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.
We Deserve It?
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - December 28, 2005
David Hume warned that, "It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost
all at once." That's why we should guard against any encroachment on liberty,
no matter how small. Let's look at a couple of instances where, at our
peril, we've failed to do so.
The Christmas season reminds many Americans of the attack on religion. A number of stores have caved in to pressures to ban Christmas celebrations, greetings and symbols, among them: Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Costco, Kohl's, Barnes & Noble, Toys 'R' Us, and Walgreens. Cities have banned nativity scenes. Some schools have banned the singing of Christmas carols.
Much of the attack on religion had its birth with the 1963 Supreme Court decision in Murray vs. Curlett, which banned organized school prayers. For a moment, let's ignore the debate on whether that decision was right or wrong and instead focus on tactics. Suppose, in 1963, America's atheists had revealed and demanded their complete agenda: elimination of religious Christmas symbols in public places, elimination of the words "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance, elimination of "In God We Trust" from our currency and elimination of caroling in public schools. There would have been so much resistance that they wouldn't have achieved any of their agenda, including the ban on prayers in school. Given our weak resistance, you can bet the day will come when the attack on religion will include demands that crosses be removed from Arlington and Normandy cemeteries and bans on religious television or radio broadcasts.
While many Americans are disturbed by the ongoing attack on religion, they applauded the identical strategy when it was the attack on cigarette smokers. In the 1960s, when the anti-tobacco zealots started out, they only demanded "reasonable" things like no smoking sections on airplanes. Suppose they started out revealing their complete agenda: no smoking in airports, restaurants, places of employment and parks, confiscatory taxes on tobacco products, and multibillion-dollar suits against tobacco companies. There would have been so much resistance that the anti-tobacco zealots wouldn't have succeeded with no smoking sections on airplanes.
The institution of private property offers the liberty-oriented solutions to both the school prayer and the smoking issues. I believe it's a parental right to be able to decide whether one's child will, or will not, say a morning prayer. Conflict emerges because of government-produced education. While there might be an argument for government financing of education, there's absolutely no argument for government production of education. Therefore, if each parent were given an education voucher to pay for education, those parents wishing prayers, or those against prayers in school, could enroll their children in the school that meets their preference. Thus, conflict would be eliminated. Of course, a superior solution would be getting government entirely out of education.
Private property would solve the smoking issue. Suppose you owned a restaurant, and you didn't wish to permit smoking. How would you like it if people used the political system to enact laws that forced you to permit smoking? I'm sure you'd consider it tyranny, and I'd agree. But there's symmetry. It's just as much tyranny to use the political system to enact laws to force a restaurant owner who wished to permit smoking to ban smoking. The liberty-oriented solution might be to post a sign saying you don't permit smoking, and customers wishing otherwise wouldn't enter. The same principle would apply to restaurant owners who wished to permit smoking.
I fear that too many Americans have contempt for the principles of liberty and opt for solutions that employ the political arena to forcibly impose their wills on others. If that's the preferred game, then those Americans shouldn't whine when others employ the same tactic to impose their wills.
save us from nanny
about our kids’ diets
Asheville Citizen Times - Jeff Dreibus - December 24, 2005
children were nestled all snug in their beds, / While visions of wheat-germ
danced in their heads.” OK, that’s not quite the way Clement Clarke Moore
penned it. But it’s how a childhood obesity panel at the Institute of Medicine
(IOM) might rewrite “The Night Before Christmas.” The IOM, an arm of the
National Academy of Sciences which is congressionally chartered to advise
the government on medical issues, has decided that it’s up to them to do
something about your fat kids, by gum, and they’re prepared to “Joe Camel”
the snack food industry to death in order to accomplish it. Nobody’s going
to have a broad face and a little round belly that shakes, when he laughs,
like a bowlful of jelly if these regulation-happy meddlers have anything
to say about it!
Just as with the nanny state’s initial assault upon a cigarette-smoking cartoon camel 12-plus years ago (resulting in his premature death from causes other than lung cancer), the Guardians of What’s Good For Us are prepared to do battle with SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek and other animated entertainers. What’s their big beef? SpongeBob et al. are responsible for childhood obesity because they advertise foods which are “predominantly high in calories and low in nutrition” according to an Associated Press article from Dec. 7. You see, the cartoon industry, which must operate in a real-world economic environment (unlike the IOM, which is on the federal gravy train), pays its bills by creating advertising for snack food which features its lovable characters, and that’s a big no-no for those arbiters of pediatric well-being.
Now, all of this might not be so disturbing if they were able to prove that there is an actual correlation between the advertising of snack foods by cartoon characters and childhood obesity. The trouble is, they haven’t, according to the AP article. “The reports said evidence is limited on whether TV advertising leads to obesity in children. Still, the panel found evidence compelling enough to call for a concerted effort to change the nature of foods being marketed to children,” said panel member Ellen A. Wartella (I am not making up this name), psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. Nonetheless, they are recklessly plowing ahead with demands for cartoon characters to promote only healthy foods. The panel said that “the government should use tax breaks to encourage the shift away from junk food and said if it doesn’t happen, Congress should mandate it.”
“But, Jeff, how could you possibly have a problem with encouraging our kids to eat healthier? Besides, it’s only one little chip out of the First Amendment to the Constitution! Is your heart really that hard? It’s for the children!” Yeah, there are a bunch of little chips lying around the base of our ever-shrinking First Amendment and quite a few have “For the children!” scrawled all over them. What you folks who would selectively relegate ol’ Amendment One to the ash heap of history don’t realize is: if they can regulate the free speech of the tobacco, snack food and cartoon industries, they can do it to just about anybody. They have even done it to NASCAR; notice how we now have the Nextel Cup instead of the Winston Cup? It’s just a matter of time before they run out of conservative and corporate voices to silence and progress to the left side of the equation.
But what really bugs me is that the IOM wants to use “weapons of mass destruction intelligence” to fight baby fat! Look above my ugly mug: I bet there’s a letter to the editor up there which contains the terms “Bush administration,” “Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction,” “incomplete intelligence reports” and “deliberately misleading the American people.” This is such a popular theme amongst President Bush bashers that it will probably dominate editorial letters well into the next decade.
Now, compare these allegations to the IOM’s cry of “We’ve got no real proof but, golly, we gotta do something even if it’s wrong! People are suffering!”
Isn’t this the same federal rationale which is now roundly criticized for getting us into the Iraq war? You bet it is. But, hey, “Ain’t got no proof, but it feels right” is a hunky-dory justification when it comes to piddling matters such as freedom of speech.
And may I remind you that we, the taxpayers, are financing such very scientific recommendations. We should all be wearing a big “happy hat” about that.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all — better eat right!
Washington Times - Editorial - December 19, 2005
an appalling extension of the nanny state, New York is slated to become
the first city to monitor diabetics' blood-sugar levels. It plans to register
them like HIV or tuberculosis sufferers and nag them when their levels
aren't healthy enough. Drop the cupcake; here come the sugar police.
Sensible people will laugh at this, but New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, an appointee of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is dead serious about the Big Apple's sweet tooth. He's the man behind New York's onerous smoking ban; he doesn't shy from alleging "epidemics." Since Mr. Frieden recently told the New York Sun that diabetes and obesity will be the signature issues of his second term, this begs a question: Will diabetes be the next big thing for public-health bureaucracies?
This much is for certain: For years, the public-health establishment has been comfortable making an "epidemic" out of conditions like diabetes and obesity, which -- though prevalent and debilitating -- are not communicable and can be combated with a few modifications to personal habits.
The American Diabetes Association is not standing athwart the gates, at least not yet. Last week it called Mr. Frieden's ideas valuable, which comes as no surprise given the ADA's occasional use of the "E" word in policy papers and official statements (and its obesity scaremongering as well.) It hedged, however, insisting that permission from sufferers would be necessary before entering people into a city diabetes database.
If the ADA holds fast on the permission issue, it will clash with Mr. Frieden and his cohorts: They are all too eager to coerce. Last week the health commissioner dismissed concerns about doctor-patient privilege. "We will ensure that the utmost care will be taken to keep people's information protected," he said.
We won't hold our breath, however. This is a classic case of permanent government inventing a new mandate in which the permanent interest groups all too often acquiesce. Having all but conquered germ-born diseases like tuberculosis and cholera, a city bureaucracy now needs another reason to exist. It will need to raid people's refrigerators and living rooms, but that is no matter, since the measure comes as a regulatory decision. At least for now, real voters have no say.
No one denies diabetes' ill effects on Americans: There are nearly 21 million sufferers nationwide on whom one of every 10 health-care dollars is thought to be spent. But who put city bureaucrats in charge of peoples' eating and exercise habits? The sugar police don't want to answer that question. In reality they are trying to install themselves as regulators of citizens' personal lives. The rest of us should oppose them.
Got In Their Eyes
Washington Post - Leonard Glantz - December 18, 2005
The writer is a professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at the Boston University School of Public Health.
World Health Organization (WHO), the health branch of the United Nations,
has announced that it will no longer hire smokers. Its spokeswoman said,
"As a matter of principle, WHO does not want to recruit smokers." The "principle,"
according to the spokeswoman, is: "WHO tries to encourage people to try
and lead a healthy life."
By this action WHO has transformed its war against smoking to a war against smokers. On its new job application, WHO asks applicants if they are smokers. If the applicant answers "yes," the application will be discarded.
With the hanging of the "No Smokers Need Apply" sign on its door, WHO has joined a long line of bigots who would not hire people of color, members of religious minorities, or disabled or gay people because of who they are or what they lawfully do.
To outlaw discriminatory hiring practices, both state and federal governments have passed a series of anti-discrimination laws that all share an underlying basis: The only legitimate job requirements are those that are related to the applicant's ability to do the work, as long as they do not endanger others.
In the language of the law, employers may impose bona fide occupational requirements. Thus, it is one thing to ban smoking in the workplace but quite another to ban employees who smoke away from the workplace. What WHO's new policy says is that it will not hire any member of a group that constitutes 25 percent of adults in the United States -- no matter how well qualified, dedicated and caring they are -- because of activities away from the workplace that have no impact on their job performance.
Under WHO's policy, if Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler applied for a job, only Hitler, the sole nonsmoker in the group (and someone who would not allow anyone to smoke near him), would be eligible for consideration.
The organization's "principled" stand could, and logically should, be applied to other unhealthful activities. While WHO would be the first to note that smoking is the leading cause of premature deaths, there is no reason this policy should not be applied to the second- and third-leading causes and to various other unhealthful activities in which so many engage. And, of course, if WHO succeeds in eliminating smoking, some other activity will take its place as the number one cause of premature death. WHO's logical next step in amending its application form is to ask for the height and weight of applicants so it can discard the applications of obese people.
In adopting this policy, WHO is not acting in its capacity as a health care organization but rather as an employer. And the principle that it argues for is that employers can impose job requirements based on what its employees do off the job. One can only imagine WHO's reaction to a tobacco company that requires all its employees to smoke or a gun company that requires them all to keep a gun and ammunition in their homes. The position that WHO has adopted would neatly support such ludicrous employment requirements.
I imagine that the health organization sees itself as leading the way in encouraging other companies to adopt similar oppressive and arbitrary job requirements. In doing so it encourages the most coercive form of social control short of outlawing smoking. Other than the very rich, people must work, and WHO's position is that smokers should not be allowed to work.
The proper response to such an oppressive condition of employment is for federal and state governments to adopt laws that prohibit job discrimination based on activities that employees engage in outside the workplace that have no impact on job performance. Several states have already adopted such laws, and WHO's actions demonstrate the need for them in every jurisdiction.
“Smoke” in a Crowded Theater
National Review Online - Shawn Macomber - December 15, 2005
the wake of a recent study which (cue bad pun) breathlessly warns that
adolescents who see characters smoking on the silver screen are nearly
three times more likely to start smoking, the usual suspects — Smoke Free
Movies, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
— are once again demanding that every film depicting smoking in a positive
or even neutral light to be branded with an “R” rating. To do any less,
they claim in a recent full-page ad in the New York Times, is to participate
in the “knowing recruitment of multitudes of new young smokers.”
Reason’s Jacob Sullum has already penned a good take-down of the study, noting, among other things, that the survey of 6,500 10–to-14 year-olds it is based on “did not consider which came first, the movie viewing or the smoking, which you’d think would be a minimum requirement for drawing a causal inference.”
Then again, does anyone believe there was any way this National Cancer Institute-funded study would not have found a correlation between youth smoking and movies? Was the National Cancer Institute just going to say, “Hey, we checked it out, but it just wasn’t there. Bring back Joe Camel!”? Media-circus studies such as this always begin with the causal inference and work their way back to the evidence, which on examination here is not nearly as dramatic as the state attorney generals’ calling for studios to place free anti-smoking ads on DVDs.
Nevertheless, the report’s lead author, Dr. James Sargent has been going far beyond causal inferences in interviews.
“Let’s imagine a kid who’s a little insecure about their masculinity,” the Dartmouth professor told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “He sees Clint Eastwood, a very masculine actor, light up a cigarillo and that becomes part of his notion of what he wants to be. That changes him from being someone who’s against smoking, like most little kids before the third grade, to someone who sees it as something that might get them a little more toughness and masculinity. So they try it.”
Well, so long as we’re using our imaginations, what about the kids who potentially cracked their heads open and risked permanent damage to their spinal chords attempting head spins after seeing the Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo? Or ate ridiculously large fat-filled burgers glorified in the Nickelodeon movie Good Burger? Or decided to try their hand at dangerous motorbike jumping after seeing last year’s Motocross Kids? Han Solo no doubt seemed tough and masculine to many kids in Empire Strikes Back, mostly for driving like an idiot and mouthing off to guys with guns. And to think all of these are — tsk, tsk — PG-rated films. How has the republic survived?
Here’s the heart of the matter: The original Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) 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. The “R” rating, as it stands today, warns parents that a film contains nudity, sexual situations, obscene language, or illegal-drug use, a fairly reasonable cultural demarcation line considering each of these acts in a public setting with children would be illegal. A 15-year-old who can’t get into a strip club, for example, shouldn’t be allowed in to see Striptease. (How Ashton Kutcher feels about this is anyone’s guess.)
Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth, smoking is simply not the same. Cigarettes are not an illegal product. Parents, leatherjacket clad mallrat rebels, older siblings, and teachers all can smoke in public, in front of children and do so without consequence. Further, smokers are not rare. Their natural habitat is everywhere. They have not been added to the endangered-species list. Thus, even if the MPAA were to cave on the issue, there is not a single child in America being protected from anything in a darkened theater that they will not be privy to on any sunlit street.
Since the average “R”-rated film does approximately half the gross of a PG-13 film, groups working to affect this change are engaged in a form of politically correct economic warfare, which is, of course, absolutely fine. However, when beginning such a fight one should have better weapons than a study of dubious reasoning, hyperbolic rhetoric unsubstantiated by said study, and battle cry of “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, We don’t like it so it’s got to go.”
Perhaps with friends in such high places, the anti-smoking lobby doesn’t need a solid argument. During congressional hearings with former MPAA president Jack Valenti last year on this issue, Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) announced, “We’re calling for personal restraint. We’re calling for personal responsibility,” which Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) quickly explained translated to, “If something isn’t done by the industry, something will be done by Congress.” Such is the state of individual rights and choice in America today when there is a bipartisan consensus on abridging them.
The blood, you see, has been in the water ever since the tobacco industry signed onto the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, effectively ending lawsuits pending against the industry by the states in exchange for a payout of more than $200 billion spread over 25 years and an agreement to fundamentally change the way it advertised its products. Considering what a public relations coup this was for all involved, it was foolish to believe it would end there.
So to get in front of cameras now and be heralded as the last standing bulwark between Evil Rich Men and Millions of Dead Kids, researchers and state attorney generals must stoke new fires to smoke out new enemies. Today it’s the movie industry. If they cave as the tobacco industry did, tomorrow it will be someone else.
The only thing left to be seen, then, is if crying "smoke" in a crowded theater will be met with scoff of derision or the easy accolades the new crusaders have become so accustomed to.
Obesity Justify Big Government?
Cato Institute - Radley Balko - December 9, 2005
January, media outlets reported that cancer had overtaken heart disease
as the number one killer in the United States. Sounds scary, no?
Fear not. As is usually the case, beyond the scary headline, deep into the copy, came the real story. Both diseases are in steady decline. Cancer rates and deaths from cancer have fallen every year since the early 1990s. The thing is, incidence and mortality rates of heat disease and stroke have fallen even more over the same period (25 percent since 1990). So while it's true that cancer has "overtaken" heart disease, that's really not the story. The story is that both are in decline, heart disease remarkably so.
Late last February, another health story hit the wires: Americans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy is up across the board, among both genders and all ethnicities. The gaps in life expectancy between men and women and between black and white are shrinking, too.
At the same time all of this good news has transpired, the number of Americans classified as "obese" and "overweight" has been on a steadily upward trajectory since about the mid-1970s. In 1985, 8 states reported that at least 10% of their populations were obese. By 1990, the number rose to 33. By 2001, it was all fifty.
Of course, as you might expect, the scariest numbers about the condition of America's waistline are overblown – there are significant problems with the way the government measures obesity, which I'll discuss in a moment. But most researchers agree that the average American is carrying 10-15 more pounds than he was thirty years ago.
If you believe media, nutrition activists, and public officials, those extra 10-15 pounds portend a looming healthcare catastrophe. U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, for example, said in 2004 that childhood obesity is "every bit as threatening to us as the terrorist threat." A congressionally commissioned report from the Institute of Medicine published in the fall of 2004 called for massive government intervention to stave off the crisis. One author said we need "nothing short of a revolution." The World Health Organization warned "If immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious health disorders."
But if we've been getting fatter for 30 years, shouldn't we be seeing at least the front end of this coming crisis? Why are we getting healthier? In fact, a closer look at the statistics suggests that even some of the diseases most associated with obesity are in retreat.
Take cancer, for example. In 2002, the BBC reported researchers had found that "the more excess weight a person carries, the greater their risk of certain types of cancer." In 2004, USA Today echoed that claim. "The nation's current epidemic of overweight and obesity is likely to drive up cancer rates in coming years," the paper wrote. The Associated Press wrote that, "heart disease and diabetes get all the attention, but expanding waistlines increase the risk for at least nine types of cancer, too" (other sources put it at ten).
But of the ten types of cancer commonly associated with obesity, deaths from nine – pancreatic, ovarian, gall bladder, stomach, prostate, kidney, colal-rectal, cervical-uteran, and breast – have decreased since 1992, some of them significantly. Only one – pancreatic cancer – has seen an increase in mortality rates over that period.
And heart disease? Case Western Reserve University researcher and obesity skeptic Paul Ernsberger notes that "The greatest improvements are in cardiovascular disease deaths, which are most strongly linked to obesity."
As noted, the gap in life expectancy between black and white is shrinking. But at the same time, blacks as a group have put on more weight than whites. Incidence of obesity among black women, for example, jumped 11.7% between 1988 and 2001, compared to 7.3% among white women. Yet black women increased their life expectancy by 2.3 years, versus 1.3 years for white women over that period. It's true with men, too. The rate of obesity among black men jumped by 7.5%, versus 7.0% among white men., yet black men on average added 4.2 years to their lives, versus 2.8 for white men. So blacks have narrowed the longevity gap with whites, even while widening (pardon the pun) the "obesity gap."
In 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study commissioned by the Center for Disease Control that said 400,000 annual American deaths are attributable to obesity. A Lexis search reveals that as of late fall of 2004, that 400,000 figure had been cited over 1,000 times in mainstream media outlets. It was also routinely cited by politicians, activists, and bureaucrats as justification for large-scale government intervention to curb our pudginess. At a Time Magazine-ABC News summit on obesity in June of 2004, attendees were inundated with the refrain that "obesity will soon overtake smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in America." Demands for government action inevitably followed.
But there were fatal flaws in the CDC study's methodology. First, it was a "meta" study, which incorporated data from dozens of other studies, some of them dating back to the 1940s, and attempted to apply that data to today's demographics. Second, the study used the Body Mass Index as its arbiter of obesity, a crude formula that factors only height and weight, and which consequently mislabels as "overweight" or "obese" people who are extremely fit. According to the BMI, for example, half the National Basketball Association is either overweight or obese. But few would suggest they're out of shape or unhealthy. Third, the study assumed that all premature deaths by obese people were caused by obesity – a leap of faith, to say the least. Finally, the study lumped the "overweight" in with the "obese," even though there's little evidence that overweight has any seriously ill-effects on health. The study's own data, in fact, showed no correlation between being overweight and premature death, and in fact showed some benefit.
In December of 2004, the CDC reluctantly admitted its study was flawed, but only by a little -- 20 to 25 percent. Critics insisted the flaws in the study's methodology was much more significant, and in response the National Institutes for Health finally commissioned a review. In April, an independent team of researchers led by the University of North Carolina's Katherine Flegal released a new study sharply at odds with the original 400,000 study. Flegal's team determined the original study exaggerated the effects of obesity by some 300 percent. She put the real number of annual deaths attributable to overweight and obesity closer to 100,000. What's more, the new study found that modest overweight actually protects against premature death. When adjusted for the lives saved by extra weight, the number of deaths due to obesity falls to around 25,000 -- putting the original figure off by a factor of fifteen.
A subsequent internal investigation revealed that CDC officials were actually made aware of the original study's flaws during the peer review process. So why was the more alarmist study published and relentless promoted anyway?
As it turns out, one of the co-authors of the original 400,000 study was Dr. Julie Gerberding. Gerberding also happens to be the current Director of the Center for Disease Control. Comments from members of the internal investigation team reveal that the study was likely published over objections from other scientists at the CDC because the head of the agency's name was on the study.
Gerberding still refuses to accept the new numbers. She has told the media that the CDC will continue with its anti-obesity campaign, and the campaign will continue to ignore the subsequent study.
Local and state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, regulators at all levels of government, and public health advocates have since seized on the idea that nearly a half million people are needlessly dying every year because of their love handles. The Bush administration has earmarked millions of federal dollars for anti-obesity initiatives (though not nearly enough for the obesity warriors). Congress is considering menu-labeling laws, some in Washington have suggested taxes on high-fat or high-sugar foods, and others are calling on the FTC to regulate the marketing of junk food. Many states have banned junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines. And the Medicare program announced last summer that it would begin considering paying for treatment for obesity, a new entitlement that could prove to be more costly as the prescription drug benefit.
America is at war with obesity. We could eventually come to find, however, that this war's origins are dubious as the sinking of the Maine.
None of this is to say extreme or morbid obesity is healthy, or even benign (though again, there seems to be some modest protective effects to carrying some excess weight). The decline in incidence and deaths from heart disease and cancer are almost certainly due to advances in medical research and technology. We're getting better at uncovering these diseases early, and with pharmaceutical marvels like Statin drugs and chemotherapy, we're making huge leaps in treatment once we've diagnosed them. And it's of course likely that the gains we've made would be even more significant were the most obese among us a bit more svelte.
But the notion that our expanding waistlines have put us on the verge of a calamitous offensive against our health care system simply isn't borne out by the evidence. And so these incessant calls for immediate, large-scale government interference in how we grow, process, manufacture, market, prepare, sell, and eat our food ring hollow, hyperbolic, and needlessly invasive.
The Seattle Times recently did an investigation of the obesity hype, and found that much of the panic could be traced back to an aggressive campaign in the late 1990s by the pharmaceutical companies with diet drugs like Phen-Phen in the pipeline to get the government in the business of weight-watching. In 1996, the industry convinced the federal government to move the goalposts when it comes to determining the definition of "overweight" and "obesity." At hearings dominated by researchers with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, an FDA panel eventually agreed to the change. One magical night in 1997, then, some 29 million Americans went to bet healthy, and woke up the next morning "overweight" or "obese." And none of them gained a pound.
Debunking junk science studies and bogus chicken-little pronouncements are important to refute the idea that obesity represents a looming healthcare crisis. But those of us who value free markets and personal liberty wouldn't support government intervention even if the worst pronouncements of the anti-fat activists were proven true. What we put into our mouths, how often we exercise, and what we feed our children are simply none of the government's business. How did we get to the point where it could be?
There are two answers to that question, and they should be considered separately. First, we've vastly expanded the concept of "public health" to include government intervention into nearly every sphere of our lives. And second, our health care system is slouching toward socialism, a troubling trend that undermines personal responsibility, and exacts a public cost on private behavior.
The proper conception of "public health" is innocuous enough. There are unquestionably some threats to our health and safety for which the remedies constitute a legitimate public good. They're limited to risks to which no rational person would submit himself – examples might include communicable diseases like tuberculosis or typhoid, calamitous events like asteroid impacts or tsunamis, or biological or chemical terrorism. Under these limited circumstances, it's understandable, even advisable, for a government limited to protecting the lives and property of its citizens to take collective measures to eradicate or minimize such risks, or minimize the damage should they come to pass.
But "public health" as it's advocated today goes well beyond public goods. Over the last century, "public health" has come to mean state pressure coercing us to avoid risks, even risks we knowingly and willingly undertake. The most obvious and conspicuous example was alcohol prohibition. And though Prohibition took an untold number of lives, bred corruption, and legitimized criminal behavior, it is distinguishable from more recent expansions of public health in that lawmakers at least recognized it as a failure, and repealed it (Unfortunately, we don't seem to have learned. The last twenty years have seen increasingly aggressive restrictions on the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol by local, state, and federal government).
But the Harrison Act – which fired the first shots of the drug war – was passed even earlier, in 1914. Drug prohibition has marched onward since. Its episodic ratchetings-up and coolings-down have commenced to a particularly aggressive and militaristic incarnation over the last twenty-five years.
Once we've accepted a definition of "public health" expansive enough for government to dictate what we can and can't put into our bodies, it's a short leap to seat belt laws, motorcycle helmet laws, assisted suicide bans, and prohibitions and restrictions on all sorts of other risky behavior. More recently, we've been given "public" smoking bans that extend to private businesses such as bars and restaurants. The Supreme Court recently upheld an Alabama ban on sex toys and marital aides. And parents are all too aware of the myriad regulations on the risks to which they can legally subject their children. Over just the last several years, governments at some level have prohibited motor scooters, "pocket bikes," all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, alcohol vaporizers, and fireworks, to name just a few -- all designed to keep people from hurting themselves.
So it shouldn't be the least bit surprising that "public health" might now come to include the size of our pants and the content of our refrigerators.
The justification for expansions of the government's power to promote the "public health" is typically couched in "the number of lives this will save." Sometimes, we're told that a law will add x number of years to the average life. The most-used and easiest tactic is to simply state that the law's necessary to protect "the children."
The ad naseum recitation of the 400,000 figure is a good example. As is a report released in January of 2004 stating that being overweight at forty would cut several years off the typical life. The public health activists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have long been fighting for marketing restrictions on junk food, particularly on programs directed "at our children."
Longevity seems to be an obsession among the public health crowd. There seems to be no limit to the costs they're willing to endure if some policy promises to lengthen lives. It seems improbable to them that there may be people who'd sacrifice a month or two of their senior years for the lifetime of pleasure some get from a daily cigarette, a night of hard-drinking, or a slice of cherry pie after dinner. It's as if adding more days to the end of our lives were the only reason for living.
Even then, as British doctor and author Michael Fitzpatrick explains in his book The Tyranny of Health, death can't be prevented. It can only be postponed. And "death can generally be postponed only for a relatively short time by relatively intensive preventative measures," Fitzpatrick writes. That is, high-cost measures that would typically add just a few days or months to the average life.
There's certainly nothing wrong with studies or public awareness campaigns designed to discover and inform us about how we can make healthier choices. It's that the "advice" rarely stops there. Inevitably, such studies and campaigns lead to calls for government policies aimed at increasing longevity, and in so doing, take options and choices away from people who may value pleasure, convenience, or indulgence more than perfect health or a prolonged geriatry.
In the eloquent polemic Cigarettes Are Sublime, Richard Klein writes, "Healthism in America has sought to make longevity the principle measure of a good life. To be a survivor is to acquire moral distinction. But another view, a dandy's perhaps, would say that living, as distinct from surviving, acquires its value from risks and sacrifices that tend to shorten life and hasten dying."
Classical liberals should argue against the ever-expanding "public health" initiatives not only because they're supported by junk science or manipulated data (though that's often the case), but because the freedom to risk, indulge, and "sin" are essential to preserving individual liberty and a free society. Governments of free people aren't authorized to ensure good health, they're charged with securing liberty, which most certainly includes the liberty to hold bad habits.
The other chief reason why "public health" has been able to include ridiculous measures like obesity legislation and seat belt laws is because of our increasingly collective system of healthcare. Even private health care has a collective component to it. Today, routine, maintenance-oriented doctor visits are typically paid for by employer-provided health insurance, calling to mind the old Milton Friedman axiom about how generous we tend to be with other people's money. Health insurance by definition pools risk. But many states (as well as the general culture of the health care industry) put restrictions on so-called "medical underwriting" – or allowing health insurers to vary premiums base don risk, the same way auto or life insurers do. All of these factors together create a system of perverse incentives which undermine the notion that we ought to let people take personal responsibility for their own health and well being. Healthy people subsidize unhealthy people. When the consequences of poor decisions are shared, there's less incentives to make good decisions.
And that's just the private sector. At the same time, politicians seem to be falling all over themselves in a rush to expand Medicare and Medicaid benefits for the aging, politically potent Baby Boom generation. The Cato Institute estimates that the new prescription drug benefit could in the end exceed a trillion dollars. Medicare's noodling with the idea of covering obesity treatments could very well end up costing nearly as much.
This creeping socialization of medicine gives government new license to meddle with our private affairs. It creates a climate where excessive state interference in the most intimate of personal matters – what we put into our mouths – becomes not only acceptable among the electorate, but desirable. After all, if that cheeseburger you're eating clogs your arteries and puts you in the hospital, your poor choices will be reflected in my health insurance premiums. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid, it'll show up in my taxes.
That's exactly the argument the government put forward in the summer of 2004 when the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Medicare would consider covering the costs of obesity treatments, including diet plans, counseling, and gastro-bypass surgery, all new frontiers for preventative government intervention. HHS officials insisted that the change would save taxpayers money over the long haul if obesity were prevented or treated before the ill-health effects associated with the condition begin to present themselves.
It isn't difficult to see how this argument could be applied in a larger sense – that we need to tax fatty or sugary foods, for example, to save everyone money on health insurance premiums and to keep the obesity problem from bankrupting Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, that exact argument has been made – and by a credentialed conservative, no less. Writing on National Review Online, David Frum wrote:
And as Americans struggle with an epidemic of obesity
- and the ensuing costs to the taxpayer - conservatives who favor (as almost
all conservatives do favor) Medicare and Medicaid need to ask themselves
whether their easy libertarian attitude to the worst practices of the fast
food industry retains its relevance. Big Gulp drinks and super-sized fries
are making America sick - and you are paying the bill. A little moderation
would cure a lot of medical and fiscal ills; and a little incentive might
induce that moderation.
The solution to this is to return some semblance of personal responsibility to the health care system. Health or Medical Savings Accounts, for example, enable consumers to roll money not spent on routine medical procedures into a retirement account, tax free. In contrast to the current system -- which if anything incentivizes poor decisions -- HSAs or MSAs encourage consumers to take care of themselves. Money not spent on visits to the doctor's office is money saved for retirement.
Another suggestion would be to free up health insurers to do medical underwriting. The Bush administration has said it sees no federal barriers to the practice, so to the extent that barriers exist, they're likely at the state level. Congress could facilitate the process by passing legislation (justified by the Commerce Clause) that would allow consumers in any state to purchase health insurance from companies in any other state, under the laws and regulations of the state where the insurer is incorporated. This would not only free up health insurers to medically underwrite, it would create a kind of competition between the states to ease regulatory burdens to attract insurers.
The result would unleash market forces on the task of finding the best carrot-and-stick approach to encouraging healthy lifestyles. Insurers would compete amongst themselves for customers, while states would lower regulatory barriers while competing for insurers. Currently, there's much debate over whether the ill-health effects often associated with obesity are from obesity itself, or from the sedentary activity levels that often accompany being overweight. Hundreds of insurers competing with one another to both attract consumers and develop plans that reward the healthiest habits among their patrons (which of course benefits the insurers in the way of lower healthcare costs) might bring us closer to an answer to such questions. At the very least, if each us were solely responsible for the consequences of our diet and activity level, the point would be rendered moot from a public policy perspective.
The bizarre thing about the obesity debate is that less than a decade ago, the very thought of it was often discussed only in parody, or in a reductio ad absurdum context. Opponents of the tobacco lawsuits often invoked the idea of trial lawyers suing fast food restaurants as one example of the "parade of horribles" that might follow should the tobacco suits be allowed to go forward.
Well, we're here now. This is post-reductio America. If the anti-obesity proposals currently up for debate become law, it's difficult to come up with any aspect of our lives that's out of the reach of the public health activists. Or, as one advocacy group that represents the food industry has put it, the question will no longer be "what's next?" ...but "what's left?"
smoking ban should leave us fuming
Yakima Herald Republic - By Drew Toop - December 6, 2005
Drew Toop attends Davis High School
Washington wanted a smoking ban. And they got it. So now what?
Well, a lot of things.
It may seem strange that a nonsmoker such as myself would care about such a thing, but believe me, I do. When voters approve such a measure 63 to 37 percent, something's up.
For starters, why did so many nonsmokers (I can't imagine many smokers approving this measure) feel it was necessary to tell others what to do? I can see the government banning smoking on its own property: sidewalks, schools, courthouses, etc. But people telling private businesses what to do?
That's really what it is, telling other people what to do.
If I own a bar, for example, it's assumed that many, if not most, of my customers are going to want to light up. No one should walk into a bar and expect to smell fresh mountain air. It's just common knowledge.
Now, if I don't want to smell cigarette smoke, I can choose to not enter that bar, or leave if I'm already in it. Why should the smokers inside have to stop just because one person doesn't like it?
For some reason though, 63 percent of the voter turnout
thought that those smokers should.
This measure proved two trends that have long been growing nationwide. The first, the overwhelming persecution of smokers, whether casual or chain. And two, the overwhelming demand people seem to have to control other citizens' lives.
Now, the vast majority of us out there know of the deleterious effects of smoking. Yes, there's the increased chance of cancer. Yes, there's the increased chance of emphysema. It's so kindly posted on the side of every box of cigarettes, as well as other tobacco products. People, smokers aren't stupid.
If people know that smoking can be harmful, but still choose to do so, why should that bother you? I can understand concern about one's own health, and that's why a ban on sidewalks and in publicly owned buildings makes sense.
However, if you don't have brains enough to figure out
that you don't have to go to restaurants with a smoking section, then maybe
you don't have the brains enough to vote.
Personally, I'd prefer to be around smokers than nonsmokers. They tend to be more interesting and traveled than the numerous white-bready, nonsmokers one encounters in the average eatery or store.
So, why not, then, a nonsmoking ban? Nonsmokers are dangerous to my sanity. Let's ban all of them. They're bad for the brain; you know, always telling people what to do. Let's make it a law that everyone in a public space has to smoke at least two cigarettes before exiting a building in public.
Why is it that so many people want to control other people's lives? If a deli serving food from Bhutan wants to serve snake, why, then, does it bother you as long as they tell you what you're about to order? If I want to sell liquor and television sets on Sunday at my local shopping outlet, why do you care? You certainly don't have to come to my establishment and give me your money.
Nevertheless, the rants of this blowhard will probably fall flat.
There are still going to be the seat-belt laws, the Sunday laws, the smoking bans. Soon, there will be codes instructing business owners that they must carry an on-hand doctor in case any customer should fall ill. It's a health concern, after all. Just like the smoking ban. We'll call it Infirmitive Action.
In fact, fetch the forms right now; I feel like I'm going to throw up.
busybodies are at it again
Townhall.com - John Stossel - November 30, 2005
can kill you. That's why I don't smoke, and it's why you shouldn't, either.
There. I've just done the only things that should be done in a free society to stop people from smoking: I've told you that it's dangerous, I've urged you not to do it, and I've even set a good example. If you'd like other people to be healthy, you should also discourage smoking, too.
But if you'd like to be free, and you'd like your neighbor to be free, that's all you should do. It isn't my business to come into your home or business and stop you or your guests from smoking. If you like smoking so much you're willing to give up years off your life -- 6.6 years for the average man -- that should be your choice. I have no right to force you to stop.
The busybodies, however, want to force you to stop. When they get themselves elected, they can. Sadly, it's the busybodies who most often run for public office. Most of us want to run our own lives, and help people by selling them things, or offering them charity or advice -- any of which they can take or leave. People who want to run other people's lives are ... different. They are the people we should be most worried about.
I once interviewed the mayor of the tiny community of Friendship Heights, Md. He got his town to pass the most stringent anti-smoking law in America. It banned cigarette smoke outdoors.
"We're elected to promote the general welfare, and this is part of the general welfare," he told me. After I interviewed him, he was arrested for touching a 14-year-old boy's genitals in a bathroom at Washington National Cathedral. The village council finally repealed his law. Finally, we know what it takes to get an anti-smoking law repealed.
Unfortunately, the busybodies keep running for office and, once elected, keep imposing new restrictions on our freedom.
So far, they haven't prohibited smoking entirely. So far. But Tom Constantine, who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration under President Clinton, once told me: "When we look down the road, I would say 10, 15, 20 years from now, in a gradual fashion, smoking will probably be outlawed in the United States."
That is the road we're moving down. New York and California already ban smoking in restaurants and bars. All but two counties of West Virginia have some sort of anti-smoking law. Two cities in Georgia have, like Friendship Heights, banned smoking in public parks. This week, Chicago's city council may ban smoking in most public places.
The excuse is secondhand smoke. But there's only flimsy evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful. Studies were done on people who lived with smokers and were exposed to huge amounts of secondhand smoke at home and in cars. The idea that restaurant patrons are threatened is silly, and it's even sillier to fear exposure outdoors. But the politicians have become zealots.
Granted, secondhand smoke is a nuisance. But so are many other things.
If I don't like secondhand smoke -- and I don't -- I can choose to go to restaurants that don't have smoking, just as I can choose restaurants that don't have bad music. If I don't want to work in a smoky place, I don't have to.
But when the politicians ban smoking in bars, people who actually like old-fashioned smoky bars are stopped, by force, from enjoying the kinds of establishments they like. Smoky bars cease to exist. Workers who don't mind smoke are deprived of jobs. Can't the smokers have some bars?
Most Americans don't smoke. If we make it clear we want smoke-free restaurants, many existing businesses will choose to go smoke-free and new ones will open. That's a much better idea than politicians imposing force on everyone.
Some people think the government must decide everything. But when government decides, minorities, even large minorities, lose rights.
When we get to make our own decisions, we don't all have to make the same decisions. Some of the time, at least, we can all get what we want -- even when we don't all want the same thing.
thinking is fatal
The Times (UK) - Tim Luckhurst - November 29, 2005
MPS CHOOSE today between partial or total bans on smoking in public places
they must ask themselves whether lying to promote a cause is ever legitimate.
The question is urgent because the claim that secondary smoking kills is alchemy, not science, and honest anti-smoking lobbyists know it. The theory that cigarette smoke kills non-smokers was dreamt up 30 years ago by anti-smoking activists; only after inventing it did they attempt to prove it.
Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have followed. All point to a compelling consensus that there is no causal link between passive smoking and fatal illness. One of the most comprehensive studies was published in the British Medical Journal in 2003. It concluded: “The results do not support a causal relationship between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality.”
That was unsurprising. The International Agency for Research on Cancer notes that of 23 scientific studies into the effects of workplace exposure to second-hand smoke only one found a statistically significant risk for lung cancer. One in 23 is what objective science calls an anomaly.
Even the research director of Action on Smoking and Health admits: “A lot of the studies that have been done on passive smoking produce results that are not statistically significant according to conventional analysis.” In plain English that means there is no convincing evidence that secondary smoking kills.
That is why anti-smokers have resorted to asserting that secondary smoke is responsible for problems such as asthma and bronchitis instead of fatal diseases. It is why they claim that “there is no safe level of environmental tobacco smoke” instead of trying to enumerate a death toll from a syndrome that does not exist.
In 2003 the BMJ’s editor confessed that the debate about secondary smoking is “more remarkable for its passion than its precision”. Sir Richard Doll, the scientist who proved the link between smoking and lung cancer, said: “The effect of other people smoking in my presence is so small it does not worry me.” It should not worry MPs either.
Parliament should assert the primacy of facts. Disliking cigarette smoke is reasonable, but pretending that secondary smoking kills means abandoning science for quarter-truths and irrational sanctimony.
except inside and outside
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - November 16, 2005
you've gotten used to smoke-free bars, here's a new concept to wrap your
mind around: smoke-free cigar lounges. This innovation comes to us courtesy
of Washington state's voters, who recently approved an initiative that
bans smoking in nearly every indoor location except for private residences.
The ban makes no exception for businesses whose raison d'etre is tobacco consumption, even if they have ventilation systems that whisk smoke away as soon as it's produced. By forbidding smoking within 25 feet of entrances and windows, it even threatens to eliminate sidewalk smoking sections and quick outdoor cigarette breaks.
As these provisions suggest, the real motivation behind government-imposed smoking bans is not to shield customers and employees from secondhand smoke, although that rationale is popular with the general public. For the activists and government officials who push the bans, the main point is to discourage smoking by making it inconvenient and socially unacceptable, transforming it into a shameful vice practiced only in privacy and isolation.
That doesn't mean everyone who voted for the Washington ban, which will be the most restrictive state law of its kind in the country when it takes effect on Dec. 8, is eager to save smokers from themselves. By and large, I'm sure, the ban's supporters simply wanted to avoid tobacco smoke without having to make any sacrifices.
For example, they did not want to have to choose between tolerating smoke and passing over otherwise appealing bars and restaurants that allow smoking. Instead they decided to force the owners of those establishments to change their policies by threatening to fine them and take away the licenses on which their livelihoods depend.
Contrary to the propaganda put out by the initiative
campaign (which raised about $1.4 million, more than 100 times as much
as the opposition), support for the ban probably had little to do with
the possible long-term health effects of secondhand smoke. It's hard to
believe there are many people who sit in smoky bars and worry that, if
they stay there for 30 years, their tiny risk of
People who object to secondhand smoke are much more likely to be worried about the immediate smell and discomfort. But they feel that if they pretend to believe the smoke is not only bothering them but (SET ITAL) might be killing them (END ITAL), their complaint becomes a legally enforceable right.
There is nothing noble about this impulse to impose one's own tastes and preferences on everyone. "People ... stood up and said we believe this is the right thing to do," an American Cancer Society spokesman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after the vote. "We're proud to stand along [with] others who are trying to protect their community."
How much courage does it take, in a state where nonsmokers outnumber smokers by four to one, to declare that the minority's desires should count for nothing, even when business owners want to accommodate them? How admirable is it, in a state where 80 percent of restaurants already are smoke-free, to insist that the rest follow suit?
The employee protection excuse does not make this demand any more reasonable. As a nonsmoking Seattle bartender told The Seattle Times, "You know what you're getting into when you work in a bar. If I had a problem with smoke, I'd get another job."
Secondhand smoke is, in any case, not the main concern of those who promote smoking bans in the name of "public health." Laws like Washington's are "one of the most effective ways to provide the strong incentive often needed to get smokers to quit," according to John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.
"We know tough indoor laws are a motivator to quit," a spokesman for the Washington Department of Health told the Everett Herald. "We want to help people do that." How could smokers be anything but grateful?
authoritarian odor of I-901
Seattle Times (Editorial) - Bruce Ramsey - November 2, 2005
canny old Communist, Deng Xiaoping, once exhaled a lungful of burnt tobacco
in the presence of Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, a headstrong woman who, Deng knew,
hated smoke. China's leader did not cotton to criticism about human rights,
and he wanted to make a point. He said, "In my country people are very
free. Our people are not oppressed."
This was dung of another spelling, but Deng was having fun. He sucked down another hit of Nicotiana tabacum and exhaled, saying, "I understand that in some countries people who smoke are isolated in special rooms."
That was in 1979, when nicotine addicts in America were just starting to be isolated in special rooms. A few years later, they were driven outside to huddle around doorways. Now comes Initiative 901, which would drive smokers out of every restaurant, tavern and bar and 25 feet from every entrance or open window. It is unreasonable. It is also mean.
Taverns and bars are places for the enjoyment of lawful chemicals — and, for some reason of human biology, a smoke goes well with a drink. Most bars and taverns allow both. Some restaurants do also; some have divided sections, and some forbid smoking entirely.
A free society, meaning one in which you and I are free to make our own reasonable decisions, calls for a certain tolerance. If 20 percent of the people smoke and 80 percent do not, there will be some places that allow smoking and some that don't.
The traditional American way to do it is through the principle of ownership. Let politicians set the rules for public places and private owners set the rules for private places. Each chooses for the space they control, and let each hear the complaints. As people's thinking changes, the rules for the spaces around them will change.
My neighborhood, which is so progressive that 2-ounce chocolate bars are organic and cost $2.79 each, has four restaurants within four blocks of my house. All ban smoking. There are two taverns. One allows smoking and the other bans it inside but has outdoor benches for the incorrigibles.
That suits my neighborhood. A different neighborhood will do it a different way.
A few weeks ago, I stopped in the old downtown of Centralia, a town whose tradition of tolerance, if you know labor history, is none too good. I ate at a diner that had been there for more than half a century. It is too small for a non-smoking section, and allows smokers everywhere. The owner told me half his patrons are tobacco users.
I-901 imposes the same intolerant, absolutist rule on Centralia as Seattle. It is the same rule for Wild Ginger and the Five Point Cafe. Diversity is extinguished, discretion erased, freedom gone — and not only inside all spaces where employees work, but 25 feet from every door, open window or air vent. The smokers who now cluster around doorways on blustery November days will be forced out into the rain or under a dripping tree.
I-901 says: If you want to smoke in a bar, tavern or restaurant, go to an Indian reservation. Only there will it be allowed. Thus the tribes are granted another commercial monopoly. Somehow, the argument about the public health does not apply to them.
It is a thin argument anyway. The plain fact is, if you don't want to be around cigarette smoke, it is easy to arrange your life so that you almost never smell it. A few jobs are offered that put one close to smokers, but not many, and no one is forced to take them or to keep them. Now and then in a restaurant you get a whiff of cigarette, but in my experience, not much and hardly ever.
I-901 is not about health really. It is about one group of people who want to set the rules for everyone else.
against secondhand smoke vanishes into thin air
Chicago Sun-Times - Dennis Constant - October 22, 2005
the claims of anti-smoking groups that research studies have conclusively
proved that secondhand tobacco smoke causes lung cancer, the city councils
of Arlington Heights, Evanston and Wheeling rejected smoking bans. The
three Illinois municipalities have created significant restaurant industries
that play an important role in their economies, and the council members
concluded that the risks of loss of businesses were not worth the health
benefits that some claimed would result from a ban on smoking.
Now the Chicago City Council is considering banning smoking in virtually all restaurants, bars and commercial buildings.
Anti-smoking groups with a collectivist political agenda, allied with "cancer industry" organizations that rely on fear to enhance their considerable cash flow, have filled the media with claims about secondhand tobacco smoke that are questionable at best, and fraudulent at worst. It's important to look past their shrill propaganda and examine their claims without bias.
The keystone of their argument for banning indoor smoking is that exposure to "secondhand" smoke is a serious health hazard that causes lung cancer. To hear them tell it, there simply is no debate: Studies conclusively have shown a causal connection between lung cancer and secondhand tobacco smoke. In fact, the research studies tell a different story -- a story that largely has been ignored by the media.
A study often cited by anti-smoking groups is the 1993 study by Michael Siegel, "Involuntary Smoking in the Restaurant Workplace," published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which declared that non-smoking restaurant workers have a 50 percent higher risk of lung cancer than the general population. However, a peer review of the study completed in 2000, authored by Martha Perske, revealed that the claimed 50 percent increased risk was based on six studies that had absolutely nothing to do with secondhand smoke in restaurants, bars, or anywhere else.
Small increased risks for lung cancer were found in food service workers, but there was no evidence in any of the six studies that food service workers had been exposed to tobacco smoke!
According to Michael Fumento, writing in Health Care News, in 2003 professors James Enstrom of UCLA and Geoffrey Kabat of the State University of New York reported in the British Medical Journal that their 39-year study of 35,561 Californians who had never smoked showed no causal relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality.
Fumento also reports that in 1999, an Environmental Health Perspectives survey of 17 studies of environmental tobacco smoke and heart disease found only five that were statistically significantly positive. And in 2002, an analysis of 48 studies of environmental tobacco smoke found only 10 studies that were significantly positive, one that was significantly negative, and 37 that were not significant in either direction.
Fumento adds that in 1975, when many more individuals smoked in restaurants, cocktail lounges and transportation lounges, the concentration of tobacco smoke then was equivalent to 0.004 cigarettes an hour -- a very small amount.
Despite the claim of anti-smoking groups that scientific studies unanimously have shown that secondhand smoke is killing thousands from lung cancer, the truth is that the vast majority of such studies failed to find any statistically significant link.
The arguments of anti-smokers are sometimes ludicrous. They claim that smoke contains 4,000 poisons and carcinogens, but a 2005 California EPA analysis found only 405. Not only that, the average American diet contains about 10,000 poisons and carcinogens. Perhaps Chicago should ban food instead of tobacco.
Government takes too much authority and not enough responsibility.
Opinion Journal - Peggy Noonan - September 29, 2005
day before hurricane Rita hit Texas, last Friday, I saw on TV something
that disturbed me. It was not the usual scene of crashing waves and hardy
reporters being blown sideways by wind gusts. It was a fat Texas guy swimming
in the waves off Galveston. He'd apparently decided the high surf was a
good thing to jump into, so he went for a prehurricane swim. Two cops saw
him, waded into the surf and arrested him. When I saw it the guy was standing
there in orange trunks being astonished as the cops put handcuffs on him
and hauled him away.
I thought: Oh no, this is isn't good. This is authority, not responsibility.
You'd have to be crazy, in my judgment, to decide you were going to go swim in the ocean as a hurricane comes. But in the America where I grew up, you were allowed to be crazy. You had the right. Sometimes you were crazy and survived whatever you did. Sometimes you didn't, and afterwards everyone said, "He was crazy."
Last week I quoted Gerald Ford: "The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." I was talking about money. But it applies also to personal freedom, to the rights of the individual, including his right to do something stupid as long as it's legal, like swimming.
Government has real duties in disaster. Maintaining the peace is a primary one. But if we demand that our government protect us from all the weather all the time, if we demand that it protect us from rain and hail, if we make government and politicians pay a terrible price for not getting us out of every flood zone and rescuing us from every wave, we're going to lose a lot more than we gain. If we give government all authority then we are giving them all power.
And we will not only lose the right to be crazy, we'll lose the right to be sane. A few weeks ago when, for a few days, some level of government, it isn't completely clear, decided no one should be allowed to live in New Orleans after the flood, law-enforcement officers went to the home of a man who had a dry house, a month's supply of food and water, and a gun to protect himself. The police demanded that he leave. Why? He was fine. He had everything he needed. The man was enraged: It was his decision, he said, and he was staying.
It is the government's job to warn and inform. That's what we have the National Weather Service for. It is not government's job to command and control and make microdecisions about the lives of people who want to do it their own way.
This sort of thing of course has been going on for a long time. In Katrina and Rita it just became more dramatically obvious as each incident played out on TV.
Governments always start out saying they're going to help, and always wind up pushing you around. They cannot help it. They say they want to help us live healthily and they mean it, but it ends with a guy in Queens getting arrested for trying to have a Marlboro Light with his Bud at the neighborhood bar. We're hauling the parents of obese children into court. The government has increasing authority over our health, and these children are not healthy. Smokers, the fat, drinkers of more than two drinks per night, insane swimmers in high seas . . .
We are losing the balance between the rights of the individual and the needs and demands of the state. Again, this is not new. It's a long slide that's been going on for a long time. But Katrina and Rita seemed to make the slide deeper.
It is hard for governments to be responsible, and take responsibility. It takes real talent, and guts. But authority? That's easier. Pass the law and get the cuffs.
I want to mention the media's part in this...
...TV is there to be watched. Each network and channel succeeds if you watch. They try--they're in business after all--to do everything they can to make you watch. They give you pretty reporters and bright human-interest stories. But they also try, when they get the chance, to terrify you. They try to terrify you into watching. Rita is on a flight path into the very heart of Galveston. The storm may drown Houston. If Port Arthur is submerged it will cause massive loss of life. All humans have been ordered by all levels of government to evacuate. Flee, I tell you! Run for your lives!
We will probably find out more people died of media-induced heart attacks than of Hurricane Rita itself.
If government cannot distinguish between authority and responsibility, media have trouble distinguishing between the helpful reporting of facts and the whipping up of fear.
The latter not only does not help, it hurts. Here's one way: when you endlessly pound America with the idea that Armageddon is imminent, you're pushing Americans to conclude that only something big can save them, something huge, something omnipotent--like government.
Which is only too happy to take authority. And only too likely to dodge responsibility.
TV people like to say they only report the story, they aren't the story. But with their constant alarms and agitation they are contributing to a bad story. It is a story of a people who are encouraged to demand that the government make them safe, when the government will not make them safe, and the people know it deep in their hearts. Still, they give the government more authority in the hope that it will take responsibility.
The two cops who arrested the guy swimming in the waves before the hurricane hit Texas: they did it in front of cameras. They probably did it because of the cameras. Big media is watching. Big government has to act.
bans cloud free market's ability to thrive
Bluegrass Institute - Aaron L. Morris - September 27, 2005
government health officials previously focused their efforts on informing
and educating smokers on the dangerous effects that smoking may have on
their own health, the debate has now shifted. Nonsmokers are now portrayed
as helpless victims of their neighbors’ bad habits. As a result, government
officials have leapt into action to protect the rights of one group – often
at the expense of the liberties of another.
Cities, states and even some countries have responded by instituting smoking bans of varying degrees in numerous public places. Some laws expressly prohibit smoking in any business, workplace or public gathering. Others specify exemptions for bars, bingo halls, smoke shops, large restaurants and other locales when their owners show up at council meetings and complain.
What all bans have in common is the emerging practice of government workers who don’t own businesses dictating how owners should conduct their operations. Publicly-employed health officials are effectively persuading an increasing number of lawmakers that business owners are acting irresponsibly by simply responding to the desire of their customers who want to smoke.
Groups involved in lobbying policymakers to enact smoking bans vary widely, but certain patterns are emerging.
Health officials on a government payroll at some level frequently lead the effort to convince politicians to enact smoking bans in privately owned establishments. Local and state health departments acknowledge no barriers in subverting their historical role of informing and educating to a new one that mandates legislative action and harsh enforcement.
Blacksmiths, smokers and the market
Business owners almost always oppose government-imposed smoking bans since their primary focus rests upon what is best for their customers. Such heavy-handed policies are invoked in spite of the fact that consumers in a market economy have the right to vote with their feet. More and more, businesses are voluntarily bowing to the will of their customers by enacting their own smoking bans.
Any business subject to a market economy must always react to the tastes, preferences and trends of its customer base. Business owners that fail to adapt their policies to the changing tastes of customers often end up broke. Customers stop buying, employees are laid off and buildings are sold to more adaptable firms willing to listen to the market.
More and more business owners are deciding to prohibit smoking in some form, without government intrusion. This movement also reflects what is happening in the marketplace – more Americans give up smoking every day, a trend likely to continue.
The market is clearly deciding that smoking is a negative habit, and its practitioners will eventually be relegated to a small niche of the population. Just as there are very few blacksmiths and buggy-whip makers, there will soon be few establishments catering to smokers.
Smoking-ban devotees languish on government payrolls
However, this market process is not happening fast enough to suit some health officials, lobbying groups and other public-health advocates. Neither is the continued existence of a few businesses that still cater to this diminishing audience. What bureaucrats demand today will naturally evolve in the coming years.
While anti-market, pro-smoking ban forces occasionally meet with some success, local policymakers who can see though their chicanery rebuke their campaigns. But unlike other advocacy groups who gracefully accept defeat, smoking-ban activists rarely accept the decisions of policymakers that don’t go their way.
When a proposal for a smoking ban is rejected, proponents will either redouble their efforts or endeavor to elect different policymakers who are more agreeable to their position. When a relatively weak ban is enacted, these advocates use the new policy as a wedge to enact ones that are even more coercive. If business owners don’t maintain their vigil, exemptions are eliminated and establishments that have dodged regulation in the past are forced to endure under the umbrella of a smoking policy established and enforced by government.
Why are advocates of smoking bans so fervent while other policy groups are more likely to accept the decisions of local policymakers? It has to do with who they are and how they are funded.
Supporters of greater government regulation and enforcement often work in government themselves. They are frequently on the payroll of state health boards, local health departments and advisory committees. Often subsidized by taxpayer funding, they have no customers to please, no donors to satisfy and little fear of losing their livelihoods.
Even when there are donors to satisfy, many policy advocacy groups can actually benefit from losing a smoking-ban battle. They can show their donors and supporters how close they came and how – with just a little more help next time – they can succeed in limiting the rights of business owners and customers in the future.
Economic impact of smoking bans
The actual effects of smoking bans are even more inconclusive than the science regarding secondhand smoke. Pro-ban advocates claim no negative effect on business and often go as far as claiming an economic benefit.
These allegations are spurious to say the least. Such economic studies purporting to show no effect of an enacted smoking ban have multiple and often fatal flaws in their research. For one thing, smoking bans rarely appear the same in different localities. As no two communities are exactly alike, policymakers must carefully evaluate the economic comparisons of smoking bans between them.
Before-and-after comparisons have attempted to show that business activity does not decline in establishments that prohibit smoking following the enactment of a smoking ban. However, very few of the studies attempting to make such comparisons follow the standard rigor and precision required for this type of research. Usually, the time frames are too short to be measured, few external variables are taken into consideration or economic modeling is not utilized or is simply wrong.
For example, a study by University of Kentucky nursing professor Ellen Hahn attempted to demonstrate an absence of negative effects on business activity after Lexington’s smoking ban took effect in 2004. While the report is widely quoted in the media, it has been soundly discredited by researchers across the state. Dr. Paul Coomes, a leading University of Louisville economist, said the Hahn report “is less an econometric study than a short running narrative surrounding a few charts.”
Hahn’s paper contains no rigorous economic model, uses a very short time span and fails to account for many variables such as longer operating hours for bars. After warning of the dangers of making before-and-after comparisons, Hahn proceeds to do just that, claiming the results are instead conclusive. Thus, her conclusions are anything but incontrovertible.
Conversely, a study by University of Louisville economist Richard Thalheimer does contain a rigorous economic model while also accounting for many variables in play. Thalheimer’s study finds a 9 percent to 13 percent drop in demand for alcohol in bars and restaurants after Lexington’s smoking ban was enacted.
Thalheimer was unable to release specific details about the information he reviewed because it contains propriety sales data. Also, he was unable to account for 100 percent of alcohol sales. However, his study does contain analysis on a majority of alcohol sales in Lexington.
So while Thalheimer’s report showing a significant drop in demand is not perfect, it’s the most rigorous and competent analysis of Lexington’s smoking ban. While his study may have a crack in the windshield, Hahn’s paper is missing the entire front half of the car.
Entrepreneurs seek ways to bypass bans
What none of these studies can take into account is the natural adaptability and flexibility of business owners and entrepreneurs. In a market economy, business owners naturally assume risks. Deciding what products to offer, who to hire and how to advertise are risky ventures to entrepreneurs. When faced with excessively burdensome regulations, it is foolish to think they will simply accept it, roll over and do as they are told.
In hundreds of U.S. cities, we have seen restaurants and bars take similar steps to circumvent smoking bans.
For example, some declare themselves “public clubs,” which often are exempt from smoking bans and charge a “membership fee” that is really nothing more than a “cover charge.” They build large decks and patios that provide open-air areas to cater to customers who still wish to smoke. Some businesses simply flaunt the law openly, paying fines or hoping no enforcer comes snooping around to check on them.
These measures are the result of enforcing policies the market has already rejected. As Americans learned during the ill-fated prohibition movement of the early 1900s, trying to regulate and enforce the desires and demands of the market is like trying to hold back the wind. Markets and the entrepreneurs who power them are flexible, adaptable and reactive. The wind always finds a way around you.
Best practices for better smoking policies
What are the best options for businesses, policymakers and advocates who oppose oppressive regulation and government intervention in the marketplace? Identify win-win solutions that inform and educate employees and consumers while still allowing business owners the flexibility to operate as they see fit. Also, public health officials need to return to the traditional role in which they have excelled – providing the best information to the public regardless of influence and advocacy.
Maybe the best way to allow consumers to migrate toward an equilibrium that balances smoking and nonsmoking establishments is to allow them to make the best, most educated choices. This can be done by finding alternatives to outright smoking bans that fully inform consumers, employees and prospective employees of a business’s policy.
One such policy is Great Britain’s “Public Places Charter,” which requires the posting of clear and obvious signage that informs employees and consumers about an establishment’s smoking status. This transparent system identifies the establishments that prohibit smoking, those that offer no protection to nonsmokers and those that have separate areas or ventilation systems. This type of informative and educating policy returns public-health officials to the role that has made them effective at reducing smoking rates in the U.S. for 30 years.
While public health officials may monitor restaurants’ kitchens for safety, their main goal is to help owners comply with safety guidelines. The difference between this type of informative regulation and a prohibitive smoking ban is clear. Customers do not have the pertinent information on the sanitary conditions of kitchens to make informed choices about where to eat. But anyone can tell if there is a smoker at the next table and make their own decision. No external intervention is necessary.
When public-health officials re-focus on the effective role of informing and educating as opposed to legislating and regulating, the market will again be allowed to operate freely. Trends in America clearly point away from smoking and toward cleaner and safer businesses. Unfortunately, as we learned in the era of prohibition, there is no way to legislate market forces completely out of existence and attempts to do so often result in numerous unintended consequences.
While the intentions of smoking-ban advocates are certainly noble, their methods and procedures are simply misinformed and fall prey to the myth that regulations can remedy society’s ills and fix a market that knows it is not broken.
Ultimate 'Public Health' Shield
Tech Central Station - Radley Balko - September 14, 2005
PETITION from the public health movement, including the American Medical
Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Public
Health Association, the American Cancer Society, and of every organization
generally connected to negating risk and choice at the expense of individual
freedom and personal responsibility*
To the Honorable Leaders of the G8:
We are on the right track. We have persuaded a large portion of this Earth's governing bodies to reject sensible risk assessment, freedom of choice, and any semblance of personal responsibility when it comes to issues of the "public health." Toward that end, we have expanded "public health" to include not only threats to which no reasonable person would subject himself -- communicable diseases, for example -- but also risky behaviors we find distasteful, even when those who engage in them know full well the risks. We've done this by citing the costs of said behaviors to society, mostly in terms of health care costs.
At the same time, we have succeeded in socializing health care in most of the developed world. In so doing, we've created a system where everyone has a stake in everyone else's well-being. This makes our end goal of controlling and manipulating personal behavior much easier to implement.
When naysayers question what business the government has in regulating alcohol consumption, weight, or caffeine consumption, for example, we can merely point to how much public money a state effort to modify personal behavior will save in public health care costs. Thanks to socialized medicine, we've managed to make even the most private of behaviors subject to government regulation!
Our triumphs are considerable: We have banned all public smoking in Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, Iran, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, and Uganda. Even in America, once a bastion of so-called "personal freedom," we've secured bans in eight states and hundreds of counties and cities, effectively canceling out America's anachronistic, unhealthy addiction to principles like the "freedom of association," or "property rights." Even New York City -- icon of American ingenuity and self-reliance -- has not only banned smoking, but sends dedicated public health soldiers into private offices to issue citations for illegal possession of ashtrays. New York is currently considering a proposal to ban trans-fats from all of the city's restaurants!
Which brings us to obesity. In a world where about a billion people are still at risk of starvation, we have successfully persuaded policymakers in developed nations to show great concern and consternation over obesity -- a testament to our considerable success at framing public debate. We've managed to get public officials to declare that what people eat and how often they exercise not only a "disease," but a disease that's now a "global epidemic." In America, we've convinced public officials of this looming catastrophe even as life expectancy has reached all-time highs, and deaths from the country's three biggest killers have dropped dramatically in recent years.
Our zealous application of the precautionary principle and generous definition of "public good" has persuaded governments to pass laws regulating a wide range of personal behavior, including seat belt use, helmet use, alcohol consumption, food advertising and marketing, consumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods, gun ownership, indoor and outdoor smoking, use of dietary supplements, use of narcotics, use of marijuana, use of some medications, production and consumption of genetically modified foods, and, on more local levels, a panoply of other risky behaviors, bad habits, and unhealthy choices. We estimate our tireless, costly, and invasive efforts to curb undesirable behavior will in the end add weeks, perhaps months, to the tail-end of hundreds of thousands of lives.
While hammering away at "the number of lives this will save" has brought us great success in enacting restrictive public policy, we've also actually persuaded Important Officials to sacrifice lives when doing so benefits the overall public health -- even if said benefit is merely symbolic. For example, our constant haranguing of genetically modified foods convinced the Zambian government to reject 15,000 tons of GM emergency food aid despite the fact that 3 million people there were at risk of starvation! Clearly, a high-point in the influence of our movement.
All of that said, there's one rival to public health we've yet to stymie.
The entire world is subject to the ruinous effects of this demon, whose devastation can affect single individuals, entire communities, or, perhaps one day, every living being on Earth. It causes 3 million cases of skin cancer each year, 132,000 of them melanoma. It can be blamed for drought, famine, global warming, and thousands of incidents of heat-related mortality. According to the World Health Organization, a 10 percent decrease in ozone protection could affect an additional 4,500 annual melanoma cases. The heat this devil generates causes the wasteful use of fossil fuels to generate electricity to power air conditioning. Those same fossil fuels then work with the demon's rays to contribute to global warming!
This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on public health so mercilessly, we suspect he is being stirred against it by perfidious industry, perhaps the coal and oil industries who benefit from copious use of electricity-powered air conditioning and refrigeration, the sunblock industry, or the tourism industry, which crassly sells his radiant poison for crude profit, sometimes going so far as to imply that "rest and relaxation" beneath his crushing stare would effect benefits to health! So great is his threat, scientists say it one day may bring the end to all of humanity!
The only question, then, is why has government waited this long to act?
It's time we did something about the sun. And while we would of course support the usual public health roadmap to eradicating such a threat -- demonizing the tropical tourism, tanning bed, and tanning oil industries as "melanoma peddlers," passing laws holding parents criminally liable for childhood sunburn, and so on -- we have something grander in mind.
We ask you to be so good as to pass a binding treaty among G8 members calling for unprecedented international cooperation to construct an extra-terrestrial shade-casting contrivance of ample size to shield all of Earth of this nuisance's warmth-wrapped, light-disguised cancer rays. That is, we'd like to block out the sun.
Be good enough, honorable World Leaders, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.
First, the public refuses to sensibly heed our warnings to shield themselves from ultraviolet radiation. Recent studies show that though the public is fully aware of the risks of skin cancer that accompany exposure to the sun, high percentages of the populace still insist on frequenting beaches, parks, and partaking in other dangerous outdoor activities. What's worse, some even choose to imbibe of the sun's temptuous but lethal product in "tanning beds," which replicate the sun's intoxicating effects when actual sunlight is nowhere to be found. It's clear, in fact, that many of these poor souls are addicted to suntanning.
Dependence of course is indicative of an individual no longer exercising so-called "free choice," he is wholly at the will of those supplying his "fix." As is the case with marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and junk food, in these cases, government is obligated to choose for those individuals who show they can no longer choose for themselves -- not just to save them from themselves, but to save society from the health costs associated with their poor choices. Those who continue to choose "sun n' fun" despite clear evidence that such choices lead to cancer aren't acting rationally. They're a drain on public resources. A serious approach to public health suggests the only remedy is to remove the "sun n' fun" option entirely.
Second, incidence of skin cancer is on the rise. Naysayers suggest this is because technology has enabled better screening and detection. We prefer to think of it differently: Incidence is on the rise despite technology that has enabled us to identify what causes skin cancer, and our urgent pleas to avoid it.
Third, children are disproportionately affected by exposure to the sun. This project should be undertaken for the children. We feel no further argument on this point is necessary.
We anticipate your objections, gentlemen: but there is not a single one of them you have not picked up from the musty old books of the Big Business or libertarian advocates of "personal responsibility." We defy you to utter a word against us that will not instantly rebound against yourselves and the principles behind policies you've already enacted in your respective countries.
Will you tell us that this is too expensive, or impractical to implement?
You've all engaged in a costly, impractical War on Drugs that has attempted to eradicate the use of abundant mind-altering substances, some of which man has been consuming with regularity from the time he first discovered their properties. You throw tens of billions of dollars at this "war" each year.
All told between you, you've likely spent more than $1 trillion. That you fail to make any progress year after year only inspires you to spend more. Our proposal is no less practical nor less frugal than your enduring drug prohibition (which of course we support).
"But," you may still say, "unlike recreational drugs, sunlight is necessary for life. Agriculture would wither in its absence. Humans produce Vitamin D from its rays, and can scarcely survive without it."
Of course, the same necessity argument could be made of food. Yet many of your lawmakers are considering or have already passed a "fat tax" on people who consume it to excess, or on foods you've determined are unnecessary, due, you say, to the public health costs associated with obesity (we agree, by the way). We'll offer the same bargain: The device will be equipped to allow some sunlight to pass, but only to targeted areas of the planet.
Farmers, sunbathers, and other solar consumers would pay a "sun tax" for access to these areas, the proceeds of which would be earmarked for the treatment of victims of melanoma and anti-tanning education programs, to offset the public health costs associated with harmful exposure to sunlight.
Finally, you might argue that banning sunlight to stave off melanoma could have considerable unintended consequences. The energy cycle would almost certainly be inalterably disrupted, causing possible mass famine, starvation, and death. "Why should we condemn millions to death," you might say, "in an effort to save a few thousand melanoma cases, or to prevent future draughts, heat waves, or global warming that may or may not ever actually happen?"
But you take similar precautions all the time. In the interests of safety, you routinely hold up progress that could benefit millions because you worry about the effects new ideas might have on dozens. Your government regulatory agencies overseeing medicine and new medical technology, for example, routinely prevent or delay access to drugs and treatments that could save hundreds of thousands of lives out of concern for the effects they may have on hundreds, or fewer. You refuse to let your citizens take their own risks when it comes to medicine, why should we let them take their own risk when it comes to sun exposure?
To the esteemed G8 leaders from Europe, you oppose (correctly, we believe) the development of genetically modified foods that almost certainly would save millions of lives the world over because of the remote possibility that such crops may, in theory, someday wreak some sort of environmental catastrophe, despite assertions from nearly every reputable scientific agency that the odds of such a catastrophe are near infinitesimal.
Our proposal to shield the Earth from the rays of the sun is in truth no significant departure from public policies you already undertake: your zealous application of the precautionary principle, your usurpation of individual rights for the public good, and/or your previous efforts to eradicate bad habits and unhealthy choices in the interests of socialized medicine.
In sum, we see no reason you shouldn't adopt our proposal
forthwith, and begin construction on a device that will shield the Earth
from the cancerous rays of the sun.
(*Petition made possible by a generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation…. With apologies to Frederic Bastiat.)
asches: do movies cause smoking?
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - August 19, 2005
the 2005 movie "The Jacket," Kelly Lynch plays a drunk who burns to death
after falling asleep while smoking. According to the research cited by
activists who object to cinematic portrayals of smoking, Lynch's character
is part of an insidious plot to lure children into the habit by making
it seem cool and glamorous.
Studies in this area typically define pro-tobacco messages broadly enough to include all instances of smoking, actual or implied, along with discussions of tobacco and glimpses of cigarette logos, lighters, or ashtrays. A new study that takes a more discriminating approach, looking at the behavior of the leading characters in 447 popular films released since 1990, contradicts several claims made by critics who blame movies for encouraging kids to smoke.
Anti-smoking activists assert that smoking is more common in movies than it is in real life. The new study, reported in the August issue of the journal Chest, found that, overall, "contemporary American movies do not have a higher prevalence of smoking than the general U.S. population."
Activists complain that movies put cigarettes in the hands of attractive protagonists and link smoking to success and affluence. The Chest study found that "bad guys" were more likely to smoke than "good guys" and that, as in real life, smoking was associated with lower socioeconomic status.
"Most investigators have concluded that smoking is portrayed as glamorous and positive, but our study shows that the exact opposite is true," said lead author Karan Omidvari, a physician at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark. Likewise, there was no evidence to support the idea that movie studios conspire with tobacco companies to target women or minorities.
Having shown that the indictment of Hollywood for pushing cigarettes is based largely on weak studies and loose talk, Omidvari and his colleagues were quick to say they nevertheless object to smoking in movies. Robert McCaffree, president of the foundation that publishes
Chest said, "this study...emphasizes the need for change in this area, including increasing antitobacco messages in coming attractions and films."
Stanton Glantz, an anti-smoking activist who was involved in much of the research debunked by Omidvari's study, has a different solution in mind: a mandatory R rating for movies that include smoking. Last fall his Smoke Free Movies campaign took out full-page ads in The New York Times and other publications claiming that adopting this policy "would cut movie smoking's effect on kids in half, saving 50,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone."
It's hard to say how many teenagers would be deterred by greater use of the R rating -- especially if their parents knew that a single smoking scene was enough to qualify an otherwise unobjectionable movie for the not-without-a-parent-or-guardian category. But the weakest link in the chain of reasoning that charges the Motion Picture Association of America with killing 137 (middle-aged or elderly) "kids" a day by failing to make this simple change in its rating system is the assumption that half of the teenagers who start smoking do so because they saw it in the movies.
That assumption is based on a 2003 study that found
10-to-14-year-olds who had seen movies with many smoking scenes were more
likely to try cigarettes than kids who had seen movies with fewer smoking
scenes. The problem with attributing this association to the modeling effect
of cinematic smoking is that it's impossible to control for all the differences
Methodological difficulties aside, the size of this alleged effect is implausibly large, to put it mildly. Glantz says cinematic smoking accounts for even more real-life smoking than advertising does: 52 percent vs. 34 percent. Is it even conceivable that exposure to movies and advertising causes 86 percent of smoking? That all other factors in life together contribute only 14 percent?
At least as offensive as such patently absurd claims is the premise that every filmmaker should make his work conform to the dictates of the health nannies. Omidvari and his colleagues found that smoking was especially common in independent films, a fact they said may be due to the "antiestablishment or free-spirited" character of such movies. If anyone is making smoking seem cool, it's self-righteous busybodies like Stanton Glantz.
an Ounce of Prevention Is Not Worth a Pound of Cure
Tech Central Station - John Luik - August 17, 2005
appears to be all about science. After five days of WHO-think on health
prevention at the Bangkok Global Conference on Health Promotion, it would
be easy to conclude that science is the foundation for everything that
the World Health Organization (WHO) does on health promotion. Wherever
you look there are references to the scientific basis of health promotion
and how everything that is done by WHO's health promoters meets the standards
of modern medicine by being "evidence-based". But the scientific basis
of WHO's health promotion is about as genuine and as sturdy as a Potemkin
village. It makes impressive copy in all of WHO's conference press releases
and it adds a veneer of respectability to the more controversial and dangerous
of WHO's plans, but in reality it has little to do with real science or
with medicine that is based on the evidence of best practices. That's because
genuine science is fundamentally at odds with health promotion. Or to put
it slightly differently, just as health promotion is a menace to the health
of the developing world so it is a menace to real science. There are two
reasons for this.
The first of these is that health promotion accepts if not encourages the manipulation and misrepresentation of scientific findings about the connection between health and lifestyle. Health promotion claims that by massive interventions by the public health community and the government into the "lifestyles" of ordinary people, the major diseases of the old in affluent societies can be prevented. As Gina Kolata, writing in the NY Times (April 17, 2005) observed. "The promises are everywhere. Sure, you smoked. But you can erase all those years of abusing your lungs if you just throw away the cigarettes. Eating a lot of junk food? Change your diet, lose even 5 or 10 pounds and rid yourself of those extra risks of heart disease and diabetes." But is this in fact true? Is there a scientific basis for the basic claim of health promotion that, for example, the two leading causes of death -- cancer and heart disease -- are the products of unhealthy lifestyles and that changing these lifestyles can prevent these diseases? Or are the promises of lifestyle change based on nothing more than hype?
The answer, which many will find surprising, is that after over fifty years of international data there is not good scientific support for the claim that lifestyle changes prevent diseases or increase longevity. Take, for example, one of the most extensive and publicized efforts in health promotion of all time, the Mr Fit (Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial) which was specifically designed to establish the truth of health promotion by showing that heart disease and cancer could be reduced through reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking. After sixteen years of study, the intervention groups, which had received extensive assistance with exercise, changing diet and smoking cessation, had results which were not significantly better than the group that had received none of these "health promotion" interventions. Indeed, the intervention group, despite lower rates of smoking, actually had higher rates of lung cancer. What MR Fit showed was precisely how lifestyle interventions failed to reduce mortality from multifactoral diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Nor was Mr Fit a scientific fluke. Consider the Framingham study. Begun in 1950 as a longitudinal investigation of the causes of cardiovascular disease, some 5,209 men and women aged 30-59 were followed for 30 years on the assumption that those who were thinnest would have significantly lower risks for heart disease. But in 1979 when three of the study's lead researchers published their data it was found that for men the highest risk -- that is the worst life expectancy -- was for the thinnest men; men who were 25-40% fatter than the ideal weight were living the longest. For women, mortality was elevated only for the very thin and the very fat. The recent Centers for Disease Control study on obesity and mortality produced similar results.
The reason for this lack of scientific support for lifestyle changes is to be found in the nature of the diseases about which we are speaking, and the fact that we know so little about them and how they might be connected with some particular aspect of how we live our lives. Both heart disease and cancer are multifactoral diseases, generally of old age, diseases that have multiple causes. For example, heart disease alone has over 300 risk factors that can be linked to lifestyle in thousands of possible combinations, while the etiology of cancer remains a mystery. To assume then that we can confidently tell people what life-style modifications can "prevent" cancer or heart disease is something much closer to propaganda than careful science. As Dr. Barnett Kramer of the National Institutes of Health told Kolata, people believe that if they change their lifestyle they can eliminate the damage and cheat disease because of the health promotion messages from the public health community and the government. "It is easy to overestimate based on the strength of the messages. But we're not as confident as the messages state."
At its very core, health promotion is a menace to legitimate science since it is prepared to fudge, force or fix whatever science says in order that it might serve the ends of promoting health. If you think this is too extreme a description of how health promotion views its relationship to science simply listen to Marc Lalonde, a former Canadian Minister of Health and founder of the health promotion movement, speaking about the relationship of health promotion and science. "…[T]he spirit of enquiry and scepticism, and particularly the Scientific Method… are a problem in health promotion." It's somewhat worrisome that the world's primary health organization, WHO, has embraced a health strategy for which science is a problem.
Health promotion is a menace to science in that it attempts fraudulently to use science to shut down debate about its demands for lifestyle change by claiming that its position is purely scientific and not open to any challenge on the basis of personal values or choice. Consider, for instance, the typical argument frequently advanced by WHO's health promoters against eating fast foods. The health promoter will claim that it is a scientific fact that if you stop eating fast foods you will live longer. (This is likely not true, but let's suppose it is.) Therefore you should stop eating fast foods. But this argument only works if another premise, a distinctly non-scientific premise is added, namely, IF you value living longer more than you value eating fast foods, then you should stop eating fast foods.
As soon as this premise is added the phony scientific character of health promotion is exposed for what it is -- a semantic trick that hides the value-laden and unscientific nature of the undertaking. Although it could be true that one could live longer if one eats less fast foods, it is not science that tells me that I ought to value living longer more than eating fast foods. In other words at its heart health promotion is completely unscientific: unscientific in the sense that its prescriptions are not backed by science and unscientific in the sense that they rest on the moral, not scientific premise that longevity is the prime moral virtue. This does not mean that the health promoter's injunctions about fast foods are unworthy of attention, though they probably are. It rather shows that they are not the pronouncements of science so much as someone's views about a particular way of living. This means that they must be justified like every other bit of moral philosophy about the good life through careful argument, not by spurious claims of scientific authority and the force of law.
At best then, the scientific foundations of health promotion extend only to its claims about the connection of disease and lifestyles, and these foundations, as we have seen, are highly dubious. When those in favour of getting the State involved in the lifestyle intervention business begin to speak about what to do about these claims, they cease to speak as exalted scientists and become simply moralists. And this has enormous implications for public policy that is founded on health promotion. When, for example, the health promoters at Bangkok tell us that we must all be thin, even if this involves the coercive powers of the state to "promote health", they must tell us -- and this they never do -- why a life of, say, 70 years packed full of the self-chosen pleasures of fast foods and chocolate is in some sense inferior to a life of 72.5 years without these pleasures.
This does not mean that 70 years crammed with fast foods and chocolate is necessarily better than 72.5 abstemious years. But it does suggest is that these are not scientifically mandated choices that the proponents of health promotion can make for the rest of us under the guise of "scientific decision-making" or "evidence-based medicine", so much as individual choices about the kinds of thing that we value and the sorts of life we want. Genuine science both understands and respects this. The "science" that drives WHO's Bangkok health promotion agenda does not, and because it does not it is a menace to us all.
A Little Lawsuit Shut Down A Big Tobacco Racket?
National Journal - Jonathan Rauch - August 5, 2005.
soon to a courtroom near you: Bambi meets Godzilla. This week, the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group in Washington, filed
[PDF] in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of the massive
and fantastically lucrative 1998 Master Settlement Agreement -- otherwise
known as the Tobacco Deal. Arrayed against the suit's five plaintiffs (several
small tobacco companies and distributors, plus a discount tobacco store
and a smoker) will be Big Tobacco, the state attorneys general, a host
of public-health organizations, and probably most of the mainstream media.
Other than that, it's a fair fight.
Asked about the lawsuit's prospects, Sam Kazman, the institute's general counsel, says, "It's a long shot to ever get something declared unconstitutional." After a beat, he adds: "A meritorious long shot." After another beat: "I don't think it's even right to call it a long shot. I think we've got a significant chance of success."
Sorry, Sam -- it's a long shot. Still, miracles do happen, and this lawsuit deserves a prayer. Not without reason has the Tobacco Deal been called the constitutional crime of the (last) century.
For years, tobacco companies faced and won lawsuits in which smokers claimed damages for ailments caused or aggravated by smoking. In 1994, however, the state of Mississippi filed a different kind of suit, demanding that the companies repay the state for health-program costs allegedly attributable to smoking. Dozens of other states soon filed copycat suits, many of them financed by law firms that acted as subcontractors and stood to earn contingency fees of unprecedented size.
The four tobacco giants that together controlled about 99 percent of the market were smart enough not to bet on prevailing against dozens of state governments. They and nine attorneys general retreated behind closed doors and emerged in 1998 with a 245-page settlement. "The nonparticipating attorneys general," notes the CEI complaint, "were given seven days to review its terms and decide whether to join it." Thus hustled, they signed on. The AGs would drop the state lawsuits. In exchange, the companies would pay the states (including four that had already made separate deals) a total of almost $250 billion over 25 years -- as in, a quarter of a trillion dollars.
Who would foot this enormous bill? Ordinarily, shareholders. But the majors didn't like that idea. They preferred to pass the cost to smokers. So they colluded with the AGs to create a national tobacco cartel. The deal guaranteed the majors their overwhelming market share and effectively barred new competitors from all but a tiny sliver of the U.S. tobacco business.
Any company that wanted to sell cigarettes -- even a start-up that had never fouled a single pair of lungs, much less committed any tort -- would be forced either to join the MSA and pay "damages" for wrongs never committed or to place an even larger amount into "escrow" against wrongs that might be committed someday. Not surprisingly, the majors' small competitors -- about four dozen of them so far -- have reluctantly agreed to pay the same new national tax as the majors pay.
And a national tax, not damages, is plainly what these payments are. Under the settlement's terms, all tobacco companies, large and small, are assessed at nationally standardized rates based on their national (not state) sales. The states give Big Tobacco permanent protection from competition, Big Tobacco showers the states with money, and smokers pay. Not at all coincidentally, billions of dollars also found their way to lawyers who cut themselves in for mind-boggling fees.
What was wrong with this deal? A better question would be, What was not wrong with it? For a start:
The states' claim was bogus to begin with. Economists have found that smoking, if anything, reduces the cost of government programs, because smokers die younger and have fewer years to collect health and pension benefits. Smoking is bad for smokers, but it has done state coffers no harm at all.
The transaction was, literally, mercenary. In effect, the attorneys general rented out the states' sovereign authority to private lawyers who were cut in on the take. Moreover, some of the lucrative subcontracting deals smacked of cronyism, or worse. (Former Texas AG Dan Morales got a four-year prison sentence in a case stemming from his role in the deal.)
The deal was Robin Hood in reverse. It provided an immense windfall to the powerful (state governments) and the rich (giant tobacco companies, now favored with a state-enforced cartel), at the expense of the small (would-be competitors to the tobacco giants) and not-rich (smokers).
The deal was falsely advertised. Most of the settlement revenues did not go for public-health programs, as promised, but for whatever a state's politicians chose to spend the money on. Public-health advocates were played for patsies.
Still, the tobacco deal is not the first public policy arrangement to break a promise, or to favor the rich, or to be tainted with cronyism, or to be built on bogus premises. What sets it apart is that it bypasses and neuters the system of checks and balances we call constitutional government.
Congress never approved the deal. Nor did any court order it. The deal was done by private parties acting on their own account. Those who were present in the room benefited spectacularly, at the expense of the smokers and small businesses that were shut out.
To enforce the restrictions on new entrants, however, the deal had to be written into law. So the deal-makers gave every state a choice: It could pass an implementing statute precisely as dictated -- "without any modification or addition" -- or it would lose all of its billions in settlement money. Faced with those terms, the states did as they were told. Once the cartel was in place, it could be changed only by the unanimous consent of the states. If Iowans, say, hate this deal, they'll get nowhere by voting out their own AG and legislators. They would also have to vote out the AGs and legislators of the other 49 states. Which, of course, they can't do.
In short, a cartel of states has colluded with a cartel of tobacco companies to create a public-private supercartel: a market-fixing scheme that is locked in by law, yet is accountable to no particular government authority; that is immensely profitable to the parties at the expense of millions of hapless consumers; and that is enforced with penalties that clobber any would-be defectors. The deal also creates what amounts to a new national taxing authority that arises from state collusion and that bypasses Congress. The companies provided the deep pockets, the states provided the muscle, private law firms provided the legal talent, and public-interest groups provided legitimacy.
The deal got through in the first instance because few but the beneficiaries clearly understood it. It has survived because the states soon became addicted to tobacco money. Congress could shut down the racket, but it won't, because the states would howl. For objectors, that leaves only the courts -- and the Constitution.
With uncanny foresight, as if with the tobacco deal in mind, the Founders stipulated in Article I, Section 10 -- the compacts clause -- that "No state shall, without the consent of Congress ... , enter into any agreement or compact with another state." The clause is intended to prevent states from colluding to supplant or circumvent Congress's unique national authority. Pursuant to this clause, Congress has been asked to approve all sorts of state compacts over the years.
If the tobacco deal is not an interstate compact designed to circumvent and supplant Congress's authority, it is hard to imagine what would be. In fact, an earlier version was rejected on Capitol Hill. The Master Settlement Agreement was Plan B, specifically designed to cut Congress out of the picture.
Earlier court challenges have raised the compacts clause and failed; but none, Kazman says, has raised it as frontally as this new one. "The compacts clause claim is the heart of the case," he says. Even so, the odds are long. "Courts are very reluctant to unravel such a complicated and delicately balanced agreement as the MSA," says Kenneth Bass, who until June was a lawyer with Kirkland & Ellis, where he represented the Brown & Williamson tobacco company.
Meanwhile, state attorneys general are shopping for new opportunities to supplant Congress. Last year, eight AGs sued five big utilities for -- this is not a joke -- contributing to global warming. News reports quoted Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal as saying, "Some may say that the states have no role in this kind of fight or that there's no chance of success. To them I would say, 'Think tobacco.' "
Watch the new tobacco lawsuit. If it fails, watch your wallet.
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - July 15, 2005
time a new obesity study comes out, pundits latch onto it as proof that
the government either should or should not take an interest in what Americans
eat and how much they exercise.
When researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed 400,000 Americans (later revised to 365,000) die each year due to poor diet and physical inactivity, the champions of intervention were quick to proclaim an obesity "epidemic," demanding policies aimed at getting us off the sweets and on the StairMaster. When another team of government statisticians said the true death toll, once the apparent health benefits of being slightly overweight were taken into account, was more like 26,000, opponents of such meddling rejoiced.
Now it's the interventionists' turn to claim vindication. A new study published in the journal Health Affairs says obese people, on average, cost health insurers some $1,200 a year more than people of "normal" weight (which, since most of us are "overweight," is actually abnormal). The researchers calculate that obesity accounts for more than a quarter of the increase in medical spending between 1987 and 2002 -- not only because more people are obese, but also because more treatments are available for obesity and related conditions, which are treated more aggressively than used to be the case.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took the occasion to proclaim that "fat is a fiscal issue" and that anyone who is skeptical of mobilizing the government against it is "pro-obesity," "a blind ideologue," or a food industry flack. Although saying so will no doubt convince Krugman that I fall into the second category, I'd like to suggest that the appropriate government response to our expanding guts does not hinge on exactly how many of us are fat, how serious the health consequences are or how much treating them costs.
The more fundamental question is whether the extra helping of meatloaf you had last night is the sort of thing the government should be worrying about. If the government's duty to protect "the public health" includes discouraging any behavior that might lead to disease or injury, it is self-evident that the government should try to stop us from overeating. But if that duty pertains only to external threats such as communicable diseases and contaminated water -- risks imposed on us by others, rather than risks we voluntarily accept -- there is no public health justification for a government-led war on fat.
Krugman, who bemoans "an ideological landscape tilted in the direction of doing nothing," seems to recognize that most Americans are not quite prepared to accept the idea that every health issue is a public health issue. "One answer," he writes, "is to focus on the financial costs of obesity."
Krugman does not distinguish between the voluntary risk pooling of private health coverage and the compelled subsidies of Medicare and Medicaid. Yet private insurers are free to charge fat people more, and their customers are free to shop around for a better deal if they don't like the terms of their coverage.
By contrast, government-supported health care imposes the costs of fat-related illnesses on people who have not agreed to the arrangement and cannot opt out. But even here, the net financial impact is unclear. If overweight people tend to die earlier and therefore draw less on Medicare and Social Security in old age, fatness may save taxpayers as much as or more than it costs, as seems to be the case with smoking.
More important, the implications of the argument based on taxpayer-funded health care are just as alarmingly open-ended as the implications of the "public health" argument. Perhaps sensing this, Krugman assures his readers "nobody is proposing that adult Americans be prevented from eating whatever they want" -- which, given the aims of anti-fat activists who support "junk food" taxes, simply isn't true. Nor is it reassuring that in a subsequent column, Krugman says overeating is one of those "situations in which 'free to choose' is all wrong," since "even adults have clear problems with self-control."
The one encouraging sign is that Krugman describes himself as overweight even as he urges his fellow Americans, most of whom are also overweight, to support a government campaign against gluttony and sloth.
People will be forced to consider how that effort might affect their own lives -- and whether they want to live in a country where their unhealthy habits are everyone else's business.
Era of Jackbooted Nags
Fox News.com - Gene Healy - July 7, 2005
Tuesday, the D.C. City Council heard testimony on a bill that would make
it illegal to smoke in a bar, even if the owner, the employees and the
customers all agree that smoking should be permitted.
Should D.C. enact the ban, the nation's capital will have joined America's largest city, New York, and the nation's largest state, California, in adopting anti-smoking laws. It's a trend that has even swept across the pond to Ireland, where smoking bans have also been enacted.
The pro-ban forces have packaged their message in the rhetoric of workers' rights. It's an effective strategy, one that draws on the insights of smoking-ban pioneer Stanton Glantz. At a 1986 conference of anti-smoking activists, Glantz advised that "the issue should be framed in the rhetoric of the environment, toxic chemicals, and public health rather than the rhetoric of saving smokers from themselves."
Yet "saving smokers from themselves" is a key goal of the banners. David Satcher, the former surgeon general, echoed this theme in his testimony before the D.C. City Council the last time a smoking ban was on the table, arguing that the ban would "be effective in creating a new social norm that discourages people from smoking."
Indeed, at Tuesday's hearing, a common theme sounded by many of the ban's proponents was that forbidding public smoking would benefit smokers by making it inconvenient for them to indulge.
If the banners get their way, what will be their next step in the quest to socially engineer smoking out of existence?
California, so often the first state to reach new frontiers in silly public policy, was an early adopter of smoking bans, and it shows the direction the pro-ban forces may take us. After driving smokers out of bars, anti-smoking activists there have sought, with considerable success, to drive them off the beaches, the sidewalks, and other outdoor public spaces.
San Francisco city officials, having recently banned smoking in all public parks, moved in March to ban chewing tobacco at all city athletic fields (is the concern there "secondhand spit"?). Golden State anti-smoking activists have recently turned their attention to restricting smoking on private property. Last year, a bill to ban smoking in the family car when children are present nearly passed the California State Assembly, failing by only five votes.
No one should be under any illusions that the forces pushing for a D.C. smoking ban will be satisfied if and when they stamp out smoking in bars. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), an influential anti-smoking group led by George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf, urges legal action to ban smoking in condominiums and apartment buildings. ASH's website screams "if you can smell it, it may be killing you!"
Local activist Eric Marshall, spokesperson for the American Lung Association group BreatheEasyDC, points to California's innovations and notes ominously that "Smoking outside of workplaces is a concern for many Washingtonians." ("You there -- behind the dumpster: drop it, and back away slowly!")
There's even some precedent closer to home for such a measure. In December 2000, just north of the District, Friendship Heights banned smoking on the sidewalk and any other outdoor public place. (That ban fell a year later to a legal challenge on technical grounds that do not apply to D.C.) Last week at a town hall meeting held by D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, somebody raised the very good question of what to do when noise complaints skyrocket because every smoker up and down U Street is forced out on the sidewalk. And the answer? Crack down with anti-loitering laws.
One wonders if this is really the sort of thing police should be focusing on in the on-again, off-again murder capital of the United States. But the idea that the police should focus solely on protecting us from crime is one that many have come to think of as archaic. The new view is that it's also law enforcement's job to protect us from our own bad habits. In a 2003 sting operation, Fairfax, Va., police officers entered 20 bars, administered breathalyzer tests, and arrested nine patrons for intoxication. Fairfax police Chief J. Thomas Manger declaimed: "Public intoxication is against the law. You can't be drunk in a bar."
And two weeks ago, using night-vision equipment on loan from the National Guard, Maryland state troopers swept out and nabbed 111 offenders for the crime of driving without a seatbelt. Scores of people who were driving along, minding their own business, had their evening ruined by an unpleasant encounter with the business end of the law. Welcome to the era of jackbooted nags.
The D.C. smoking ban is only the latest example of this trend. More and more public officials are warming up to the idea that the full force of the state should be brought down on people making unhealthy choices. You may not like the smell of secondhand smoke, but what's truly suffocating is a government that’s gone from protecting us from criminals to protecting us from ourselves.
Gets In Your Lies
Tech Central Station - Radley Balko - June 23, 2005.
note: What follows is TCS contributor Radley Balko's testimony before the
Washington DC City Council hearing on a proposed smoking ban. After calling
the hearing, all of the Council members left the hearing but one. It was
unclear what other business they had to tend to. Perhaps they stepped out
to bum a smoke.
Thanks to Madam Chair and to the D.C. City Council for letting me testify today. I only regret that all nine council members who plan to vote to make the District smoke free had more important things to do than listen to the concerns of the businesses and citizens of this city. And I'd like to thank council member Schwartz for her leadership on this issue.
Here is what is not at issue today: This is not about the rights of smokers to smoke in public. They are in an establishment someone else owns. Any bar or restaurant in this city may voluntarily go smoke free, and smokers would have no claim against them, except to take their business elsewhere. Indeed, more than 200 businesses in Washington, D.C. have done exactly that.
But this is not about non-smokers rights, either. You don't have the right to walk onto someone else's property, demand to be served food or drink someone else has bought, and demand that they serve you on your terms. Free societies don't work that way.
This isn't about worker's rights. The idea that the Washington, D.C. city council is banning public smoking to benefit the city's waiters, waitresses and bartenders is a canard. There are countless jobs and professions that are far more dangerous than serving food or drink in the presence of secondhand smoke. The people who choose those jobs -- cab drivers, fishermen, and police, for example -- take those jobs full-well knowing the risks. The health risks associated with secondhand smoke are debatable. But this simple fact isn't: A waiter or bartender who chooses to work for an establishment that allows smoking knows what kind of environment he'll be working in.
So what is this debate about? It's about freedom. It's about standing up to the healthists, those people who believe the state has not only the right, but the responsibility to police our personal lives for bad habits.
In this case, they want to trample on a business owner's property rights, on his right to reap the fruits of his investment and his labor as he sees fit, and on his right and the right of his patrons to freely associate with whom they please. Why do they want to do this? They say it's to protect the "public" from secondhand smoke. But exactly whom are they protecting?
Not the bar or restaurant owner. He could make the whole place smoke-free if he wanted.
Not the employees. They can work elsewhere. Or find a new line of work.
And certainly not the patrons. They're giving the bar or restaurant their business voluntarily.
The healthists aren't protecting anyone. What they're protecting is a "right" for themselves that they've fashioned out of whole cloth. They're fighting to get invited to the party, then make the rules once they get there. They want the so-called "right" to be self-appointed nanny, mother, rule maker, and rule enforcer for everyone else.
It isn't enough for the smoke-free crowd to merely embrace good habits themselves. They want everyone else to share those habits too -- by force if necessary. It isn't enough for them to simply avoid businesses that allow smoking. They want a king's fiat to make them smoke free, or shut them down.
Healthists value longevity over a life well-lived. Abstention over indulgence. They believe adding years to the end of your life is the primary reason for living.
I'd have no problem with that if they only applied those values to themselves. But they want to use the law to make the rest of us live by them, too.
This is Nanny Statist government. Its roots go back to alcohol prohibition. It is government that wipes your nose when it's dirty, tells you to eat your vegetables, and makes sure you're in bed by ten.
The arguments for a smoking ban could just as easily be applied to public drinking. Indeed, the threat to "public health" by drunken drivers is more immediate and colorable than the threat posed by secondhand smoke. Patrons of smoking bars are there voluntarily. No one knowingly puts himself in the way of a drunk driver. I'd argue that we'd be better off banning public drinking than banning public smoking, but I'd hate to give some people in this room any ideas. And in fact, the group funding the nationwide smoke-free campaigns is also funding anti-alcohol campaigns nudging in that direction.
Let's put today's events in perspective. At this moment, we're meeting in Washington, D.C., the capital of America, the country that's done more for the freedom of man than any other nation, kingdom, or state in the history of the world. And what are we discussing? A law that would ban a man from opening a business on his own property where people can come smoke a cigarette and drink a beer.
If that sounds petty or silly, that's because it is. Smokers know what risks they're undertaking when they light up. Nonsmokers know that the moment they step foot in an establishment that allows smoking, there's a good chance they're going to be inhaling secondhand fumes. Legislating the freedom to take those risks away from either of those people simply isn't the job of government.
The legitimate functions of government are to protect our safety, our liberty, and our rights. It was never intended to be our nurse, our nanny, or our guardian angel. In a free society, government exists to protect our liberty, and that most certainly includes both the liberty to hold bad habits, and the liberty to associate with and cater to other people who hold those same habits.
I'd urge the D.C. city council to resist this tide of tyrannical healthism. Trust the residents and business owners of the nation's capital to make their own decisions about personal habits. You were elected to govern us, not to baby-sit us.
D.C. of freedom
Washington Examiner - Tom Elliott - June 6, 2005
Kathy Patterson of the D.C. Council recently introduced legislation that
would ban smoking pretty much everywhere except private homes and tobacco
stores. In all likelihood, this measure will succeed.
When legislators are nudging through relatively unusual laws such as this, the affected could do worse than to ask a few fundamental questions: Are the ends important? Are the means just? Is this something the government should try to fix? Is it constitutional?
When the Founders first began discussing a constitution, they didn't debate over how to ensure Americans developed healthy habits. In fact, a generalized interpretation of the Constitution shows just the opposite: that it endeavored to protect and expand civil liberty, so that the powers of government were "delegated, enumerated and thus limited."
This isn't to suggest that Patterson's bill is unconstitutional - the Constitution stops short of limiting city and state government authority as it does federal. However, the character of our Union, which the Founders so painstakingly brought to fruition, does contrast with this kind of legislation-on-steroids.
If you are one of the few who care to perpetuate the constitutional spirit that enshrines civil liberty, then the lawmaker who strips away your rights cannot logically be your friend or ally. No matter how sublime the sales pitch, one mustn't forget that if liberty is to endure, the price is, in Jefferson's words, "eternal vigilance."
Lawmakers who pass these bills claim, of course, to be at the service of their electors. One wonders if in the annals of human events a man has ever said to another, "Now, don't get me wrong, this town is beautiful and the people are friendly, but, honestly, what's with all this choice over smoking or non-smoking dining?"
Every time you consent to an elected representative who tries to "help" you with a particular personal responsibility, you subsequently become less responsible for yourself.
If you believe the government should regulate fast food, for instance, then you are conceding that politicians are better at deciding your diet than you are. And if you get fat? Perhaps you voted for the candidate supporting the Atkins diet, when you clearly should have opted for the South Beach guy.
This isn't a pro-smoking argument. It's an argument against the way these "health mullahs" (to borrow National Review Contributing Editor Andrew Stuttaford's phrase) manipulate government and trample upon the people's rights in order to advance their own agenda.
The fact is, if organizations such as Smokefree DC really believed in the strength of their argument, they would be out changing Washington all by themselves. Blanket ordinances are, after all, crutches for the intellectually handicapped. But with solidarity in mind, I shall offer Smokefree DC a strategy that advances their cause while granting due respect to civil liberty.
Secondhand smoke, say their statistics, is detested. To combat such smoke (without getting Mayor Williams to ban it on their behalf), they should petition individual bars, saloons and restaurants - wherever a cigarette-wielding denizen might exhale near the innocent. Using market forces, they could convince businesses to cater to this purportedly large consumer base.
Mimi's American Bistro, the Dupont Circle bar and eatery, has in fact already exploited this underserved constituency. Once Mimi's competitors realize that they are losing business because their patrons still wallow in smoke, they too will ban the practice. Theoretically, the movement will snowball as the statistics and the profit margins accumulate with credibility. Likewise, with employees, if working in smoky bars really is not so different than signing up as real-life crash test dummies, those that sanction smoking will eventually find it impossible to keep staff, as they'd leave for the clean air of the burgeoning smoke-free establishments.
Meanwhile, the savages who insist upon irresponsible lifestyles would still be afforded the freedom to eat and drink while otherwise smoking themselves to death. In the end, everyone wins.
George Bernard Shaw said that liberty means responsibility and this is why men dread it. Every time there's a report of another town/city/state acquiescing to their representatives' declaration that they're no longer wise enough to decide whether or not to work in or patronize an establishment that allows tobacco use, you have to wonder if Shaw was accurately capturing an unglamorous element of humanity.
Recall, too, that Washington, D.C., is the nation's capital. As foreign visitors tour the federal buildings, the museums, the Mall, they invariably think, this is it, the land of the free! So it becomes something of an embarrassment when, after proudly showing off the city to first-timers, you have to explain upon their attempt to light up after-dinner Gauloises that while, yes, America prides herself for her love of freedom, this does not extend to private-enterprise decisions like where one may smoke, what sort of air filtration system works the room that permits smoking, what sorts of jobs one may perform while cigarettes dangle from lips, etc.
If you hear yourself explaining, "Sure, we value freedom, but sometimes the council just knows best," is it too much to suggest that, perhaps, liberty's doomed?
The Price of Idiot Proofing America
Toronto Free Press - J.B. Williams - June 2, 2005
a member of congress used to be a part-time job held by our society’s most
successful individuals who wanted to preserve the free society they so
enjoyed. Now it is a life long career for people who can’t do anything
else, the proverbial brass ring, like hitting the lottery. No matter how
humble your beginnings, once elected, you are forever rich, forever powerful
and forever respected, at least by some.
Overseeing our nation’s security interests, our infrastructure, protecting and defending our Constitution and way of life, these things do not demand the full-time attention of our elected officials, nor would they suck the lifeblood from an enormously successful capitalist society. Idiot proofing America? Now that’s a full-time job and there is no end in sight to the expense of such a proposition.
Not so long ago, the federal budget was less than 3% of GDP. This was when America was building its infrastructure. Now it is above 20% of GDP and growing at a record pace. Add all other taxes to that for a whopping 43% of GDP. We have "public debt" of 65% of GDP and deficits as far as the eye can see. Eventually, we will have no choice but to balance our budget. Guess how? Can anyone tell me what you call a society where the majority (51% or more) of its GDP is controlled by a central government, allegedly for benefit of society at large? Or how we will pay our debts any other way?
America was once the land of the free and the home of the brave. Why? Because only the brave can ever be truly free. Freedom requires accepting risk. It requires individual choices and sacrifices which result in some level of success or failure. Freedom requires good judgment, or the acceptance of consequences inherent with bad judgment.
The socialist view subscribes to the theory that no matter what individual choices one makes, no matter what initiative one takes, what risk or what sacrifice one accepts, we are all entitled to equal results, or at least the same economic rewards. (Not to be confused with honest individual charity.) In other words, a consequence-free society, where all ideas have equal benefit even though they don’t have equal merit.
Those who have chosen badly have come to expect their government to bail them out via any number of government funded social welfare programs, beginning with the graduated tax scale, itself designed to redistribute wealth right from the onset.
From our tax code to Social Security, from Food Stamps to Medicaid, even speed limits, gun laws, smoking bans and EPA guidelines are all attempts to save foolish Americans from their own ill conceived notions. Almost every law on the books in America today, and certainly every new law passed is an effort to idiot proof some segment of American society.
Why not? There is great political power in the promise to solve every Americans self-inflicted disaster. People prone to inflicting such disasters upon themselves will readily relinquish the freedom they used so poorly in exchange for government issued absolution.
Anyone with a calculator knows that Social Security is a raw deal for every American. But some have paid into it (or bought into it) for so long, that to walk away from even a failing system now only proves just how flawed their judgment was in the beginning. Rather than admit the mistake and face the music, they search for a bandaid and kick the can down the road.
But here’s the part nobody talks about at social events or around the kitchen table anymore. The only way to save you from yourself is to remove or restrict your freedom to do harm to yourself. Social Security is a perfect example. Because some did not manage their own financial future, government seized control of part of every paycheck in an effort to manage it for us.
They idiot proofed your economic future, or so they say. But if you can work a calculator, you will find that you could have done better even at simple passbook savings rates. Your freedom to do so was exchanged for a government promise. But who gets the money you paid in?
Social Security amounts to another fleecing of America and every member of congress knows it. They just can’t get elected by admitting it. The graduated tax scale is nothing more than the tyranny of some (the haves) for benefit of the others, (the have nots). On the most basic level, we all know that there is no such thing as free stuff. Everything has a price… and free stuff almost always costs the most.
So in our effort to idiot proof America, we pass laws that remove or restrict individual freedoms for benefit of society as a whole. Some people can drive safely at 150 miles per hour. But since some are not safe at 35 miles per hour, we establish speed laws in an effort to idiot proof our roads.
Some have used their freedom to become independently wealthy in America, while others have used theirs to become bankrupt. In an effort to idiot proof America, we remove or restrict ones right to succeed in an effort to remove another’s right to fail.
Some have used their freedom to become respected productive members of their community, while others have used theirs to become a drug addict, a criminal or a freeloader. Because we want everyone to be treated "equal" in our society, we must take from those who contribute something of value for benefit of those who contribute nothing to society.
And so it goes…the steady march towards an American version of socialism, all in the name of idiot proofing society, saving the American people from themselves, at the expense of everything our forefathers died to provide us.
Freedom only works for those who use it well. All others will gladly exchange their freedoms for the promise of a risk-free consequence-free life. Even if the promise is a lie.
Each day we pass new laws to tell people in the most culturally diverse nation that they need to respect other cultures. We pass laws to define words that have been around for centuries, like marriage. We legislate what you can drive, what you can eat, what you can smoke, even what you can think or say. We do it all to idiot proof America, even though America was never designed for idiots…
It seems to me that we only need one law in America. NO IDIOTS ALLOWED! If people could manage their own finances, we won’t need government to do it. If they already know that the most culturally diverse nation on earth must have respect for other cultures, we won’t need government programs to tell them.
People who can read the definition of marriage won’t need the government to explain what the word means. People who understand the consequences of sleeping with anyone, or anything, anytime and anywhere won’t need government-funded abortions or programs to combat STDs.
In short, people who take responsibility for their own lives don’t elect people who seek to control their lives. People capable of making sound decisions don’t want anyone else making their decisions.
As long as we have idiots, politicians will pander to them for power, promising a government bailout to every idiot who can vote. Eventually, idiot proofing America will cost America its rightful place in the world as the free home of the brave.
A central government in control of the majority of a nation’s resources is by definition, a socialist form of government. 51% is a majority, just ask John Kerry. In calendar measurements, we now work until June 1 of each year to pay taxes and we are still running red ink. When we are working until July 1 to pay taxes, we will be at 50%. Think about it.
There isn’t enough money in the world to fully idiot proof any free society. A society without the freedom to do itself harm would just be a society full of idiots who foolishly relinquished their own freedom. America is fast becoming the land of the free-ride and home to the government dependent and there is no end in sight to the public demand for more free stuff from their government.
Idiot proofing America is not possible. Just as gun laws leave guns only in the hands of criminals, idiot proofing laws leave the nation only in the hands of idiots.
How It Will Be Achieved In The Future
Philadelphia Daily News - Stu Bykofsky - May 27, 2005
2015 - It arrived in stages, cloaked in garments of health protection.
Smoking was a definable evil, and since it was a menace to public health,
something had to be done.
Smoking quickly was ushered out of the workplace and into the street. This was a profound change in American life, and in Philadelphia it happened without government decree.
Once cleansed from the workplace, smoking quickly was banned from places where the public paid to assemble outdoors, such as sports stadiums.
A few people wailed about individual rights and civil liberties, but no one much listened.
Restaurants were targeted next. While there was resistance here and there, it was ineffective.
With the public convinced, however wrongly, that any contact with cigarette smoke was deadly, smoking next was banned from the streets, parks, even windswept beaches. It became illegal to smoke anywhere in public.
A few people wailed about individual rights and civil liberties, but no one much listened.
The anti-smoking forces crossed an important threshold when they created a link between public health and public morality. Once smokers were found to be evil, what came next was predictable.
The guardians of public health heard from apartment dwellers who complained smoke from their neighbors' cigarettes crept under their doors and threatened their health. They demanded protection.
And since it was a menace to public health, something had to be done.
So it happened that smokers were evicted - they had no one to blame but themselves, really - and removed to Southwest Philly, where the refineries had been shut down in 2008 after it was discovered the land itself was a fiesta of toxic carcinogens.
Honest neighbors were moved out, smokers were moved into what was known as "Tobacco Town," which sounded so much more idyllic than "Smokers' Ghetto." As for the cancer threat, the smokers were all going to get cancer anyway, so what's the big deal?
With the apartment dwellers relocated, it wasn't long before smoking homeowners were nailed to the bull's-eye. Not many thought this could happen, but they were wrong. The Supreme Court upheld the action and they were "re-placed" - in Tobacco Town. It was eminent domain with a health rationale.
Smokers' children, of course, were removed to foster homes to protect them from second-hand smoke.
Most people - nonsmokers, anyway - were pleased with their good work, but their Crusade still had not reached Jerusalem.
Employers announced they would not hire people who smoked, even if they smoked only on their own time, in their own homes - which, of course, were in Tobacco Town.
Next, employers fired current employees who smoked. This was not so much for public health as profits. They complained some smokers were out sick more than some nonsmokers, so smokers increased health insurance costs and the cost of business. (Most of these same employers later dropped health coverage for all workers because the insurance itself drove up the cost of business.)
To protect employers from unwittingly hiring a tobacco user - you know how devious and selfish "those people" are - smokers were required to sew a large, green "S" on their garments so they would be known. The "S" also helped keep them in their place, Tobacco Town, because with no jobs they had nowhere to go anyway. And decent people didn't want them around.
A few people wailed about individual rights and civil liberties, but no one much listened.
The obese, people with heart disease and women with breast cancer in their family history would be shown the door in coming years, after employers were given the right by the Supreme Court to see medical records before hiring.
A few people wailed about individual rights and civil liberties, but no one much listened, and all the smokers had died.
and candy bars or smoke gets in your eyes
New Hampshire Union Leader - Charles M. Arlinghaus - May 19, 2005
Charlie Arlinghaus is president of The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free market think tank based in Concord.
IF I SUGGEST the state start taxing candy bars, there would be an uproar but raising taxes on cigarettes is wildly popular with politicians.
Part of the problem is that cigarettes are under a smokescreen that prevents us from thinking clearly about them. But if you substitute candy bars for cigarettes, the issues involved and the impacts are easier to consider.
For example, increased cigarette taxes are much harder on low-income citizens because they smoke more and have less disposable income. Yet, people who are concerned about the tax burden on working Americans are nonetheless enthusiastic about raising cigarette taxes on poor people. We’d oppose a tax on candy bars but these are just smokers and they shouldn’t be smoking anyway.
This is part of the new philosophy of nanny taxes. We tax things that are bad for you because we know better than you and then we can get the money.
We used to call these sin taxes because it implied we were just taxing evil things so you shouldn’t complain.
Of course the problem is that none of the taxed items are particularly sinful in most religions. Smoking isn’t healthy but it’s not something you have to mention in confession.
But “nanny taxes” seems more accurate. In general the debate centers on health. Smoking is bad for you so we’re justified in taxing you. There was a similar argument when Maine decided to tax snack food and in the current proposals to tax fast food. You should eat more salads so we’ll tax the burger. Soon, we’ll have a roughage subsidy funded by regular taxes.
But it’s not just the nannies that look at the huddled smokers on the front steps of office buildings and see dollar signs. Conservatives have a tendency to let the smoke get in their eyes.
Too often the same politicians who fight long and hard against any attempt to raise taxes or institute new ones can be counted on to wink about cigarette taxes. Remember when Gov. Craig Benson announced two years ago that he would oppose any tax increases?
So many people were appalled to learn that he meant cigarette taxes too. Gosh, Craig, those don’t count as real taxes, they’re just on cigarettes and only smokers pay them not real people. We meant no taxes on beverages or water or candy bars but nobody minds cigarette taxes.
Every year, we have a healthy debate about budgets, services and tax burdens. We elect budget writers to perform the difficult and thankless task of trying to make every dollar of state spending count and take as little of our money as necessary to do it.
If they identify more spending needs than they have revenue, they have figure out what taxes to raise or add and then convince a generally anti-tax public that the new tax is necessary.
It’s a tall order because every tax has opponents and will affect enough people to cause the politicians a good deal of grief. If only there were a tax that didn’t really count.
Presto! There is one. When you sift through all the arguments, raising the cigarette tax isn’t about health or smoking, it is just a convenient tax that can be raised with a minimum of fuss. Any argument against it can be answered with the line “but it’s just smoking.” You can’t say that about a candy bar tax except maybe at a dental convention.
It’s a good tax because we want to discourage people from smoking. Smokers are willing to pay $4 a pack and to huddle on the steps in 12-degree winter weather but somehow we think that an additional 20 cents is going to finally convince them. Of course not too many of them because we need the money and if the price really were a deterrent we wouldn’t make any additional money.
The next time politicians start talking about raising money from cigarette taxes, substitute candy bar and see if your attitude doesn’t change. Do you care any more or less about the impact it has on the poor? Do you care more or less about a frugal state budget? Analyze it rationally and make your decision. But don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.
how fat are we?
Townhall.com - Larry Elder - May 19, 2005
make that 25,814 -- not 400,000.
In March 2004, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said 400,000 Americans die each year due to obesity-related problems. But wait. Citing flawed data, four months ago the CDC revised the number down to 365,000. But now, another branch of the CDC says the first branch -- the CDC's Division of Adult and Community Health -- got it wrong. The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics says, no, the real figure is 111,909. And after you deduct the beneficial effects of being moderately overweight, the figure declines to 25,814!
So is the CDC going to recognize the new number? Of course not. CDC director Julie Gerberding (who co-wrote last year's 400,000-deaths-per-year report) says the organization won't use the new number because of uncertain methodology, and called for more research. Does the CDC intend to scale back its fight against the "epidemic" of obesity, given the much smaller, new number? Gerberding says no, because, "There's absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country."
Whatever the correct figure, expect the government's attack on "the obese" to continue. Like cigarette smokers, overeaters now serve as a pinata from which they can extract taxes. It is not just that people think cigarette smokers and overeaters engage in unhealthful behavior. Many consider smokers and overeaters guilty of moral failure. So tax 'em!
The mayor of Detroit, for example, recommends a fast-food tax. "Fat tax" supporters argue that, as with cigarette taxes, higher prices may encourage more healthful behavior.
A recent caller to my radio program, Linda, supports the tax.
Linda: I'm hoping this tax will motivate people, get them to do their own cooking.
Linda: There are too many fat people -- they're all going to fast-food places. . . . I'm so glad they're doing this. . . . Because they're fat, fat, fat. They're eating the wrong food. Stay home, do your own good cooking.
Larry: Do you engage in any kind of conduct that other people might condemn, Linda? Do you drink?
Linda: No . . .
Larry: Do you watch TV?
Linda: Yes, and I watch those terrible commercials from fast-food places, and I get angry. They should tax those commercials, too.
Larry: Maybe they ought to tax you for watching so much television. Why don't you get up and exercise more?
Linda: People have no restraint. They need to be restrained.
Larry: You think the job of the legislature is to restrain them by taxing their behavior?
Linda: They're fat. They're unhealthy, they have diabetes, they have high blood pressure, and they're at the fast-food place -- and their children watch them, and then the children go there, too. It's a disgrace! Cook, cook, cook.
Larry: What do you do when they cook junk . . . when they cook fried foods?
Linda: No, no. They have to cook healthy food.
Larry: How are you going to ensure that? This tax makes the price go up, and more people are cooking at home. How do you guarantee they won't cook the same crap they went out to buy before?
Linda: If we have enough talk about healthy food, someday people will realize they have to cook healthy foods.
Larry: Why don't you contribute to a fund for television Public Service Announcements, advising people what they should do? Why are you going to legislators to tax other people's behavior that you don't like? Unbelievable.
Linda: Why are the Oriental people and European people much healthier than the American people? The American people are obese! . . . I'm horrified by how many obese people there are.
Larry: What about Asians who are here? . . . Are they overweight?
Linda: Not as much as American people.
Larry: Well, how do you suppose they manage not to walk into a restaurant and get fat? And whatever they're doing, why can't everybody else do it, too?
Linda: That food is bad. Your mother can tell you that.
Larry: Should we tax people who order fried chicken at restaurants?
Linda: Why, that's bad, too! Yes, yes, all that bad food should be stopped. . . .
Larry: So tax hikes for health are OK.
Linda: Something has to be done. It's a start.
Larry: Why are you concerned about how fat people are?
Linda: People end up in the hospital, and we're paying for their health problems. Not only that, but even to look at them! They're disgusting to look at! Every time I come back from the store or walk around, I come back furious, seeing how fat they are!
Larry: I bet if you see a fat person smoking a cigarette, you're ready to have a heart attack, aren't you?
Linda: No, cigarettes don't bother me. I'm not a smoker, but it doesn't bother me as much as looking at an obese person. I mean, don't they have mirrors? Don't they look in the mirror and go, "Oh my God, I have to do something about this weight"?
Look on the bright side. Linda isn't in Congress . . . yet.
breathe, leave the smokers alone
Japan Times - Doug Bandow - May 16, 2005
of the most persecuted minorities in America, and increasingly in other
countries, is smokers. U.S. cities and states have imposed ever more Draconian
restrictions on lighting up a cigarette, and a bipartisan coalition of
paternalistic legislators on Capitol Hill now is pushing for tobacco regulation
by the Food and Drug Administration.
Lighting up might be a stupid thing to do. But a free society must allow people to do stupid things. Unfortunately, the antismoking movement has moved from accommodation to suppression. Smokers also have become the great deep pocket for legislators and lawyers.
The latest antismoking effort is legislation to deliver the industry to the tender mercies of the FDA. Sens. Ted Kennedy (Massachusetts Democrat) and Mike DeWine (Ohio Republican) are leading the effort to expand the FDA's authority over cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Explained DeWine: "FDA regulation of tobacco is the most important public health bill to come up in quite a few years."
Their measure would impose more advertising restrictions, marketing controls and health warnings, as well as limits on cigarette ingredients. Specific proposals run from the serious (restricting advertising) and the obnoxious (prohibiting athletic sponsorships) to the inconvenient (banning tobacco vending machines).
Although the legislation directly targets cigarette producers, its heaviest impact would fall on smokers and retailers. The FDA would have virtually untrammeled authority to micro-manage tobacco sales.
If the controls proved more than perfunctory, the FDA would have to create a regulatory army, ranging from investigators to administrative law judges, to monitor some 300,000 retailers. That wouldn't be cheap -- and undoubtedly would channel resources from the agency's more pressing mission of moving lifesaving drugs to market.
Moreover, sellers would be held liable for other people's mistakes, such as violating the law's labeling rules. The burden of any regulatory regime would fall most heavily on smaller establishments.
Hiking the cost of face-to-face sales would put store-front retailers at a further disadvantage. Largely because they offer buyers the opportunity to avoid sales tax, Internet and mail-order services already account for more than 10 percent of total sales.
Some of the bill's provisions treat everyone as children. For instance, the legislation would ban advertisements, including indoor signs visible from the street, within 330 meters of a playground or school. But ads seen by minors aren't the problem. Sales to minors are the problem.
The Kenndy-DeWine bill is not just flawed; it is unnecessary. States already regulate tobacco sales.
By contrast, Uncle Sam has way too much to do and doesn't do it very well. Perhaps Washington should put foreign cocaine cartels out of business before it tries to monitor cigarette advertising at thousands of gas stations across America.
Not every regulation supporter wants to ban cigarettes. But under the right rules, cigarettes would no longer be cigarettes. Kennedy wants to "reduce or remove hazardous ingredients from cigarettes." Heck, just ban -- or dramatically reduce -- nicotine and tobacco. Why force Congress to take the difficult step of prohibiting smoking when it can authorize the FDA to do so indirectly?
The legislation has picked up one unusual endorsement, though: cigarette maker Philip Morris. The company cited the benefit of having clear rules under which to operate.
Critics noted that limiting advertising would help freeze industry market shares, protecting Philip Morris from competition. That was, in fact, one of the outrageous effects of the tobacco litigation settlement: It purported to bind even new firms, thus solidifying the lead of existing producers. Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs figured that the Kennedy-DeWine legislation would actually improve Philip Morris' bottom line.
The legislation continues Congress' practice of providing almost unlimited and unreviewable regulatory authority to an unelected regulatory body. The bill simply says that the FDA "may by regulation require restrictions on the sale and the distribution of a tobacco product, including the advertising and promotion of the tobacco product."
Is there anything the agency could not then do? Actually, to protect a match producer with a friend in high places, the bill does prohibit any restriction on retailers giving away match books with cigarette purchases. Last year the FDA legislation was appended to a multibillion dollar bailout of tobacco farmers. That effort narrowly failed. Now the antitobacco crusaders are back.
The desire to reduce tobacco use is fair enough, but that's what any number of private educational efforts are all about. Government can legitimately bar sales to minors, but the states already do that.
Unfortunately, legislative proposals to allow FDA regulation over cigarettes are really yet another attempt to move to de facto tobacco prohibition -- even while solidifying the market share of entrenched operators like Philip Morris. Washington should leave smokers alone.
Spin City to Fat City
Obesity used to be something to joke about. But not anymore.
WSJ Opinion Journal - Daniel Henninger - May 6, 2005
the same day that Bill Clinton announced in New York this week that he
would head a campaign to reduce childhood obesity, a restaurant in Pennsylvania
set a record by outputting a 15-pound cheeseburger--10 1/2 pounds of chopped
beef and 25 slices of dripping American. A case of the planets aligning?
We are gathered today to discuss America's fat people and their new best friends--the federal government, researchers who specialize in fat people, businesses that sell stuff to fat people and now, Bill Clinton.
This is a case study in how public policy gets formulated in a highly advanced, highly educated and not least, highly neurotic society.
Until recently a lot of Americans thought they were living fat and happy. Some of our best friends are big boys who will point cheerfully at their beautifully sloped pot bellies and proclaim, "I gotta ton invested in this baby!" You can put a fork in it, bubba. Those days are gone.
The day the munching died is March 9, 2004, when the Journal of the American Medical Association gave its imprimatur to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, announcing that "obesity" had caused 400,000 deaths in 2000, a whopping 33% increase from 1990. The AP's first paragraph wrote the script for what followed: "Americans are sitting around and eating themselves to death, with obesity closing in on tobacco as the nation's No. 1 underlying preventable killer." The key phrase there is "preventable killer."
In America, "preventable" is the high C of a public-policy bugle, calling forth an army of professional preventers. Conservatives like to believe that the preventer brigades are invariably liberal. This is not true. The prevention compulsion is bipartisan, and I am inclined to suggest someone should do a study of what's in the sparkling water in Washington.
The day the CDC released its killer-obesity study, George Bush's HHS Secretary, Tommy Thompson, said: "We're just too darn fat, ladies and gentlemen, and we're going to do something about it." He added elsewhere: "It's a difficult fight but we all have to partake in it." We all? Say bye-bye to those backyard picnics of burgers and dogs washed down with five Buds, Melvin; you're in the anti-fat army now. Within months, HHS said it might let Medicare pay for "anti-obesity interventions," suggesting obesity was now officially an illness, which in turn would pressure all insurers to pay for weight-loss "interventions."
Back in March, the great American campaign to control obesity was no longer an issue. It was a done deal. The government was onboard. The medical community was onboard. And of course the food industry and plaintiffs lawyers had launched parallel campaigns to cash in on fat people. But in November obesity suddenly reverted to issue status, that is, you could have a conversation about it again.
It turned out that the CDC's arithmetic had "methodological flaws." After recombing the data dump, the CDC announced last month that the new number of obesity-related deaths annually is not 400,000 but . . . 26,000. Most intriguingly, though, the new study found that 86,000 "overweight" people lived longer than people of normal weight.
This is confusing--and that's the point. Science, of its nature, is always confusing. Medicine is uncertain. But public-policy formation in the U.S., especially as concerns health policy or the environment, whether obesity or the melting of the polar ice caps, admits to very little confusion. We claim to know. But in fact we usually don't know.
The CDC's conclusions about mortality weren't based on anyone's science, but like hundreds of "studies" reported each week on what has been discovered to be good for us or not good for us, it was based almost wholly on statistical associations.
But until the CDC's correction, "obesity" was about to become a well-financed public and private industry forced upon a bewildered population ("we all have to partake")--by obesity researchers, politicians, drug companies, philanthropies, the insurance industry, ectomorphic health freaks and email spammers.
None of this is to suggest that gross obesity is not a medical concern. Make no mistake, if you are hypertensive, diabetic or arthritic and also extremely overweight, then the hand you've been dealt suggests you're at risk of buying the ranch and should lose weight.
But we are fortunate that obesity has returned to earth as a discussable issue, rather than rumbling across America as a quasi-religious crusade. There is much we don't know about the complexities of body weight, illness and mortality.
Most fundamentally, one of the mysteries of science is why sustaining weight loss over time is so very difficult. Whether programmatic weight loss indeed benefits healthy overweight people is also not clear. One obesity study found that weight-related risks decline with age, and disappear at 74. And might the obesity issue really be a red herring for the broader problem of an increasingly sedentary, artery-clogged population? One more confounding fact: Since 1990, life expectancy in the U.S. has risen--to 77.4 years from 75.2 years. That is a phenomenal gain. Most of it is likely explained in three words--Mevacor, Zocor and Lipitor.
Public officials will always ride in the slipstream of an evident crisis. But there is a cautionary tale here. The informational world we inhabit has become a volatile mixture of news, rumor and often incomplete science. This or that threat, need or cause comes at us constantly. But there may be a limit to how often politicians can lower a bucket into the well of public credibility, asking people to alter their behavior and pay handsomely for the privilege--as here, or climate change or fuel alternatives. There might not be much left when the authorities most clearly must ask people, for example, to prepare for an avian flu pandemic before it arrives from Asia.
When the 400,000-dead obesity study unraveled, the CDC's director called it a "lesson in humility." In a world that is evermore complex, busy and costly, it would be a good thing if the people in Washington with the power to impose solutions to the problems of life on all of us made their new watchword "humility." Fat chance.
doesn't like smokers
The Daily Camera - Jon Caldara - April 17, 2005
the smokers, then the Jews." That is a comment one of my radio callers
made, and while a gross overstatement, the sentiment contains a kernel
No one will stand up for smokers. We all hate them. Smelly, little yellow-teethed phlegm-throwers. Even if a bar owner wants to accommodate them, they soon can't.
The Colorado Legislature is coming dangerously close to implementing a statewide smoking ban for all places of public accommodation.
Let's see. Neo-Nazis want to parade and we get all sanctimonious and say freedom means we have to allow such nauseating things. It's America, after all. Ward Churchill can praise the 9/11 attacks, and the chancellor says he has to "support his right as an American citizen to hold and express his views, no matter how repugnant." Moral crusaders try to outlaw pornography and we become Larry Flynt fans. After all, we're not forced to go to a parade, to attend a lecture by Churchill or to buy Juggs magazines.
Americans understand the need to protect the rights of political minorities. But some bar owner wants to let one of his customers light up, and our highfalutin principles go up in smoke.
By the way, the minority in this whole debate is not the smoker, but the business owner.
(Mandatory disclaimer: I don't smoke. I don't like being around smokers. I don't like going to smoky places. I don't like the way that my clothes smell after I go there. I don't like the way my clothes smell, period, but it's easier than doing laundry.)
And while there's never been a documented case of death by second-hand smoke and recent studies have shown that the health threats are greatly exaggerated, let's for the sake of argument say it is unhealthy. That doesn't change anything. Private establishments should be free to allow legal, if unhealthful, activities on their private premises.
Some say that bars and restaurants are not private, since they are open to the public. But there is a difference between a public place and a place of public accommodation. A public place would be government-owned airports, DMV offices, courthouses, libraries. And I would agree, in truly public places, smoking should not be allowed.
Places of public accommodation are private establishments open to the public. There are only a handful of areas where the proprietor cannot discriminate; race, sex, age or religion and the like. The owner can require a coat and tie, or he can require that everyone's underwear be worn on the outside. He can have blaring music. Hell, he can require the wait staff to wear tube tops and hot pants, or, worse, force them to sing snappy birthday jingles while clapping.
The main selling point on this bill is that while patrons of a private establishment can choose to go elsewhere, employees somehow can't. In other words, the Thirteenth Amendment was never ratified, and slavery, apparently, still exists. It is a false dichotomy; either work in a deadly place or go hungry.
Workers often agree to put themselves in unhealthy situations. Painters and welders deal with fumes, construction workers with dust, cafeteria workers at a dorm on burrito night. If they feel that any of those occupations is more dangerous than the compensation is worth, they may leave.
But don't we have safety codes, like OSHA rules, to ensure we work in safe environments? Those OSHA rules are largely intended for code violations that are not obvious and known. You know when smoking or blaring music is allowed in your place of work; you might not know that the electrical wiring is faulty.
If this bill doesn't pass in this session, it will sometime. The tyranny of the majority demands smokeless restaurants. Making the saddest part of all this how irrelevant it will be very soon.
The market follows people's tastes. Less than 20 percent of Colorado adults smoke, and that number keeps dwindling, because they either get smart or die. Because of that, business will change to accommodate its customers without mandates.
But even if a few bars want to cater to smokers, they will be prohibited. Imagine if a few bars wanted to cater to gays but were prohibited.
So much for difference being the spice of life. Get ready for the vanilla taste of the nanny state. Freedom means tolerance. And apparently that's a dangerous thing
state tries to safeguard public health, it must define it
Twin Cities Pioneer Press - Craig Westover - April 6, 2005
never said in so many words, the quote attributed to Justice Potter Stewart
— "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it" — bears much
resemblance to our state Legislature's outlook on public health; it can't
define public health, but if its lust for regulation is aroused, then an
issue must be a public health issue.
I've followed several public health-inspired bills through legislative committee meetings. Not once has any committee provided neutral criteria defining when an issue rises to the level of a "public" health concern that requires government intervention — hardly a reassuring observation for business owners earning their livelihoods in the context of promiscuous legislation.
Case in point: The currently impotent statewide smoking ban, which many desire to see brought up again in general session as an amendment to an omnibus health bill.
As initially presented, the "Freedom to Breathe Act" would have extended existing law to include a ban on smoking in quasi-private bars and restaurants. After weakening the legislation with amendments, the House Health Policy and Finance Committee passed the bill without recommendation to the House Commerce and Financial Institutions Committee, where it was rejected on a very narrow voice vote. Those favoring a smoking ban shrunk from demanding the accountability of a roll call.
My side won. I should have been happy. I was not.
I wish I could say the commerce committee killed the bill because members recognized that property rights are fundamental rights. I wish I could say it killed the bill because it rejected bad science. I wish I could say the committee recognized the bill exceeded state authority. I can't.
To be honest, from what was discussed in the committee meeting, I had no idea how committee members, pro or con, justified their votes. Such wham-bam treatment of the legislation, frankly, leaves both sides in the debate unsatisfied.
If one favors a statewide smoking ban, what new rationale does one use to raise the issue again? If one is opposed to a statewide smoking ban, what precedent can one draw from the action of the commerce committee? What's left? Beating up on the same old arguments until one goes blind?
The commerce committee aside, it is the House Health Policy and Finance Committee where first criticism rightly falls. By passing the smoking ban bill without recommendation, the committee failed to fulfill three basic obligations.
First, the health committee failed to objectively define a "public health risk" in order to determine whether or not secondhand smoke rises to the level of a "public" health issue requiring government intervention.
Second, the committee failed to ascertain whether or not state government was the proper level of government at which to implement a smoking ban.
Third, the committee failed to resolve the fundamental issue of perceived conflict between the fundamental rights of private property and the entitlement rights of nonsmoking patrons and employees.
The latter two points are debatable, but only if the first issue is affirmatively resolved. Call me crazy, but a state committee with "health" in its title ought to have some set of neutral criteria that defines what a public health issue is. It ought to be able to state why it is hearing a bill in the first place. Simply saying "this looks like a health issue" isn't good enough when actions taken hurt people's lives and businesses.
Allow me to propose such criteria.
In order for a health issue to rise to the level of a "public" health issue that requires government intervention, three criteria must be met. First, people must be exposed to a risk to which they have not consented. Second, the risk must be widespread — anybody or everybody is potentially at risk. Third, people cannot reasonably protect themselves from the risk through their own actions.
Pick the health issue, apply the criteria — regulations governing preparation of restaurant food, prohibiting smoking in public buildings, banning smoking in private bars and restaurants, passing obesity-inspired regulations on fatty foods. If it doesn't fit the criteria, it's not a public health issue. If it does, it is.
Criteria-based legislation is the practical application of the principle of "the rule of law." Without neutral criteria, there is virtually no issue immune from legislatively transmitted injustice. Stamping out such injustices is a public health initiative the Legislature ought to consider.
the Big Tobacco lawsuit
The Modesto Bee - Deroy Murdock - March 31, 2005
Sam has a breathtaking ability to be all things to all people at everyone's
expense. Look no further than U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler's Washington,
D.C., courtroom. That's where Uncle Sam is busy suing the cigarette industry
despite the hot tub full of tobacco-related hypocrisy in which he soaks.
Leading the Justice Department's civil RICO lawsuit is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, reputedly a sneaky right-winger who serves the even further-right Bush administration. Gonzales and Bush, when not plotting to torture innocent Muslims, conspire to help their overfed buddies in corporate America, or so administration critics claim. That's what makes this lawsuit so puzzling.
This litigation commenced under Attorney General Janet Reno, a crafty liberal lawyer with little love for big business. So why are Gonzales and Bush, putative pawns of the Fortune 500, continuing Reno's inquisition against Brown & Williamson, Liggett, Lorrillard, Philip Morris, and R.J. Reynolds? This chameleonism is one of Washington's charms.
Reno herself changed colors regarding Big Tobacco. On April 30, 1997, she told the Senate Judiciary Committee: "The federal government does not have an independent cause of action" against this industry. Sunshine yellow that day, Reno added: "We needed to work with the states," 46 of which squeezed the smokes sector for $206 billion in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).
But Reno then turned beet red and told reporters on Sept. 22, 1999: "This morning, the United States filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the major cigarette companies. In the complaint, the United States alleges that for the past 45 years, the companies that manufacture and sell tobacco have waged an intentional, coordinated campaign of fraud and deceit."
Prosecuting these tobacco kingpins has cost taxpayers at least $135 million so far. While that money trickles from the Treasury, $10.14 billion pours through Uncle Sam's fingers in an industry-funded, government-managed, 10-year buy-out of farmers' tobacco quotas. This bonanza to those who cultivate the crop that inspires Surgeon Generals' warnings comes with few conditions. Farmers may keep planting tobacco. Thus, Uncle Sam simultaneously handles tobacco with litigation, regulation, and subsidies. Ringling Brothers should have such a juggler.
Adding to this circus, Uncle Sam castigates Big Tobacco while thriving on its product. In fiscal 2004, the 39 cents-per-pack cigarette tax yielded $7,778,569,117 in federal revenues, according to Orzechowski and Walker, an Arlington, Va.-based tobacco consultancy. Moreover, federally owned stores from Capitol Hill to Camp Pendleton sell cigarettes, often at discounted prices. Thus, Uncle Sam hooks up nicotine addicts while tasting the action that Big Tobacco relishes on a grander scale.
This lawsuit originally sought to "disgorge" $280 billion of Big Tobacco's "ill-gotten gains" earned between 1971 and 2000. This included $75 billion in cigarette "proceeds" from the "youth-addicted population," those who smoked as few as five cigarettes daily before age 21. The "additional gain" of $205 billion in hypothetical interest payments reflects a 273 percent return on investment, or a 9.4 percent annual average across 29 years. Let's free Americans to open Personal Retirement Accounts managed by Big Tobacco's stockbrokers!
The D.C. Appellate Court chopped disgorgement from the lawsuit. Now Justice fishes for other penalties including money for smoking prevention and cessation programs, which the MSA already funds. Justice also is weighing the highly socialistic "remedy" of telling tobacco companies which senior managers to fire. Bureaucrats in Beijing would love such public control of private assets.
The MSA also dissolved the industry-funded Tobacco Institute and Council on Tobacco Research. Nonetheless, Justice is suing them even though government drove them out of existence. Uncle Sam is frisking a pair of dead bodies for their wallets.
As an asthmatic who hates coming home from pub crawls reeking like an ashtray, I would be thrilled to see America's tobacco farms devoured by something like Dutch Elm Disease. Still, the tobacco sector is a legal industry, not a vacuum for collecting tax dollars through courtrooms rather than the IRS.
Washington's self-entangling, tobacco-related hyperactivity is beyond tiresome. The feds should drop this foolish lawsuit and their perennial payments to the very industry they sue and regulate. And the 40 federal prosecutors assigned to this case should be given worthier duties, such as smoking out terrorists.
losing case against Big Tobacco
Townhall.com - Joel Mowbray - March 21, 2005
the defense started presenting its case recently in the civil RICO case
against Big Tobacco, it was the federal government that was on the defensive.
The Department of Justice has taken so long to lose so much that it has
but one goal left: saving face.
And with the government headed for near-certain defeat—despite spending at least $135 million before the actual trial started last September—it is the Bush DOJ that stands to suffer from a snowball that started rolling downhill early in the Clinton Administration.
The roots of the current litigation stretch back almost a decade, to a criminal investigation that a spokesman at Phillip Morris parent Altria estimates launched in 1995. No charges were ever filed. And it appears that the criminal probe was shuttered almost on the same day the current civil lawsuit was filed. The closing line of the DOJ press release announcing the lawsuit was: “There are no pending Criminal Division investigations of the tobacco industry”—a clumsy and cryptic way of saying the criminal probe had ended as recently as the day before.
On the heels of the failed criminal investigation, the federal government sought hundreds of billions of dollars for reimbursement of Medicare costs. DOJ’s original complaint, filed in September 1999, alleged that the federal government spends more than $20 billion per year treating people with smoking-related illnesses.
Just over a year later, the judge tossed out the Medicare reimbursement portion of DOJ’s lawsuit, stripping the government of the cornerstone of its case. All that remained was a civil racketeering charge, which relied on a law Congress created in 1971 to fight the mafia.
It was September of an election year at this point, no time to drop a lawsuit against the most vilified industry in America. So Clinton’s DOJ redoubled its efforts, using a forward-looking statute—civil RICO was only intended as an additional tool to help thwart future bad behavior—to win damages for past actions. You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that sounds fishy.
To get to its damages figure, DOJ employed creative accounting to accompany its creative use of the law. Since RICO does not allow the government to collect damages, it argued instead that to stop future wrongdoing by Big Tobacco, the court should disgorge all ill-gotten gains over the past fifty years.
Using some combination of alchemy and blind guessing, DOJ’s experts calculated $75 billion in total fraudulently-earned profits. But then it tacked on an extra $205 billion as interest that could have been earned on that money. The resulting dollar figure that DOJ was then seeking was $280 billion, remarkably close to what it probably would have asked for had the Medicare reimbursement part of the case not been tossed so early.
Although the trial court judge, a Clinton appointee, approved the novel civil RICO approach last May, a 3-judge panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals last month said that the government could not seek any monetary damages. Thus, no more $280 billion. Not even $280, for that matter.
No wonder the trial judge described the ruling as a “body blow” to the government’s case.
Most legal experts agree that although the government plans to appeal en banc, meaning before the full appeals court, odds of the disgorgement option being reinstated are slim. Odds are slimmer still that the Supreme Court would do so.
Even if the government wins the civil RICO case, it would be a hallow victory. It is almost certain that the defendants will have to pay nothing regardless of the outcome of the actual trial (which is ongoing while DOJ files its appeal on RICO), and the non-monetary relief sought by the government is mostly stuff—like disclosing health risks and funding public awareness campaigns—that the top tobacco companies are already doing as a result of the $246 billion settlement with 46 states.
What has DOJ sacrificed? Plenty. When the case started over five years ago, DOJ dedicated 16 highly-skilled attorneys to the case. Today, that number has ballooned to 35 full-time lawyers, out of a total civil attorney staff of over 800. In a day and age when DOJ attorneys could be used to target the financing of terrorists and their front groups, the Bush administration is wasting 35 of them in a Quixotic campaign to flagellate Big Tobacco.
Of course it’s hard to have sympathy for the makers of cancer sticks, but almost a decade of toiling by the government—and likely well over $200 million when it’s all over—will yield next to nothing. All the government is playing for at this point is something it can claim as a victory, which at this point would mean modest changes in cigarette marketing.
To which taxpayers should ask: How many more millions will be spent to salvage the government’s pride?
fear we inhaled a pack of lies
Atlanta Journal Constitution - Luke Boggs - March 8, 2005
Georgia's Republican-dominated General Assembly stand up for freedom when
it isn't terribly popular? We may find out later this week if the House
takes up a statewide smoking ban.
Gold Dome Republicans may talk a good game on freedom and limited government, but the Senate's overwhelming approval (44-7) of a sweeping public smoking ban shows just how empty such talk can be.
Turns out, most Senate Republicans were only too happy to take away the freedom of smokers, bar owners and restaurateurs. And for what? So they could make going out on the town marginally more pleasant for nonsmokers? Freedom has seldom been sold so cheap.
Traditionally, smoking bans have been all the rage in far-off places run by crackpot leftists and health nuts and statist do-gooders, places like New York City and California. Dubious company for Georgia's GOP Senate.
And it gets worse. A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial noted approvingly how public smoking has been banned in cigar-loving Cuba. Is that really the ideal model for Georgia, Communist Cuba? After all, the freedom to light up is the least of the countless freedoms denied citizens of that sun-dappled island Gulag.
Frankly, we expect smoking bans from the folks running New York and California and Cuba. What's the Georgia GOP's excuse? Well, for starters, state Republicans may figure their suburb-based constituency is more interested in personal comfort than individual liberty. And, clearly, more than a few GOP legislators haven't bothered squaring their rhetorical respect for freedom with their zeal to snuff out smoking.
For ban backer and House Rules Committee Chairman Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), the issue is simple: "I just think people have a right to enjoy their dinner without having to smell cigarettes."
Sorry, Rep. Ehrhart, but you don't need to ban smoking to dine smoke-free. These days, quite a few restaurants offer nonsmoking sections. If that's not good enough for you, try an eatery that has gone smoke-free of its own volition. Or, even better, just stay home.
House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) opposes the smoking ban, sensibly noting that it isn't the state's business to insert itself into the relationships between restaurants and their patrons. Despite his opposition, Richardson has said he will allow a vote on the bill, though he has the power to bottle it up.
I don't know if Richardson has the votes to defeat the bill in the House, but, if he doesn't, I would urge him to reconsider his decision to allow HB 426 to reach the floor. Better to stop a bad bill with the speaker's prerogative than give it the chance to pass.
If you're wondering, this isn't about me personally. I don't smoke. I understand that smoking is a nasty, dirty, unhealthy habit. And I have politely encouraged friends who smoke to quit.
In another sense, I suppose it is about me — and about all Georgians who love liberty. I mean, if we're willing to limit one group's freedom just to keep another group from being annoyed, what's next? Banning cellphone shouters? Legislating against surly clerks? Outlawing public rudeness?
Where does it end, if the only standard used to grade a piece of legislation is whether or not a simple majority will find their lives marginally improved? The short answer, of course, is that it doesn't end. Inch by inch, mile by mile, government power expands and personal liberty contracts.
Republicans became the majority party in Georgia talking up freedom and limited government. If GOP legislators enact a sweeping statewide smoking ban, they may come to rue the day they exposed their love of liberty as an attractive but empty election-season come-on.
I have another idea for our state's Republican legislators: choose freedom. That's what you've always said you would do. Now, as the majority party, you have the power to put up or shut up. So go ahead. And choose freedom, even when it isn't wildly popular.
CDC's bogus study
Washington Times - Editorial - February 28, 2005
a year ago, the Centers for Disease Control issued a highly publicized
report stating that obesity-related health problems kill 400,000 Americans
every year -- an "epidemic" second only to smoking in causing preventable
deaths. The story was big news. A host of outside skeptics, however, such
as the Center for Consumer Freedom, questioned the findings, and their
efforts eventually forced the CDC to admit that at least part of the study
was flawed. Now, despite even more critical evidence, the CDC says its
mistakes don't matter.
In November, the Wall Street Journal first reported that due to a calculation error, the CDC "may have inflated the study's death toll by about 80,000 fatalities." That wasn't all. Shortly after the study's publication in the March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an associate director on science at the CDC wrote an e-mail to his colleagues: "I would never have cleared this paper if I had been given the opportunity to provide a formal review."
Indeed, the study's flaws went much deeper than mathematics, and the CDC knew it. A story in the May issue of Science magazine found that political considerations might have influenced the authors' work. "Some researchers, including a few at the CDC, ... argue that the paper's compatibility with a new anti-obesity theme in government public health pronouncements -- rather than sound analysis -- propelled it to print," Science reported. Tellingly, many researchers refused to be identified for the story. Said one, "I don't want to lose my job." Meanwhile, CDC researchers released two separate studies over the summer critical of the JAMA paper.
The CDC finally took action months later by conducting its own internal investigation, which released its findings two weeks ago. "While there was at least one error in the calculations ... the fundamental scientific problem centers around the limitations in both the data and the methodology," the report found. By this point, there was enough evidence undermining the original paper for the CDC to retract it. Instead, it has run just a single correction in the January issue of JAMA that cited "an error in [the CDC's] computations," while saying nothing of the paper's flawed methodology.
But apparently the CDC doesn't consider methodology to be of much importance. Last week, CCF Director Richard Berman wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that was highly critical of the CDC's conduct regarding the flawed report. In response, CDC chief science officer Dixie E. Snider wrote, "[W]e cannot and should not let this discussion of scientific methodology detract from the real issue." This is dangerous reasoning indeed coming from a scientist.
It's clear that over the concerns of its own researchers the CDC shamefully pushed a scientifically flawed study to reach some politically correct end. Since then, it has not given contrary evidence publicity equal to the original report. Nothing less than a full retraction of the original study and an apology to the American people can amend these egregious mistakes.
Bans Bad Science, Bad Policy
Scripps Howard News Service - Michael Fumento - February 17, 2005
I shouldn't have been surprised at my reception last week at a Lakewood,
Ohio hearing on banning smoking in restaurants and bars. Such events tend
to bring out the penny-ante dictators. After all, when customers can readily
find smoke-free facilities and nobody's forced to take a job, such bans
are inherently authoritarian. But these people made Mussolini look like
The nine-member commission appointed to advise the city council on the ban originally arranged to have six witnesses testify. Three for and three against, right? Try six for and zero against. Then they relented and deigned to allow one witness on the other side – until they discovered it was me.
Specifically, those behind the national jihad against so-called "passive smoking" insisted I must not speak. One email labeled me a "shock jock" – an interesting metaphor considering I've never even guest-hosted a radio show. (Note to broadcast producers: Not that I have anything against it. Ahem!)
Hours before my flight I got the word that the panel had, under the threat of civil disobedience from the Small Business Coalition of Cleveland, again relented. That is, so long as I went last after the media and bored audience members would be gone. My time was also cut by a third at the last minute, but I rather saw that coming.
So did I shock them? I hope so. Somehow the multitude of studies I discussed had been "overlooked" by the throng of witnesses before me.
I informed the panel that the study that began the crusade, published in 1993 by the Environmental Protection Agency had actually found no statistically significant link to lung cancer, requiring them to use a new standard for significance to get the "proper" results.
At that, the EPA also found a mere 17 percent increased risk. Yet the National Cancer Institute has said that even a 100 percent increase is "considered small" and is "usually difficult to interpret.
I noted that the other "authoritative" study linking passive smoke to lung cancer, commissioned by the World Health Organization, actually showed a statistically significant reduced risk for children of smokers and no increase for spouses and co-workers of smokers.
And I told them that the largest of the passive smoking studies (35,000 participants) and longest (39 years) found no "causal relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (passive smoking) and tobacco-related mortality."
I was going to say that smoke-ban crusaders had attempted to link virtually every disease known to passive smoking "with the possible exception of herpes, hangnails, and hemorrhoids." But lo! One of the previous witnesses was a pediatrician who claimed passive smoke did cause herpes.
Fancy that, a virus spread by smoke. It's impossible to satirize these zealots, nor to exaggerate their arrogance.
This just in! The herpes VIRUS is actually caused by tobacco smoke!
"Passive smoking" is not a scientific term but a propaganda one. A 1975 New England Journal of Medicine study found that even back then, when having smoke obnoxiously puffed into your face was ubiquitous in restaurants and bars, the concentration was equal to merely 4/1000s of a cigarette per hour.
And while obviously you can inhale smoke from others' cigarettes, we also know "the dose makes the poison." Thus we are constantly bombarded by such human carcinogens as ultraviolet radiation and estrogens but in such small amounts the body's defense systems ward them off. We weren't built to defend against several cigarette packs daily.
None of which matters to the activists, to whom any means justifies the end. Having made all the progress they can with "Your smoking will kill you," they changed tack to "Your smoking will kill others." (Or at least give them herpes.)
Former Surgeon General David Satcher essentially admitted as much at a Washington, D.C. hearing when he said a ban on workplace smoking would "be effective in creating a new social norm that discourages people from smoking."
Smoking – real smoking – is both vile and deadly. I fully sympathize with those who want to see it go the way of the mastodon. But they lose me when they slip on the jackboots and fudge the science.
So now you know why there was so much fuss and feathers over my impending testimony. It wasn't the Fumento they were afraid of; it was the facts.
FoxNews.com - Steve Milloy - February 15, 2005
United Nations (search) is coming for your booze and it’s starting to fabricate
the kind of factoids that the international health nannies will no doubt
try to spin into "conventional wisdom."
"The amount of death and disability caused by alcohol globally is similar to that caused by tobacco and high blood pressure," trumpets the media release for a study in last week’s medical journal "The Lancet."
"Overall, four percent of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol, 4.1 percent to tobacco and 4.4 percent to high blood pressure. Alcohol is causally related to more than 60 different medical conditions, including breast cancer and coronary heart disease. In most cases, alcohol has a detrimental effect on health," claims the release.
The study authors, from Sweden, Canada and the U.S., claim there’s a "growing contrast between the treatment of alcohol in trade agreements and disputes as an ordinary commodity and the more restrictive treatments of such other commodities as tobacco and pharmaceuticals, which also entail public health risks."
They end their study with a call for a "new international treaty on alcohol control, along the lines of the [United Nations’] Framework Convention on Tobacco Control."
The study’s claims seem largely based on a report from the U.N.’s World Health Organization (search) entitled "World Health Report 2002: Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life" — a document that refers to alcohol consumption and other politically incorrect lifestyle choices as "enemies of health."
But before we fall for the tobacco-ization of alcohol, let’s look a little closer at some of the "analysis" that’s going into the effort to bring about global prohibition.
The claim equating alcohol with tobacco in terms of the "global burden of disease" largely depends on a statistical shenanigan called "attributable risk" that I’ve written about in an earlier FOXNews.com column.
But I will let the U.N. debunk its own calculations in language taken directly from its 2002 report: "Causes [of disease] can add to more than 100 percent. If the scenarios were equally common, 66.6 percent of throat cancer would be attributable to smoking, 33.3 percent to alcohol, 100 percent to genetic causes, and 100 percent to unknown environmental causes, making a total of 300 percent. Causes can, and ideally should, total more than 100 percent; this is an inevitable result of different causes working together to produce the disease, and reflects the extent of our knowledge of disease causation."
So according to the U.N.’s math, we will all get throat cancer. Fortunately for us, however, the U.N. acknowledges that this claim reflects its "knowledge of disease causation" — which, as you can see, is quite impaired. The Lancet study authors claim that the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer is "clear."
Although linking alcohol intake with breast cancer seems to be a popular scare these days, the data are far from convincing. Study results are conflicting and among those studies that do report a statistical association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, they typically involve the sorts of weak correlations that aren’t terribly reliable.
Let’s not forget that, other than genetics, no one is quite sure what causes breast cancer. How any of this makes a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer "clear" is not at all clear to me.
With respect to heart disease, many studies seem to indicate that moderate drinking actually reduces risk. Although the Lancet study authors acknowledge this, they claim that binge drinking increases the risk of stroke or sudden cardiac death. But the data supporting this notion are limited and unimpressive.
No one disputes that over-consumption of alcohol poses health risks, but so is too much of virtually any behavior. If the U.N.’s efforts were limited to combating alcohol abuse, I would not have written this column.
But many in the international anti-alcohol lobby are prohibitionists who apparently feel they need catchy-but-bogus factoids that the anti-tobacco crusaders used to promote anti-tobacco hysteria among the public — for example, "400,000 people die from smoking every year in the U.S." and "3,000 kids start smoking every day," etc.
Finally, I had to laugh at the end of the Lancet study where its authors state, "We declare that we have no conflict of interest."
I suppose that’s true in a world where you can only have a "conflict of interest" if you work for a profit-making entity.
The Lancet authors, however, appear to be heavily imbibing U.N. money — the World Health Organization (part of the U.N.) funded a 2003 study of theirs on alcohol consumption and disease burden published in the journal Addiction. Given the U.N.’s anti-alcohol campaign, isn’t that some sort of conflict of interest?
to Silence a Racket
The Justice Department's tobacco lawsuit threatens freedom of speech
Reason Magazine - Jacob Sullum - February 11, 2005
a federal appeals court said the Justice Department cannot force cigarette
manufacturers to turn over $280 billion in allegedly ill-gotten gains,
it was not just a victory for the tobacco industry. It was also a victory
for freedom of speech.
On its face, the ruling had nothing to do with free speech. The question before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) allows the government to file a lawsuit demanding "disgorgement" of profits tied to a "pattern of racketeering activity"—in this case, an alleged conspiracy to mislead the public about the hazards of smoking.
The relevant section of the law (which was intended as a weapon against organized crime but has been applied much more broadly) gives federal courts jurisdiction "to prevent and restrain violations of [RICO] by issuing appropriate orders." The appeals court concluded that disgorgement, "a quintessentially backward-looking remedy," does not qualify.
The Justice Department can still seek an order aimed at restricting the tobacco companies' future conduct. But unless the D.C. Circuit's decision is overturned, the companies no longer have to worry about coughing up a sum that exceeds their combined net worth.
Without the possibility of disgorgement, the Justice Department, which already has spent more than $130 million on this case, will think twice before filing similar lawsuits against other businesses. That's a good thing, because the tobacco case defines racketeering so broadly that any company selling a controversial product could be sued under RICO unless it took a vow of silence.
Although the tobacco companies' lack of candor on the subject of smoking is legendary, it's highly debatable whether they fooled anyone into believing that cigarettes were safe, given the ubiquitous warnings to the contrary. In any case, we should not let the industry's well-deserved reputation for dishonesty blind us to the dangers of letting the Justice Department treat RICO as a license to police corporate speech, turning ordinary advertisements and deviations from a government-certified consensus into acts of racketeering.
The "racketeering acts" listed by the Justice Department consist largely of advertisements, press releases, and televised statements, which it considers instances of mail or wire fraud. The fraudulent aspect of this speech is often obscure. One "racketeering act," for instance, involved placing a magazine ad that "depicted Joe Camel wearing sunglasses, a tee shirt, and blue jeans, with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve and a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth, and casually leaning against a convertible automobile."
Even the messages closer to the heart of the Justice Department's case are not clear-cut examples of fraud. When the cigarette manufacturers criticized early studies linking smoking to lung cancer, for example, were they deliberately misleading the public, or were they doing what any company does when its product is impugned—i.e., pointing out weaknesses in the evidence against it?
The question is of more than historical interest. Given the logic of the Justice Department's case, oil companies that question global warming projections, automakers that defend the safety of their SUVs, fast food chains that say they're not responsible for increases in obesity, pharmaceutical companies that criticize research indicating possible side effects from their drugs, and any other business that stands up for itself in the face of attack could be the target of a future RICO lawsuit.
With its sweeping definitions of fraud and racketeering, the Justice Department has put itself in the position of determining when dissent is no longer permissible. If I weren't already persuaded that it's not wise to let a government agency assume this role, the discovery that the Justice Department includes me in its description of the tobacco industry's racketeering would have done the trick.
In 1994, you see, Philip Morris took out newspaper ads in which it reprinted an article I had written for Forbes MediaCritic about press coverage of the controversy over secondhand smoke. (I did not approve the reprint or get paid for it.) Although the evidence that secondhand smoke causes fatal diseases is far weaker and more ambiguous than the evidence concerning the health effects of smoking, the Justice Department has decided the issue is settled beyond any reasonable doubt—indeed, that it was settled a decade ago.
According to the government's lawyers, anyone who remains skeptical about claims that secondhand smoke kills is perpetrating a fraud. I guess that makes me an accessory to racketeering.
in the workplace
Grand Forks Herald - Mike Troy - February 10, 2005
Troy is former economic development director of the Kittson County (Minn.) Office of Economic Development
Dec. 18, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Grand Forks Tobacco
Free Coalition at the Alerus Center. After listening to the panel members
and researching both sides of the issues, and having lived in California
when the smoking ban was instituted there, I strongly urge the Grand Forks
City Council and other agencies to take no action on the issue at this
time, except to research the facts on both sides.
Why? First, the health issue is seriously questionable. As the American Council on Science and Health has put it, "the role of environmental tobacco smoke in the development of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease is uncertain and controversial."
The term that comes to my mind is "comparative risk." That is, if you were to compare the risk of secondhand smoke to other risks found in homes and workplaces, you'd find little real difference, especially if those other risks were subject to the same scrutiny that secondhand smoke has endured.
Second, the economic issue is distorted, and our area cannot afford the risk that the same thing that happened in California will happen here. As someone who lived through California's non-smoking program, let me lend some insight as to its real effect.
The smoking ban in California was a failure. For one thing, it was accomplished through lies, exaggeration and bureaucratic gamesmanship. The lies included the health risks (for example, the statement that 50,000 people die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke) and false representations of health studies (check the World Health Organization and other groups on this).
The distortions included what the estimated economic impact would be on all workplaces. Minimal, the activists said. The reality proved different. The loss in productivity (from smokers having to leave the workplace to smoke) and jobs (from scores of restaurants and bars closing and other businesses moving) was substantial.
If you are not traveling, then bars and restaurants are a luxury. They're an activity on which customers choose to spend their discretionary dollars.
As the Bismarck Tribune pointed out in its editorial against smoking bans, smoking and food go together. So when restaurants force smokers out into the area's cold weather, those smokers do not go out to eat. They stay home and keep an equal number of non-smokers with them.
The result is a 40 percent to 60 percent loss in sales for bars and restaurants with bars. In California, this meant the closing of almost all non-chain restaurants and bars six months to three years after a smoking ban. And that was in a state where the weather does not deter smoking outside; you can expect a greater impact here.
In addition, many smokers are older or retired people, and pushing them outside in weather that lately has been dangerously cold probably would create higher health costs than would the status quo.
The well-financed special interests against the legal activity of smoking will coerce legislators into making a major mistake. Please let your representatives know that they should have all the facts before acting.
Washington Times - Bob Barr - February 5, 2005
last year's remake of the 1970s classic science fiction file, "The Stepford
Wives," a group of techno-weirdos set out to transform imperfect women
into perfect wives. Of course, the plan fails because of... well, a lot
But the point is, the world remains as full of weirdos today seeking to create the perfect person as when Pygmalion tried many centuries ago. Now, the "Stepford Search" has come to corporate America.
Weyco Inc., a Michigan company, has decided to fire any employee who smokes. Not just any employee who smokes on the job. Any employee who smokes anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Why? To help the employees make healthful life choices and become better persons; to help the employees "manage their health care."
How does the company ensure its employees remain truly and permanently "smoke free?" Mandatory "drug" tests. If traces of the "devil weed" tobacco are found, the hapless employee who thought he or she lived in a free country — one in which a citizen could practice such horrible habits as lighting up a cigarette or cigar in the "privacy" of his or her home — is summarily fired.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the decades of my misspent youth, we harbored the illusion such menaces as nuclear war or communist invasion were the real enemies of freedom. How wrong we were. The good folks running America just four or five decades later, including the Weyco Gestapo, know the real enemy of man is not the trivial nuclear holocaust, but smoking. And they will leave no freedom unturned in their zeal to root it out wherever it might still lurk.
Of course, the absurd lengths to which Weyco Inc. is going to attack a problem that clearly is none of its business, is exceeded only by the fact this "corporation" is allowed — at least thus far — to carry out its crusade without penalty.
Federal laws strictly regulate the extent corporations may use polygraphs in hiring and firing decisions, for example. And there are strict legal limits on how companies may deal with employees found using mind-altering drugs. But companies apparently are free to arbitrarily test employees for tobacco use and terminate them summarily for so doing. Obviously, off-duty smoking by its employees is more important to Weyco corporate leaders than employee theft or cocaine use.
How far this nonsense will be allowed to go is uncertain. Smokers are held in such low regard by government and the law these days, it is hard to imagine anyone in authority defending former Weyco employees.
But if companies are allowed to do what this company is doing, it is easy to imagine other "undesirable" employee activities to which the corporate watchdogs will turn their attention in their never-ending search for the perfect, Stepford employee.
Tests will be given to determine if any employees are having improper sexual relations. After all, unhealthy or unlawful sex practices can lead to "unhealthy life choices," too.
And we're bombarded about how "fat" America is becoming. A Texas state legislator has even a law to require that schools include on report cards a student's "BMI," or "Body Mass Index," to prod students and their families to lose weight.
Any overweight employees at Weyco had better watch out. Since bad "food choices" are the root cause of much obesity, the corporate watchdogs will likely soon require that employees take cholesterol tests. And any with an unacceptably high reading will be — you guessed it — fired.
We also know partying too hard will cause employees to become tired or run down at work, unable to operate Weyco's phones and computers at peak efficiency. Sleep tests will therefore be required to ensure all Weyco employees get the optimal amount of sleep each night.
Alcohol consumption at any time and in any amount will also be rooted out by the Weyco do-gooders; tests will determine who had a nip of wine, or cracked a brewski the night before.
Since one beer leads to two, and pretty soon that social drinker might become a full-fledged alcoholic, the company is only serving the public good by identifying such "gateway drinkers" and dumping them before the real trouble begins.
I doubt the Weyco will ever meet its goal of a perfect, Stepford work force — every employee with the precise and correct BMI, no smokers, no drinkers, no adulterers, no droopy eyelids and no sickness. But I am sure that won't slow the effort.
And if they achieve their goals, they will have a work force of automatons. But maybe that's what America wants these days.
Smokers Have Any Rights?
Canada Free Press - Alan Caruba - February 4, 2005.
people who enjoy smoking have any rights? Increasingly, the answer is no.
It is essential to keep in mind that smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes
is an entirely personal choice. No one is required to smoke. Millions voluntarily
stop smoking every year. People have been smoking and enjoying tobacco
products for a very long time, but now they have been demonized and ostracized.
Using the power of government to tax, smokers are being ripped off at every level. Recently New York City sent letters to 2,300 residents giving them 30 days to pay the taxes on the cartons of cigarettes they had purchased over the Internet. It’s the law. A single pack of cigarettes in New York City comes with a state tax of $1.50, a city tax of $1.50, and a federal tax of 39 cents. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes will cost you $7.00. A 10-pack carton will cost you more than $55.00. Purchased at an international airport’s duty-free store, the same carton retails for just $16.00.
There are few, if any, people that do not know there is an element of risk involved in the decision to smoke. There is risk involved when any American gets into his car and goes anywhere. Driving kills over 40,000 Americans every year. It is the price we pay for the mobility and other benefits cars and vehicles provide. There is, in fact, risk in every human activity including the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages and even the simple act of eating.
The U.S. engaged in a hugely failed experiment called Prohibition to stop people from drinking alcoholic beverages at their favorite saloon. It took a Constitutional amendment to end it. For many years now, the same thinking that imposed Prohibition has been at work to achieve the same outcome with smoking.
It is un-American in the most profound sense of that term. In a nation founded on the individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, preventing people from the enjoyment of smoking runs contrary to the inherent right to enjoy this lifestyle option if you want.
Consider, however, some events in 2004. The first worldwide antismoking treaty--the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)--was ratified and is now in effect. It is yet another example of the United Nations’ intention to control every aspect of the lives of everyone on planet Earth. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the lead organization in America and it has promised to "now concentrate on enforcement efforts."
During 2004 six nations imposed a no-smoking ban. Among them were Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. These nations are notable for their liberal, i.e., socialist political agendas. Here in the U.S., so-called "nonsmoker’s rights" became law in Idaho, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. At the local level, 32 jurisdictions passed comprehensive workplace smoking laws in 2004 along with "less comprehensive smokefree workplace laws.
There’s more. Eleven States, including Virginia where historically tobacco was the crop that encouraged its establishment and growth as an American colony, substantially increased their cigarette taxes. Consider the example of New York City and multiply it by other cities and states, cashing in while, at the same time, banning smoking indoors and out. That is obscene.
Now imagine a similar level of taxation on a candy bar, a cup of coffee or soft drink. Think it can’t happen? Think again.
ASH has big plans for 2005. It plans to "take advantage of a new ruling which now makes it possible for sensitive nonsmokers to sue states which do not provide them with reasonable protection from tobacco smoke pollution." These suits will eventually cost taxpayers millions, draining vital financial resources from serious needs such as infrastructure improvements. ASH will push for more and more bans on people who smoke outdoors on beaches and elsewhere. In California, it is already against the law to light up on the beach.
Let’s say you’ve just bought a condo or moved to an apartment. ASH intends to encourage and assist lawsuits by apartment dwellers who object to neighbors smoking in their own apartments. In the name of protecting children, ASH will pursue laws that ban parents from smoking around their children by getting courts to issue orders to ban smoking in custody cases or by a foster parent or in a car while driving children anywhere.
All this is happening in the "land of the free and the home of the brave", as well as around the world where the UN antismoking treaty bans any advertising for tobacco products, requires health warning labels similar to those on products sold in the US, bans any secondhand smoke in workplaces, public transport, and indoor public places.
It empowers a vast law enforcement program against smuggling and there will be smuggling, leading to cartels that rival illegal drugs. There’s more, but the ultimate objective is to eliminate smoking anywhere on the face of the Earth.
This is pure fascism using the power of the state to deny this simple pleasure from being enjoyed anywhere. And when the national and global antismoking campaign is successful, these same people will turn their attention to banning the consumption of meat, fish, cookies, candy, potato chips, soft drinks or anything else they decide you should not enjoy.
Do smokers have any rights? Apparently not.
your rights away
It's taking from one group and redistributing the money to another, which is fine and dandy for most, until your group becomes the one discriminated against
Pryor Daily Times - Sommer Woodward - February 2, 2005.
cigarette tax hike has arrived and countless smokers are either paying
more for their packs of tobacco, going to the various smokeshops scattered
across our state or buying from the Internet to avoid the increase.
The people of Oklahoma voted 763,034 to 667,239, approving the 80 cent per pack cigarette tax increase.
Watch out, though, because next time it's going to be a tax on farmers who use chicken litter, grocery stores that use plastic sacks instead of paper, or my favorite, fast food, which has already been tried in some places.
The logic behind a fast food tax is the food is fattening and contributes to the obesity and health problems of the American people.
But every time I turn around, a new study provided by the medical community will tell me that eggs are not healthful. But wait, then there is another that says eggs are healthful and should be consumed as much as you want.
Then, it's protein is good for you, regardless of the fat content. But wait again, another group or another study will tell you that high protein and high fat content is bad.
So, what are we supposed to believe? And how do you apply a tax?
I, personally, like potato chips, pizza rolls, ice cream, meat, Little Debbies and all kinds of food that, depending on who you are talking with, might be healthful or not.
Will you vote for a tax on pizza rolls? Will you vote for a tax on french fries?
I imagine some people who don't eat those things would say yes, they would vote for a tax as long as it goes to fix our health issues in Oklahoma.
Some friends of mine explained they voted for the cigarette tax because they don't smoke and why should they care, "It sounds like it's going to go for something good, so why not. It won't affect me."
My problem with that line of reasoning is, "Rome wasn't burnt in a day, Hitler didn't gain his power and kill millions of jews overnight, and our freedoms are not going to be taken away from us immediately. They will be taken away slowly."
When the legislature decided that public places and businesses should be smoke free, they took away the rights of the property owner to decide what will be allowed or not allowed in their own establishment.
I've heard non-smokers explain and ask, "What about my rights to eat in a healthy, smoke-free environment?"
My answer is, smokers and non-smokers alike have the exact same rights. You both can choose whether or not to go to an establishment that allows smoking, you both can choose to avoid those you don't like and you both have the option, freedom and opportunity to open a smoke-free or smoking allowed restaurant of your own.
So, in my opinion, no rights are being violated, except the rights of the property owners who no longer are able to make decisions on what they will allow on their own property.
Instead, they are being told what they can and cannot allow and will be fined heavily if they do not comply.
I believe our founding fathers would be ashamed that we are allowing our rights to be peeled away from us. Property rights are a fundamental principal that our founding fathers understood. They fought to have the right to own their property. It is a shame we allow those rights to erode every day.
If I were a restaurant owner, I should be allowed to decide if I want people smoking or not in my store.
As a non-smoker, I would patronize businesses that don't allow smoking. When I was a smoker, I would have gone to the guy who allowed me to smoke while I ate.
If you don't like smoking, then don't go where smoking is allowed.
It seems practical enough to me, but, unfortunately, that isn't enough.
The rights of the owner are taken away and he or she is prevented from having a say in what they would want for their own business.
This kind of infringement on a person's ability to decide what they want on their own property is an erosion of our Constitutional property rights.
The increased tax on cigarettes to fund health programs for all of Oklahoma is just as bad or worse. It discriminates against those who smoke to provide health care services for not only smokers, but non-smokers alike.
Why should smokers be forced to pay for health services that are not services provided exclusively to them?
If Oklahomans want to provide health services to the uninsured and fund various other health programs, then all of Oklahoma should foot the bill, not just who some people, even if it's a majority of people, think should pay for it.
It's taking from one group and redistributing the money to another, which is fine and dandy for most, until your group becomes the one discriminated against.
Some might say the idea of a tax discriminating against fast food patrons or any other service industry is unlikely. But I say it's only a matter of time.
Why should I care? I don't smoke those nasty little cigarettes anymore so the tax doesn't affect me.
But that doesn't mean the next tax won't.
'truth' about tobacco smoke
Oak Ridger News - Ellen Rogers - January 28, 2005
how harmful is environmental tobacco smoke?
Not as harmful as the Environmental Protection Agency or those anti-secondhand smoke commercials would have one believe, according to Roger A. Jenkins, Ph.D., consultant to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Chemical Sciences division.
Jenkins presented "Human Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Is What You See What You Get?" at ORNL this week.
"Some people wish I didn't have the findings I have," Jenkins said. "Others say, 'Gee, if this is true, why does the EPA continue to talk about this?' [The research] steps on people's toes, and that's exactly what I want it to do."
Environmental tobacco smoke is a highly diluted mixture of sidestream (70 to 90 percent) and exhaled mainstream (10 to 30 percent) of tobacco smoke.
"'Secondhand' smoke is probably misleading, since most ETS is derived from smoke which is emitted by the smoldering firecone of a cigarette," Jenkins said.
According to Jenkins, the typical smoker inhales 480 milligrams of smoke a day and 32 milligrams of nicotine per day. In a home where smoking is unrestricted, the typical non-smoker will inhale the equivalent of .45 milligrams of smoke particles and .028 milligrams of nicotine.
There are several science-related hurdles to overcome in educating the public about ETS, Jenkins said. The first is getting the public to understand the difference between personal beliefs and science.
"In a society where there are still serious debates about evolution, this can be a real challenge," he said.
The second is avoiding the "means justifying the end syndrome," which Jenkins says involves the distortion of science in the name of preventing youth from smoking.
The third major hurdle is demanding "public policy types" provide perspective for the facts they declare.
"Sure, there are 43 carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in ETS, but there are also probably about 40 carcinogens in diesel exhaust and wood smoke," Jenkins said.
Indoor air pollution is also caused by many things other than non-tobacco sources, including cleaning, cooking, consumer products like Raid and wood burning.
"As (physician) Paracelsus said in the early 1500's, 'the poison is in the dose,'" Jenkins said. "We still continue to eat lettuce and take showers despite their carcinogens. Life is risky business."
Jenkins is simply remaining true to his profession by bringing forth this politically incorrect information, he says.
"When you start tinkering with science because you want to achieve some political aim, you are no longer a scientist."
Jenkins retired in September from his position as leader of the Environmental Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry Group in the Chemical Sciences Division at ORNL. He has authored or co-authored more than 45 open literature publications in the area of field analytical chemistry and tobacco smoke characterization and human exposure. He is the lead author of "The Chemistry of Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Composition and Measurement," Second Edition.
Jenkins has also acted as an expert witness in several high-profile litigations involving environmental and mainstream tobacco smoke composition and exposure.
Philadelphia Daily News - Stu Bykofsky - January 25, 2005
- IF YOU GOT 'em, smoke 'em.
But first, leave the bar and step into the alley.
It was expected that at today's first meeting of the year, City Council would get a bill from Councilman Michael Nutter to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other enclosed areas.
I say "expected," because Nutter tells me he's not sure he will introduce it today because he's working with Mayor Street on it, and there are details to iron out. (A less draconian bill from Nutter in 2000 got pecked to death.)
Flying the flag of protecting patrons and workers, Nutter (with the enthusiastic support of our water-swigging, question-dodging mayor) wants to douse the smoking lamp to provide "protection" I hear no one clamoring for.
Much smoking now banned
From personal observation I know many restaurants, without orders from the Council Nanny, already have banned smoking (Famous Deli, for example), while others permit it only at the bar (Valanni, for example), or have created a smoke-only alcove (the Palm, for example).
These are solutions provided by the free market.
They are not good enough for Nutter, who says science proves it's "impossible" to screen out all smoke "particulates" in restaurants.
Impossible? A wall could be built between smokers and nonsmokers.
That would be costly, Nutter says.
Let the owners make that call, I say. His not-yet-writ bill is expected to be an all-out ban extending its tentacles even to private clubs.
Here's how I see it: If a restaurant allows smoking and tobacco smoke makes you retch, go to another restaurant. I don't like to watch belly-dancing while I eat, but I wouldn't ban it from Middle Eastern restaurants. I would just eat elsewhere.
If you are among the minority who is dying to smoke (pun intended), you can choose a restaurant that permits it.
Are bars different?
Many smokers (like myself) can "do without" during a meal. It's much harder to "pass" at a bar, because smokers who are drinkers usually spend more time there than in a restaurant. Drinkers who are not smokers will find smoke-free bars.
Such as the Ale House in Newtown Square, which just went smokeless and nobody ordered owner Jim O'Connor to do it. He simply decided it was good for his business and for his health.
A former smoker (he quit Marlboros 18 years ago) O'Connor confessed he had hoped the state would pass no-smoke regulations to give him cover, but when that didn't happen, he made the leap on his own. His business has been affected only favorably, he told me.
Smokers are big spenders
I applaud him on his choice. I also applaud taproom owners who want to permit smoking because smokers spend more and are more fun. That's another personal observation, but even butt-banning, bar-operator O'Connor agrees with me.
Nutter believes government has a "responsibility" to protect people and says if we knew there was a place where "benzine was dripping from the ceiling," we'd shut it down. He likens that to smoking, while insisting he has nothing against smokers or smoking.
On the subject of dangers from known carcinogens, I ask what Nutter's doing about exhaust fumes from SEPTA buses.
That's state, not a city responsibility, he says.
Finally, he asks why workers in bars and restaurants should be exposed to the dangers of so-called "secondhand smoke."
Fair question. They shouldn't be.
They should work elsewhere.
If you don't want to be exposed to black-lung disease, don't be a coal miner. If you don't want to work in a bar where the owner chooses to cater to smokers, work elsewhere. There are a lot of places you can choose from.
Workers have choices
Nutter feels workers shouldn't be forced to make that choice. I feel that if you don't want back pain, don't be a lettuce picker. If you have a fear of cancer, stay out of occupations where you might run into it.
I'm not writing this to endorse smoking. We all know it's no good for you, but we also know that not all smokers get sick, and if you are worried about any possible contact with smoke, you can avoid it.
I am writing this - a losing battle, I fear - because the John Streets and Michael Nutters of this world won't stop at bars, restaurants, enclosed spaces and private clubs. Smoking next will be banned on the streets and parks.
Next stop: Your home. I remember a lawsuit brought by a neighbor to stop the person from smoking in the next apartment. This year it's smoking, maybe next year it's drinking, then maybe they'll be banning Zorro face masks and Donald Trump combovers.
If smoking is such a public-health menace, treat it like death-dealing drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Make it illegal.
National Post - Father Raymond J. de Souza - January 14, 2005
Health Minister George Smitherman introduced his new anti-smoking legislation
last month, striking a presumed note of moderation: "And so we're saying
to Ontarians, if you want to smoke at home, we're not going to stop you."
That's generous. But just about everywhere else, smoking will be forbidden -- even in private clubs, Legion halls and yes, parking garages, where loiterers presumably might be afflicted by "deadly second-hand smoke". Three months ago, the Ontario Medical Association asked the government to ban smoking in private cars if children were present. So far that is not on the agenda, but otherwise Ontario has embraced the full zealotry of the anti-smoking program.
That's not new. But what is striking is how passionate the Ontario government is about providing moral instruction to its citizens when it comes to matters of health.
The anti-smoking strategy includes a government-funded Web site entitled stupid.ca. It assures us that it is not "meant to be an insult to smokers" because "smokers aren't stupid." Rather it offers "social commentary on the choice to smoke or not to smoke." Oh. Browse the Web site and the only possible conclusion is that if smokers aren't stupid -- meaning that they don't know better -- then they are deliberately making bad choices. That is to say, they are morally inferior.
Governments have been in the "social commentary" business for a long while. Historically, they may have used their coercive powers to build up the moral character of their citizens -- one thinks of prohibition or movie ratings or gambling restrictions. Now, government energy is focused on health. If you wish to let your soul rot in hell, the government will affirm your right to do so -- but don't try it with your body.
So we have the rather ironic situation that the government of Ontario operates casinos, but now won't let you smoke in them. The government of Ontario -- like other provinces -- will entice the public to gamble, but as you are wagering away the grocery money, don't think about lighting a cigarette. Our universities promote condoms to new students with great enthusiasm to avoid disease; nary a word is offered that might question promiscuity as a bad moral choice. Public health authorities will facilitate your drug habit with free needles but are not so keen about telling you that it is simply wrong to shoot yourself up.
On health matters, the government is a veritable church lady. On other matters, it is the permissive mother on the block whose house the other children are forbidden from playing at.
The anti-smoking legislation caps a rather remarkable year on the health front. A private member's bill sailed through Queen's Park making helmets mandatory for adults when cycling, rollerblading or skateboarding. My colleague Andrew Coyne demolished the evidentiary case for mandatory bike helmets in November in these pages, but no matter. The initiative is a moral one: There exists a moral imperative to minimize all health risk, and should you dissent, the law will bind you.
More examples? Last September, the government moved to ban fresh sushi, insisting upon frozen instead because it would be safer. That proved a stretch too far, so the ban did not go through.
What apparently cannot be rescinded is the mentality that free citizens cannot be trusted to manage their own health. When it comes to thorny social issues, those advocating the abandonment of traditional mores insist on the supremacy of individual consciences. But not when it comes to health. Our public policy will not vigorously discourage someone from bearing children out of wedlock, with all its attendant pathologies, but it will do its best to make sure those children's bathwater is the right temperature.
Bathwater? Perhaps you are unfamiliar with a recent public campaign by Toronto Public Health, aimed at getting parents not to burn their children in the bath. A full campaign, complete with posters, brochures and flyers all over Toronto's transit system, funded fully by the Ontario taxpayer, telling parents to check the temperature of their hot water, lest the little ones scald themselves. What kind of mentality spends public health dollars to tell parents what every 14-year-old babysitter knows -- that you check the water temperature before plunging Junior in the tub?
The safety and smoking fanatics operate on the assumption that people are not responsible enough to be trusted with their freedom. So they must be harassed and nagged about bike helmets and bathwater, and if they don't comply, then good habits simply must be legislated. We will be healthy, whether we like it or not.
foe on council sees ban folly
Denver Post - David Harsanyi - January 10, 2005
your smokes and unhealthy contraband. The tyrants of wellbeing are back.
Apparently, the Denver City Council is never too busy to intercede with some good old-fashioned social engineering. And soon enough, smoking in restaurants and bars will be banned.
It's enough to make a holier-than-thou politician - with pristine pink lungs - shriek with delight.
Jeanne Faatz, at this point, is the lone voice of reason on the council. She still believes in trivial things like free enterprise and property rights.
She's sort of an outsider. And although she won't admit it on record, I'm certain the other council members put shaving cream in her shoes, lock her out of meetings and blow spitballs at her.
Don't misunderstand me. Faatz hates smoking. She detests the habit so strongly that she can't stop complaining about it - it causes her to be hoarse and sneeze and makes her stomach coil. She hates being put in this position, protecting smokers.
But Faatz, in contrast to the missionaries of healthful living, appreciates that the ban is not a smoking issue but a matter of freedom.
Faatz loathes sitting next to a smoker in a restaurant. Who doesn't? But she does something extremely peculiar: She gets up, walks out and finds an establishment where she doesn't have to.
"My decision comes from the fact that you have private ownership in business, and they should have the right to target whatever customers they feel the marketplace will give them," she explains. "If, indeed, nobody frequented a smoking establishment, I say, 'Right on, the marketplace has spoken."'
Faatz believes choices and decisions are key in a free society. It's expedient to say, "Yuck, I don't like smoke." But ask yourself this: Do you think government should dictate how a person runs a business? What about customers? Should they be allowed to decide whether they want an all-smoking restaurant or a nonsmoking restaurant?
What if the Denver City Council concluded that cellphones at work should be banned because they have been linked to brain tumors?
Are there justifiable reasons for intervention? Sure. If there is contaminated food or other hidden health issues, government must protect citizens. Full disclosure is imperative. But when the sign in front of a steakhouse reads "smoking allowed," adults should be able to make their own decisions.
Besides, a steady diet of steaks wrapped with bacon is probably apt to kill you a lot faster than secondhand smoke.
We all know what's next. "What about those unfortunate, powerless, coughing employees?" The logical answer given by Faatz is simply that "it is a person's choice where they work." Who is forcing you to work in a smoke-filled diner?
But for the moment, let's advance the argument further: If everyone with a risky job should be protected from all hazards, where would we end up?
You realize the stress a stockbroker goes through? What about the stress a cop experiences? Yes, stress kills far more people than the wildly overstated threat of secondhand smoke. And who can deny the dangers of being a bike messenger, a cabbie or a firefighter?
Smoke Free Denver, another group of sanctimonious nanny types, wants to sabotage freedom for smokers and property owners "to protect the health of Denver residents, workers and visitors from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke."
Well, what about the claims of tens of thousands of deaths due to secondhand smoke?
It's junk science. The University of Chicago's Dr. John Bailar, a critic of the tobacco industry, has produced a detailed analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine debunking the supposed link between secondhand smoke and heart disease. His study is one of many.
But if you don't believe them, there are long lists of smoke-free establishments for you to go to. Enjoy.
I Were a Democrat
Here's what I'd do
Opinion Journal (WSJ) - Peggy Noonan - January 6, 2005
|...And don't forget to confuse categories. Be counterintuitive. Republican Mike Bloomberg of New York won't let workingmen and -women smoke at the local bar. Democrats always wind up in support of such measures. Don't! Distance yourself from the smoke Nazis, from all Nazis. Be sane; take the side of normal humans with normal imperfections. Let the Republicans look stupid on these issues if they choose to. Don't fall for it. The Sierra Club will love you anyway. (Politicians in New York tell me the tide has turned, that even people shuddering outside buildings grabbing a smoke say it's only right. I'm not shuddering outside a building, but I talk to smokers all the time and let me tell you how they feel about the banners. They hate them.)|
and gambling column "indefensible"
Craig Westover - January 4, 2005
I was off the grid, a second shot, not over my bow but aimed right at the
wheelhouse, was delivered by Robert Moffitt, a veteran and communications
manager of the American Lung Association. He found my column “Smoking
ban will crimp charitable gambling” to be offensive and wrong.
Specifically, he objected to my “cheap rhetorical trick” of concluding my column with the question “What is value of an American flag on the coffin of a war veteran compared to a benefit (of smoke-free workplaces) like that?"
The quote is mine, the parenthetical is his characterization of what I was comparing. In point of fact, I was comparing the sincerity of the individuals operating VFW Post 1296 and American Legion 550 in Bloomington in presenting those flags with the insincerity of those caterwauling about the welfare of bar and restaurant employees (or making insincere promises to support non-smoking bars) when they are only concerned about their own convenience when dining out, even if that means ignoring the property rights of others. The entire paragraph Mr. Moffitt misrepresents is this --
But then the self-righteous will be able to drink and dine without the annoyance of other people’s bad habits. What is value of an American flag on the coffin of a war veteran compared to a benefit like that?
In his opening paragraph, Mr. Moffitt states that I “usually try to defend the indefensible position that smoking in public workplaces like restaurants and bars is OK.” Well, if he has read what I wrote, he’d know that I don’t defend smoking in public workplaces like bars and restaurants. I defend smoking in bars and restaurants. In other words, on private property where no individual is required to go against his will. I agree with smoking bans in true public buildings, such as court houses and license bureaus, where a person may be required to enter without his consent. I do not support smoking bans that seek to trump property and individual rights.
If Mr. Moffitt has read my columns, then he would know that I oppose smoking bans on the basis of private property rights, on the basis of the right of contract between employee and employer, on the principle of limited government and on a criteria-based approach to public health. If those rights and principles are “indefensible,” then we’re in more trouble than Mr. Moffitt realizes.
It is interesting that I have written a number of columns that address the specific rights and principles violated by smoking bans, both local and statewide, to which Mr. Moffitt has not responded. Ah, but when statistics are involved, he flies to the battle. That’s understandable; statistics are like scripture in that even the devil can quote them for his own ends.
Mr. Moffit attacks my use of statistics in a perfectly valid way, but he does the devil’s work when he fails to acknowledge is that his counter statistics suffer the same deficiencies.
He says simply that “legitimate” studies show that there is no lasting negative impact on local business from smoking bans. He argues that, in fact, the hospitality industry has grown in many cases. All true. But what Mr. Moffit ignores is that these studies, by groups with a vested interest in the results, are aggregate studies. In other words, data is collected -- usually tax revenues -- from the hospitality sector shows that the state collects more revenue, hence, no harm from the smoking ban.
What aggregate data does not show is what happens to individual businesses within the aggregate. Revenue may increase because the economy picks up and more people go out to eat. Upper-end restaurants might see an increase in business because their clients are generally non-smokers. BUT, a number of small, neighborhood, working class bars with a high percentage of smoking clients see their revenues decline forcing some to go out of business. The ethical and rights-oriented question is “Is it OK for government to pass a law that puts some people out of business if overall the government brings in more revenue?” Mr. Moffitt does not address that question.
His second point is much the same. His definition of “no harm” is the city or state revenue does not drop. He shows no concern for any individual business that may be harmed as long as the governing body doesn’t lose any money. (It's worthy of note that the American Lung Association receives funds from the tobacco settlement money.)
His third charge that the Canadian trade association I quoted stacked the deck to get the survey results it wanted takes some real chutzpah to make. What I would like to see is scientifically how one attributes a death to exposure to secondhand smoke. I happen to be one of those people who really does believe secondhand smoke might be dangerous, but I’m hard pressed to understand where wild “estimates” like the commonly quoted “secondhand smoke causes an estimated 65,000 premature deaths in nonsmokers each year, and those exposed on a regular basis have 25 percent to 35 percent higher rates of death by heart disease” come from.
Given those “estimates,” it seems strange that Mr. Moffitt would find questionable the estimates of revenue loss made by the Eagle’s Club board trustee whose day job is financial management in a major national bank.
My data, and here is a link to additional data, is specific in that individual restaurants can chart the decline in revenue from day one of a smoking ban over time and show that it never recovers to pre-ban levels (see quote below). Such data shows the individual impact on specific businesses, not simply the welfare of the state.
One can argue statistics or one can argue principles. In the latter arena, Mr. Moffitt believes that society is better off when government edict supercedes the right of a private bar or restaurant owner to control legal activity on his property, the right of an individual to participate in a legal activity with the permission of a property owner, the right of employers and employees to enter into contracts with a mutually agreeable exchange of value all by simply labeling a widespread individual habit as a "public" health problem with no appeal to criteria for doing so.
I believe that in a free society, one must often acknowledge the right of others to do things one might find annoying and stupid. I am a non-smoker. When I go out to eat, I will generally wait for a seat in the non-smoking section or choose a non-smoking restaurant if it’s a special occasion. When I go to a bar, I expect people to be smoking, and I willing choose to be exposed to whatever risk that entails. I have no right to dictate to the bar owner or his customers that they must refrain from smoking to make my life more pleasurable.
Mr. Moffitt ends his piece with this paragraph --
I challenge all other veterans and their families -- smokers and nonsmokers -- to join me in supporting VFW Post 1296 and American Legion 550 in Bloomington as they become smoke-free on March 1.
Nice sentiment, but what about the Bloomington Eagles club? Is Mr. Moffitt going to take up bingo? How about a neighborhood bar like Stub and Herb’s over on the University Campus? Night out there with the family? You bet -- that’s what he promised to do in a very similar letter he penned back in August to the Grand Forks Herald, in which he took exception to a letter from Sue Jeffers -- owner of Stub and Herb's, who makes her living from one of those family-owned “everybody knows your name” local watering holes where the majority of regular patrons are smokers.
I'm sorry that Jeffers continues to fixate on her lost cause, instead of looking at the business opportunities of serving the vast majority of nonsmoking adults who like cold beer and hot food without the blue haze. I plan on being among the first wave of former customers who come back to Stub & Herb's on April 1 - the day Minneapolis goes smoke-free.
Must be his stump speech. If he keeps all his promises, Mr. Moffitt is going to have a very busy social calendar and a not insignificant bar tab. (Does he realize the dangers of excessive drinking and eating seasoned restaurant food?)
Sue Jeffer’s letter as printed in the Grand Forks Herald and letters from other individuals who responded to Mr. Moffitt in Grand Forks can be found here -- including a letter from a New York bar/lounge owner who writes --
I own a bar in Manhattan. I've lost nearly half my business to New York's smoking ban. The economy, the blackout, the tragedy of Sept. 11 (which was mere blocks away from my bar), none of these things kept us down for long. We're a popular place. We've been around for seven years (which is ancient in this fickle business). I had every intention of being around for at least seven more.
Now, I and my managers have not been paid for three months. We've gone without so that we could pay the bills. I've had to let go a third of my staff. And there's no explanation other than the smoking ban.
These are the individual stories that get lost in the aggregate data that Mr. Moffitt declares is “legitimate.” These are the individuals who government forces to surrender their livelihoods and property rights so others won’t suffer the inconvenience of finding a place to drink alcohol and enjoy deep-fried cheese curds where they don’t have to breathe secondhand smoke.
No one forces anyone to enter or work in a particular establishment. No one can “catch” cancer or emphysema from someone that frequents bars that allow smoking and thus pose no threat to him. An individual can quite reasonably protect himself from secondhand smoke by not going to those bars and restaurants that allow smoking.
Bottom line -- smoking bans in bars and restaurants exceed legitimate government authority; and that endangers all free people, smokers and non-smokers alike.
Crusade for Politically-Correct
The Freeman - Thomas J. DiLorenzo - September 1995
seems to be running amok in the United States. The federal excise tax on
alcohol was doubled in 1991; many states have sharply increased tax rates
on tobacco products and have enacted myriad smoking bans; the Washington
Post reports a growing movement to ban the wearing of perfume in the workplace;
and the New York Times recently promoted the idea of imposing new “sin
taxes” on high-fat foods. In the past year, “reports” issued by various
Washington-based, neo-puritanical political activists have condemned hot
dogs, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican food, beer, steak, milk(!), and even
golf courses (too many lawn chemicals).
The various nonprofit organizations that are promoting politically-correct consumption, such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Lung Association (ALA), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, all describe themselves as “public interest” advocates. Despite their altruistic rhetoric, however, these organizations benefit financially from their attack on smoking, drinking, and general consumer enjoyment. They typically lobby for “sin taxes” that earmark revenues to them so that they can continue to hector the public into adopting “politically-correct” lifestyles. There is much evidence, moreover, that the expenditure of these funds has done nothing to improve public health, and may even have been harmful to it in some cases. A case in point is California's tobacco tax.
California's Tobacco Tax Pork Barrel
California voters passed a referendum in 1988 (Proposition 99) that increased the state's cigarette tax by 25 cents a pack and earmarked the funds for anti-smoking education in schools and communities, hospital and physician treatment of indigent patients, research on tobacco-related diseases, and “environmental concerns.” The last category was apparently established to buy the political support of environmental groups. Over $500 million per year was initially raised from the tax.
The way in which the new tax was promoted—as a constitutional amendment—illustrates that the main priority was always to create a revenue source for neo-puritanical political activists, not to deter smoking.
A lobbyist for the California Medical Association, for example, proclaimed that “the principal reason for the tax is not to raise money. The principal reason is to stop smoking.” And, “if a tax were imposed and it raised nothing, we would be delighted—that would mean nobody would be buying cigarettes.” The facts, however, present a very different picture.
The proposed cigarette tax increase could have been approved by the California legislature if the coalition's only objective was to reduce the incidence of smoking by raising the price of cigarettes—a straightforward application of the economic law of demand. There was a “problem” however, in that in 1979 California voters passed Proposition 4, a constitutional amendment that limited state spending. If the state were to reach its spending limit, then tax revenues from cigarette taxes would have to be refunded to smokers in particular and to the public in general. The ACS, ALA, AHA, and the California Medical Association would get nothing, even though the tax's supposedly salutary effects on cigarette consumption, which the coalition claimed were its only concern, would still prevail.
The coalition could not countenance such an outcome, so it pushed for a statewide referendum, Proposition 99, that would add another constitutional amendment. This strategy was necessary, according to state assemblyman Lloyd Connely, the coalition's legislation “connection,” because of “the so-called Gann spending limit passed by voters in 1979.” Without a constitutional amendment, “the legislature could be forced to refund the tax if the state reaches its spending limit.” Thus, the main objective of the coalition was to capture the revenue from the cigarette tax, not to discourage smoking.
A Pork Barrel for Neo-Puritans
Proposition 99 created a giant pork barrel for a vast network of public-health bureaucrats, public schools, and nonprofit political activists under the umbrella group, “Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights” (ANR) whose spokesman, Glenn Barr, has stated his goal as to “force [smokers] to do the right thing for themselves.”
The law has showered the public schools and local chapters of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and American Heart Association with more than $150 million ostensibly to teach children to be nonsmokers. But in reality much of the money has simply been squandered on student “gift” programs that give away backpacks, gift certificates, movie tickets, compact discs, radios, sports equipment, and even lottery tickets as “rewards” for a promise to quit smoking.
Some school districts used the funds for pool parties, carnivals, trips to Yosemite National Park, and to sponsor “outrageous stunt” contests that award prizes to whoever performs the weirdest feat to shock a loved one into stopping smoking. Past winners include a girl who consumed an entire can of Mighty Dog dog food.
Since no serious effort is made to verify whether students have taken up smoking or not, the program is simply a giant giveaway of tax dollars and another make-work program for nonprofit sector “activists,” government health department bureaucrats, and public school administrators. A survey by the California Department of Health Services failed to detect any decline in adolescent smoking, and some health researchers believe the program may actually have increased teenage smoking by making it such an official taboo. A state-funded evaluation of the anti-smoking education efforts by University of California professor John P. Pierce concluded that they had “no effect on tobacco use.”
Proposition 99 forbids the use of tax funds “to promote partisan politics or candidates” or “to promote the passage of any law.” But the tax-funded political activists have blatantly flouted this law from the beginning by lobbying for hundreds of anti-smoking ordinances. For example, Contra Costa County published minutes from a public meeting in which it promised to “play a crucial role in mobilizing community support” for a proposed ordinance. Sacramento County sent out flyers urging voters to pass an anti-smoking ordinance, and government employees from Butte County spent work time lobbying for an ordinance there. Government officials and political activists have gotten away with violating the laws prohibiting tax-funded politics by claiming that the funds are used for “education,” not politics.
Most of the “research” funded by Proposition 99 is so useless that even the legislative sponsor of the law, state assemblyman Philip Isenberg, demanded a reallocation of funds away from research and toward indigent and prenatal care in 1994. He became skeptical of the value of “research” on how quickly one's teeth turn yellow from smoking or “discovering” that teenage “troublemakers” tend to smoke. Some of the research money is used for political intelligence gathering and “doesn't deserve to be classified as research,” according to former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. Brown was referring to the more than $4 million in grants given to University of California at San Francisco Professor Stanton Glantz for his work “tracking tobacco industry activities in California,” which Brown says is what politicians do to each other when running for re-election and has nothing to do with disease research.
The California state assembly defunded Glantz and diverted the money (and other “research” money) to indigent care, prenatal care for poor women, and medical care for people with inherited diseases. Under the umbrella of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, of which he is president, Glantz then sued California for devoting too much money to medical care for indigents and too little for his political spying operation.
In addition to suing the California legislature because of his apparent belief that his research grants from the state should be considered an entitlement, Glantz applied for and received federal grants for his “research.” According to Freedom of Information Act information received by the author, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded Glantz $223,214 in 1994, the first installment on a three-year grant.
NCI is using taxpayers' funds to pay Glantz to spy on both the producers and consumers of cigarettes. Among the items listed on his proposed research agenda:
• Collecting data on campaign contributions by the tobacco industry since 1975;
• Studying “the role of coalition politics” in passing tobacco excise taxes so that more taxes can be passed in other states;
• Producing “how to lobby” manuals for other neo-puritanical political activists;
• Conducting “opposition research” and spying on various “smokers' rights” groups that have sprung up.
“Preliminary research” has revealed that these groups seem to rely on arguments related to freedom, individual rights, liberty, the U.S. Constitution, and the paternalistic nature of government. They also seem to encourage tolerance, respect for others, peaceful coexistence, and good will toward others, according to Glantz's grant application.
One purpose of Glantz's tax-funded research is to try to discredit all these principles and to construct counterarguments, utilizing his “extensive database of media contacts,” which he says includes all the major television networks.
Glantz and other anti-smoking zealots from California have already proven that they care little for civil liberties in their crusade for politically-correct behavior. For example, they used taxpayers' money in California to pay (other people's) children to conduct “sting” operations against convenience store owners, an activity condemned by local police as “vigilantism.” The teenagers were paid to try to buy cigarettes to “spotlight” the illegal sale of cigarettes to minors. When the practice was criticized by law enforcement officials, the activists justified the “sting” operation by saying, “a lot of people [other activists, presumably] agree with what we're doing.” What a lesson to be teaching children: the ends justify the means as long as “a lot” of people agree with them.
Coercion and Elitism
Federal, state and local governments have funded an entire industry of anti-smoking crusaders, but smoking is just the first target of these neo-puritans. As ANR vice-president Julia Carol told the Washington Post, if tobacco disappeared, they'd “simply move on to other causes.”
The neo-puritan movement is composed of elitists who seek to use the coercive powers of the state to express their pet peeves and to force others into politically-correct consumption patterns. In the case of smoking, all the restrictions, bans, and taxes are justified on two basic grounds: so-called second-hand smoke is a health hazard; and smoking imposes a financial burden on the rest of society by increasing health care costs. Both rationales are bogus.
There is no scientific evidence that second-hand smoke causes cancer, period. And researchers at the Rand Corporation and elsewhere have pointed out that the costs that smokers may impose on others is more than counterbalanced by the taxes they pay and by the fact that, because they have a higher chance of dying earlier because of cancer or heart disease, they require lower pension and Social Security benefits. Smokers subsidize the rest of society.
But there is more than economics at stake, as nineteenth-century writer Lysander Spooner showed in Vices Are Not Crimes. On the matter of criminalizing such activities as taking a puff on a cigarette in one's own private office, which is now illegal in Maryland and a number of other states, Spooner pointed out that “it is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practices a vice with any such criminal intent. He practices his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others.”
Thus, the criminalization of the pet peeves of neo-puritanical elitists turns one of the most important maxims of the law on its head. Unless we make this very important distinction between vices and crimes, moreover, then “there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property.” For every human being has his or her vices. And “if government is to take cognizance of any of these vices, and punish them as crimes, then, to be consistent, it must take cognizance of all, and punish all, impartially.” The consequence would be that “everybody would be in prison for his or her vices,” whether they be “gluttony, drunkenness, prostitution, gambling, prize-fighting, tobacco-chewing, smoking, and snuffing, opium-eating, corset-wearing, idleness, waste of property, avarice, hypocrisy, etc., etc.”
Ludwig von Mises added, some 70 years later, that once government determines man's consumption, the question becomes, “why limit the government's benevolent providence to the protection of the individual body only?” Why not prevent us, Mises continued, from “reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?” If one abolishes one's freedom to consume, Mises concluded, then one takes all freedoms away. “The nave advocates of government interference with consumption delude themselves when they neglect what they disdainfully call the philosophical aspect of the problem. They unwittingly support the cause of censorship, inquisition, religious intolerance, and the persecution of dissenters.”
|AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH presents||
Letter to the AMA on Taxing Soft Drinks [November 8, 2006]
This letter was sent to the chair of an American Medical Association committee on the idea of taxing soft drinks to fight obesity, in advance of the committee's formal meeting on the topic:
Dear Dr. Bruton and Ms. Tenoever:
I am writing to express my opposition, and that of my organization, the American Council on Science and Health, to the AMA proposal supporting the addition of "small federal, state, and local taxes" on sugar-sweetened soft drinks, for the stated purposes of having such revenues "earmarked for the prevention and treatment of obesity, as well as public health and medical programs that serve vulnerable populations." As you state, another likely consequence of such taxation would be a decrease in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) due to the price increase resulting from these taxes.
There are numerous reasons why this plan is not likely
to be a benefit to public health. While ACSH is in full agreement with
other public health groups that obesity is increasing in the U.S., and
should be combated with effective methods to prevent a spectrum of obesity-related
disease, the levying of taxes on SSBs is not going to have a significant
preventive (nor curative) effect on obesity, and such a policy has associated
adverse consequences that need to be balanced against any conceivable beneficial
Chicago's War Against Trans Fats [July 20, 2006]
Edmund M. Burke, a long-time Chicago City Councilman, is proposing that the use of cooking oils that contain trans fat be made a crime. He appeared on the Today show this morning to push the plan.
He argues that trans fats are killers and it is the role of government to protect citizens from murderers, rapists, child molesters, and chefs whose cuisine includes even a trace of the much-maligned ingredient. He cites what he believes is the ultimate authority -- the Harvard School of Public Health -- stating that trans fats kill at least 50,000 Americans annually. Burke doesn't realize this is a radical position not held by most scientists. As far as Councilman Burke is concerned, he is just doing his job -- protecting his constituency from what he perceives to be life-threatening "poisons."
Who can blame him? There has been a constant flow of scary news about what the media regularly refers to as "artery-clogging" trans fats. Researchers from Harvard have been releasing rapidly escalating numbers on what they perceive to be the carnage from trans fats in cooking oils and the resulting food items cooked in them.
It's not the Chicago City Council that is guilty of allowing groundless fears to spread about trans fats and human health. It is America's scientists, who have remained mute as the hyperbole about the dangers of trans fats increased to the point where one hysterical New York Times editorial writer claimed that the trans fats in Girl Scout cookies caused more American deaths than Al Qaeda.
It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
In the next couple of months, though, the larger picture concerning the
"danger" of trans fats will be revealed as the American Council on Science
and Health releases its position paper on the subject. Here is a preview:...
Surgeon General's Report Blows Smoke [June 14, 2006]
The latest Surgeon General's Report on the health consequences
of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) -- and a publication from the Centers
for Disease Control (CDC) that accompanies it -- need their own warning
label: "Contains mix of facts, speculation, and downright hyperbole."
Earlier this year in New York City, a public-heath regulation went into effect that set a new and very troublesome precedent, one that insinuates government agencies into personal medical matters.
In mid-January, the city began legally requiring laboratories that do medical testing to report to the Health Department the results of blood-sugar tests for city residents with diabetes — along with the names, ages, and contact information on those patients.
City officials are not only analyzing these data to assess patterns and changes in diabetes prevalence in the city, but are planning "interventions." Simply put, diabetics will soon receive letters and phone calls from city officials offering advice and counsel on how to effectively deal with their medical condition. If you wish to keep your medical data confidential, you cannot. If you want to avoid the "interventions," you can go online and fill out forms requesting that you not be contacted — that is, if you even know the program exists, and you have the sophistication and technology to access the government’s "do not contact" forms. (None of the New York City newspapers have done any in-depth coverage of this new regulation and its implications.)
Diabetes is now among the leading causes of death in the city (and nation) — and its incidence is rapidly increasing. Genetics (family history) plays a major role — blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are much more susceptible to diabetes than whites, for instance. Obesity is a major risk factor for the disease. If not managed prudently, diabetes causes kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes, and other life-threatening or debilitating illnesses. There is good reason for the city's public health establishment to be concerned.
But given that diabetes prevention (through weight control) and management (through diet planning, exercise, monitoring, and medications) are matters of personal commitment and responsibility, the disease cannot effectively be "solved" by government intervention that goes beyond educational programs.
The city’s new reporting policy represents a dramatic change in public-health and preventive-medicine strategy. Government officials have for years required reporting of various infectious diseases. For example, sexually transmitted diseases are reportable so that partners can be traced and alerted to the possibility that they too may be infected. Similarly, if a plague, such as ebola or smallpox, were to break out, we would expect government to track the disease and even to wield quarantine powers. But what those cases have in common is that the diseases in question are communicable.
The mandated reporting of blood-sugar tests is the first reporting program aimed at countering a non-communicable disease. And this may be only a first step in what is an emerging public-health policy that assigns to government the responsibility for reducing the rate of certain diseases — and obesity, after all, contributes greatly to the toll of disease in America. Thus, we can expect that there will be similar proposals mandating reporting of serum-cholesterol levels, blood-pressure readings, and body-mass-index (BMI) scores, with subsequent "interventions" to get people to change their behavior and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and the spectrum of maladies associated with obesity. And we can expect even more government rules and regulations — designed to protect us from what some in public health deem to be the modern-day "vectors" of disease, just as mosquitoes are the vector for malaria.
Along these lines, some states have recently contemplated legislative moves to ban certain food advertising, impose higher taxation on so-called "junk foods" and alcohol, and restrict the sales of soda and other foods and beverages. NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden believes that government should go even further in coercing Americans toward better health: He predicts we will have "regulations to facilitate physical activity, including point-of-service reminders at elevators and safe accessible stairwells [and] modifications of the physical environment to promote physical activity."
Some are resigned to this new regulation, arguing that if government is assigned the role of paying for health care, it is entitled to intervene to reduce the risks of disease and thus reduce the costs. But as we set forth into this brave new world of public health, some facts cannot be ignored:
The implicit assumption behind these monitoring and follow-up programs is that government can be as successful in reducing chronic disease through legislation as it was in wiping out many infectious diseases through classic public-health measures like vaccination and chlorination of water. However, there is no evidence that these new government efforts will pay off in terms of better health.
Matters of patient confidentiality and personal responsibility have been totally overlooked. It is safe to say that most Americans do not want their medical profiles to be a matter of public record. And they do not want clerks from the local health department calling them and telling them how to live their lives. Since so many of the risk factors for chronic disease involve lifestyle factors — overeating, lack of exercise, smoking, and more — the emerging health policies are blurring the distinction between public health and personal health, the former lending itself to community-wide mandates, the latter more appropriately the sphere of individual action and commitment.
In contacting diabetes patients to urge them to follow various protocols to preserve their health, the city is not only shattering the confidentiality of the physician-patient relationship but assuming that personal physicians are incapable of performing this role.
When the government's phone calls and letters nagging people to eat better, quit smoking, and be more physically active don't work, the next phase of the war on chronic disease may be a harshly punitive one, with fines and other restrictions on those who fail to heed the health warnings. The message will be: Live a healthy life or the government will punish you.
New York City's law mandating the reporting of diabetic
blood tests is a harbinger of more intrusive legislation to come — all
in the name of public health. It is high time we reflect upon the difference
between public and private health, critically evaluate what role the government
should play in the prevention of chronic disease, and carefully assess
what cost we might pay in privacy and individual freedoms as the government
performs "interventions" to protect us from ourselves.
Cigarettes kill. Cigarettes are bad for your health. The American Council on Science and Health has made that clear since we opened our doors in 1978. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death, accounting for approximately 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S. -- nearly one in every four deaths, and one in every two premature deaths each year.
But we at ACSH hold to the belief that the best way to
lose an argument is to overstate it. And overstatement is exactly
what a growing number of members of the anti-smoking community are doing.
Indeed, anti-smokers are becoming increasingly unscientific, arrogant,
absolutist, and intolerant of dissenting views...
More on EPA and Air Pollution: Junk Science and Legal Precedents [January 3, 2005]
In a previous piece, Dr. Dunn criticized the science behind some pivotal air pollution studies. In this follow-up, he looks at some of the legal consequences of that bad science.
If litigants in a lawsuit against the EPA were to show an invalid, arbitrary or unjustified use of science, or disqualify the science under the Daubert and Federal Rules of Evidence 702 tests for admissability in Federal courts(5), then the EPA or its state agency surrogates would be stopped dead in their tracks. The industry organizations who were the plaintiffs in the case above, fighting the '97 regs, did not flesh out their complaints about the bad public health science (the Six City and Pope studies) well enough to create a focus on that issue. The time will come for another try.
In the future, the science of regulatory activity must be more vigorously challenged, so that bad public health research can no longer be used as propaganda or as a legal and regulatory club. The basic research has to be put to the test, along with the risk and benefit analysis. Risk-benefit research is possible. The value of years of life saved or lives saved is now an important factor in policy making, well recognized in agency benefit analysis. That said, the public and interested parties have failed to test agencies adequately on the numbers and the rationality of agencies' risk assessment (such as use of the precautionary principle -- no acceptable risks and no cost limits -- which can cost billions per death avoided or year of life added).
Since epidemiology rules require relative risk of death increases of 200 to 300% to show causation proof (as distinguished from absolute changes in death rates) and these air pollution studies fail that test, the best that can be said is that it if one dredges the data enough, eventually one might find a suggestion, an "association," that justifies more studies but doesn't scientifically prove anything.
There is always a toxic threshold level below which no serious negative effects occur, even for the most potent toxins such as arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, phosgene, or the potent irritants like ammonia, chlorine, nitrogen dioxide, or sulfur dioxide.
This evidence for no mortality association from ozone,
carbon monoxide, and the dioxide ozone precursors creates a large hole
in the current air pollution crusade, and suggests complete reevaluation
is needed. The offense of these pollutants to society's sense of
smell is not enough to justify massive, expensive disablement of economic
activity. Aesthetic sensibility offenses require a different measure
of risk and benefit, if there is no measurable health or mortality effect.
In such a scenario, other economic and social considerations become more
important: where to spend money more wisely and how to balance aesthetics
with regulatory or property or freedom costs. Air pollution research is
now a weak and deceptive attempt to prop up an aesthetic crusade, much
as worked-over secondhand smoke studies were sometimes misused by opponents
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, 2004, 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