beating the drum for draconian anti-smoking bylaws. They've sold their soul.
I, for one, will not go gently into totalitarianism. Will not be cowed by nico-bullies or bamboozled by health charlatans.
Smoke more, smoke lots, smoke everywhere.
Because this bylaw blows.
of the majority: Smoking ban is just plain wrong
TwinCities.com - Matthew J. Gollinger - May 20, 2004
Gollinger is an attorney and part-time bartender.
smoking bans have made their way into law across the country, one adage
has repeatedly come to mind: "What's right isn't always popular, and what's
popular isn't always right."
The St. Paul City Council is threatening to enact a smoking ban. The stink of smoke in clothing, the haze obscuring the stage and sore throats induced by second-hand smoke would be worries of the past. The majority recognizes that these benefits would improve their bar/restaurant experience and pledges their support to the ban.
These benefits can explain the popularity of the proposal, yet they do not justify it. The proposed ban recklessly ignores the ability of the free market to meet public demand. Moreover, free society demands that the majority refrain from such selfish imposition.
Smoking bans make sense in the context of hospitals and airplanes, which are areas of public necessity. Restaurants and bars, however, are recreational venues, where no one is forced to be. The proposed ban is grossly overbroad regulation, marginally increasing the convenience and comfort of the nonsmoking majority by drastically reducing the rights and privileges of the smoking minority. While the clothing of nonsmokers will be good for an extra wearing between washes, smokers will be shooed outside like dogs in the dead of winter.
This is pure selfishness by those favoring the ban. Currently, smokers and nonsmokers are able to enjoy a drink/meal in their venue of choice, nearly all of which have nonsmoking sections. Furthermore, nonsmokers are free to patronize restaurants that have voluntarily banned smoking. If people truly cared about the ban, such establishments would be inundated by those seeking smoke-free hospitality. Extensive advertising would appear to attract all of those nonsmoking dollars to smoke-free joints. The sponsors of the ban seek to take away our ability to "vote with our feet/pocketbook" by eliminating our ability to choose.
The smoking ban grows out of an ever-expanding brand of idiocy; that one has a fundamental right to be free from inconvenience and offense. This insanity is patently un-American. When we venture into the public, whether it be a sidewalk, park, bar or restaurant, we subject ourselves to experiencing the whole of our society. Frequently, our society is not a perfect reflection of who we are, and it offends us. One might be offended at the sight of a homosexual couple kissing, the hearing of a racial epithet or the stench of someone who chooses not to shower.
While we could outlaw physical contact by members of the same gender, institute speech codes and make showering mandatory, we do not and should not. We do not prohibit these activities because our selfish need for convenience and personal comfort must not interfere with the basic freedoms we enjoy as a society.
The most compelling argument in favor of the ban is that hospitality employees are subjected to a dangerous work environment, polluted by carcinogens. Let me be clear on this point: I do not care. Neither should you.
I have worked as a bartender for the past four years. Though I do not consider myself a smoker, I have inhaled more than my fair share of second-hand smoke. Might this exposure cause long-term adverse health effects? Yes. However, I have grown up in a time when even people living under rocks are well aware that smoking is bad for you. Nevertheless, I chose to work as a bartender and accepted the negative aspects of the job along with the positive ones. As an adult in a free society, I weighed the relevant pros and cons and made the choice to serve drinks. Nobody forced me to get behind that bar, and I certainly don't need the City Council's protection. The implicit condescension and elitism of the sponsors of the smoking ban should infuriate all employees of the hospitality industry.
I like to think that we live in a relatively enlightened community that respects the rights of those who are outnumbered. However, as the smoking ban gains momentum, I am starting to believe that those who support the ban do not care whether such a ban is right, so long as it is popular.
Congress needs to butt out of our business.
National Review Online - Shawn Macomber - May 17, 2004
gears of the nanny state ground forward last week as the Senate Commerce
Committee held hearings to determine whether movies that portray smoking
should receive an "R" rating. As usual, the government was all stick and
very little carrot.
"We're calling for personal restraint. We're calling for personal responsibility," Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.), said, quite reasonably, followed all too quickly by Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who was less magnanimous. "If something isn't done by the industry, something will be done by Congress," Wyden threatened. "Personal responsibility" apparently now means living up to the arbitrary whims and mores determined by the federal government. So long as those whims are bipartisan, of course.
This in the midst of an election campaign that, so we are told, is one of the most significant in our country's recent history: The economy is collapsing, terrorists are at our doorstep, global environmental ruin is imminent, and baby boomers are more likely to retire to cardboard boxes than to Florida. I've seen John Kerry's commercials, and it's not pretty. Yet our government has determined that Now is the time to end the scourge of smoke on the silver screen.
So what is a movie rating exactly? The original ratings system was created as a response to a 1968 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the rights of states and cities to keep certain books and films available to adults out of the purview of children. In other words, ratings are meant to protect children from something they otherwise would not have contact with in the public square.
The "R" rating, as it stands today, warns parents that a film contains nudity, sexual situations, hard language, or illegal-drug use. These are reasonable cultural demarcation lines because each of these acts in a public setting before a child would be illegal. A couple having sex on an elementary-school playground would be arrested, for example. Shooting heroin in front of your neighbor's kid while repeatedly shouting the "F" word could get you in trouble as well.
Smoking is an altogether separate matter. Cigarettes are not an illegal product, and their use by adults is accepted in public. Parents, friends, older siblings, bad-boy (and -girl) musicians can all smoke in front of them, without consequence. A parent, teacher, or older sibling can all light up in their presence without facing a citation or a ride downtown. More importantly, the oh-so-cool 18-year-old leather-jacket rebel at the mall could smoke with coolly detached nihilism and mall security would be forced to stand by helplessly. The draw will still be there.
Further, in threatening to regulate an industry which to a large extent already regulates itself, Congress is accomplishing nothing. Children are not being protected from anything in that darkened theater that they will not be privy to on any sunlit street in America. Do we really want to equate smoking with abject violence or crack cocaine? Will that send a message about what "personal responsibility" means in a free society for the next generation?
Worse, regulation would set a terrible precedent. Government regulation always has unintended consequences, a point that was not lost on Motion Picture Association of America head Jack Valenti, who told lawmakers that if the rating system were to stand at the whim of special-interest groups, it would not end with a ban on smoking. Overeating is, long term, as deadly as smoking. Will depicting Happy Meals require an "R" rating next? Environmental and animal-rights groups, Valenti pointed out, would love to have their agendas affect ratings as well.
"I want to make sure this rating system does not get cluttered up with a bunch of other people who have equally passionate views that want to be included," Valenti said Tuesday. "I've lived this for 38 years and I understand it very well."
An "R" rating also needs to be taken seriously by the film industry because it makes a large cut into a film's potential audience. To foist such a limiting factor onto a project unnecessarily is a form of politically correct economic warfare.
In the end, it is absolutely true that smoking is dangerous. But so too is rock-climbing or skydiving or not hassling Islamic militants on FBI watch-lists at flight schools. Educating children on the risks of smoking will cut down on under-age smoking, but it will never eliminate it. To believe that sheltering children from something in movie theaters that is perfectly legal at home will suddenly end the teen-smoking problem is merely pie-in-the-sky fantasy. For the government to believe it is their business to make artistic decisions for filmmakers is arrogant. If smoking is not insidious enough to be outlawed completely, then let's allow parents, not Congress, to worry about raising our children.
Smoking ban hazardous to the tenure of Supreme Court justices
Bluegrass Institute - Jim Waters - May 13, 2004
am not a smoker. In fact, I dislike second-hand smoke so much that I have
been known to tell rude smokers in restaurants to blow their smoke in another
direction – at least until I finish dessert.
However, as much as I dislike smoking, the thought of government trying to regulate that activity is even more distasteful. I can walk away from a smoky restaurant, but I can’t leave behind the organized force of government.
Freedom-loving Kentuckians should take exception to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding the iron fist of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, which has voted to ban smoking in private businesses.
If politically unpopular but legal activities such as smoking can be outlawed, what could be next? Elected officials confiscating a privately owned water company? If Kentucky’s judicial system fails to protect the property rights of its citizenry from a government determined to eliminate them, what will?
In sustaining Lexington’s smoking ban, a majority of the Kentucky Supreme Court sides with the confiscatory behavior of government while the dissenting opinion upholds liberty and the individual’s right to private property.
On the wrong side of a six-to-one decision, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice William Graves of Paducah courageously warns that the ban is “arbitrary” and “oppressive” because it represents the confiscation of private property.
Some may protest that enacting a smoking ban is not the taking of property; it merely restricts which activities can take place on that property. But, as Graves and other brave jurists who steadfastly believe in upholding the Constitution have pointed out, there is no difference.
“Use is an essential attribute of ownership,” Graves wrote.
By restricting a legal activity like smoking in a private establishment, government essentially seizes a part of that property and impairs its economic vitality. The U.S. Constitution and Kentucky’s Bill of Rights label such procurement as “regulatory taking” for which compensation must be given to the owner.
In a pitiful defense of the infringement upon these property rights, Justice Donald Wintersheimer points to “evidence” presented by the government suggesting that such a ban would have “no adverse economic effect.” He also points to numerous surveys suggesting that the public favors the ordinance.
This is a disrespectful and nonsensical way to determine the constitutionality of a proposed law.
Whether the public favors a smoking ban or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether government has a right to interfere in the affairs of private businesses and their owners when no illegal activity is taking place.
Whether such a ban results in a positive or negative economic impact is equally irrelevant. The guarantee of individual liberty protected by the Kentucky Bill of Rights is clearly at stake.
Perhaps among the topics of conversation at future gatherings of Lexington’s cigar clubs would be the outrage of our nation’s founders toward assertions made by Judge Wintersheimer. Writing for the majority, he states that using the police powers of government to enforce the ban of a legal activity is “reasonable.”
But often, it’s what well-intended politicians consider to be reasonable government actions that bear the worst results.
“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
Lexington’s policymakers have apparently deluded themselves into believing they are doing something good by banning smoking in establishments owned by private individuals. In reality, they have dealt Kentuckians another setback for freedom and a blow to the liberties of their constituents.
Lovers of liberty in Kentucky should remember that our constitution gives them the ultimate recourse to the unconstitutional actions of its Supreme Court justices. Every six years we can eject those who do not defend our Kentucky Constitution and elect those who guarantee they will.
was satire, not sense: Smoking ban is tyranny
TwinCities.com - Joe Soucheray - May 12, 2004
look, I blew it. You have to hit people in the head when you are throwing
the old satire pitch over the plate, and here I went and had too much fun
nibbling at the outside corner. I'm talking about a citywide smoking ban
that I pretended to be in favor of in Sunday's newspaper.
I WAS KIDDING. STOP E-MAILING ME!
Especially you people in Texas. This Internet is a wonderful thing. You can write a piece in St. Paul that throws a Texan into convulsions at his breakfast table. I got e-mails from some Texans who intended me bodily harm.
Interestingly enough, I received no e-mails from the anti-smoking zealots. Either they can't read or they are too timid to actually thank me. Or maybe, just maybe, what I proposed introduced just enough reasonable doubt that they didn't know what to say. I heard from freedom lovers, but nary a word from the tyranny side of the aisle.
It's that simple to me, by the way. For Dave Thune or any other politician to issue a smoking ban is tyranny. Hypocrites should either ban tobacco in this country or just deal with the fact that about 25 percent of the American people smoke and it will always be thus.
In fact, I went and looked up a bunch of quotes about tyranny. There, too, the Internet is a wonderful thing. Just type in "tyranny" and "quotes" and you get about 50,000 hits. In Sunday's piece I was trying to suggest that those who intend to take care of us do so without worrying much about the real harm they also bring, the incremental chipping away at personal liberties. I upped Thune's ante by pointing out that we shouldn't stop at bars and restaurants, but that the ban should be continued citywide, into homes, automobiles, you name it.
C.S. Lewis wrote: "Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.'' To which I would add, "which makes them very dangerous indeed.''
I absolutely believe with all my heart that the likes of Thune or any other limited thinker on the City Council would gladly attempt a complete ban on smoking. But I didn't write that far enough over the top. I wrote it in a way that I guess seemed too real, and the next thing you know the smokers in Texas, of all places, are ready to mount a posse. Good for them.
Now the movement has spread to Minneapolis, where the City Council, having solved all other problems, wants a smoking ban in the city's 1,070 bars and restaurants. The most surprising aspect of that breaking development is that Minneapolis has only 70 more drinking and eating emporiums than St. Paul. I figured Minneapolis for maybe 500 more bars and restaurants than St. Paul.
(Hey, the old saintly city holds its own, huh?)
As in St. Paul, the debate seems to center on the idea that such a ban pits health concerns against business concerns. No it doesn't. The ban pits individual decision-making against legislative micromanagement.
One guy e-mailed me and told me that when his neighbor, a chain smoker, lights up he can smell it if the wind is right.
"Well, all I do is get up and shut the window,'' he wrote.
Precisely what I was looking for. Of course that's what you do. You don't call a city council member and start complaining. The decision in bars and restaurants can best be left up to the owners. They own the business. If they want to prohibit smoking, that is their right.
If you endorse Thune, or in Minneapolis, fill in the blank, there is no telling where you would draw the line — or, more accurately, you will want to draw the line someday and it will be too late.
WHO must drop old-style politics and get back to saving children's lives
Telegraph - Roger Bate - May 10, 2004
week the World Health Assembly begins in Geneva. The annual meeting of
the World Health Organisation is sure to be a splendid affair, with much
self-congratulatory speechmaking, but underneath the WHO is getting increasingly
politicised and is failing to combat the diseases of poverty, preferring
to look at fashionable western problems, notably obesity and smoking.
WHO officials are adept at using media and political systems to increase their influence, funding and power. Now they are taking an increasingly "Old Europe" approach to foreign policy, as demonstrated in their treatment of Taiwan and Palestine in particular.
The tobacco control convention and obesity initiative show that the WHO is pandering to the desires of its western, especially European, donors, rather than the malnourished millions of Africa and Asia. Smoking and over-eating may have public health aspects to them but they are largely individual lifestyle choices, rather than involuntary causes of death.
It is surely the role of individual countries to decide whether to influence the lifestyles of their citizens. Spending western taxpayers' money on removing Coca-Cola vending machines from schools, and placing anti-smoking billboards in African cities, are strange priorities when every five seconds an African child dies of preventable Aids, TB or malaria.
Last year, for the seventh time, the WHO turned down Taiwan's request for membership. It remains shut out from participating in and benefiting from WHO programmes because the organisation argues that Beijing is the country's true political master. The WHO completely ignored the fact that Taiwan had confronted the Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus openly, while Beijing's response was obfuscation and delay - and 600 unnecessary deaths.
Of course the WHO, like all UN agencies, must deal with the realpolitik of nations. China's power means that its "one China" policy commands acceptance, but the WHO's reputation should spring from its willingness to bring medical assistance to wherever it is needed. Even in times of war, medical emergencies can lead to ceasefires.
Where Taiwan acted to restrict the spread of Sars and send regular updates to the WHO, the People's Republic kept silent. Yet the WHO would not even respond to cries for help from Taiwan for expertise to counter the spread of the disease, because it refuses to recognise the existence of the country.
It was left to Tommy Thompson, US Health and Human Services Secretary, referring to Taiwan, to tell the WHO last May: "If we are truly serious about stopping this disease in its tracks, then we cannot ignore millions of people who are at risk." After months of restraint, Taiwan eventually lost patience with the WHO and said that: "The WHO should not become a political stage. Politics should remain out of healthcare."
For the WHO to ignore Taiwan is inexcusable, since its own charter calls for political reorganisation in the interests of public health. It also claims that "the Israeli occupation [of Palestine] is a serious health problem". Its "solution" is to reaffirm "the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian state."
Israel is the only country to be repeatedly attacked by the WHO, despite the evidence that the Palestinians' health has improved under occupation. Mortality rates have fallen in the past 30 years in the West Bank and Gaza, and the life expectancy of Palestinians has jumped from 48 to 72 years - rather better than the Arab or North African averages.
Steven Menashi, of the Hoover Institution in California, points out that instead of concerning itself with health matters, "World Health Assembly resolutions and WHO reports condemn the Jewish state for requiring security checkpoints, building settlements, and responding militarily to terrorist attacks.
"All these may well be worthy of criticism and debate within a deliberative political body, but by presenting them as health concerns, the WHO attempts to pass off its political preferences as scientific expertise."
We shall see next week whether the assembly will once again condemn Israel and ignore Taiwan, or whether it will return to its charter and put health above politics. We should not hold our breath. Since 1998, the organisation has become progressively more politicised, adopting Continental European attitudes and earning the distrust of commentators and nation states alike.
In the last decade, the numbers dying annually from infectious disease have increased from 17m to nearly 19m, while the WHO has played politics. By focusing on smoking and obesity and promoting a Franco-German world view, the WHO has lost sight of its mission to save the poorest from easily preventable and cheaply curable diseases.
will go up in smoke with statewide smoking ban
Columbia Basin Herald - Editorial - May 6, 2004
activists have launched an initiative campaign to enact a statewide smoking
ban in all public places and private businesses with employees. Proponents
say a statewide ban would improve health and level the economic playing
field for everyone.
That's not quite true.
The initiative would not apply to tribal businesses, and we need look no further than Pierce County, Washington, to see what the consequences will be.
Pierce County Health Department officials implemented a countywide smoking ban in taverns and restaurants in February. At the time, employers warned that their customers would flee to tribal casinos where smoking is not restricted, endangering jobs and livelihoods in Pierce County businesses.
That's exactly what happened.
Taverns and restaurants in Pierce County are hemorrhaging jobs, and if employers weren't so busy trying to stay afloat, they could tell the county, "we told you so."
When Pierce County's smoking ban took effect, anti-smoking activists and the health department assured business owners that any lost business would be minimal and would be more than offset by a flood of non-smoking patrons.
They were wrong.
For example, the Grand Central Casino in Lakewood reports that since the ban took effect in February, liquor sales are down 42 percent and food sales have dropped 25 percent. Fifteen employees have been laid off and another 40 to 50 jobs are in jeopardy.
Health department officials say employers just need to hang on for a year or so until non-smokers make up for the lost business. A year? That's like telling a drowning man, "hey, I'll be back tomorrow to give you a hand."
As predicted, the big winners in this debacle are the tribal casinos, which do not restrict smoking. Although Pierce County officials have "encouraged" the tribes to ban smoking, the tribes have refused and are reaping the economic benefits. The same would be true with a statewide ban.
In addition to revenue from the casinos, many tribes also reap huge economic benefits from tribal smoke shops. Their dependence on cigarette-related income is ironic, considering a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control that reports Native Americans smoke more heavily and suffer more smoking-related illnesses than the general population. While tribal communities receive some of Washington state's tobacco settlement money for anti-smoking programs, neither the state nor Pierce County can compel them to restrict smoking on tribal land.
The bottom line is this: The free market could have taken care of this. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, nearly 730 businesses in Pierce County licensed to serve food or alcohol are already voluntarily smoke-free. People who want a smoke-free experience have somewhere to go. Conversely, if there had truly been a big backlash against smoking in bars and restaurants, patrons would have stayed away from establishments that allowed smoking. Instead, the Pierce County Health Department imposed a ban that is driving those customers away.
As one beleaguered casino employee asked the health department officials, "how many people have to lose their cars and their jobs and their homes before you see that trying to protect my health is endangering my livelihood?"
GOPUSA - Sean Turner -
April 30, 2004
you are a restaurant owner. And in your restaurant, the majority of the
food on your menu is high in fat, salt, sugar, calories, and a host of
other things that are typically associated with bad eating habits, obesity,
and poor health related to a poor diet. Such a restaurant is not unlike
many "soul food" or "fast food" restaurants here in the United States.
Then one day, the state or local government has the "brilliant" idea that
in order to reduce the costs and incidents associated with treating obesity
and diet-related illnesses, it will ban all "bad" foods from all restaurants.
After all, no one should have to endure the constant barrage of tasty desserts
and fried foods all around you when eating out - right?
To many, the silliness of this question seems readily apparent, and the likelihood of such government prohibitions on "bad" foods seems far-fetched - until you consider the increase in smoking restrictions being imposed on private businesses, like your hypothetical restaurant.
Earlier this year, a Republican State Senator in Georgia - who just happens to be a physician - sponsored state legislation that sought a statewide ban on indoor smoking, including restaurants and bars. Some amendments to the bill arbitrarily excluded small businesses that are not restaurants or bars from the ban, or private businesses with seven or fewer employees. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Georgia Senate 45-7 -- and given that the sponsors of the legislation were split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, one would consider this to be a truly "bi-partisan" effort. Fortunately, the bill died in a State House committee. However, with a special legislative session on the way, there will be plenty of time for state lawmakers to make another attempt at strangling private business owners.
Prior to this, a number of Georgia counties enacted similar smoking bans on restaurants and other businesses - which predictably led to the outrage of small business owners who felt the immediate effects of the bans in declining sales. Nevertheless, Georgia is not alone in its effort to repel smokers - who have increasingly become targets of overzealous lawmakers, and perennial complainers. A number of large cities across the United States have also successfully isolated tobacco consumers. According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) -- a "non-profit tax-exempt legal action antismoking organization" - these cities include Aspen (Colorado), Austin and Dallas (Texas), Santa Fe (New Mexico), and Toledo (Ohio), among others.
Such cities and states would likely receive high ratings from the American Lung Association, who produces an annual "State of Tobacco Control Report Card". In it, each state receives a letter grade in four different categories: "Smokefree Air", "Youth Access", "Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending", and "Cigarette Taxes". Based on their rating system, a state will receive the highest rating/grade if it meets the "target" level of government restrictions on smoking. So, the greater the government coercion, the better the grade - or, the less freedom, the better the grade.
Proponents of this trend of "government morality legislation" put forth sob stories of the "dangers or secondhand smoke", and "the right to breathe smoke free air", ad nauseam - and legislators, apparently recognizing that non-smoking voters outnumber small business owners, seem more than willing lend a sympathetic ear (and legislation). However, there are a significant number of non-business owners who have mounted collective efforts to fight smoking bans. One such organization is Ban the Ban -- a "bi-partisan, grassroots group of [Washington] DC residents opposed to the proposed smoking ban".
These groups, and others like it, recognize the economically debilitating effects of misguided government restrictions imposed on small businesses, which can ill-afford to experience significant declines in sales. However, it seems that far too many others are willing to accept yet another loss of freedom, for convenience. For them, it is apparently too difficult to either stop being lazy and find restaurants that voluntarily prohibit or restrict smoking; or, to simply stay at home and cook! Now there's a novel idea...
The market, or consumers have repeatedly shown that they are more than capable of rewarding and penalizing businesses through simple choices of where to spend their money - without the need for insidious government intervention, and its unintended consequences.
laws won't help the stupid
Atlanta Journal Constitution - Jeff Cape - April 29, 2004
is truly an interesting world we live in. Laws must be passed nowadays
to prevent us from killing ourselves.
Several years back, legislation was passed forcing motorcycle riders to wear helmets. This, of course, was met with an outcry from those in the motorcycling community, who wished to continue to have the right to crack their skulls on the pavement if they so desired.
Back in the '50s, cars did not require the use of seat belts, nor did they require the mere presence of seat belts. I can hear those people now: "In my day, our cars didn't have seat belts. We rode around at 100 mph with no regard for our own lives, and we'd crash and go flying through the windshield for 50 yards, and we liked it!"
The latest from our government is the countywide smoking ban. Society tried telling smokers that they're going to kill themselves. It also tells them to stop killing us, too.
I'm all for "smoke-free" environments. I don't smoke. I find cigarette smoke annoying and unpleasant.
But must there be a law established for this? Aren't the owners of these respective establishments smart enough to enact their own policies based on what their customers demand? If I walk into Wild Bill's, which I consider an adult establishment, I expect cigarette smoke. If it bothers me, I'll leave. The people who work there probably have an idea that they will be exposed to smoke, too.
Likewise, I don't particularly care to have dinner in a restaurant where cigarette smoke is prevalent. But I don't have to eat there. If people stop patronizing these establishments, the owners will get the message. If they enjoy continuous breathing of noxious fumes, and so do their customers, so be it.
To me, it goes back to the helmet law. If people are so stupid that there must be a law enacted to prevent someone from killing himself or herself, it really isn't worth making the law in the first place. The respective anti-smoking campaigns have done an outstanding job educating America to the dangers of smoking. If the people who are still smoking, or are about to begin smoking, don't get it at this point, then nothing else will have an effect on them.
The argument would then be, "but someone not wearing a motorcycle helmet only affects that individual, secondhand smoke affects other innocent victims." This is true, but I'm not going to die from being exposed to 30 minutes of secondhand smoke any more than I'm going to die from the last Big Mac I just ate at McDonald's (well, maybe; I eat a lot of them). If you're worried about the workers, they knew what they were getting into when they signed up.
Business owners can decide if they want to provide a healthy environment for their employees or not. If they decide the best way to make patrons happy is to eliminate smoking, they'll do that, too.
As far as our "right" to go anywhere in Gwinnett County and not encounter the nuisance of secondhand smoke, do we really need to force people to abide by our preferences? I'd prefer not to encounter rabid dogs in an eating establishment, but should that happen, I would probably have the common sense not to sit down to a T-bone steak dinner, law or no law.
Is our society this dumb? If so, the world would be better off without us. We forced people to wear seat belts and helmets and banned smoking, all to prevent dumb people from killing themselves. Now they say that business owners are too dumb and want to kill us, too.
I'm not so dumb. I know what to avoid and when to avoid it. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a Whopper with my name on it.
Sin Tax Craze: Who’s Next?
Action Institute - Rev. Robert A. Sirico - April 28, 2004
state governors are increasingly turning to that venerable quick fix –
the sin tax – to solve their budget problems. Smokers, drinkers and gamblers,
the usual cast of politically dispossessed, are once again finding themselves
in the bull’s eye for new taxes. In Michigan, a proposal from Governor
Granholm would boost Michigan’s cigarette tax to $2 a pack, moving it to
a position behind only New Jersey in per pack taxes. Texas Governor Rick
Perry is advocating expansion of gambling, in addition to cigarette and
alcohol tax hikes. He also is proposing a fee of $5 for every time a customer
enters a topless bar.
But if there’s truth in the maxim that no one was ever scolded out of their sins, it is equally true that no one was taxed out of them, either. The temptation to impose sin taxes is one that should be resisted for economic and moral reasons.
Implicit in the government’s singling out of these activities is a moral judgment about their validity. People shouldn’t smoke or drink, so taxing them for doing so is not only within the rights of the state, but an act of responsible leadership. Nevermind the negative economic implications and the infringement on the rights of the individual person to make their own moral judgments.
Governments often find large public support for sin taxes because the majority of the populace does not engage in whatever activity is being taxed: they themselves aren’t affected by the tax, so why should they care? Philosopher Eric Voegelin points out a historical precedent for this ultimately self-centered attitude. In Germany in the 1930s, he observed that many Germans stayed quiet about the treatment of the Jews. “So here you have this pattern of social behavior,” Voegelin said. “As long as the neighbor gets it in the neck, we all happily join in, but as soon as our own turn comes then there is resistance.”
What is to stop the government from taxing other behaviors it happens to deem unhealthy? Once the state has moved in to tax “morally ambiguous” activities, it has crossed an invisible line putting it into the business of protecting its citizens from themselves. How long before there is a sin tax proposed for soda or fast food, both of which can contribute to obesity or heart disease? Gluttony, after all, is a deadly sin.
Interestingly, the state has a vested interest in people continuing this supposedly sinful behavior. Under a sin tax, the state finds itself in the peculiar and contradictory position of professing to discourage certain behaviors while relying on their continuance as a source of revenue.
Such attempts serve as provisional and stop-gap measures in addressing the budget deficits. Instead of formulating prudent policies that address real problems with the financing of state governments, sin tax gimmickry functions as a smokescreen which distracts the public from more fundamental fiscal issues.
Proposed increases on tobacco and liquor are more akin to a short-term painkiller than they are to a long-term cure. In addition, these sin taxes affect two oft-overlooked groups who merit greater recognition.
The poor are much more likely to spend a greater share of their disposable income on tobacco and alcohol than smokers and drinkers who are comparatively better off. So the poor, who are supposed to benefit from the increased funds, are the ones who are being asked to pay even though they can least afford it.
Restaurateurs and bar owners would also be negatively affected, just as they are beginning to feel the effects of an improving economy. The bar industries worry that raising taxes on liquor could result in layoffs, as proprietors are forced to make difficult decisions. A decrease in jobs is an unintended, but nonetheless real, consequence of such tax hikes.
One of the unintended consequences of sin taxes are the increased motivation for people to violate the law. Sin taxes exist as a halfway house to prohibition, and in the same way bootleggers used to smuggle liquor into the United States from Canada during from 1919 to 1933, smokers will face greater temptation to engage in black market activities.
The governors’ attempts to raise taxes on the poor and certain small businesses skirts the real problem of state budget deficits: the government’s addiction to spending. We must ask ourselves whether we want to charge politicians and bureaucrats with sanctioning sins in areas that are morally ambiguous. Or should this task be left to community, family, church, and tradition – social institutions that are often more trustworthy in determining the limits of non-violent behavior?
The great English historian Lord Acton summed it up nicely. “There are many things the government can't do – many good purposes it must renounce,” he said. “It must leave them to the enterprise of others.” The sin tax is a glaring example of what happens when governments fail to take account of their own inherent limitations, and attempt to be all things to all people.
Threat of the Paternalistic State
The Daily Texan - Peter Schwartz - April 21, 2004
Mr. Schwartz is chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute (www.aynrand.org)
precondition of freedom is the recognition of the individual's capacity
to make decisions for himself. If man were viewed as congenitally incapable
of making rational choices, there would be no basis for the very concept
of rights. Yet that is increasingly how our government views us. It is
adopting the role of a paternalistic nanny, zealously protecting the citizen
against his own actions. In the process, our freedom is disappearing.
Obvious examples of this attitude are laws mandating the use of automobile seat belts and motorcycle helmets. Gambling is another area in which the state believes it must keep the individual from harming himself. New York State, for example, has threatened to sue Citibank for allowing credit cards to be used for Internet gambling and for "making profits off the financial hardships of compulsive gamblers."
Now the food industry is being blamed for the "disease" of obesity. There are proposals for special taxes on "junk food." A George Washington University law professor, who pioneered the lawsuits against the tobacco industry, says: "You could have states saying that they have this billion-dollar public health problem, and food companies are responsible for a certain percentage of it. It's a reach, I admit. But they said the same thing about tobacco lawsuits 10 years ago."
The paternalistic "food police" will thus keep people from buying cupcakes so that no one imposes upon the public the "social cost" of extra poundage.
Instead of being morally outraged at this appalling violation of rights, the food industry-like the tobacco industry before it - is appeasing its attackers. Coca-Cola, for example, is giving schools exercise pedometers to show how social-minded it is about obesity. And McDonald's has announced it will stop "supersizing." The Wall Street Journal writes that food companies "are contemplating advertisements that would discourage consumers from overeating their products." What's next? Ads to discourage banana buyers from eating before peeling?
But it is in regulating tobacco products, of course, that the tentacles of paternalism grip most tightly. The government maintains that, despite widespread knowledge about the dangers of smoking, the sale of cigarettes must be curtailed. With this approach, the government is making two declarations. The first is that you are not responsible for your decisions, and that if you are stricken by emphysema-or are injured in a car accident or become too fat, society will take care of you. The second is that, as a consequence, you cannot be given the freedom to make those decisions in the first place - i.e., your freedom to smoke cigarettes or to drive without a seat belt or to eat what you want will be restricted. Once your life is deemed to be the responsibility of the state, you are no longer permitted to incur "social costs" by making undesirable choices.
Thus, the government tyrannizes companies for having the audacity to make products that so many people willingly buy. In a forced settlement that supposedly compensates state governments for their health costs, tobacco manufacturers will hand over about $250 billion across 25 years. To further prevent people from electing to smoke, it is illegal to sell fewer than 20 cigarettes per pack, to dispense free samples or to award gifts to frequent buyers of cigarettes.
Then there are the pervasive restrictions on freedom of speech. To keep its "infantile" citizens from being persuaded to harm themselves, the government forbids tobacco-company logos on T-shirts. Industry advocacy groups, like the Council for Tobacco Research, have been disbanded; only "disinterested" parties - which the tobacco industry is required to help finance-are now allowed to state their opinions about tobacco. To compound the injustice, the industry had to characterize the forced settlement as "voluntary" and had to waive its right to invoke any First Amendment protections.
It is a rationalization to describe these measures as necessary to safeguard children. While the sale of cigarettes to minors is justifiably prohibited, it is the free choice of consenting adults that is being controlled in virtually all these regulations. And if it is proper to use preventive law to stop adults from buying cigarettes for fear that children too may buy them and be harmed by them, to what area of life would such reasoning not apply? Candy or soda, for example?
If we want to preserve our freedom, we must defend the right of companies to produce the goods that we voluntarily pay for-and the right of each individual to decide how to conduct his life.
rights in an ashtray
North County Times - Jim Trageser - April 8, 2004
Beach has started quite the little trend. Los Angeles has become the largest
city to follow Solana Beach's lead and take up the issue of banning smoking
on municipal beaches.
Beating up on smokers ---- while funding more public programs by raising taxes on cigarettes ---- is popular sport. If we still had Roman-style gladiatorial contests today, smokers could play the part of the Christians.
But popularity doesn't make it right, and there is a principle in free societies that you don't strip people of a right unless there is simply no way around it.
In fact, in our country, there has traditionally been a legal principle that the courts won't allow a right to be curtailed, much less abolished, unless these two criteria are met:
Exercise of this right unavoidably infringes on the rights of others;
Every less-invasive method of addressing the issue has been tried and failed.
While the anti-tobacco fanatics at the American Lung Association may not agree, under the basic premise of our Constitution ---- that all rights inherently belong to the people ---- we each have the right to smoke, as long as in doing so we don't violate the rights of others.
Anti-smoking forces have gotten smoking banned from most buildings in California by arguing that the smoke from cigarettes exposes anyone near the smoker to significant health risks. But no one could possibly cite this risk outdoors. While the enclosed air of a building may allow cigarette smoke to reach low levels of toxicity, that simply isn't true outdoors, where the smoke quickly dissipates.
So in banning smoking on its beaches, Solana Beach has decided to wage war not on a legitimate health risk nor on a violation of others' rights, but on a perceived moral offense against our modern sensibilities ---- much the same way that same-sex marriage offends some on the political right without actually doing them any harm.
Want to ban the littering and other obnoxious behavior by some smokers? The dropping of smoldering cigarettes on the beach, of burying butts in the sand, of using the beach as an ashtray?
Have at it. Those behaviors are clearly a violation of the rights of the rest of us to a safe, clean beach. In fact, they're already against the law.
But to ban smoking itself simply because we don't like it? That is nothing more than an act of contempt for nonconformity, an effort to use the force of law to bring about what is seen as a desirable social end.
Still, maybe this could lead to some interesting litigation.
Since court decisions have found that the tobacco companies have conspired illegally to addict smokers to their cigarettes, and since addiction is a recognized disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it might be fun to see some smokers use the ADA to argue that Solana Beach is illegally discriminating against smokers based on their disability.
Rights Form Foundation of Freedom
Fox News - Radley Balko - March 25, 2004
man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to
have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property
of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person,
his faculties, or his possessions.” — James Madison on Property, (1792).
A few months ago, I wrote a column in this space on efforts by anti-tobacco zealots to ban smoking in all public spaces, including privately-owned businesses. I was floored at how much negative e-mail I received in response to that column. The common theme among these negative responses was that non-smokers shouldn’t be subjected to the secondhand health effects caused by smokers. One guy wrote to say that he really enjoyed jazz and blues clubs, and didn’t see why he should have to suck in cigarette smoke in order to enjoy the music he loves.
Well, here’s why:
Someone put up a good deal of his own money to open that blues club. That, or he risked his reputation and financial status to take out a loan. Someone took great care to set the atmosphere of that club. Someone did all the appropriate paperwork, applied for all of the appropriate licenses, and took care to hire bartenders, a wait staff, and managers. Someone worries about that blues club’s financial success. Someone assumes the risks and liabilities that come with operating a business, particularly one that serves alcohol.
The author of that e-mail who enjoys this blues club took none of those risks. He put up none of his own money. He has no stake in that club’s success or failure, save for the fact that if it fails, he’ll need to find another blues club. So why should he be able to insist, with the help of government, that the guy who risked everything serve him on his terms?
Somewhere between today and the time of Madison, Americans have lost sight of the importance of property rights (search) — the ownership a man has of his body, his hands, and the product of his labor. As Madison wrote above, it is the right from which all other rights and freedoms are derived. Once a government and its people stop respecting and enforcing a man’s right to do what he pleases with what he owns and creates, all the other rights and freedoms we cherish fall into peril.
The erosion of property rights ought to concern all of us because, as our founding fathers knew, our right to just about everything else is dependent on our right to our person, our labor and what we produce. It’s easy to get outraged when government favors snail darters and endangered butterflies over jobs and homeowners. It’s easy to jump on the property rights bandwagon when cities seize old ladies’ houses to make room for the new Nissan plant. But we need to be consistent. We can’t say that it’s wrong for the EPA to tell a farmer what he can and can’t do with his land, but that it’s OK for the same agency to force restaurants to go smoke free. We can’t say it’s wrong for the Department of Labor to tell a business owner he must comply with needlessly expensive OSHA (search) regulations, but it’s okay for the same agency to tell him he must hire needlessly expensive domestic labor when cheaper foreign labor is available.
There’s either an absolute right to personal property or there isn’t. If Americans value any of their freedoms, they ought to guard this one with extra vigilance, even in times when it’s personally inconvenient to do so.
Tech Central Station - Sydney Smith - March 23, 2004
hundred years ago it was accepted as scientific fact that emphysema was
an occupational hazard for glass blowers and wind instrument players. Emphysematous
lungs are large, limp, and less elastic than normal lungs. Glass blowers
and horn blowers suck air in and out of their lungs all day. It only made
sense that their lungs would look and behave like a balloon that had been
blown up and deflated time and again. It was one theory that was considered
well grounded and rational by the standards of its day. But then, someone
actually measured the incidence of emphysema in glass blowers and horn
blowers and found that the condition was not rampant, but rather rare.
Medical science marched on, leaving yet another "fact" in its wake.
And medical science has continued to march on, or so we like to think. Discriminating doctors of the early twenty-first century, unlike the doctors of the early twentieth, pride themselves on practicing "evidence based medicine." Unless there's a paper and statistics to back up a theory, we don't put it into practice. We like to think of medicine as a hard science, as dependent on the observable and quantifiable as chemistry, or some branches of physics. But, the truth is, in many respects medical science has devolved into a science as soft as economics or sociology.
Take for example, the now infamous MMR and autism study that the prestigious Lancet published in 1998. Its purpose was to investigate the connection, if any, between inflammatory bowel disease and autism. It was study of only twelve children in England who had both disorders. In the course of the study, the researchers noted that eight of the twelve children's parents thought that the MMR vaccine was related to their children's illnesses. That was the extent of the connection. This is not so unusual, since the MMR vaccine is given between the twelve and fifteen months of age, the same age range in which autism first becomes recognizable. And, although the researchers were careful in their concluding remarks to say that neither they, nor anyone else to date, found any evidence linking the MMR vaccine to autism, they didn't refrain from expounding on a hypothetical connection between the two in their discussion.
There's nothing wrong with putting forth a hypothesis. That's what science is about, coming up with and disproving hypotheses. But not all hypotheses are created equal, and this one was based on particularly shoddy science -- a very small study, and the confusion of association with causation. Yet, for some reason The Lancet found it worthy of publication, well aware of the potentially devastating effects its poorly thought out conclusions could have on public health. At the time of publication, the article was accompanied by a prescient guest editorial from an official at the CDC that warned that "passion would conquer reason and the facts" if the study's conclusions were taken at face value by the media and the public. And that is just what happened. Blessed with the imprimatur of a world renowned medical journal, and a subject enticing to the media, the lead researcher was treated to a press conference at which he suggested that parents should avoid the MMR vaccine. MMR vaccine rates in Great Britain, where the story got much play, plummeted, and the incidence of measles rose. Within two years of the study's publication, there was a measles outbreak in Dublin that killed two children and hospitalized hundreds more.
And, although most physicians were capable of recognizing the poor science behind the theory, the editors of the Lancet apparently were not. They still are not able to recognize it. They've issued a partial retraction, not because the paper's conclusions were poorly thought out, but because the lead investigator had undeclared financial ties to a group seeking legal action against the vaccine's manufacturer. Presumably, bad science is only bad in the eyes of the Lancet if it's funded by the wrong interest group.
Unfortunately, this fondness for soft science is not unique to the British medical establishment. This month the equally prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper deceptively titled Actual Causes of Death, 2000 that claimed that obesity was gaining on tobacco as the number one cause of death in the United States. Except that the paper's objective wasn't to quantify actual causes of death, it was to attribute the risk of death to various behaviors -- behaviors that were preselected by the researchers.
And so, after a little statistical manipulation, the top ten actual causes of death -- which are diseases and accidents -- morph into a list worthy of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, sloth, and lust. Presumably, by this logic, if we all lived puritanical lives we could come pretty close to eliminating death all together. It is as much a confusion of association with causation as the MMR and autism study was. But, all the same, it's being used as an impetus for a series of government programs to change our behavior, all at taxpayer expense.
These are but two of the most recent and glaring examples of just how soft medical science has become, or perhaps remained. There's no shortage of marginal hypotheses that appear in the medical literature and are passed on to the lay press as solid fact. That's why one day hormone replacement therapy is good for you and the next it's bad. Why one day fish is a health food, and the next it's a toxin. We may have better technology, better drugs, and a better understanding of many disease processes than our forefathers did a hundred years ago, but we're no more sophisticated than they were in sifting the bad science from the good.
Ban Proposal is an Attack on Property Rights
Intellectual Conservative - Mark Brnovich -
February 20, 2004
if environmental tobacco smoke were proven to cause substantial health
risks, there would be no cause to regulate it in private establishments.
Arizonans Concerned About Smoking is pushing a statewide ban on smoking in private restaurants and bars. The group argues that a ban is necessary to protect the rights of nonsmokers to be in smoke-free environments. But ban proponents misunderstand the nature of rights in a free society.
I have a right to smoke, and I also have a right not to smoke. But I only have those rights when I’m on my own property. When I voluntarily walk into someone else’s bar or restaurant, my right to smoke or not to smoke is no longer an issue, because I’m on his property, not mine. If a bar owner chooses to allow smoking on his property, that’s his choice. He has every right to allow smoking, just as he has every right to serve apple pie.
A smoking ban is an attack on freedom and an attack on property rights. Proponents of the ban want government to grant them the power to walk onto someone else’s property and have things exactly the way they want them. And that means sending the police after business owners who do not bend to their will. Property owners who refuse to comply will risk fines and jail time.
Even if a majority of Arizonans favors the ban, that does not change the basic fact that a ban violates the rights of property owners. America’s founding fathers understood the dangers of unfettered majority rule. The U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, contains numerous direct and indirect provisions for the protection of property rights against democratic majorities. Similarly, the Arizona Constitution provides that our state and local governments “are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
Government buildings are different, because they are not private property. Individuals have little choice about whether to enter a government structure. If you’re like me, you do not go voluntarily to the Motor Vehicle Division to get a new license or to the courthouse to fight a traffic ticket.
We could talk about the importance of property rights to the economy. After all, Arizona restaurant and bar owners have invested time, money and energy building their businesses, and they made those investments because they expected government would respect their property rights. If society is to remain productive, government cannot arbitrarily take away people’s rights to use their property as they wish. But the real issue is freedom: government cannot be allowed to infringe on the property rights of individuals.
We could also talk about the health of workers exposed to secondhand smoke, and the scientific research that has attempted—in vain—to find a link between environmental tobacco smoke and cancer. But even if environmental tobacco smoke were proven to cause substantial health risks, there would be no cause to regulate it in private establishments. When you walk into a smoky restaurant or bar, you can tell immediately that smoke is present, and you can choose to stay or leave. For comparison, it is infinitely more difficult to detect the presence of salmonella in a chicken sandwich, so a stronger case can be made for regulating the cleanliness of restaurant kitchens.
If you are looking for a smoke-free restaurant, you are in luck. Almost all restaurants nowadays choose to have separate smoking and nonsmoking sections, if they allow smoking at all. That is the product of the free market: Over the last 40 years, as smoking has declined in America, nonsmokers have demanded smoke-free restaurants, and business owners have supplied them.
If you are looking for a smoke-free bar, you will have a more difficult time. But if a bar is too smoky for you, go to another one, or open your own bar and cater to nonsmokers. Either way, you have no right to use government to force an owner to make his private property smoke-free. By imposing such restrictions, the proponents of a smoking ban risk causing more harm to society than secondhand smoke could ever do.
- Tobacco Groups Blast Schwarzenegger
Associated Press - February 14, 2004
groups on Saturday protested Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to return
the smoke-filled room to California's political lexicon.
To comply with the state's strict smoking laws, the cigar-loving Schwarzenegger is converting the Capitol's interior courtyard into an all-weather ``smoking plaza'' where he can entertain lawmakers and other power brokers.
``It's a more positive environment where they can all be on an equal footing, as opposed to everyone going into the governor's office where he's behind his desk,'' Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said.
But some protesters said Schwarzenegger is undermining California's precedent-setting efforts to cut tobacco use and its staggering health and financial costs.
The Republican governor makes no secret of his appreciation of an expensive stogie. Schwarzenegger, who took office in November, has twice appeared on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
That sends the wrong signal, particularly to young fans of the screen star-turned-politician, said Laurie Comstock, founder of Tobacco Survivors United.
``It makes it look cool,'' said Comstock, who helped organize Saturday's rally outside the Capitol.
About two dozen protesters gathered displaying photographs of prominent dead smokers, including actors and politicians; a headstone labeled ``Your Name Here;'' and tolling a bell made from an old oxygen tank.
A mannequin's hand holding a large plastic cigar protruded from a body bag on a hospital gurney.
Protester Jim Walker called Schwarzenegger ``a poster boy for cigar smoking.''
``He's a tough guy, but he's always got a cigar in his mouth,'' said Walker, director of Stop Tobacco Abuse of Minors Pronto.
Saturday's rally also echoed complaints from the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
``We are deeply disappointed at several recent public depictions of your use and promotion of cigars,'' the groups wrote in a recent letter, ``and urge you to refrain from modeling this dangerous habit.''
But, Josh Grahek stood upwind at a distance, close enough that the smoke from his cigar wafted over the activists. He carried a cardboard sign reading, ``You have too much free time.''
Legislation Threatens a Free Society
Cybercast News Service - Sterling Rome - February 16, 2004
the idiotic prohibition on smoking anywhere swept through the Northeast
states last year my argument against it was not based on the belief that
smoking was good, but that out of control legislators would seize an opportunity
to dictate our personal choices.
Almost on cue, a bill in the New York legislature that would ban smoking in cars "when children are present" was proposed.
Again, I do believe that children should not be unnecessarily exposed to second-hand smoke, but the timing of the bill was not coincidental -- nor was the fact that it was quickly copied in states throughout the country.
Besides wanting to illustrate their "caring" for the community, most politicians seek to create legislation that will have an immediate impact. And no, they are not above piling on a knee-jerk bandwagon without considering the real ramifications of what they are proposing. While there is a long and pathetic list of such legislation through our history, there is no better example than the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution that started Prohibition.
I continually return to the theme of Prohibition because it is a perfect example of what happens when arrogant and self-serving politicians fool themselves into believing that they can force the public to do their bidding. Not only did Prohibition fail miserably, it created an organized crime syndicate that we are still fighting to dismantle to this day.
However, the current nanny-state trend of legislating our social mores actually begins in the legislative branch - with frivolous lawsuits that portray us all as helpless cretins who are powerless to resist the slightest urge, suggestion, or invitation. Idiot jurists who award billions to a man who didn't quit smoking in an iron lung freely accept the definition of the helpless addict without having the slightest idea of what their decision means.
Lawyers rely on such jurists and the trial becomes not about justice, but about the suspension of disbelief and the chance to decide who wins the lottery. While you certainly can't put a price on a human life, I do not believe that the entire tobacco industry should be liquidated if I got cancer after smoking for 40 years. This is not justice - it's a bad movie-of-the-week on Lifetime.
Yet, such jury decisions do not go unnoticed by politicians. If the trend of the day is anti-smoking, then anti-smoking legislation is on the way. The problem is that once the trend changes, or reverses itself, the legislation remains. Thus, overzealousness leads to impractical legislation, which leads to chaos. This would explain how we have gone from requiring a separate area for smoking to talk of banning smoking in the privacy of one's own home!
And for those self-righteous among you who sent me all the anti-smoking propaganda after I wrote about this last time - I hope you don't like beer, or pizza, because the legislation against them is just beginning. In fact, on February 4, 2004 a four billion dollar lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles against Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller for "advertising to minors." It just so happens that the lawyer who filed the suit successfully sued tobacco makers in 13 states for the same thing. Coincidence? Duh.
In part, the suit claims that the beer companies have been doing nefarious things like sponsoring college parties, and putting their image on beach towels and mugs. Can't you just see the testimony now? "And then I bought the mug with the frog on it and I just couldn't stop filling it with beer," or "I went to college to study and read, and then the beer people sponsored a party and I had beer and dropped out."
And if that weren't enough, there have been lawsuits filed against McDonald's for making a man fat, and a proposed "fat tax" levied upon anyone who makes anything that doesn't resemble a bran muffin. The nightly news is agape with the issue of "obesity" as if one day we all just woke up and realized we had barbecue sauce all over our faces.
They cover the story with words like "epidemic" and "addiction" - rather than words like "choice" and "will-power." Why? Because for every legitimate "addict" out in the world who can't help themselves, there are a thousand people who can, but are too lazy to do so. Thus, the epidemic is one of unaccountability, complacency, and the willingness to blame others for what we have wrought ourselves.
While I am sure that lawyers and legislators can (and will try to) find a way to hold all those people that actually resist something responsible for all those people that don't, the world which they seek to create is not one where any of us will want to live.
For every man or woman that sued a box of chocolates for making them fat, or a smoke shop for giving them cancer, or a bartender for making them drive drunk, there are those upstanding and unheralded folk who look in the mirror and decide to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Those people deserve the freedom to have a cigarette in their own home, or a beer at college, or a duty-free pizza.
I do not question the power of addiction, and the strength needed to overcome it. What I continue to question, however, is the moronic utopia sought through lawsuits and legislation that deny that we can muster such strength, or that we even possess it in the first place.
Blows Smoke on Lung Cancer Causes
Fox News - Steven Milloy - January 23, 2004
smokers who reduce, but don’t quit smoking, reduce their risk of smoking-related
disease? Reminiscent of past allegations of tobacco industry lying, the
anti-tobacco industry apparently doesn’t want smokers to know the truth.
The situation recalls George Orwell’s book "Animal Farm" in which the leaders of the animal revolt against their human masters gradually took to acting, well, just like the humans they deposed.
“Smokers who cut back the number of cigarettes they smoke may not be reducing the cancer-causing chemicals in their bodies as much as they hoped,” reported the Washington Post this week.
The Post report was spurred by a study conducted by University of Minnesota “researchers” and published in the Jan. 21 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The researchers studied a group of 153 smokers who reduced their smoking by 25 percent during the first two weeks of the study, by 50 percent during weeks 2-4 and by 75 percent during weeks 4-26.
At weeks 4, 6, 8, 12 and 26 of the study, the researchers tested urine samples of the smokers for the presence of NNAL (search) and NNAL-Gluc (search), byproducts of a compound in cigarette smoke called “NNK” that may (or may not) play a role in the development of lung cancer.
As the smokers reduced the number of cigarettes smoked per day, statistically significant reductions in the levels of urinary NNAL and NNAL-Gluc were reported by the researchers.
“However, the observed decreases were generally modest, always proportionally less than the reductions in cigarettes smoked per day, and sometimes transient,” noted the researchers. Reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day, whether by 50 percent or by 75 percent, reportedly only reduced urinary levels of NNAL and NNAL-Gluc by about 30 percent.
The researchers suggested that the comparatively small reduction in urinary levels of NNAL and NNAL-Gluc compared to the reduction in cigarettes smoked per day may be due to the smokers’ “compensation” ? that is, dragging longer and harder on every cigarette.
“The results indicate that some smokers may benefit from reduced smoking, but for most the effects are modest,” concluded the researchers.
The University of Minnesota group, led by anti-tobacco activist-researcher Stephen Hecht (search), thereby teed up the study for its real purpose ? a broader attack on the notion of “harm reduction” with respect to tobacco use.
Harm reduction (search) is a strategy to reduce the incidence of smoking-related heath effects by getting smokers to smoke less, smoke “safer” cigarettes or transition to “safer” products such as smokeless tobacco (search).
Though harm reduction would seem to be a reasonable approach toward reducing the risk of smoking-related health effects ? at least for those who insist on meddling in the personal health and private lives of others ? anti-tobacco extremists oppose it. Their public posture is that harm reduction doesn’t work.
The University of Minnesota study was accompanied by a Journal of the National Cancer Institute editorial hailing its results and concluding that there are “certainly insufficient data to support the practice of encouraging smokers to pursue reduced smoking as a harm reduction strategy.”
That statement is demonstrably false.
Anyone who knows anything about the research on smoking and health ? and presumably that would include the authors of the study and editorial ? knows that the risk of smoking-related disease increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.
A good summary of such studies is presented in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 1993 report on secondhand smoke.
In trying to link secondhand smoke with lung cancer based on data concerning smoking and lung cancer, the EPA wrote, “A gradient of increasing risk for lung cancer mortality with increasing number of cigarettes smoked per day was established in [each of eight major studies].”
In an American Cancer Society study of over one million persons, for example, less-than-a-pack-per-day smokers had less than half the lung cancer risk of two-pack-per-day smokers. People who smoked 1-9 cigarettes per day had about half the lung cancer risk of people who smoked 10-19 cigarettes per day.
There is no question that fewer cigarettes smoked per day reduces lung cancer risk.
The University of Minnesota study does not change this fact for at least two reasons: (1) the researchers did not study the impact of reduced smoking on health and so cannot claim that it has no effect on health; and (2) what they did study (urinary levels of the NNK metabolites) may not even be biologically related to cancer risk in smokers and so may be utterly meaningless in terms of health consequences.
The condemnation of harm reduction on the basis of this study is so unjustified as to be blatantly dishonest. Lying to smokers about the health effects of smoking less is simply despicable ? and isn’t that one of the anti-tobacco activists’ primary criticisms of the tobacco industry?
Many people are going to smoke no matter what. Rather than accept and work within this reality to reduce the consequences of such smoking, the anti-tobacco industry is taking an “our way (tobacco prohibition) or the highway (more smoking-related disease)” approach.
It’s a disturbing attitude that seems to be driven more by a blind hatred of the tobacco industry than concern for the health of smokers.
up kids: Smoking is cool!
The Lumberjack - Bryan Edenfield - January 22, 2004
Vonnegut, author, bearded man and smoker, considered smoking "a fairly
sure, fairly honorable form of suicide." It also, of course, looks cool.
Modern-day, forward-thinking Americans have ostracized smoking, flooding our lives with anti-smoking propaganda that make cigarettes look uncool, and the people who smoke them look like dirty losers with bad haircuts. I have found that most smokers in fact have very nice haircuts. But this is beside the point.
The point is, very few people have a clear understanding of what smoking is. Non-smokers don't give the defenders of smoking a chance because smokers are naturally biased toward smoking.
I, though, am a non-smoker. And I am going to defend the cigarette.
The cigarette creates atmosphere. Smoke curls into the air. There is movement where there was none before. Suddenly, ghosts are creeping around a person's head, floating out of his or her mouth, ascending up toward heaven and disappearing into the blue yonder.
The same principle applies, to a lesser extent, to being able to see your breath when it is cold outside. Who doesn't like seeing their own breath? It's a fascinating experience that is multiplied by a dozen when you have a cigarette in your hand.
Suddenly, the smoker has a completely new form of punctuation. The smoke that trails around as the cigarette moves through the air, held by an expressive hand, adds a new level to the significance of our bodily gestures. A cigarette hanging lazily out of someone's mouth can signify things a person without one could never dream of signifying.
And all of this is visually pleasing. The cigarette creates a new aesthetic truth, an air of mystery and rebellion. Mystery and rebellion are very cool things. They are interesting, alluring and provocative. One is drawn toward these characteristics, and the cigarette is often a quick and easy indicator of all of them.
A person becomes animated when he or she is smoking a cigarette. The smoker has something to do with the hands and mouth, and there is always attention-grabbing motion around, in the air, moving eerily. The non-smoker invites awkward pauses. The non-smoker just stands there, with nothing to do between those moments of conversation and practical movement. "Smoking" is an action verb. The smoker is always acting.
Of course, smoking is not healthy, but practically everyone knows and understands this from a fairly early age. The smoker is more than aware of it. Thus, smoking becomes a form of noble suicide, as Mr. Vonnegut suggested. It is an admittance that at some level there is something miserable and gritty about this world, and that life in it has to end some time, maybe sooner rather than later.
It is the slow burn suicide; a social suicide that kills you and at the same time initiates you into a kind of secret club.
The smoker can ask for a light or ask to bum a cigarette from another person. And if that person can provide the cigarette, there is an immediate connection. The cigarette suddenly becomes a tool for meeting new people, starting new conversations, entering into certain social spheres that are gradually being limited to very few hangout places, which of course only increases the allure, the rebellion, the atmosphere.
The cigarette is an ice breaker, a kind of password, an escape. The smoker can go outside, find a dark area and just smoke, be alone, without anyone thinking it odd or suspicious. The non-smoker goes outside to enjoy the fresh air and feels awkward if anyone walks by. The passer-by is immediately wary. Why is someone just standing up against the wall, doing nothing? Shouldn't they be doing something?
Yet, anti-smoking organizations, obviously concerned for people's health, want to deny that smoking is cool. While they can preach about the harms it causes our health, they are making a mistake by portraying smokers as disgusting people who spit up sludge all the time.
These anti-smoking advertisements are aimed mostly at children, but the methods often used are just as bad as the methods cigarette companies have used to get kids to start to smoking.
The cigarette ads make smoking look cool while the anti-cigarette ads make not smoking seem cool. In both cases, advertising is not presenting factual information to teach children and let them think for themselves.
Many people complain that cigarette ads are brainwashing children, but many anti-smoking advertisements do the exact same thing.
Is it any better to brainwash someone into doing something perceived as good than it is to brainwash someone into doing something perceived as bad?
Smoking can be seen as a rite of passage, a way for young people to move into an adult world where suddenly their choices have consequences. There is an entire history behind the cigarette, a history of a type of American image that has carved a permanent place in our culture.
But I've run out of room. All I really wanted to say was: Smoking really is kind of cool.
lighting up to fight city's anti-smoking gestapo
Toronto Star - Rosie Dimanno - January 19, 2004
was only whilst reading the Star's editorial page on the weekend — a grim
exercise but good for the odd cackle — that I learned this is National
That merits firing up a dart right there. (By which we mean "dart'' as synonym for cigarette, and not dart as in antonym of the editorial page laurel, which is what this newspaper gives every cockamamie scheme designed to annihilate smokers from the face of the earth.)
It would be mean of me to point out that even some of the most zealous non-smoking advocates around this place, on those occasions when they've temporarily removed the cork from their arses — say, at a staff Christmas party or when they've otherwise plunged into the deep end of the bar, all sociable and very nearly likeable — suddenly forget that they're non-smokers and come around mooching for cigarettes. I am always happy to oblige because I encourage vice in all.
And smoking, while not technically illegal — that is to say, sale and possession of the product is not illegal (yet) — is most definitely a vice in Western society, barely less objectionable than pederasty or mainlining heroin at one's primary workstation, hence the crunching vise of ever-more invasive and radical anti-smoking diktats, bylaws and un-laws inflicted on a huge puffing minority by a bossy bunch of nico-Nazis and health fascists who happen to have the ear of government. Indeed, increasingly, they are the government, at its most officious, arbitrary and zero-tolerance mantra worst.
Spending so much time away from Toronto in recent years, often in places most would consider uncivilized hellholes (and they smoke there too! the barbarians), I'd lost track of the city's nincompoop smoking bylaws and lost touch with the grumpy tobacco wars. Perhaps part of me was hoping this anti-smoking hysteria had all been a '90s fad, like colonics and wearing underwear as outerwear. But surely, given the state of the globe in this embryonic millennium, there were more pressing problems than a non-smoker getting a whiff of tobacco fume up his nose in a bingo parlour.
It seems smokers are the suicide bombers of North America in spreading public endangerment — minus the moral relativism invested upon terrorists by the pseudo-intellectual left, a group that once smoked rather grandly and with photogenic panache. I think I fell out of love with the left when it stopped smoking, drinking and writing feverish manifestos, more latterly writing, say, scolding Star editorials.
But I digress.
Actually, I just digressed all the way to the variety store across the street, to buy another pack of smokes. Also, to pick up a copy of the new Vanity Fair, so I could enjoy a delightful rant by the mischievous Christopher Hitchens, writing about his recent one-man crime spree in New York City. Undertaken as a whimsical protest against the new all-encompassing anti-smoking ordinance imposed at the behest of un-fun Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hitchens spent a day gleefully breaking a clutch of absurd bylaws — sitting on an upended milk crate, pausing to adjust his shoe on a subway step, riding a bicycle without keeping his foot on the pedal at all times and, of course, smoking in a bar and at a restaurant table.
The Big Apple, as I discovered for myself during a recent sojourn there, has gone all bureaucratic goofy in the matter of public smoking, to the extent that it's now even illegal to have an ashtray on the premises or to smoke outside a bar/restaurant, should the smoker just happen to be standing beneath an awning. I probably shouldn't even mention that; it might just give Toronto's health vigilantes ideas, so distressed have they become at how other municipalities have overtaken The Big Smoke in passing draconian anti-smoking fiats.
New York, writes Hitchens, is now "the domain of the mediocre bureaucrat, of the inspector with too much time on his hands, of the anal-retentive cop with his nose in a rule book, of the snitch willing to drop a dime on a harmless fellow citizen, and of a mayor who is that most pathetic and annoying figure — the micro-megalomaniac.''
I never thought New Yorkers, with their reputation for "pugnacious independence,'' would roll over so meekly. Although I do admire the style of an upscale restaurant that has made available mink wraps for its female clientele stepping out for a between-courses smoke.
I never thought Edmonton, also pugnaciously independent, would cave so easily either. But I spent a month there a week ago and was stunned to see how anti-smoking ordinances have been likewise imposed on that city, although one can still — for the time being — light up in bars.
Alas, this is the new Reformation. Just as Martin Luther once tacked 95 theses against the traffic of papal indulgences on the northern door of a Wittenberg church — thereby setting off a movement that mutated into a tyranny of dreadful intolerance, having very little to do with justice and reform as originally envisaged — the new anti-smoking bulls are now affixed at the portals to bars and restaurants, soon to be followed hereabouts by bowling alleys and bingo parlours and pool halls. As if.
In June, Toronto bars become no-go smoking zones. And, in a colossal betrayal all too typical of their deceitful kind, the very same politicians who bartered separate smoking rooms out of publicans and restaurateurs a couple of years ago — at no small cost for the nearly 200 owners in Toronto who did so — are now poised to unilaterally scuttle the compromise agreement. Those specially ventilated rooms could be illegal within a year. Why? Because the smoking brown shirts say so. Just as they've fashioned junk science out of second-hand smoking research. You might recall how the World Health Organization tried to suppress the results of its own 10-year study, which concluded no significant health risks could be attributed to exposure to second-hand smoke. No mention of that in those fear-mongering public health posters around town.
Some of us — a group that includes non-smokers appalled by the erosion of individual freedoms and those, like me, who are primarily situational smokers — will continue to fight the abuse of power. Personally, I'm not the least bit cowed by the looming anti-smoking injunctions. Breaking petty laws appeals to the anarchist and scofflaw in me. Indeed, if I'd ever considered quitting smoking, I can't possibly do so now.
And the smoke gestapo can suck on this.
chance for freedom with the obesity lobby in full cry
London Telegraph - Barbara Amiel - January 19, 2004
Bush is going to make the world safe for fat people. This policy has not
made headlines in the Democratic primaries, but of all the programmes spewing
out of the White House these pre-election months, it is ultimately the
Washington's plump pride initiative pits it against the alliance of the EU, the UN and NGOs who have found another evil for which to blame America and George Bush - a worldwide obesity problem. According to the International Obesity Task Force (an NGO associated with the World Health Organisation), one in three Americans is obese as well as at least 16 per cent of British teenagers, not to mention the remaining 300 million obese people in the world the task force appear to have counted. The world is gorging on American fast food and American gadgetry. They are sitting watching television or playing on computers when they should be exercising; taking lifts instead of the stairs; driving not bicycling. They are getting fat.
This week, the International Obesity Task Force will discuss its new 160-page report, several years in the making. The report dislikes the usual things - sugar, salts, saturated fat, technology and modern farming. It paints a disastrous picture of a world in which children don't go to bed hungry at night: they go to bed too full of fast food and chocolate bars.
This cruel Earth is a planet where we die of cancers, heart disease or diabetes caused or exacerbated by our bad eating habits.
Life, as someone must have said, is a bit of a crap shoot. We all have to die of something and we must be the first generation to want to die in perfect health. But lifespan remains mysterious. There are fat 80-year-olds who stuff themselves with sausages and have more energy and mental acuity than people half their age. There are thin joggers who die prematurely of heart disease and non-smokers who get cancer. Perhaps some diseases can be directly attributed to a specific cause, such as asbestos; still, it all seems a bit doubtful.
Obesity is gearing up as the next great crusade following tobacco. It's a natural for the regulators of the world. Food habits are directly connected to the fertile area of "lifestyle", which lives near Regulatory Paradise.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to do things right: healthy foods and exercise are clearly A Good Thing. Children ought to have proper lunches and not only crisps and Maryland cookies. Serious diseases that are very food-sensitive, such as diabetes, are obviously something to try to prevent - if at all possible. The problem is how to do this.
The anti-obesity crowd is targeting, among other things, advertising of the wrong foods for children. They want extra taxes on foods they consider bad. Hello again to a salt tax. However, there seems to be one obstacle: the Bush administration has questioned the study's science and recommendations. The US government, wrote a spokesman in a 30-page critique, "promotes the view that all foods can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, and supports personal responsibility to choose a diet conducive to individual energy balance, weight control and health". With this, America invoked four words banned in Brussels and UN corridors: "personal responsibility", "individual" and "choose".
The combination provoked "Obesites" into a state of extraordinary anger - caused, one is tempted to say, by too little sugar and too much soy. Neville Rigby of the task force accused the Bush administration of holding such regressive views because of the sugar lobby and the campaign contributions it gives to Republicans. "Effectively," he said, "what we are seeing is an effort to sabotage the whole [WHO] process.''
Looking through the report, one is struck by the presumption of its authors. They quite blithely believe that, as they have people's wellbeing in mind, they naturally have absolute licence to direct the minutest details of their activities. A tyrant of antiquity would not have presumed to micro-manage his subjects' lives the way this lot does. Their report is not simply about food habits. It's not even just an attack on modern culture. It's an attack on the post-paleolithic period. Mankind's first big mis-step was coming off the trees.
The authors don't like "animal-based foods" or "intensive" farming methods. They want "traditional animal husbandry" so as not to "exert greater environmental pressures". They prefer people to go back to "traditional diets" with more legumes and fruit. They would like farmers to market their products "directly to consumers". They want "priority" in urban planning to pedestrians and bicycles. They want breast-feeding. Health food strategies "should explicitly address equality and diminish disparities… this requires a strong role for government". There are plans for alliances and admonitions to avoid "individual industries that may wish to capitalize on change for their own benefit". I suppose these people may have some technical interest in food but only as a tool for social engineering.
Sometimes fashions of the times collide. The children's rights lobby cut down sports under the rubric of disliking competition and enabling children to make their own decisions. The obesity lobby wants to make physical activity for children compulsory again. They will have to fight it out - which is in itself a "traditional" activity and certainly calorically healthy. Meanwhile, people simply can't be allowed to go on enjoying their big portions of meat and the convenience of fast pre-packaged foods. In the words of the report, we need "a surveillance system" and "effective interventions" "to change people's behaviour".
Interpreting the report is not difficult. A return to the hunting and gathering society may not be possible but it is the shimmering ideal. If the 19th-century American slogan was "Go west, young man," the 21st's obesity/environmentalist credo can be summed up as "back to the stone age".'
Watching Mr Rigby on the BBC World News, which was suitably outraged by America's response to his report, one could see the divide. We may be eliminating poverty, hunger and dirt, but progress obviously creates other issues. We have problems of industrial pollution, high energy consumption, education, traffic congestion, obesity, you name it. But all of this could be solved if only we could get rid of the notion of liberty. There's the rub. At the bottom of all that pains the UN, the EU and the NGOs is this damnable problem of people free to choose their own books, music, food, activities and lifestyles.
That's why the American response to the task force is so important - they are on the other side of the divide, supporting free choice. And somewhere, one hopes, between the mad libertarians who would eliminate traffic lights and these lifestyle commissars who would eliminate traffic, there must be an equilibrium.
As an interim measure, the EU will outlaw sugar and fat people. If that doesn't work, there is always the next step. We can go back to that great European practice of the Middle Ages - famine. There is nothing in the world that a good dose of "traditional" European undernourishment couldn't cure.
Review Plan Draws Criticism
Under Bush Proposal, OMB Would Evaluate Science Before New Rules Take Effect
Washington Post - Rick Weiss - January 15, 2004
NYC C.L.A.S.H. Note:
Perhaps one will need a short course on the problems of peer review (and what it really is) within the health industry to understand the importance of this article. First, one should understand that because of the corruption that can occur within scientific circles is the reason the Bush plan is a good idea.
The following excerpts from the book It Ain't Necessarily So explains:
In practice you should be suspicious of scientific claims that have not been peer-reviewed, but it is wrong to assume the validity of claims that have been peer reviewed.
A scientific jury of peers, like a citizen jury of peers, is only human; it can have biases of its own, and it can fail to weigh all the evidence impartially.
In practice, though, peer reviewers often have their own substantive biases, which lead them to praise research supporting substantive conclusions that they like and to condemn researh that they don't.
Peer reviewers can err, and the fact that a study has been peer-reviewed hardly means that it is beyond criticism.
It's this corrupt peer review process that has allowed secondhand smoke junk science to prosper in print and appear to be conclusive while studies that find no link between SHS and risk to health go unpublished.
This plan by Bush can stop that!
C.L.A.S.H. Note: The headline is not what's reasonable. It's
the content of the story that is:
A number of leading researchers are mobilizing against a Bush administration plan that would require new health and environmental regulations to rely more solidly on science that has been peer-reviewed -- an awkward situation in which scientists find themselves arguing against one of the universally accepted gold standards of good science.
The administration proposal, which is open for comment from federal agencies through Friday and could take effect in the next few months, would block the adoption of new federal regulations unless the science being used to justify them passes muster with a centralized peer review process that would be overseen by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Administration officials say the approach reflects President Bush's commitment to "sound science."
But a number of scientific organizations, citizen advocacy groups and even a cadre of former government regulators see a more sinister motivation: an effort to inject White House politics into the world of science and to use the uncertainty that inevitably surrounds science as an excuse to delay new rules that could cost regulated industries millions of dollars.
"The way it's structured it allows for the political process to second-guess the experts," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the 50,000-member American Public Health Association, one of many groups that have spoken against the proposal.
The escalating debate over the OMB effort is the latest in a series of recent battles involving claims of politicization of science under Bush. In areas including embryo cell research, contraception and global warming, scientists in the past year have increasingly accused the White House of undercutting the federal scientific enterprise to please religious conservatives and corporate constituents.
At issue this time is a proposed rule -- technically a "bulletin," an OMB term for legally binding language meant to guide federal agency actions -- that would require a new layer of OMB-approved peer review of "any scientific or technical study that is relevant to regulatory policy."
John Graham, OMB chief of regulatory affairs and a prime architect of the administration proposal, said: "Peer review in its many forms can be used to increase the technical quality and credibility of regulatory science . . . [and] protects science-based rulemakings from political criticism and litigation."
Scientists across the board say they agree with that. But because peer review can also be subject to peer pressure, the question is who will do it, and under whose control.
Under the current system, individual agencies typically invite outside experts to review the accuracy of their science and the scientific information they offer -- whether it is the health effects of diesel exhaust, industry injury rates, or details about the dangers of eating beef that has been mechanically scraped from the spinal cords of mad cows.
The proposed change would usurp much of that independence. It lays out specific rules regarding who can sit on peer review panels -- rules that, to critics' dismay, explicitly discourage the participation of academic experts who have received agency grants but offer no equivalent warnings against experts with connections to industry. And it grants the executive branch final say as to whether the peer review process was acceptable.
The proposal demands an even higher level of OMB-approved scrutiny for "especially significant regulatory information," a term defined in part as any information relevant to an "administration policy priority" -- a concept that William Schlesinger finds "alarming."
The agencies implementing the plan -- the OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) -- "are fundamentally political entities," Schlesinger, president of the Ecological Society of America, which represents 8,000 scientists in academia, government and industry, wrote in a recent letter to the OMB. "It is critical that barriers between federal science and politics remain in place. These guidelines appear to weaken that vital divide."
A separate concern is that the proposed process would create long delays. After all, experts said, for all its elegant capacity to discern fact from fiction, science rarely provides definitive answers. And regulations in search of certainty may wait forever.
"This is an attempt at paralysis by analysis," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a government watchdog group that has also questioned the legal basis of the OMB proposal. Much of the budget agency's claim to authority over peer review comes from the Information Quality Law -- a few lines of text slipped into the 2001 Treasury appropriations bill that was never subject to congressional debate.
"This is a huge attack on the health and safety regulatory process," Claybrook said.
Regulatory delays could prove deadly in the event of a public health emergency, some doctors and scientists said. In recent years, for example, the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department have had to act quickly to stop clinical trials in which medicines were found to be causing harm or to announce that certain foods such as green onions or tainted beef should be avoided or recalled.
"We see no public benefit from mandating an additional layer of OMB interposition, peer review and public comments that, at best, would have delayed these announcements for untold months," representatives from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology wrote in comments to the OMB.
An administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a centralized system of peer review is needed because some agencies have no such procedures in place or have weak peer review rules. And the proposal would allow regulators to skip the new layers of review in emergencies, the official said, if the OMB grants a waiver.
Fred Anderson, a Washington lawyer and a member of a National Academy of Sciences panel that sponsored a November workshop focusing on the OMB proposal, said scientists are overly distrustful of the White House and the OMB.
"They are sophisticated citizens and they know OMB is powerful and they're concerned about how that power is wielded," said Anderson, who with co-counsel Geraldine Edens submitted comments to the OMB generally appreciative of the proposal. "It goes back to [John D.] Ehrlichman and [H.R.] Haldeman. But that was then and this is now."
Not everyone agrees, though, that White House efforts at obfuscation have been wholly relegated to history. Some cited an August 2003 report by the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general, which concluded that EPA's 2001 statement that the air around the recently collapsed World Trade Center was safe to breathe was not backed up by actual data but was the result of the White House Council on Environmental Quality having "convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones."
Of the nearly 200 public comments received by the OMB, several call for even more sweeping changes. But the political dividing lines between supportive letters and others is clear. Supporters include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Ford Motor Co., the American Chemistry Council, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (whose members include regulated mining concerns), and Syngenta, a pesticide company that has been in a public struggle over data suggesting that one of its products may be responsible for major declines in frog populations.
Among those filing criticisms is a group of 20 former federal officials, including prominent former regulators from the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Among them are former labor secretary Robert B. Reich; former EPA administrators Russell Train and Carol M. Browner; heads of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Carter and the elder Bush; and Neal Lane, who was director of the National Science Foundation under Clinton and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Their letter urges the OMB to withdraw its proposal.
One interesting question raised by the new debate, experts said, is whether peer review standards for public policy should be stiffer or more lax than those applied to the publication of results in journals.
An administration official said it makes sense to raise the bar of proof when a rule is going to affect consumers, workers and businesses. By contrast, Harvard science professor Sheila Jasanoff wrote to the OMB that although research science seeks absolute truths, regulatory science should realistically settle for "serviceable truths."
do not need a helmet to read this column
Seattle Times - Bruce Ramsey - January 14, 2004
Tacoma/Pierce County Board of Health has banned smoking inside bars, taverns,
restaurants and bowling alleys, and outside of these establishments within
25 feet of the door. The penalty for smoking is $100; for an owner, $100
In August, the King County Board of Health banned riding a bicycle without a helmet in Seattle. It was banned outside the city already. The penalty: $30.
Seattle has just passed an ordinance banning any recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles in the ordinary garbage can, effective Jan. 1, 2005. Enforcement begins in 2006.
After two warnings, if the garbage collector notices a pop can, a cereal box, a milk bottle or a sheet of paper in your trash, he will leave your entire week's trash on the curb, and you can figure out what to do with it.
What these measures have in common is their itch to manage the citizen, to tell him what is good for him and make him like it. Typically, such nannyism is championed by liberals — a group that once believed in tolerance and personal freedom. They still believe in tolerance in the matter of sex — safe sex, anyway — but not in much else.
I am old enough to remember TV ads for the Marlboro Man, and it was not long ago that we had billboards of Joe Camel. Now my government protects me from the sight of large cartoon camels, and subjects me instead to revolting images of a man with gum cancer.
I prefer Joe Camel. Today's instructional billboards treat us like sixth-graders in health class, or citizens of the old communist China.
Decades ago, I rode a bicycle from Edmonds to Wenatchee without a helmet. Bicycle helmets didn't exist then. Things have changed, and to wear a helmet today is a matter of common sense. But to require one changes more than that; it is an assertion of government power.
"But it saves lives," people say. "It lowers medical costs."
So might interference in a lot of things that are none of the government's business. Do we want mandatory calisthenics? They had it in "1984."
Public health can go only so far into the private realm in a civilized country. A government that undertakes to manage the people's medical costs will soon be instructing Dick and Jane in right living. Matters of individual choice take on a social aspect, and freedom is lost.
This is hardly new. Washington's liquor law, which prohibits a teenager from having a glass of beer with his dinner, even when accompanied by his parents, is no less ridiculous because we are used to it. That is the old Prohibitionist and Blue Law nannyism, inherited from the progressives of the past century.
To this we add a nannyism in the name of the children, under which adults are treated as kids. Other nannyism comes in service of the environment — mandatory recycling, for instance.
Seattle is only the second U.S. city to do this. Why do it? Because Seattle was acclaimed when it recycled 44 percent of its garbage. In 2001, that figure slipped to 38 percent. Officials want to be acclaimed again, so they have set a goal of 60 percent.
That is, our government set a goal that we will recycle 60 percent of our garbage. No city has done it, and we cannot be trusted to do it without compulsion. Therefore, compulsion.
Similarly, city employees did a study of the tree cover in Seattle. It was shrinking, they said, and that was bad. It sent the wrong message about global warming. In 2000, the City Council dutifully required that anyone cutting down a tree of more than 6 inches in diameter on a vacant lot must first ask the bureaucracy for a permit.
All this nannyism is in the pursuit of some good — green trees, clean lungs, uncracked skulls and the wise management of trash. What is lost is the idea of people defining their own good — a restaurant owner deciding on his own smoking policy, a parent deciding whether a child needs a bicycle helmet, a resident deciding in what manner to empty his wastebasket.
Yesterday's liberals, who now call themselves "progressives," do not trust us to define our own good. They want to do it for us. They remind me of Nurse Ratched.
|AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH presents||
American Cancer Society a Danger to Science? [August 13, 2004]
One of the country's most distinguished cancer organizations has succumbed to the prohibitionist faction of the anti-tobacco movement's demagogic rhetoric -- accepting and adopting these crusaders' guilt-by-association arguments at face value, rather than identifying flaws in the research results they oppose.
Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) passed a resolution barring scientists who receive financial support from the tobacco industry from receiving ACS grants. Responding to news of the resolution, Dr. Elizabeth Whelan warned ACS (see letter below) against their injurious adoption of such a litmus test. Using funding as a basis for rejection is detrimental to the process of providing unbiased, peer-reviewed health information.
Such policies have unseen costs and unintended consequences. They may produce biased research by cherry-picking authors and results and confusing public debate -- mirroring the tobacco industry's stratagem. Further, they set a dangerous precedent by giving opponents of sound science a new weapon. If the science is faulty, we should use science itself, not ad hominem or innuendo, to detect the problems.
[EXCERPT] Text of Dr. Whelan's letter:
February 24, 2004
Gary J. Streit, J.D., President
Dear Mr. Streit:
I have just read in the February 20 Chronicle of Higher Education that your Board has passed a resolution that scientists who receive financial support from the tobacco industry will soon be barred from receiving grants from the American Cancer Society. I am concerned that the adoption of such a litmus test could ultimately undermine the integrity of cancer research. I am particularly disturbed that this policy may have been prompted by the publication of Dr. James E. Enstrom's May 17, 2003 BMJ paper on secondhand smoke.
Dr. Enstrom has acknowledged that he has received partial support from the tobacco industry. He notes, however, his sources of funding have had no influence on the direction of his work. Indeed, his work survived the rigors of the BMJ peer review process. If bias had been present, the peer review process would have flagged it.
As a public health scientist who has devoted a substantial portion of my career to writing about the extraordinary negative health consequences of tobacco -- more specifically, cigarettes -- I am writing to support the honesty and integrity of Dr. Enstrom, who has served as a Scientific Advisor to the American Council on Science and Health since 1984. His peer-reviewed research was published in one of the world's best medical journals. Simply because it was partially funded by the tobacco industry does not make the research less credible or less reliable.
Although the adverse health effects of active smoking are well established, ACSH's literature review has led us to conclude that the chronic health effects of secondhand smoke are not nearly as clear as the American Cancer Society states.
Finally, I hope you will allow Dr. Enstrom to present his side of the story about his funding and his dealings with the ACS to you. A policy of guilt by association is detrimental to science, which establishes whether facts are correct via peer review, not funding source. It may also have the unintended consequence of producing biased research by cherry-picking authors and results and confusing public debate -- mirroring the tactics of the tobacco industry.
I am well aware that there was considerable negative reaction to Dr. Enstrom's paper from the so-called "anti-smoking" community. I would encourage ACS to resist pressure from these advocates -- and continue to focus on science, not sources of funding. Quite frankly, if the new ACS funding policy was triggered in an attempt to appease Dr. Enstrom's critics, it will only further encourage what I see as a very disturbing trend among anti-smoking advocates: intolerance and resistance to legitimate data and views that may conflict with their closely held beliefs.
I strongly encourage you and your Board to re-consider your rejection of applicants on the basis of their prior or current funding -- and instead judge applicants on their scientific abilities, track record, and professional reputation in the general public health community -- not just among a small group of arrogant anti-smoking advocates who are intolerant of any views other than those which they hold closely. I hope you will speak directly to Dr. Enstrom to get his perspective.
National Cancer Institute Doublespeak on Cancer Causes [June 22, 2004]
In almost all of these cases, the term "carcinogen" is derived from the observation of increased cancer rates in laboratory animals but does not necessarily imply human cancer risk. And in the case of arsenic, which in high dose is indeed a known human carcinogen, there is no evidence that human exposure to very low levels increases cancer risk. It is "the dose that makes the poison."
In their discussion of what causes or is likely to cause human cancer, the National Cancer Institute abdicates its authority to the National Toxicology Forum, a group that every two years releases its "Report on Carcinogens," a mixed-up list of chemicals and substances some of which cause cancer in humans, while some are simply animal carcinogens. The top cancer epidemiologists in the world delegated their discussion of what causes human cancer to a group of toxicologists!
In addressing how scientists identify "cancer causing substances," the NCI publication embraces anti-chemical rhetoric and uncritically accepts the mouse-is-a-little-man premise.
Why does our repository of national cancer experts refrain from giving useful guidance to the American public on the real causes of human cancer? At ACSH, we wonder if it may be because the cancer agency is trying to avoid stepping on the toes of its sister agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, for political rather than health or scientific considerations. If so, NCI does a deadly disservice to the public they should be serving.
Fast Food Fallacy [June 30, 2003]
Indeed, Banzhaf's proposed lawsuit against food chains calls into question his motivation - and that of some other anti-smoking advocates - in campaigns against cigarette companies: Were they based on public-health concerns?
There is evident in the anti-smoking community a general antipathy toward corporations, not just cigarette makers, which has made it hard for the movement to stay on message.
Those of us who are outspoken on the dangers of cigarettes but who also, for instance, argue that regulated food additives and pesticides do not pose health hazards, or that food irradiation and products of biotechnology are safe, are viewed with skepticism, as if we can't really be anti-smoking because we failed the general anti-industry litmus test.
Now Banzhaf's willingness to apply the same legal tactics against food that he used on companies selling life-threatening cigarettes suggests that his agenda is mainly fueled not by health concerns but by a general contempt for profit-making enterprises, regardless of whether the product is hazardous or not.
Smoking Ban Arrives, Benefits Exaggerated [March 27, 2003]
A New York City ban on smoking in bars goes into effect this coming Sunday, and a statewide ban goes into effect four months later. Some see it as reasonable regulation. Others condemn smoking but question the rationale for the regulations. And some see it as a direct blow against liberty. The differing opinions were nicely summed up by the article "Pataki Inks Strict Smoking Law" in today's New York Sun, which quoted, among others, ACSH's own Jeff Stier:
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in an impassioned speech in favor of the [state] bill, argued that tobacco users have no right to "poison" the people around them...
A spokesman for the American Council on Science and Health, Jeff Stier, said anti-tobacco activists are exaggerating the dangers of second-hand smoke. "Cigarettes are bad enough on their own," he said. "You don't have to make stuff up."
Republican Assemblyman Daniel Hooker of Schoharie County, a major in the Marine Corps Reserves, said he thought soldiers fighting in Iraq will be disappointed to learn they can't smoke in their favorite bars when they get home. "While you were overseas fighting for freedom, your legislature was quietly legislating your freedom away," Mr. Hooker said. "My father smoked, and he died of lung cancer. But he died a free man."
The case of the mute scientists [February 27, 2003]
Science — today and every day — is under assault. The
assailants are members of the media, trial lawyers, self-appointed consumer-activists
and environmentalists. The science being mutilated pertains to a wide spectrum
of health topics — including "facts" on the purported health hazards around
us, including acrylamide (a chemical formed in cooking high-carbohydrate
foods), breast implants, PCBs, phthalates (plasticizers), aspartame
In these instances — and so many more — outright blatant misrepresentations of the available science are made, health hazards that do not exist are claimed and picked up by the news media, and ultimately by lawyers intoxicated with the possibility of a cash reward in court from a corporate deep pocket.
It is time to ask why, in light of this ongoing distortion of scientific reality, American scientists are not barking in protest.
...why are American scientists not outraged? Why aren't physicians and scientists picketing in front of CBS — or at least writing letters in protest (My letter to "60 Minutes" was neither answered or acknowledged). Why aren't American scientists barking? Why do they remain mute?
First, most scientists feel more comfortable in labs and classrooms than on op-ed pages and TV studios — and they have no real clue about how to go about challenging what they read and see. Second, in virtually 100 percent of cases where scientists have stepped forward to debunk the "carcinogen scare de jour," they have been subject to ad hominem attacks and labeled "paid liars" for industry. That threat of humiliation is enough to cause many to bite their tongues. Third, science these days has become so very specialized, that the overwhelming portion of our country's scientists have very narrow areas of expertise. Those with a Ph.D. in entomology, biology, veterinary medicine or physics might possibly be as duped as the average citizen when Mr. Cochran talks about the PCB-induced epidemic in Alabama.
Science on the Rocks [February 26, 2003]
The current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) carries a lead article and accompanying editorial that are long on advocacy, short on data. The topic: alcohol consumption in America, who is drinking how much — and how much is too much.
The study comes from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which is headed by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., who was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter. The source of the study alone should have been a red flag for the editors at JAMA: last year, the same group released a study, which later had to be withdrawn, that carelessly doubled the estimate of how much of the nation's alcohol was drunk by teens. In l994, the same authors were caught up in another misrepresentation of data, claiming that 28% of adults on welfare were impaired by drugs or alcohol, when the actual government estimate was more in the order of 4.5%.
A study like this one, however, diverts attention from sensible solutions by wildly exaggerating the problem and shifting the focus from problem drinkers to nearly all those who consume alcoholic beverages. Surely the best way to focus attention on the l0% of Americans who do misuse alcohol is not raising taxes. Why should the 90% of drinkers who use alcohol in a safe and health-promoting matter be forced to pay more for a pleasurable, life-enhancing product — one which in moderation dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease?
The publication by JAMA of this flawed Califano study raises serious questions about the credibility of this prestigious journal — and puts the spotlight on the inherent dangers of using the pages of a scientific journal to promulgate biased views — in this case, anti-alcohol propaganda.
Health Panel on McDonald's Suit: "A Scientific Travesty"! [February 19, 2003]
Physicians and scientists at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) called a second filing of a lawsuit against McDonald's Corporation "without scientific merit."
The revised suit alleges that the plaintiffs ate McDonald's foods to the detriment of their weight and health. It decries McDonald's food as being "non-nutritious," in part because many of the products contain preservatives and other "chemicals."
In fact, ACSH scientists note, not only are chemicals such as preservatives not harmful, they help protect health by preventing spoilage, and all have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The lawsuit implies that natural, unprocessed foods are chemical-free—and thus "healthier." But nothing could be farther from the truth. According to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH president, "All foods are chemicals—we're just not routinely provided with the long list of natural chemicals in the meals we eat every day. Potatoes, for example, naturally contain over 150 chemicals, including traces of arsenic and solanine—chemicals that are safe in low doses but harmful at high ones. Coffee, for another, naturally contains methanol, acetaldehyde, isoprene and dimethyl sulfide—enough polysyllabic items to scare any chemophobic citizen!"
The suit is misleading in that it falsely implies that consuming processed foods with 'chemicals' can cause obesity. Indeed, the suit went so far as to list the chemical ingredients in McDonald's products such as Chicken McNuggets—implying that because the ingredients were unfamiliar they were somehow unhealthful and caused obesity. This is absurd. As already noted, all foods are composed of chemicals and it is an excess of calories consumed relative to calories expended that causes weight gain," she commented.
"Consumers are often told that certain foods or types of foods are 'fattening' and that others are not. The truth is that eaten to excess, any food can contribute to overweight and obesity, whether that food is considered a good source of nutrients or not," Dr. Kava explained.
Suits like this one against McDonald's serve only the interests of litigators, not consumers.
Americans are constantly being bombarded with warnings about dire health consequences from traces of environmental chemicals. But, in truth, many of these warnings simply relate to evidence of exposure, not to any demonstrated adverse effects on health. Merely because a substance can be detected does not therefore mean that it poses any real risk to health.
Read Let's Be Reasonable in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002 and 2001!
Some of the titles to visit:
Marketplace has solution to restaurant smoking
Ashes in Nashua:
Lighten up, America!
Fatwa on Obesity Carries No Weight
Seasonal symbols make some people see red
Fat is next target for overreaction
City Hall smoking room should stay put
Cigarette Nazis on the march
Stop throwing money at CDC
Bars, restaurants resist amid rising trend of smoke-free workplaces
Tobacco sales ban defeated, 15-1
Hollywood Up in Smoke
Global Ridicule Extinguishes Montgomery's Anti-Smoking Bill
Escalating the war on tobacco
Health budget can take cuts too
Spending the Tobacco Money: Smoking ban fights split towns
W.Va. jury tosses healthy smokers' suit
Dimond pool hall goes private to allow smoking
'Environmental' ills often psychosomatic: study
Listing of Estrogen as 'Known Carcinogen' Hotly Debated
Smoking With Liver Disease - A No-No
Attacks Put Legislative Health Agenda on Back Burner
The weed of all evil
Smokers take bylaw protest to City Hall
Smoke-Free or Free to Smoke?
Research fails to justify smoking ban in restaurants
Label ban a smokescreen for government agenda
The economics of smoking
Chain smoker finds loophole in bylaw
A Stand for Scientific Independence
Oregonians who find smoking detestable need to lighten up about lighting up and remember that smoking is legal and that smokers have rights, too
Why Uncle Sam May Secretly Want You to Smoke
Neo-Nazi nannies lay siege to our homes
Bring back smoking, say pilots
Smoking out lawsuits
Cell phones head down divided road
The Politics of 'Science'
Anti-smoking images lose impact: study
Smokers Use Prohibition Tactics to Get Around Ban
Fullerton bar wins victory against anti-smoking law
Future hazy for beleaguered Duluth smoking ban
Give Loony Columnists a Night in Jail
Why Not Just Make Everything a Crime?
Study Links Nicotine as a Combative Agent Against TB
Good Wins Out
Incinerate all these anti-smoking laws
What's a Tobacco Company to Do?
Silencing scientists didn't stop with Galileo
Home invasion - Anti-smoking ads
Smoking (Out) Fascists
A Fat Target
Why not a No Sermonising Day?
Passive smoke gets in their eyes
Diner's Habitues Find Refuge From City's Tobacco Laws
EDITORIAL WARNS AGAINST
"POLITICIZING" HEALTH PROBLEMS:
Smoking Does Not Cause Lung Cancer (According to WHO/CDC Data)*
Suit: State Seizing Smokers' Assets
ANTITRUST & TRADE REGULATION, HEALTH LAW
Two Hacks and a Wheeze
Cherry-picked Science on Secondhand Smoke
Smoking may be good for children
Bullying of smokers
Burning Out On the Crusade Against Smokers
Unhealthy Charities Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth
Japanese Airline Revokes Smoking Ban
To smoke or not to smoke?
Showcase Anti-Smoking Project Fails
Young smokers in line of fire
Cigarette Maker Sues on Settlement
Justices To Air Cigarette Ad Dispute
Don’t ban smokers... ...burn them...and lots of others, too
Legislating a Childhood Without Risk
I AM A SMOKER... I hate you too