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.
ANGELES TIMES: Blowing smoke on workplace health
LA Times - Editorial - April 5, 2013
best way to hire productive employees is to look for people with qualifications,
talent, honesty and commitment. Now, however, a small but growing number
of employers are looking for something else as well: job applicants who
don't smoke. As much as we despair of the death and damage caused by tobacco,
this new employment criterion strikes us as a lamentable and unwarranted
intrusion into applicants' private lives -- and one that should worry anyone
in this country who has an elevated risk for any sort of injury or illness.
In other words, most of us.
It's one thing to ask people to bear more of the cost of their preventable illness by paying higher premiums, but to deprive them of the chance at a livelihood because they engage in perfectly legal behavior is outrageous. By all means, outlaw smoking in the workplace, but as long as employees are doing a good job, their legal, personal behavior on their own time and outside the office is just that -- personal.
It's unclear whether such policies would actually save employers money. Smokers do have increased health risks -- smoking is still the top cause of premature death in the United States -- but are they a worse risk than people who text while driving or who don't wear seat belts? And if the goal is indeed simple economics and improved health, the slope toward ridiculous employment biases is so slippery, it might as well be coated with trans fats. Certain ethnic groups, for instance, have strong genetic predispositions to Type II diabetes; other people might have a family tendency toward early heart disease or one cancer or another. Should employers bar them as well? Race and ethnicity complicate the situation. African-Americans are about 33 percent more likely to smoke than whites.
Employers shouldn't be making moral judgments about one health risk vs. another. In the end, the best workers are chosen on the basis of the work they do, not their bad health habits.
I Voted Against The Tobacco Tax
Jewish Journal - Dennis Prager - June 27, 2012
few weeks ago, California voters narrowly rejected another tax increase
not only on cigarettes, but also on those mass murderers — cigar and pipe
smokers. As expected, proponents of Proposition 29 blame its defeat on
all the money tobacco companies spent on ads against the proposition. Whenever
a candidate or vote supported by progressives is defeated, the loss is
attributed to money. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was not recalled? This,
too, was explained by money, not by the widespread taxpayer revulsion with
public employee unions helping to bankrupt states (like California).
On the other hand, in 2008, when then-Sen. Barack Obama became the first major-party candidate to reject public campaign funding and raised more than $740 million in private money, outspending Republican John McCain nearly 4-to-1, no progressives complained that the Obama win was due to money. Nor, it should be noted, did conservatives.
Those who complain about tobacco companies spending against Proposition 29 also ignore the many hundreds of millions of dollars in anti-tobacco ads spent by the state of California and by anti-smoking organizations over the last decades. Not to mention the anti-tobacco messages drummed into young people from first grade through high school.
This California voter saw a total of one anti-Proposition 29 ad and voted against the proposition for many reasons. I suspect that most other Californians who voted against the proposition — the vast majority of whom, like me, do not smoke cigarettes, know how unhealthy they are and are repelled by their smell — did so for similar reasons.
(Full disclosure: I have smoked cigars and a pipe since I was a teenager; my father, 93 years old, has smoked cigars nearly every day for about 70 years, and my sons and I have some of our most wonderful father-son talks over cigars.)
Many of us reject the notion that people — especially poor people, who make up the bulk of cigarette smokers — should have their hard-earned money taken from them at astronomical rates just because they engage in what is a potentially lethal activity.
This will stun anti-tobacco zealots, but given a choice between avoiding health risks and taking away individual liberty, many Americans actually come down on the side of liberty. Moreover, it is, to put it mildly, a morally confused society that uses public funds to pay perfectly healthy women to destroy perfectly healthy human fetuses/babies, but takes away huge amounts of people’s money for engaging in an act that adversely affects only them. (Readers who believe the made-up statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year from secondhand smoke, but who prefer science to propaganda, might wish to read, among many other studies and articles, two that are linked to in the online version of this story. One, on the Your Doctor’s Orders Web site, discusses the myth of secondhand smoke. The other is a National Institutes of Health report on the same topic.)
I warned 20 years ago that the war against tobacco was morally misguided. If morality was the animating impulse, why was there no similar war against alcohol, attempting to tax it out of existence, banning its ads, etc.? Cigarette smokers can hurt themselves, but alcohol is frequently involved in murder and other cases of violent crime, particularly sexual assault; drunken drivers kill and maim tens of thousands of Americans each year; and most child and spousal abuse is accompanied by alcohol. No one rapes, drives into vehicles filled with families, or abuses a spouse because of having smoked a cigarette or cigar.
Too much alcohol impairs the ability of the conscience to function properly. Too many cigarettes or cigars have no impact on the conscience.
If no American drank alcohol, virtually no one in America would die or be maimed at the hands of drunken drivers; child and spousal abuse would be reduced by an incredible two-thirds; murders of strangers would be reduced by about a third; the incidence of rape and other sexual assaults would be significantly reduced; and millions of children would not have the permanent disability of having grown up with an alcoholic parent. (A link to Bureau of Justice statistics can be found in the online version of this story.)
On the other hand, if no American smoked — or, for that matter, if all Americans smoked — it would have no effect on the number of Americans killed or maimed by other drivers; the number of children, spouses or other intimates abused: and no adverse effect on children’s psyches.
What is mind-blowing is that none of these facts matter to the anti-smoking and other health fanatics.
I also warned that, following tobacco, other unhealthy products would be banned or unfairly taxed. Sure enough, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed that the city ban servings of sugar-based sodas in cups larger than 16 ounces.
Having not drunk a sugared beverage since childhood, I think any overweight person who drinks regular soda is making a big mistake. But I would prefer to live in a country of obese citizens who are free than in a country of thin citizens who are not.
There are now calls for banning the sale of popcorn at movie theaters. Eventually, citizens will have to carry calorie cards that limit how much an individual will be allowed to consume in any given day. If health trumps liberty, why not?
When one adds the virtual certitude that most funds from yet another tax would be squandered by the state, there was no good or moral reason to have voted for Proposition 29.
Had the tax passed, many, if not most, of the cigar stores in California would have gone out of business. In addition to costing our beleaguered state more jobs, that would have broken my heart. When I visit one of my favorite places in Los Angeles, Fat Stogies on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, I sit and shmooze with other guys — most recently an Orthodox Jew, an Armenian, a black and one or both of the Arab brothers who own the store — and thank God for an America where men from such diverse backgrounds can so enjoy each other. And I thank my dad for introducing me to the joy of cigars. So, please leave us alone. We’re not hurting anyone.
For two articles on secondhand smoke and a link to Bureau of Justice statistics on alcohol and violence, visit:
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - March 14, 2012
month, at a Raeford, N.C., elementary school, a teacher confiscated the
lunch of a 5-year-old girl because it didn't meet U.S. Department of Agriculture
guidelines and therefore was deemed nonnutritious. She replaced it with
school cafeteria chicken nuggets. The girl's home-prepared lunch was nutritious;
it consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, a banana and
apple juice. But whether her lunch was nutritious or not is not the issue.
The issue is governmental usurpation of parental authority.
In a number of states, pregnant teenage girls may be given abortions without the notification or the permission of parents. The issue is neither abortion nor whether a pregnant teenager should have an abortion. The issue is this: What gives the government the authority to usurp parental authority?
Part of the problem is that people who act as instruments of government do not pay a personal price for usurping parental authority. The reason is Americans, unlike Americans of yesteryear, have become timid and, as such, come to accept all manner of intrusive governmental acts. Can you imagine what a rugged American, such as one portrayed by John Wayne, would have done to a government tyrant who confiscated his daughter's lunch or facilitated her abortion without his permission?
I believe that the anti-tobacco movement partially accounts for today's compliant American. Tobacco zealots started out with "reasonable" demands, such as the surgeon general's warning on cigarette packs. Then they demanded nonsmoking sections on airplanes. Emboldened by that success, they demanded no smoking at all on airplanes and then airports and then restaurants and then workplaces -- all in the name of health. Seeing the compliant nature of smokers, they've moved to ban smoking on beaches, in parks and on sidewalks in some cities. Now they're calling for higher health insurance premiums for smokers. Had the tobacco zealots demanded their full agenda when they started out, they would not have achieved anything.
Using the anti-tobacco crusade as their template and finding Americans so compliant, zealots and would-be tyrants are extending their agenda. Why not control what we eat? San Francisco, Chicago and several other cities have outlawed or are seeking to outlaw serving foie gras in restaurants. Here's my challenge to these people: Don't be a coward and use the state to accomplish your agenda. If you see Williams eating foie gras, just come up and take it off his plate.
Other food tyrants want to stop us from eating Dove and Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Mrs. Fields cookies and McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. San Francisco has already banned McDonald's from selling Happy Meals with toys in them as sales pitches to children. Seeing San Franciscan compliance may have been the source of inspiration for the North Carolina schoolteacher who took the 5-year-old girl's lunch.
Americans have become compliant in nation-crippling ways. Over the past several years, gasoline prices have been shooting through the roof, but not to worry. President Barack Obama's current secretary of energy, Steven Chu, said in December 2008, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." That translates to $8 or $9 a gallon. During a recent hearing on the Department of Energy's budget, Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., asked Secretary Chu whether it is the DOE's "overall goal" to lower gasoline prices. "No," Chu responded. "The overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy."
Because Americans are so compliant and willing to suffer silently at the gasoline pump, the Obama administration is willing to press on as handmaidens of environmental extremists who want to halt the exploration of our country's vast oil supplies, which are estimated to be triple those of Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration would rather pour more taxpayer dollars into risky alternative crony energy suppliers and electric cars. The OPEC nations have to be laughing at us, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were revealed that they are making under-the-table payments to environmental wackos.
How long before the government places graphic warning labels on junk food?
Richmond Times-Dispatch - A. Barton Hinkle - June 29, 2011
get too used to those graphic new cigarette warnings Washington regulators
unveiled last week. They’re going to disappear one way or the other.
The courts might throw them out on First Amendment grounds. That seems unlikely. But if the judicial branch doesn’t get rid of them, the executive branch will. Not because it decided they were too repulsive. No, federal authorities plan to update the warning labels to keep the shock value fresh.
"We’ll begin . . . studies to make sure that we are keeping people sensitized," says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. "What may seem quite shocking at the beginning, people get used to quite quickly." So if people build up a tolerance for the repulsive, the FDA will amp the dial up to grotesque.
Although the placement of graphic warning labels on commercial products is novel in the U.S., government’s use of the gross-out is nothing new. Wartime propaganda posters of an earlier age routinely depicted the enemy as monstrous beasts to be slain or subhuman bugs to be exterminated.
Of course, no one backing the new warning labels would call them propaganda. Rather, the FDA’s Lawrence Deyton says, "We are trying to communicate accurate, truthful information about the health impact of smoking, to allow consumers to be informed."
That is a lie. The old warnings—informing buyers that cigarettes cause cancer, and so forth—conveyed information. The new labels are designed to provoke a reaction in that lizard part of your brain thoughts never reach. A warning on a ladder that reads, "Caution: Improper use could lead to serious injury from falling" conveys information. A graphic photo of a compound tibia fracture conveys only sentiment.
It’s the kind of cheap trick you could play with just about anything. Take exercise. Sporting-equipment companies glamorize it just as cigarette companies glamorize smoking, with beautiful idols looking too cool for school as they engage in the activity. But you could de-glamorize exercise in a hurry by forcing people to view pictures of dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments, and genitals covered in raging cases of jock itch.
Since the gross-out is cross-functional, it’s reasonable to ask when the federal government will start showing us disgusting pictures on packages of food, in which Washington also takes a keen interest. Indeed, someone asked Sibelius that very question during a press conference about the cigarette labels. Her response was evasive. Food labels are voluntary, she said. And tobacco is unique because smoking is "the No. 1 cause of preventable death."
It won’t be No. 1 forever. Obesity is gaining ground fast. Sibelius says smoking imposes "$200 billion a year in health costs." According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity costs the U.S. about $150 billion. Ergo, Sibelius says the government has an interest in food because "it has a lot to do with underlying health costs and [the] overall health of our nation. . . . The work around obesity and healthier, more nutritious eating" will be "an ongoing focus."
Do tell. Already the federal government has organized an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children in "an effort to combat childhood obesity – the most serious health crisis facing today’s youth."
The working group—comprising the FTC, the CDC, the FDA, and the Agriculture Department—already has proposed that food companies either (a) change their child-centered products to make them healthier or (b) lose the right to advertise them. The proposal is ostensibly voluntary. But then so is paying the Mafia protection money not to burn down your store.
In brief, the arc of food regulation seems to be following the arc of tobacco regulation: "voluntary" measures imposed "for the sake of the children" at first—followed by less voluntary, more comprehensive regulation undertaken for the sake of the common good, defined in both public-health terms and public-finance terms. What’s more, the same assumption holds in both cases: The government should direct personal behavior that has any effect on other people. Since any behavior can be said to affect somebody else in some way, this is a recipe for a government of infinite scope.
Two days after Washington unveiled its new warning labels for cigarette packages, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study reporting that our food choices influence our weight more than exercise does. And potato chips pack on the pounds faster than any other food, including candy and desserts.
The logic of Washington’s new cigarette warning labels holds that government should frighten people away from consumer goods that impose social costs. If we apply that consistently, then there is no reason federal regulators should not adorn bags of potato chips with garish photos of morbidly obese corpses, cutaways of clogged ateries, or glistening mounds of fatty tissue hacked out of cadavers.
If that doesn’t slim America down enough, then perhaps Washington also will make everybody exercise for an hour a day. The idea sounds laughably implausible now. So what? As Secretary Sibelius says: "What may seem quite shocking at the beginning, people get used to quite quickly."
beat up smokers and feel good
Charleston Daily Mail - Don Surber - June 25, 2011
big push to get Americans to live healthier continues. We biggie-size the
verbiage just like the drive-throughs biggie-size the drinks.
Fat gave way to overweight, which gave way to obese, which was upgraded to morbidly obese; our language expands with American waistlines.
By any measure, though, as a nation we are not exactly svelte.
So we tell ourselves as we munch our cheese doodles that at least we don't smoke.
Well, 80 percent of the adult population in America does not smoke and that makes us feel better about ourselves.
Every society has a caste system of some sort. And there is always somebody at the bottom who the rest of us dump on.
We chose smokers.
In January 1964, the surgeon general declared smoking hazardous to one's health.
Television networks weaned themselves from tobacco ads over the next seven years, and eventually magazines did as well.
Gradually smokers became the most reviled group in America. We pushed them outdoors, in the rain, to smoke.
To be sure, the anti-smoking effort was the biggest and most successful public health initiative since the polio vaccine.
The population has doubled, but the number of smoking-related deaths continues to be around 450,000 people a year.
Besides, beating up smokers is fun sport.
The Food and Drug Administration just ordered tobacco companies to put ghoulish images on their cigarette packs as a warning to smokers of the dire consequences that are possible if you smoke.
This seems to be more about humiliating a group of people than getting anyone to quit.
So why does the FDA not simply ban smoking? Smokers have had two generations to rid themselves of the habit.
There is no reason for anyone under 60 to smoke. The government warned them. Now would be a good time to ban cigarettes and yet we will not.
Besides, society needs smokers, because they pay hefty taxes to the government.
Smokers are cash cows.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that for every 10 percent rise in taxes, there is a 4 percent drop in smokers.
What a terrific setup.
Need money? Increase the cigarette tax with the ironic excuse that this is to get smokers to quit when you know not many of them will.
The federal government alone makes $1.01 a pack from smokers.
States now average $1.45 a pack.
Add in the tobacco settlement - a de facto tax on smokers - and you have smokers shelling out $3 a pack just in taxes.
R.J. Reynolds estimated its profits are 30 cents a pack.
So when I see these anti-smoking commercials and editorial page cartoons denouncing big tobacco companies, I wonder why they do not show the politicians greedily using their profits from cigarette to buy golf carts in New York, metal detectors for schools in Alabama and the operating costs for a horse park in North Carolina.
That is how some of the tobacco tax money is spent, according to R.J. Reynolds, which obviously has an interest in the matter.
I would rather see more of the money go to lung cancer research.
We should be able to get the five-year survival rate up from 15 percent to, say, the 86 percent rate for breast cancer.
But no one is holding any races for the cure and they do not have football players wear yellow helmets - for the color of a smoker's fingers - during Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Smokers are to be reviled, not aided.
For besides the money, there is a psychological reason we need smokers in America: They make good punching bags.
One of the reasons I and most other people beat up on that congressman from New York who sent that vulgar picture to the college student was that it made me feel better about myself.
I have done a lot of dumb things, but I have not done anything that dumb. Therefore, I am superior.
And so we will continue to vilify smokers, shun them, and send them outside to indulge their filthy habit.
We need the money - and the self-satisfaction of being "better" than someone else.
Government Gets Ugly
Townhall.com - Steve Chapman - June 26, 2011
not unusual for the federal government to provoke widespread retching among
its citizens, but it rarely does so intentionally. The new warning labels
required on cigarette packs, however, have that goal. Designed to evoke
disgust with smoking, they may also induce revulsion at excessive uses
The old cigarette warnings inform consumers of straightforward facts, such as: "Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy" and "Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health." Thanks in part to such labels, Americans today fully grasp that smoking is unsafe.
But the point of the new labels is not to ensure that potential and actual smokers understand the hazards of the habit and make an informed choice. The point is to get people to avoid cigarettes whether they want to or not.
The Food and Drug Administration finds it intolerable that despite all the efforts to stamp out smoking -- through tobacco taxes, advertising restrictions, educational campaigns and smoking bans -- nearly 50 million Americans continue to puff away. The hope is that repeated assaults with nauseating photos will kill the urge.
So anyone electing to smoke will have to run a gauntlet of horrors: a corpse, a diseased lung, rotting gums and a smoker exhaling through a tracheotomy hole.
All this is made possible thanks to legislation passed in 2009 and signed by President Barack Obama. If it sounds like the sort of bossy, intrusive, big-government approach championed by Democrats, it is. But it passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses, with most Senate Republicans in support.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius imagines that the FDA is filling an unfortunate information gap. With these labels, she says, "every person who picks up a pack of cigarettes is going to know exactly what risk they're taking."
By "every person," she means every person who's been trapped at the bottom of a well for the past 50 years. Everyone else already knew. Cigarette companies have had to provide health warnings since the 1960s. The current labels allow no fond illusions about the fate awaiting tobacco addicts.
Sebelius apparently thinks the health information has been widely overlooked. Not to worry. Vanderbilt University law professor W. Kip Viscusi has found that smokers greatly overestimate the risk of dying from ailments caused by tobacco. If the government wanted to make sure that Americans were accurately informed, it would have to tell them smoking is considerably less dangerous than they assume.
Our leaders think that since stark facts haven't done enough to deter tobacco use, scary images are in order. The FDA predicts that by 2013, the new warnings will diminish the total number of smokers in the United States by 213,000.
Contain your excitement. The agency admits that the overall effect is "highly uncertain" and that its estimate could be way off. Even if its forecast comes true, the change would cut the prevalence of smoking by less than one-half of 1 percent.
As it happens, there is not much reason to expect even this microscopic reduction to materialize. Last year, researchers commissioned by the FDA exposed adults and teens to such images to assess the likely impact. Despite the emotional punch of the pictures, they didn't seem to induce adults to stop smoking or deter teens from starting.
Based on the experience of other countries that have tried hideous photos, including Canada, Britain and Australia, Viscusi sees no grounds for optimism. "Smoking rates decline after the warnings but at the same rate as they did before the advent of warnings," he told me. "The key for judging whether there is likely to be an effect is whether the warnings shifted the trend in smoking rates in these other countries, and they did not."
Why not? Maybe because people already knew the risks. Maybe because most smokers enjoy tobacco enough not to care. Maybe because people soon learn to ignore the nasty pictures the way they tune out other warning messages.
The likely ineffectuality of this mandate does not discourage anti-tobacco crusaders. Its basic character, however, should spur everyone else to ask what business the federal government has interfering with a transaction between legal sellers and informed buyers who are minding their own business.
The new labels thrust the government further into gratuitous regulation of personal behavior, motivated less by medical concerns than moralism. Now, that's ugly.
No ifs, ands or butts: FDA warning photos faked
Washington Times - Charles Hurt - June 21, 2011
decades, the federal government has accused tobacco companies of running
a campaign of relentless deception in order to sell cigarettes and convince
customers that their product will make you sexy, skinny, cool or whatever.
On Tuesday, the government unveiled its latest salvo in its campaign against these companies.
Tobacco peddlers will soon be forced to emblazon every package of their product with graphic new warnings that show what the government says will happen to you if you smoke cigarettes.
One warning shows a cadaver lying on a steel table, chest zipped closed by giant staples. Another, a pair of nastily corroded lungs. In another image, an infant is confined to an incubator and hooked up to a breathing tube. In one startling image, a man is puffing on a cigarette with wisps of smoke escaping a tracheotomy hole in the center of his throat.
There is only one problem with the federal government’s great campaign of graphic images aimed at combating the deceit of tobacco companies and rescuing us from our stupid selves.
The images are fabricated.
“Some are photographs; some are illustrations,” a spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services explained to me Tuesday when I called about the new pictures.
The dead man with the zipped-up chest? “It’s not a dead body,” the spokesman assured me. “It’s an actor. It’s supposed to be a cadaver after an autopsy.”
The man with the wispy smoke coming out of the hole in his throat? “That’s a Photoshopped illustration.”
The baby in an incubator is a creepy drawing.
As for the corroded lungs? Who knows, given their track record so far? Maybe it is a real picture and that of a smoker. Or, perhaps they are the lungs of someone who handled asbestos in a Navy yard for the federal government. Or maybe it is altogether faked.
The government unveiled the bogus pictures at a White House event staged to look like a press conference.
William Corr, a deputy secretary at HHS, lamented the formal setting, saying: “We should be having a party to celebrate!” He went on to testify how the new pictures “tell the truth.”
Another government official called the tobacco company advertising “non-factual and controversial.” The government’s falsified pictures, he said, “speak the truth.”
Not that these government officials had to defend themselves or their campaign from anyone sitting in the audience section. Most questions began with a glowing congratulations or an emotional thank you.
“What languages will be available on the quit line?” inquired one of the questioners about the hotline number that will be plastered beneath each of the haunting images.
The gruesome nature of the pictures call to mind the deeply disturbing and bloody pictures pro-life protesters blow up and carry on picket signs outside political events.
A tiny fist, clenched as if around a finger - or in agony - ripped from its wrist, trailed by bloody veins. Or the unmistakable image of a baby’s face, squished and distorted and wrenched off its skull.
Few people find themselves exposed to these horrific images more often than reporters here in Washington, who travel the countryside chasing after political candidates.
When a bus full of reporters pulls into a political rally, these pictures bob up and down right at bus window level. A quiet falls over everyone.
Reporters recoil internally and give a shiver. They look away from the windows. One will invariably spit, “That should be illegal.”
Visually, in terms of repulsiveness, there is little difference between the tactics of the abortion protesters and those of the federal government. In fact, the only difference is that the government doctored its pictures.
And you paid for them.
time to stand up for smokers' rights
Drum TV - John Humphreys - June 1, 2011
it is inevitable that people will always need to find a minority to hate.
Whether it is based on race, or sex, or sexual preference, or lifestyle
choice, or language, or religion, or personal habits... the instinct to
discriminate, to distrust "different" people, and to enforce conformity
is a constant theme throughout history and throughout the world. If this
instinct was purely personal, then it would not be a big issue. People
could simply choose to associate with those people they prefer, and we
could all live in peace. But sadly, many groups want to use the government
to force their bigotry on others.
Over the past 100 years there have been some great improvements in social policy, as the government removed most of their discrimination based on race, religion, sexual preference and sex. There are a few outstanding issues (women in the military, gay adoption rights, special rules for Aborigines) but on the whole we now have less official discrimination in these areas. Sadly, not all minorities have been this lucky.
While some minorities become popular political causes, other minorities are on the receiving end of negative political populism. Politically correct campaigners will loudly support the "good minorities" such as GLBT or immigrant groups, but they are equally loud in their condemnation of the "wrong minorities". This seems to indicate that we are not becoming more tolerant... we are simply switching our bigotry on to other areas.
Some of the biggest victims of this modern discrimination are smokers.
Immediately the anti-smoking bigots will insist that they are not really bigoted, because smokers deserve to be punished. Of course, that is exactly what the racists, sexists and homophobes say.
Most people want to consider themselves a "good person", and so bigots often feel the need to create artificial reasons to justify their intolerance. The excuses range from the plain wrong to the desperate, but the common theme is that in all cases the freedom of smokers is considered irrelevant. If a "good minority" was dismissed this quickly there would be cries of pain from an outraged media and a horde of moralising pundits. But when it comes to smokers... the "moral police" join the lynch mob and declare smokers guilty by definition.
One of the first lines from the bigots is that smoking is bad for you. True, but so what? Lots of things are bad for you, but life is about more than longevity.
People often make trade-offs between "quality of life" and "quantity of life". We make many decisions that will marginally increase our chance of death, but for a benefit. People choose to go skiing, or sky-diving, or motorbike riding, or drinking, or working in a mine, or eating fatty food, or playing contact sports... knowing that there is a health risk but determining that the benefit is worth the cost. In a free society, people should be free to make their own life decisions.
The health Nazis don't get this point. They really seem to think that the whole purpose of life is to live for as long as possible... and if you ever make an "unhealthy" decision, then you are simply wrong and need to be controlled by your owner the government. A whole army of these anti-fun fanatics have been put together in the Preventative Health Taskforce, so that the government knows exactly how to micro-manage your life.
As the IPA explained, "The Taskforce recommends 39 accords, scorecards, standards, reviews, action research projects, frameworks, compacts, programs, partnerships, systems, initiatives, criteria, surveys, strategies, agencies, curricula and campaigns for obesity alone". In New Zealand, the fun police have even claimed that when you have two drinks in a night, you are officially "irrational" and therefore had no fun. (Read Eric Crampton's response here.)
At the core, the idea here is that smokers are just "wrong" and they need to be fixed. As a Facebook friend recently put it, "since you do not act like an adult but like a 13-year-old kid that thinks that smoking is cool, the government has to set limits to your destructive and anti-social behaviour".
Sadly, the author didn't even seem to notice the totalitarian nature of his sentence. Imagine the response if somebody made the same comment about one of the "good minorities".
Thankfully, when most normal people are pushed they admit that people should be free to choose their own lifestyle. The debate then turns to "externalities".
The first externality used to justify anti-smoking intolerance is the health costs of smoking that fall on the taxpayers because of our socialist health system. Again, there is truth in this claim. The most obvious solution would be to introduce a smokers-premium on health insurance, but that would require health policy reform, which is always difficult in our modern welfare-democracy (note, private health providers already have a smokers premium).
So the next best thing might be to set the tax rate to cover the marginal health costs of smokers. The logic seems fool-proof... until you realise that smokers already pay over 16 times their marginal health costs in tobacco tax. The government's National Drug Strategy report estimated net health costs of $318.4 million per year in 2004/05 (this may be an overestimate as it does not count the savings from dead smokers not getting the pension). In the same year the tobacco excise was $5,237 million.
Since then, tobacco excise rates have increased by 50 per cent, from $0.22 per cigarette up to $0.33 per cigarette.
So if this was the real reasons for the bigotry, then as soon as the bigot hears the facts they should immediately agree to a massive tax cut on tobacco. Do you think that's likely?
At some point, the "passive smoking" externality argument will come up. There is some evidence that people who live in close contact with heavy smokers for several decades have a marginally higher risk of health problems. While this evidence is often exaggerated, the balance of probability suggests the risk is real. Passive smoking is being used to ban smoking in all manner of places - including office buildings, restaurants, pubs, near doorways, cars, and even parks. But this argument falls apart quickly once you introduce the concept of "private property rights" and free movement.
With private property rights, each person can decide the rules on their property... and other people can make a free decision whether they enter that property or not. Some people will ban smoking indoors (which is fairly common these days) while some may allow smoking. If you enter a place that has smoking, you have accepted the passive smoking cost voluntarily, just as if you voluntarily paid a cover charge or voluntarily smoked a cigarette yourself. Voluntarily agreeing to the terms of entry means that passive smoking on private property is not an externality.
Some confused souls may claim that buildings are not "private property" if many people like to go there. Of course, this makes no sense. Private property simply means that some person or group (not the government) owns the property... and this doesn't stop being true just because a place is popular. And the main point necessary for the "private property" solution to work is that the owner is able to set the rules and people are free to go where they want. This isn't changed when/if a place becomes popular.
Other confused souls will admit that consumers have a choice about where to go, but employees don't have the same choice. Again, this makes no sense. There are many jobs with different levels of risk, and people can decide whether they are willing to accept those risks before they apply for the job. Nobody is forced to work in mining (which is more dangerous than passive smoking), but some people make that choice. Nobody is forced to work on ski fields (which is risky), but some people make that choice. Likewise, nobody would be forced to work at a smoking pub, but some people will make that choice. There are benefits and costs to all jobs, and each person should be free to make their own choices.
The health impact, health costs and passive smoking excuses don't hold up, so the anti-smoking bigot will need to find another excuse. The amazing thing about this debate is that as the anti-smoking arguments are destroyed... the soulless bureaucratic prudes never seems to question their intolerance. It is as if the intolerance is a starting point, and the actual arguments are an after-thought.
The latest excuse, and the last refuge of a scoundrel, is the "what about the children" argument. In one sense, this argument is fool-proof. Everybody agrees that children need to be protected, and so if you can imply even a hint of a child getting hurt then you can justify all sorts of government action. It is interesting to note that this was a significant argument used against mixed race marriages, and is one of the main arguments currently used against gay rights. The "what about the children" argument is also the throw-away line used to justify the welfare state (putting aside the significant damage that welfare dependency does to children).
It is true that children might be somewhere near a smoker through no choice of their own (ie by choice of the parents), and that this may marginally increase health risks. But there are many parts of parenting that will dramatically increase or decrease health risks, life expectancy, life experience, education levels, social interactions, happiness, and opportunities. Ultimately, parenting decisions need to be left to parents, who are in the best position to make the delicate trade-offs involved in parenting. The vast majority of parents will not be intentionally blowing smoke in the faces of their children... and if there is a parent doing that then it is likely there are much bigger problems at play.
Given that we are willing to tolerate much more significant parenting mistakes and more consequential child-rearing decisions, then it is hypocritical to suddenly insist that having a smoking parent is an unforgivable sin. Further, even if you insist that the government should set strict mandates about exactly how to bring up a child, this has no relevance for the many smokers who don't have children.
Against these fragile fig-leaves of excuses for bigotry we have the simple fact that millions of innocent Australians want to be left alone to enjoy their own lifestyle choices. Smokers are not inferior people less deserving of freedom. Their preferences do matter, and their choices should be respected. You don't have to like smoking to agree with this point - you simply need to show a bit of tolerance and accept that the world includes many different types of people, and there is room enough for all of us. Even the "wrong" minorities.
fault tobacco firm for death
Boston Globe - Jeff Jacoby - December 22, 2010
BOSTON jury last week ordered Lorillard, the tobacco company, to pay $71
million as compensation — and another $81 million in punitive damages —
for the death of lifelong smoker Marie Evans, who died of lung cancer in
2002. Evans’s son William, a Harvard-trained lawyer, claimed that Lorillard
had hooked his mother on cigarettes by giving out free samples of Newports
in the Boston neighborhood where she lived as a child in the 1950s and
Tweet 1 person Tweeted thisYahoo! Buzz ShareThis Lorillard denied the allegation, and apparently the only evidence for it was a video-taped deposition in which Marie Evans described how she began smoking at 13. But it doesn’t seem implausible to me. The great majority of smokers take up the habit before turning 18, and even I can recall packs of cigarettes being handed out on Cleveland’s Public Square in the late 1970s.
Yet even if it were true, how can it be just to expropriate tens of millions of dollars from a company for distributing free samples of a lawful product? Why should Marie Evans’s decision to smoke — something she always knew was bad for her health — entitle her son and estate to be showered with money? Reasonable people can debate whether cigarettes, already heavily regulated, should be banned outright. But it is not reasonable to hold tobacco companies liable for the foreseeable risks that smokers assume.
Lorillard never forced or tricked Marie Evans into using cigarettes; she became a smoker willingly. By her own account, she first received those free cigarettes when she was 9, and for years traded them for candy. Plainly it wasn’t Lorillard that eventually got Evans to start smoking; if she could resist the lure of tobacco until she was 12, she could have resisted it at 13.
The demonizing of tobacco companies is popular, and who wouldn’t rather think ill of Big, Bad Tobacco than of a devoted mother who lost a terrible fight with lung cancer at 54? But sorrow for Marie Evans and sympathy for her son don’t alter reality: What turned her into a smoker was not a wicked corporation. It was a foolish choice she made as a teenager. People who willingly make foolish choices — a category that includes most human beings, especially those of the teenage persuasion — ought not to be enriched for their foolishness.
Yes, smoking is addictive, but the addiction is not inescapable: Tens of millions of Americans have kicked the habit, and nowadays most never start. Among those who do, there may conceivably be some so weak-willed, suggestible, or mentally deficient that they were literally incapable of refusing an invitation to smoke. Marie Evans — a single mother who earned a degree from Northeastern University and rose through the ranks at Verizon to become a human-resources manager — was clearly not such a smoker.
“It’s awful, what they did to my mom,’’ Willie Evans told an interviewer this week. But “they’’ — Lorillard — did nothing very different from the countless other vendors who tempt us with products we would be well advised to resist, or at least to use in moderation. As a son who loved his mother and hated to see her suffer, Evans understandably hates the company that makes the cigarettes she favored. However, to turn her death into a legal pretext for looting that company does her memory no honor. Neither does Evans’s claim that his mother “had no free will.’’ Of course she had free will. And one of the ways she exercised it had tragic consequences.
What if Marie Evans had died from cirrhosis of the liver after drinking a six-pack of Budweiser every day for 40 years? Would her son be entitled to a fortune in damages from Anheuser-Busch? If she had been an incorrigibly reckless driver, who died in a crash caused by her speeding, would Willie Evans have sued the auto manufacturer whose commercials made fast cars so irresistible to his mother? If she had eaten her way to an early grave, would her son have gone after Nestle, Mars, and Hershey for getting her hooked on sweets long ago with a marketing strategy that targeted children?
The urge to blame others for our own self-destructive choices is as old as the power to choose. There is nothing admirable in yielding to that urge. Still less in rewarding those who do with $152 million.
Nationwide Study Finds No Link Between Smoking Bans and Reductions in Heart
Reason.com - Jacob Sullum - December 20, 2010
year, criticizing a CDC-commissioned report from the Institute of Medicine
that endorsed highly implausible claims of immediate, substantial reductions
in heart attacks resulting from smoking bans, I noted
that the authors had ignored the most comprehensive study of the subject,
which found no such effect. Now that study, which at the time of the IOM
report was available as a working
paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, has been published
by the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Instead of looking at
small cities with volatile hospital admission numbers—the M.O. of studies
that linked smoking bans to dramatic reductions in heart attacks—the authors
of the new study, led by Kanaka Shetty of the RAND Corporation, used nationwide
data to see if smoking bans were associated with changes in hospital admissions
or mortality. "In contrast with smaller regional studies," they write,
"we find that smoking bans are not associated with statistically significant
short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial
infarction or other diseases." In fact, "An analysis simulating smaller
studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial
infarction incidence following a smoking ban are as common as the large
decreases reported in the published literature."
Since 2003, when activists began claiming that workplace smoking bans immediately cut heart attacks by 40 percent or more, I've been saying that some jurisdictions will see such drops purely by chance, while others will see no change or increases of similar magnitude. Before you can say that smoking bans are associated with short-term declines in heart attacks (leaving aside the biological plausibility of such a link), you have to show that the first phenomenon is more common than the other two. Anti-smoking activists such as Stanton Glantz, preferring to cherry-pick examples that fit their theory, have never done that, and now we can plainly see why: It isn't true. Although heart attacks do decline in some places with smoking bans, there are just as many places where they rise. On average, the difference between jurisdictions with smoking bans and jurisdictions without smoking bans is essentially zero.
So how was the IOM committee able to claim "consistent"
results in favor of the claim that smoking bans immediately reduce heart
attacks? Two words: publication bias. Shetty et al. write:
We show that positive and negative changes in AMI incidence are equally likely after a smoking ban, which suggests that publication bias, not outcome heterogeneity, explains the skewed results seen in prior reviews. The IOM and other policymakers have relied on the weight of the published literature when making decisions. However, it appears that publication bias did not receive sufficient attention. Our results suggest that only positive studies have been published thus far, and the true short-run effects of governmental workplace smoking bans would be more modest in the U.S. Inclusion of such unpublished negative studies might change the conclusions of the IOM and other decision makers on this issue.
Michael Siegel, who for years has been doggedly criticizing
the myocardial infractions of his fellow anti-smoking activists, wonders,
"Will anti-smoking groups share and/or publicize the results of this new
study or will they simply ignore evidence that does not fit their pre-determined
conclusions?" Siegel's tobacco policy blog, where he regularly points out
the unacknowledged whoppers told in the name of a smoke-free society, supplies
General Jumps The Shark
The Daily Caller - Steve Milloy - December 16, 2010
all thank Surgeon General Regina Benjamin for demonstrating beyond all
doubt last week that “nannyism” is more dangerous than smoking.
The Office of the Surgeon General just released a report claiming that a single puff of a cigarette or a single inhalation of secondhand smoke can permanently damage one’s health and perhaps lead to death. Now we know what all those blindfolded, condemned men given one last puff as they stood before firing squads really died from.
While no one disputes that too much smoking is unhealthy, the new report demonizing any smoking or even incidental exposure to secondhand smoke is clearly over the top.
Certainly any exposure to tobacco smoke will have some sort of a discernible physiological effect — just like virtually every sensory experience. But Benjamin asserts that even one of those physiological events, however transient and reversible, can cause harm and possibly even lead to death. As commonsense and everyday experience informs (most of) us, this is ridiculous.
So how does Benjamin back up her assertions? Well, she really doesn’t.
The report contains the usual set of epidemiologic studies showing that smokers tend to be less healthy and die earlier than nonsmokers. None of this is news, though it should be noted that these studies often fail to isolate tobacco as the cause of the adverse health outcome as opposed to the entire suite of unhealthy behaviors that smokers tend to have — i.e., smokers tend to be heavier drinkers, have poorer diets, get less exercise, lead more stressful lives, and have less education and income than nonsmokers.
The report contains not a single example of anyone who had incidental or limited contact with tobacco smoke and then experienced an adverse health outcome or death.
“Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and could trigger acute cardiac events like heart attack,” avers the Surgeon General’s media release. It’s a scary statement, but it’s not one supported by any real-world evidence of that happening, despite the billions of people who have been so exposed over the centuries.
Supporting Benjamin with an op-ed in the Washington Post was former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who recalled and lamented the smoking-related death of his father: “After 50 years of smoking unfiltered cigarettes, my father died, too young, of a massive heart attack. He was 69. It’s almost certain that all those years of nicotine inhalation were a major contributor to his clogged arteries.”
What is more than almost certain is the fact that, although Brokaw’s father was such a long-term and presumably heavy smoker, he surpassed the life expectancy for his birth year (1912) by about 14 years — not bad for someone actually permitted the dignity to make his own lifestyle decisions.
Like many, if not most people, I don’t care for smoking or inhaling anyone else’s tobacco smoke. That said, I’m more concerned about the all-too-common and wanton disregard of facts, and the misuse of science and statistics, especially by those in positions of power and prominence.
Today’s lifestyle nannies, aided by a gullible and scientifically illiterate media, feel at liberty to demonize any behavior or substance, and to tread upon any and all individual liberties without regard for the relevant facts. Making the situation worse is that the nannies have few vocal opponents, as they stand ready to demonize and ostracize anyone who dares speak up against their junk science.
The two most significant advances of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were the development of science and the realization of individual liberty as an intrinsic right. Surgeon General Benjamin’s report is a clear sign that both are on the downswing of history.
FDA Turns Repulsive
The Chattanoogan - Roy Exum - November 12, 2010
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a government entity presumably that
works for the betterment of all of us, has now stooped to the very slime
and fifth it is charged with protecting us against. Earlier this week it
was announced the government – our government – would soon require pictures
of corpses, cancer patients, and diseased teeth be placed on cigarette
packages and cigarette advertising.
The gruesome illustrations, of course, are part of a ludicrous and a very misguided effort to stop cigarette smoking, which the FDA alleges are responsible for the deaths of over 440,000 people every year, but, in my opinion, this latest example of lunacy is a greater reason we still need to rid ourselves of the dumbest collection of government officials ever be to assembled in The Land of the Free.
First, it has been proven for centuries that no governing body can legislate morality. It didn’t work with women’s suffrage, prohibition, teenage abstinence, the AIDS virus, or anything else you can name. Only crazy people would think that putting pictures of rotting teeth and gums on a cigarette pack will do any good. That’s mental illness, which is altogether another story.
For FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to say, “Some very explicit, almost gruesome pictures may be necessary,” clearly shows her values are badly twisted; to further offend 46 million adults who enjoy smoking will get her canned faster than a politician on the take. This poor woman needs help if she thinking insulting millions of people is the answer to anything.
Secondly, there was a study several weeks ago that showed alcohol, i.e. beer and whiskey, is now more dangerous than heroin. The logical next step in somebody like the daffy Ms. Hamburg’s realm would to be place pictures of deceased fetuses on beer cans to warn pregnant mothers, jail cells on whiskey bottles to warn potential DUI offenders, and gruesome car wrecks on bottles of wine lest someone buy what an FDA official might deem more than necessary.
Such governmental “righteousness” is absurd and, as you think of further labeling avenues that will assault your senses, ask your elected officials if they support such a waste of taxpayer money. After all, 46 million smokers pay a heap in taxes and, trust me, most of them vote, too.
Please! This isn’t at all who we are, not the America where I want to live. I don’t go to horror movies or watch surgical procedures that are broadcast “for my enlightenment” for a very good reason – I am not going to subject myself to such garbage.
I’ll assure you I’ll be properly zonked during any part of surgery I must endure and there are enough things that scare me without ever having to pay for it to happen.
I can also promise the FDA that if they pursue the gruesome-pictures idiocy, be it on billboards where children will see it or on cigarette packages where fellow Americans are ridiculed and demeaned for enjoying tobacco, I and many others will work very hard to make sure we quickly replace the hysterical hand-twisters with responsible, logical and dignified people who will accept their offices responsibly.
What Commissioner Hamburg and her followers didn’t happen to notice was that the majority of Americans are fed up with idiots who think they have the right to foist their crazed opinions on those who are gentle, law-abiding and free. We don’t want the government to make our moral decisions. And now we are increasingly aware the FDA itself is veering from what is in the best interests of the America people.
Does a picture that is forced on you, showing some poor guy with a tracheotomy smoking a cigarette, make you proud of what is being done in Washington? My goodness gracious!
I don’t smoke cigarettes – I have in the past – but still greatly enjoy my cigars. I am careful to never offend anyone with their smoke. I play by the rules, never enjoying one where I shouldn’t, but the fact is that I understand what W.C. Fields said a long time ago, “A woman is a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.”
Now along comes a pious woman, Commissioner Hamburg, who has no earthy idea of the mess she is making for herself. I’m all for childhood education against the perils of smoking, and I applaud and support those who quit, especially as the price for a pack of Marlboros is now almost $5, but I’ll promise you people like Commissioner Hamburg will be far more dangerous to America and its freedoms than second-hand smoke ever will.
We don’t need anybody else trying to legislate morality because, not only will it not work, it proves we still have the wrong people with their awful ideas in places they certainly should have never been put in charge. My heavens, let’s get rid of such morons!
To Extinguish Cigarette Tax Hikes
Investors Business Daily - Lawrence J. McQuillan - June 15, 2010
McQuillan is director of business and economic studies
with yawning budget deficits, state legislators are looking for new revenue
sources. Many think hiking cigarette excise taxes is the pain-free answer,
but they're wrong.
This year, Utah and New Mexico have already raised cigarette taxes by $1 per pack and 75 cents per pack, respectively. In 2009, 14 states plus the District of Columbia implemented cigarette-tax hikes. At least 20 states are looking to do likewise in 2010, including Georgia, Kansas, New York and South Carolina.
Lawmakers claim such tax hikes generate substantial revenue while discouraging smoking. Yet the history of cigarette taxes shows otherwise. Any revenue increases following cigarette-tax hikes have typically fallen well short of projections.
When Maryland increased its cigarette tax by $1 per pack last year, Gov. Martin O'Malley promised it would raise $255 million in new revenue. The actual amount was $117 million short of that figure.
Following the District of Columbia's 50-cents-per-pack hike in October, cigarette-tax revenues are projected to fall by nearly $8 million in 2010. And during the two years since New Jersey increased its tax by 17 cents a pack, the state suffered a $24 million loss in cigarette-tax revenue. These examples are not anomalous.
According to a Chicago research group, just 16 of the 57 state-level tobacco tax hikes implemented between 2003 and 2007 actually met or exceeded the revenue projections.
Perversely, cigarette taxes also make state governments dependent on tobacco use. If lawmakers are counting on steadily increasing cigarette-tax revenue to close budget gaps, then they'll need to recruit more smokers or hope for higher daily smoking rates.
Why don't cigarette taxes deliver as promised? Some people respond to higher prices by never starting to smoke or by quitting. That's a healthy decision, but one that individuals can make on their own. Many of those who don't kick the habit simply go elsewhere to buy cigarettes.
In New York, for example, many smokers shop at local Indian reservations, where cigarettes are sold tax-free. District of Columbia residents flout their tax increase by traveling to low-cost neighbors Maryland and Virginia. There is also the "underground economy" for illegal purchases of cigarettes, and with each new tax hike that market grows.
When politicians single out this politically unpopular industry for further tax hikes, they are trying to balance state budgets on the backs of the poor. Nearly one-third of the nation's smokers have incomes below the federal poverty line. When cigarette taxes rise, low-income folks bear more of the burden than wealthier people, as the poor have to fork over a higher percentage of their already meager income to purchase a pack.
Proponents of regressive cigarette taxes dismiss concerns about their impact on the poor by citing the costs to the state of treating smoking-related illnesses. But whether cigarette smokers cost the state more money is debatable — some studies suggest that smokers actually cost health care systems less than nonsmokers because they tend to die quicker and younger.
By this logic, cigarette taxes should only recoup the net costs smokers impose on society. But a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that smokers "pay enough taxes to cover the net costs they impose on others" as far back as 1986. Piling on more taxes simply makes the tax system more unfair. The average state cigarette tax is already $1.38 per pack. And that's on top of the dollar tax the feds levy.
As the record shows, cigarette tax hikes fail to deliver revenue according to promise, and they punish those who can least afford to pay higher taxes. Politicians' addiction to cigarette taxes also causes state legislators to avoid better ways of cutting budget deficits and restoring their economies to health such as reducing government spending, lowering taxes, and implementing policies that promote job creation.
Taxes Finance Terrorism
National Review - Deroy Murdock - June 10, 2010
politicians have created a situation in which lighting a cigarette is like
igniting the fuse on a bomb.
Politicians expand tobacco taxes to discourage smoking and to feed their own nicotine-like addiction to public spending. Like so many others, this government action smolders with unintended consequences. Tobacco taxes create a perfect arbitrage opportunity that radical Muslims exploit to collect money for terrorist groups that murder Americans and our allies. Tobacco taxes should be cut, or at least frozen, before they fuel further Islamic-extremist violence.
Consider the first attack on the Twin Towers, which killed six and injured 1,040. As Patrick Fleenor recalled in a Cato Institute study, “counterfeit cigarette tax stamps were found in an apartment used by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad cell that carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.”
Smugglers buy cigarettes in low-tax states, disguise them with bogus tax stamps, sell them in corresponding high-tax locales, and pocket the difference. A $2.70 spread separates Virginia’s 30-cent-per-pack cigarette tax and Connecticut’s at $3.00. Driving 1,500 cigarette cartons (ten packs per carton) from Arlington to Hartford yields $40,500 per trip.
This incentive grows as tax-hungry politicians raise tobacco levies to finance government spending. President Obama signed a 62-cent-per-pack federal cigarette-tax increase — from 39 cents to $1.01. This violated Obama’s solemn pledge that families earning less than $250,000 “will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.”
Gov. David Paterson (D., N.Y.) wants to boost per-pack taxes from $2.75 to $3.75. Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D., Queens) proposes a one-penny “deposit” on every cigarette, or 20 cents per pack. This is refundable, if smokers drag their cigarette butts back from whence they came. If Paterson and Den Dekker prevail, add Gotham’s $1.50-per-pack tax and Uncle Sam’s take. Manhattan smokers could pay $6.46 per pack in taxes alone!
Terrorists move cigarettes because they are light, portable, and otherwise legal, and produce cash. “Law enforcement officials in New York State estimate that well-organized cigarette smuggling networks generate between $200,000-$300,000 per week,” a 2008 House Homeland Security Committee Republican staff report concluded. “A large percentage of the money is believed to be sent back to the Middle East, where it directly or indirectly finances groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda.”
The notorious “Lackawanna Six” Islamic-terror cell reportedly traveled in 2001 from Buffalo to al-Qaeda’s al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan. They scored $14,000 in travel money from Aref Ahmed, a former gas-station operator who was among five defendants convicted in 2004 for cigarette trafficking and money laundering.
Mohamad Hammoud was convicted in June 2002 on federal charges of materially supporting terrorism. His brother, Chawki, was convicted on related charges, and eight others pled guilty in this case. These conspirators bought cigarettes in North Carolina, which then had a 5-cent-per-pack tax, affixed phony tax stamps, and then sold them in 75-cent Michigan. Over four years, this 70-cent tax spread yielded a $1.5 million profit, part of which this gang forwarded to Hezbollah, along with laptops, night-vision goggles, stun guns, blasting equipment, and more.
Last May 5 and 6, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance agents arrested Khader Awawdeh, Fahmi Hassan, Hakim Al-Saydi, and Dhafer Ghaleb in the Bronx. Collectively, officials say, they possessed 1,924 illicit cigarette cartons and 36,832 counterfeit tax stamps.
Hazam Ali Ahmed pled guilty on May 20 to 16 federal firearms, conspiracy, cigarette-smuggling, and money-laundering charges. In one scam, the naturalized former Yemeni hustled some 20,000 cigarette cartons and harnessed the $1.38 margin between Tennessee’s 62-cent-per-pack tax and Michigan’s current $2.00 tax. His Knoxville-to-Detroit operation reportedly cost Tennessee and Michigan some $500,000 in tax revenue. An FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force wiretap caught Ahmed recruiting for al-Qaeda and discussing blowing up a shopping center.
Despite cigarette taxes’ clear and present danger, elected officials simply want more spending money. Many echo former Michigan state senator Joel Gougeon, who once told WNEM TV: “I acknowledge that we’re making that law enforcement issue more difficult, but offsetting that is our need in the budget.”
As an asthmatic who hates the piercing stench of tobacco smoke, I find myself in rare agreement with those whose product makes me sick. Nonetheless, the tobacco industry’s convincing case for cutting or freezing cigarette taxes is a matter of life and death. Tobacco-tax-hiking politicians have unwittingly created a potentially lethal situation in which lighting a cigarette is like igniting the fuse on a bomb.
Bill Takes Away Our Liberty
Human Events - Dr. Lee Hieb - March 30, 2010
Lee Hieb is an Orthopaedic Surgeon, in solo private practice. Her first-hand experience in medicine began in the 1950s, when she accompanied her father on his housecalls in Iowa.
no mistake. Every time the government offers you any form of safety or
security, it takes away your ability to make choices about your own life.
No matter how noble, every government safety imposition diminishes your
individual liberty. This principle is no more obvious than in the current
healthcare reform, which is why there are so many voices in chorus against
this “transformation” of America.
When this law is in full force, individuals cannot choose to self insure, no matter how much they may be able to afford to do so. Now, you can be thrown into jail for not complying with the government’s plan for your own safety. This sounds like something out of a Stalinist show trial: “Comrade, you are guilty of “insufficient self protection”—five years in the gulag!”
And speaking of the Soviet model we are slowly adopting, everything that the Soviets did, they did in the name of the people. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, as do all Socialist governments, and their people ended up with the worst environmental safety, an unsafe nuclear program, and terrible healthcare. Besides having a chronic shortage of material requirements for quality healthcare delivery, their physicians were not at liberty to fulfill their Hippocratic Oath to their patients. Our physicians will be similarly constrained. As pointed out by Dr. Vliet of Tucson, who plans on quitting medical practice if this law is fully enacted, physicians are not free to put patients first. The government outlines physicians’ practice parameters. As expected, “guidelines” have morphed into “rules” with the force of law.
To be fair, our elected officials are not the only ones who clamor for the government to make us safer. Many Americans were perfectly happy when Ralph Nader forced government regulation of the car industry. Many pushed for smoking bans. Did seatbelts and air bags save lives? Of course. But at what price? There is virtually no aspect of life that cannot be regulated under the guise of “safety.” One city in California wishes to ban toys at McDonalds, believing that toys with food contribute to childhood obesity. New York is threatening to remove salt from restaurant foods. Onerous building codes and inspections are justified for public safety. Under the rubric of safety we already over-regulate food distribution, driving, hairdressing, building, personal habits, and of course medicine.
The Nazis were the first to ban smoking. They promoted healthy lifestyle and preventive care. Unfortunately, because the Nazi government had no constitutional restraints, this “healthy life” emphasis ultimately led to euthanasia of the “hopeless,” selective reproduction via forced sterilization of those deemed unworthy, and total control, not only of healthcare, but of the whole of society. That’s what totalitarianism is all about, and pursuit of “safety” is a path to total control of every aspect of a citizen’s life.
And, of course, not all government legislation has had the desired effect. The government has pushed ideas that have proved or are proving to be wrong. Giving aspirin for fever in children was touted by the government for years until physicians discovered that it contributed to Reyes Syndrome, a potentially fatal disorder. The government certified Vioxx, only to have physicians point out the problems with the drug. The government food pyramid, with its emphasis on “complex” carbohydrates, has contributed to obesity and type-one diabetes. They pushed vegetable oils over natural butter, in spite of the basic science showing incomplete linoleic acid in vegetable oil as the major component of artery plaques. The final word on mandatory multiple vaccinations is yet to be written, but what is clearly true is that the government’s vaccination program has created a virtual monopoly so that individuals do not have access to some vaccines they deem important.
Politicians believe that any opposition to their “enlightened” policies is a symptom of ignorance: If only the people knew how good this health care legislation will be for them, they would be in favor of it. They cannot fathom that the opposition to health reform is principled. Many Americans are awakening to the fact that in the middle-of-the night congressional deliberation and back-door dealing their liberty has been stolen. Hopefully the love and expectation of liberty that have made Americans unique in the world, will cause enough people to arise and change our nation’s heading. If not, in the words of Mark Twain, “If you don’t change direction you may end up where you are headed.” And we are heading to the gulag.
by force: Nanny will keep you fit
Union Leader.com - Editorial - January 10, 2010
days when you have the freedom to indulge in guilty pleasures without being
punished by your government may be coming to an end.
Already the government taxes tobacco products not to raise revenue, but to discourage smoking. In Concord, two Grafton Democrats have introduced a bill to tax sugar-sweetened soft drinks, not to raise revenue, but to make the drinks more expensive so fewer people will buy them.
Rep. Beatriz Pastor, one of the sponsors, told New Hampshire Public Radio, "I support the bill because the medical research shows unequivocally a link between high consumption of sugar drinks and adult onset diabetes and obesity beginning with children." Tax policy is becoming health policy.
The state has banned smoking in all bars and restaurants. Every other state requires adult drivers to wear seat belts, and New Hampshire only barely escaped such a mandate last year. Some Democrats in the Legislature want to mandate motorcycle helmet use. If that happens, it is only a matter of time before all bicyclists, skiers and snow boarders are made to follow.
In Los Angeles, new fast food restaurants have been banned in some neighborhoods. Officials in some cities want to control what food is served in restaurants to make sure residents don't eat too much that is bad for them.
If the health care bill pending in Washington becomes law, no American citizen will be allowed the freedom to live, no matter how briefly, without health insurance. The purpose of the mandate is to collectivize everyone's health. Your body is no longer to be your own. It will belong to everyone. Your good health will be used to improve the health of others.
Our bodies are gradually becoming socialized. The choices we make about how to live, what to eat and drink and what pleasures we enjoy are increasingly to be guided by the hand of the state.
Underlying all of this legislating is the theory that society must collectively dictate individual behavior for the purpose of making society collectively healthier. Individual will must be stamped out and replaced with the will of the state.
This is not some science-fiction fantasy. This is happening right now. If we as Americans, as Granite Staters, don't stand up and oppose this dramatic enlargement of the nanny state now, while we have the chance, we will find our choices narrowed year after year until we wake up one day with little control over any decision that the self-appointed experts deem a potential risk to our health or safety -- which is more or less everything.
the city that never smokes
A proposal to ban lighting up in New York’s parks has exposed the puritanical agenda behind the crusade against smoking.
Spiked - Patrick Basham and John Luik - October 26, 2009
Patrick Basham directs the Democracy Institute and is a Cato Institute adjunct scholar. John Luik is a Democracy Institute senior fellow. They are co-authors of Hidden in Plain Sight: Why Tobacco Display Bans Fail.
truth about second-hand smoking is finally out.
Thanks to some unusual candour on the part of the anti-tobacco brigade in New York City, we now have official confirmation that banning smoking in public has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the health of non-smokers from second-hand smoke, but everything to do with stigmatising both smoking and smokers. Closer to home, new evidence from the National Health Service (NHS) shows that the public smoking ban in England has made absolutely no positive difference in smoking rates, despite claims made by its champions that it would.
In September, Dr Thomas Farley, New York City’s Health Commissioner, proposed banning smoking at all of the city’s parks and beaches (1). Dr Farley’s rationale for the ban has nothing to do with the risks that outdoor smoking pose to non-smokers, but rather with preventing people, particularly children, from having to see anyone smoking in public. Farley says, ‘We don’t think children should have to watch someone smoking’. Farley also defends the extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas by arguing that it is ‘part of a broader strategy to further curb smoking rates’. New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, confirmed earlier this month that he would implement Farley’s proposal, arguing that the public is ‘overwhelmingly in favour’ (2).
Why have the champions of banning smoking everywhere, even in private accommodation, suddenly come clean about the driving force behind their crusade? The answer is that they have essentially won the war over public smoking. But why is this the case? The answer, sadly, is that for the past 15 to 20 years, the public has been bombarded with a carefully orchestrated government-funded anti-tobacco campaign to convince them – in contradiction of the scientific evidence – that smokers pose a deadly health risk to non-smokers, particularly children.
The scientific evidence has never supported the case against public smoking. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s seminal early 1990s report on second-hand smoke was severely flawed. Its critique of second-hand smoke was only sustained through a careful exclusion of non-confirming evidence and a non-traditional application of the statistical test known as confidence limits. The report was subjected to a scathing analysis by a US federal court, which rejected its scientific claims about the dangers of second-hand smoke, a finding that even on appeal was not reversed (3).
Moreover, a scientific study conducted by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that there was no statistically significant association between smoking in the workplace and social settings and lung cancer in non-smokers. Indeed, the majority of studies about second-hand smoke and lung cancer in non-smokers have found non-statistically significant associations both in workplace and domestic settings.
Of course, none of this startling lack of scientific evidence has moved beyond the scientific journals and into the public domain, which means that the debate about public smoking is a non-scientific debate. And this means that it can proceed on virtually any grounds, unchecked by the need for careful and verifiable scientific evidence. The anti-smoking movement has always known that the evidence about the risks of public smoking, or private smoking for that matter, to non-smokers was marginal, at best, and nonexistent, at worst. But this was fundamentally unimportant.
Preventing people from smoking in public was never about real health risks - that is, it was never about protecting non-smokers so much as it was about stigmatising smoking and smokers and making it difficult for them to smoke. So with the science of second-hand smoke now never discussed, the anti-tobacco movement feels confident in moving the argument forward and revealing the starkness of its real agenda.
There is no compelling evidence that second-hand smoke poses a health risk to anyone in open spaces like public parks and beaches, but that is beside the point. The new push seeks, first, to demonise smoking and, second, to exert a brazen paternalism in which it is made virtually impossible for smokers – for their own good, of course – to light up in any public space.
There are profound difficulties with both of these objectives. For one thing, where is the justification for banning unhealthy behaviours from the public square simply on the grounds that someone might see them? Or, indeed, what is the justification for banning unhealthy behaviours from public viewing full stop? This opens up substantial room for prohibiting an enormous range of other behaviours which are neither immoral nor illegal, but simply unhealthy.
For example, by parity of reasoning it could be argued that children should never have to see anyone eating unhealthy foods in public, or indeed see anyone who is fat in public. Surely, there must be some evidence that seeing someone engaged in unhealthy behaviour puts others at risk. But where is this evidence?
For another thing, there is the issue of whether such measures actually work. For example, the NHS recently released a study on the effectiveness of the public smoking ban (4). The fact is that certain groups, such as young males, are smoking more after the smoking ban than before it. So, not only are such bans not supported by science, they are also not supported by the evidence on their practical effect in changing behaviour.
Finally, any policy by which the government engages in stigmatising the legal behaviour of its adult citizens is repugnant in a democratic society. Fundamental to democratic government is the respect that it owes to its adult citizens’ choices about legal behaviour and, more fundamentally, how they choose to live their lives. Paternalistic interventions, whether through stigmatising or other means, can only be justified in the rarest of instances.
What the evolution of the debate over public smoking shows is how little science has to do with the anti-tobacco crusade, how disingenuous that crusade is about its real motives and goals, how easily the crusade on tobacco can be extended to other causes (most notably the war on obesity), and how fundamentally dangerous it is to a society both free and democratic.
(1) New York Eyes ‘No Smoking’ Outdoors, Too, New York Times, 15 September 2009 (2) Mayor Bloomberg vows to snuff out smoking in parks, beaches, New York Daily News, 1 October 2009 (3) For more on the EPA study, see An epidemic of epidemiology, by Rob Lyons (4) See Statistics on smoking, NHS, 29 September 2009 [pdf]
Are outdoor smoking bans scientifically justified?
Slate - William Saletan - September 17, 2009
studies of secondhand smoke justify bans on outdoor smoking?
In response to Tuesday's article about the crackdown in New York, many of you made good arguments for and against the proposed restrictions. The best post came from James Repace, a biophysicist and former EPA staff scientist who does actual research on secondhand smoke. He's offering what we need much more of on the Internet: facts.
In Slate's Fray, Repace says I'm wrong about outdoor smoke:
Mr. Saletan states in part: "Studies have proved that secondhand smoke is harmful. But those studies aren't conducted in wide-open spaces." Sorry, Mr. Saletan, you have not done your homework. The State of California's Air Resources Board (ARB) that regulates California's outdoor air did a massive report in 2006 which resulted in secondhand smoke [SHS] being declared a "toxic air contaminant." There are several published scientific studies of SHS in the outdoor air in addition to this report, and they are reviewed in a paper listed on my website <www.repace.com> under recent reports. These reports show that outdoor SHS may often be as high as indoor SHS in proximity to smokers. … I suggest that you revisit this issue, and see if you want to retract your erroneous statement.
So let's revisit the issue. Let's look at those studies.
In a fact sheet summarizing the studies, Repace writes:
The California Air Resources Board study (CARB, 2006), measured OTS [outdoor tobacco smoke] nicotine concentrations outside an airport, college, government center, office complex, and amusement park. CARB found that at these typical outdoor locations, Californians may be exposed to OTS levels as high as indoor SHS concentrations. …
Klepeis, et al. (2007) measured OTS respirable particle concentrations in outdoor patios, on airport and city sidewalks, and in parks. They also conducted controlled experiments of SHS indoors and OTS outdoors. Klepeis et al. (2007) found that mean SHS particle concentrations outdoors can be comparable to SHS indoors.
1) It is difficult to measure ETS removal rates in outdoor settings since outdoor conditions are highly variable and change rapidly. (Page III-13)
2) [C]igars and cigarettes, the primary source of ETS [environmental tobacco smoke], are smaller sources that emit pollutants near people and thereby exposures to ETS are very localized. (Page II-4)
3) Overall, the results indicate that concentrations of nicotine correspond to the number of smokers in the smoking areas, although factors such as the size of the smoking area and wind speed affected the results. (Page II-3)
4) For each sampling period, two samplers were situated adjacent to the outdoor smoking area, with a third sampler located away from the smoking area as a background sampler in the expected upwind direction. … At most sites, the location of the background monitors, due to physical obstacles and/or meteorological conditions, were close to the smoking areas. … However, even at the background site locations, background concentrations were substantially lower than measured in the smoking areas. (Pages V-7 to V-8)
So Repace is correct that secondhand smoke has been studied outdoors. But the CARB study underscores what I wrote: "[T]hose studies aren't conducted in wide-open spaces. They can't cover the whole atmosphere." The passages quoted here confirm that 1) it's hard to measure smoke dynamics outdoors because conditions change rapidly; 2) exposure levels are "very localized"; 3) wind, area size, and number of smokers affect the degree of exposure; and 4) even close to a designated smoking area, you can avoid exposure by being upwind. At the amusement park, for example, the difference in exposure was a factor of 25.
Now let's look at the Klepeis study:
1) average OTS concentrations measured … during visits to outdoor patios that were enclosed by fences or walls … were 50% and 43% higher, respectively, than those observed in more open areas. … (Page 10)
2) We observed a clear reduction in OTS levels as the distance from a tobacco source increased. Generally, average levels within 0.5 m from a single cigarette source were quite high and comparable to indoor levels, and OTS levels at distances greater than 1 or 2m were much lower. (Page 12)
3) At distances larger than 2 m, levels near single cigarettes were generally close to background. … [If] one spends time downwind from a smoker, then moving to a distance of more than 2m can reduce the likelihood of experiencing elevated particle exposure due to OTS. (Page 14)
Again, the data confirm common sense. The more open the space and the farther away you are, the lower your smoke exposure. To get the kind of exposure you'd suffer indoors, you have to stand within two feet of the smoker. Move seven feet away, and you're "close to background," i.e., breathing normal air. I recommend greater distance than that, just to be safe. But you don't need to ban smoking throughout Central Park.
Repace offers additional arguments for outdoor smoking bans. He points out that "there are millions of asthmatics in this country" and says outdoor smoke levels can be "high enough to trigger an asthmatic attack in susceptible persons." He also contends that "most nonsmokers find SHS to be a nuisance. Just as noise and dog droppings are regulated in public spaces, governments have the right and the obligation to protect the susceptible from the stupid."
If you want to argue for parkwide smoking bans based on asthma or on an analogy to noise pollution, go ahead and make that case. But let's not cloud that debate by invoking the general harm of secondhand smoke. Studies of secondhand smoke have indeed moved outdoors. Their findings support restrictions on lighting up within a few feet of other people. But they don't warrant more than that.
Anti-Smoking Programs Really Reduce Smoking?
Opposing Views - Michael Marlow - July 21, 2009
control is a prime example of a government program with the noblest of
intentions. Tobacco is unhealthy; and its impact on public health makes
it easy to convince people that government should fund programs that reduce
smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending
large increases in spending on anti-smoking programs — to more than double
the annual spending of over $717 million.
But how effective are these programs? Not very — so why is the CDC recommending pouring millions of dollars more into programs that are unlikely to have any significant impact on public health? Early tobacco control policy efforts that largely consisted of raising taxes were quite successful in reducing smoking. The effect of more recent tobacco-control policies is much more ambiguous.
Bans on tobacco use in various places have been implemented widely. Bans have been imposed on restaurants and bars in 27 states and Washington. Four other states have imposed bans in restaurants, but exempt bars. Several more states have passed bans that take effect in the near future. Proponents argue that bans lower smoking, although evidence on this is mixed.
"Anti-tobacco" programs are the latest measure used by governments to control tobacco use. These programs fund anti-smoking ads that run in newspapers, magazines and on TV, school programs to educate children about the hazards of smoking, cessation interventions (intensive counseling services and cessation medications) and grants for researchers to demonstrate effectiveness of tobacco-control programs. These programs hire many people and are very expensive.
The CDC provides recommendations for how much money states should spend on anti-tobacco programs. According to the CDC, careful research shows that its recommendations would prevent hundreds of thousands of premature tobacco-related deaths. But the data do not back the CDC's claims.
The CDC recommends that states should spend $15 to $20 per resident each year on anti-smoking programs. Only two states — Maine and Mississippi — have consistently met or exceeded that goal over the years 2000–2007. In contrast, three states — Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee — have spent nothing on anti-smoking programs. Georgia spent just over $2 million in 2008, barely 5 percent of what the CDC now recommends. Nationwide, states have spent a total of $5.3 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars) over those years, an average of $18 per person. But all that money has failed to significantly reduce smoking. Nor have the states that spent more seen a more dramatic reduction in smoking than states that have spent less.
Statistical analysis that I've conducted shows that there is a very tenuous link between cigarette sales and state anti-tobacco spending. At best, spending large amounts of money on anti-tobacco programs seems to produce a trivial drop in cigarette sales — less than a pack a year per capita. States would be better advised to put these resources toward other public health policies that produce larger results.
What was the basis of the CDC spending recommendations? Was the agency truly trying to identify anti-smoking policies that work well and use public funds effectively, or did the CDC simply assume that, "If you spend it, they will quit smoking"? If it was the latter, then it is unfortunate for both taxpayers and public health.
The CDC is now arguing that state anti-tobacco programs are underfunded. Tobacco-control advocates — many of whom receive money through these programs — repeat the CDC under-funding claims when pleading their cases for spending increases. It will be truly unfortunate if states simply accept these claims and increase funding without investigating the programs' effectiveness. However difficult it is to look beyond noble intentions, appraisal of a program's effectiveness is vital — particularly in these tight fiscal times — if we truly want to improve public health effectively.
Smoking For G.I. Joe? C'mon
Old Enough To Fight, But Not Old Enough To Light Up
CBS News - Jeff Emanuel - July 15, 2009
Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1999-2004. Additionally, he worked in Iraq as a combat journalist in 2007.
the most absurd bit of news to come out of Washington this week - and that's
saying a lot - was the announcement by the Pentagon Office of Clinical
and Program Policy that it is recommending a blanket ban on the usage of
tobacco products by members of the U.S. military.
The recommendation comes after a Department of Defense-commissioned study by the anti-tobacco organization Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that the negative health effects of tobacco use "cost the Pentagon $846 million a year in medical care and lost productivity." The report, which also claimed the Department of Veterans Affairs spends up to $6 billion in treatments for tobacco-related illnesses," says, "Given the critical need for a strong and healthy military, the harmful effects of tobacco use on military readiness, and the short- and long-term health and financial burden of tobacco use on military personnel, retirees, families, and veterans, the time has come for DoD and VA to assign high priority to tobacco con¬trol."
IOM recommended making all military installations tobacco-free zones and requiring new recruits to be tobacco-free, among other anti-tobacco measures. Though she did not comment on the proposed ban itself, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told USA Today newspaper that "the [DOD] supports a smoke-free military and believes it is achievable."
As American As Apple Pie
Tobacco use is as ingrained a part of military culture as battlefield discipline and, for better or worse, swearing. At least one in three service members is a tobacco user of some sort, according to the IOM study - a number that is, if anything, understated. That number, unsurprisingly, grows far higher among those who are engaged in stressful combat operations.
There are few perks, and even fewer freedoms, associated with being a volunteer member of our armed forces. Long hours, harsh conditions, lengthy deployments far from home, and enemy fire are realities for these men and women who dedicate at least a portion of their lives to standing guard, on our behalf, on freedom's frontier.
The ability to purchase tax-free goods on military installations is one of those perks, and many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines choose to use what small income they receive in exchange for their service to purchase tobacco products.
It is already shameful that nineteen- and twenty-year-olds who are considered adult enough to lead men into combat as noncommissioned officers are legally unable to consume alcohol; whether these men and women consume cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco because they help alleviate battlefield stressor because they simply enjoy consuming them, the ability to smoke a cigarette or "throw in a dip" is one which America's servicemembers shouldn't be begrudged.
Yes, tobacco has been proven to cause both short and long-term
health problems - but are we really going to preach about health benefits
of their activities to Americans we pay (albeit poorly) to be shot at for
Such "subsidies" are, of course, the stuff of utter myth. Rather than having their purchases of tobacco products subsidized, military personnel, whose on-post purchases are almost entirely tax-free, actually pay the equivalent of a tax on their cigarettes and chew, making the prices higher than they would be otherwise.
The federal cigarette tax currently sits at $1.01 per pack. Though almost all goods purchased on military installations are tax-free, tobacco is handled differently than other products. By Department of Defense regulation, cigarettes must be priced 5% below "the lowest civilian competitor price," tax included. This means a $5 pack of cigarettes could be purchased on-post for $4.75 - not exactly a massive savings, and certainly not a "subsidy."
Further, much as our federal government depends on revenue from tobacco products to fund health care programs like its massive expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the military uses almost the entire remainder of the sale price that would have gone to the tobacco tax to fund Morale, Recreation, and Welfare (MWR) and much-needed spousal and family support programs.
Time, Effort Better Spent Elsewhere
The U.S. military is not a social Petri dish for use in engineering or experimentation, whatever Democrat presidents past and present may think. It has far greater responsibilities and concerns than whether or not its men and women, who continue to be the best in the world at what they do, engage in the safe and voluntary use of a 100% legal product.
Further, a policy banning tobacco use in the military - let alone in combat zones - either cannot, or will not, be enforced. I was in the military when the "no tobacco use inside military buildings" order came down from on high - and it was, among combat troops at least, almost universally ignored. Attempting to impose such silly, and laughably unenforceable, policies on our fighting men and women simply degrades military discipline, particularly among the junior enlisted ranks, by making a mockery of regulation as a whole.
IOM's appeal to the need for a "strong, healthy military," and its expressions of concern about the effect tobacco use has on physical fitness, is a non-starter, as well. Every branch of the military has physical fitness standards which must be met, regardless of bad habits or extracurricular activities. If soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines can meet the physical standards their respective chains of command have set for them, what they legally do in their own time should be considered entirely irrelevant, as it has been demonstrably shown to have no effect on their ability to meet those standards.
Finally, the fact that tobacco use by our military is receiving so much attention, and policies curbing or banning its use are receiving so much consideration, demonstrates a lack of seriousness on the topic of military affairs by far too many outside observers and civilian leaders, including the Secretary of Defense and those above him in the chain of command.
fat people into social outcasts
A new report chastising fat celebs as a bad influence is part of a worrying campaign to ‘denormalise’ chubbiness.
Spiked - Patrick Basham and John Luik - June 30, 2009
celebrities are the latest victims of the UK public health establishment’s
attempt to socially engineer our cultural and political environment so
that the public becomes less tolerant of obesity and those the government
categorises as obese. Through such nanny-state paternalism, the government
seeks to ensure that people behave in ‘appropriate’ ways, as defined by
itself and a coterie of public health bureaucrats and academics.
Professor Michael McMahon, author of this week’s Nuffield Health report on the influence of fat celebrities on obese people’s attitudes to weight, says fat stars are seen as role models, helping to make being overweight acceptable. Professor McMahon’s anti-fat stance epitomises the public health establishment’s increasing use of a ‘denormalisation’ campaign against fat people.
As employed by the government and the anti-obesity industry, denormalisation is a made-up word that functions as both a noun and as a verb to describe both a state in which the obese are perceived to be abnormal, aberrant, even deviant, and a series of activities designed to achieve this end.
In practice, denormalisation means that the government attempts to shame adults into changing their behaviour. For the government’s denormalisation campaign to succeed these adults must be stigmatised; that is, they will be placed apart from the rest of civilised society until and unless they learn to behave in the approved manner.
Denormalisation pushes the obese from being a health hazard to being a moral hazard, nothing less than blots on the nation’s moral landscape. The environmental approach to obesity epitomised by denormalisation is spelled out by Dr Kawshi De Silva of the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand, who states: ‘The perceptions and beliefs in society about obesity can profoundly influence behaviour change and resistance to it.’
The prominent American journalist, Morton Kondracke, recently called for being fat, let alone obese, to be made as socially unacceptable as smoking. Earlier this year, a London Evening Standard columnist advocated the public ridicule of fat people eating chocolate. In some quarters, it is predicted that the language of denormalisation will soon be the main ingredient in the obesity debate.
The anti-obesity movement has accepted the argument of those, such as Australian nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton, who have argued that: ‘We need to learn from the successes in tobacco control in tackling the obesity epidemic.’ Clearly, the anti-obesity campaign has modelled its denormalisation campaign on the politically, if not empirically, successful tobacco denormalisation campaign. Hence, the anti-obesity lobby employs public policy tactics to denormalise the use of the food industry’s products.
There are significant downsides to the obesity denormalisation campaign. In a recent article, published in Health Promotion International, L MacLean et al express a well-founded concern regarding the stigmatisation of obese people, particularly of children. While there is much written about stigma and how it is exacerbated, these researchers point out that few, if any, guidelines exist for public health managers and practitioners who may attempt to design and implement obesity prevention programmes that minimise stigma. They examine the stigmatisation of obese people and the deeply negative consequences of this social process, and discuss how stigma is manifest in the provision of public health services.
Recently published research by CD Elliott published in the Journal of Canadian Studies is particularly insightful in demonstrating the obesity denormalisation campaign’s dangerous ambitions. Elliott is unequivocal in concluding that the obesity denormalisation campaign is central to the connection between obesity and citizenship in contemporary Western society.
This particular piece of research examines how denormalisation has connected one’s physical body to that of one’s citizenry. In tracing the evolving narrative, Elliott explains why denormalisation campaigners believe that the ideal citizen is, literally and figuratively, a ‘fit’ citizen.
The person with the larger body is quite simply categorised as a lesser citizen than his or her smaller countrymen. Elliott outlines the ways in which the fat body or ‘failed body project’ is equally positioned to that of the ‘failed citizen’. Elliott points out that the figurative concept of citizen fitness is often mistakenly conflated with the visible look of leanness.
Given that public health reports such as this week’s from Nuffield Health officially classify the majority of adults as overweight or obese, the framing of the fat body as the failed citizen is, to put it mildly, of considerable significance to both policymakers and non-policymakers alike.
We may draw several general conclusions from the denormalisation experience to date. First, the obesity denormalisation campaign represents yet another failure to address particular social problems, such as eating disorders.
Second, the fact that the denormalisation campaign has failed to work in the tobacco arena apparently means nothing to the public health establishment, which has confidently prescribed comparable denormalisation campaigns for the food, gambling and drinks industries.
Third, these campaigns dehumanise whole categories of people, which is arguably the most damning conclusion possible. Whatever one may or may not think of smoking and of smokers themselves, one unavoidable truth is that the smoker’s social status (or lack thereof) in the modern era foreshadowed the current, lowly social status of the fat person.
Fourth, the obesity denormalisation campaign is also worrisome because it wastes large sums of taxpayer money to satisfy the new Puritanism’s anti-obesity agenda.
A potentially greater worry, however, stems from the reality that this denormalisation campaign represents a new and dangerous assault on our core democratic traditions of choice about risk and lifestyle. Like so much in the ‘war on obesity’, denormalisation is a very bad prescription for supposedly good public health.
No Longer the Land of the Free
Canada Free Press - Alan Caruba - June 22, 2009
live in the “land of the free”, right? Wrong. We live in a land that is
a nation of laws, not of men. That is to say, we don’t live someplace where
the “Supreme Leader” can tell us whether we can smoke or not.
Instead, Congress gets together and passes yet another useless law to tell us whether we can smoke or not.
They are doing this, of course, for our own good. Those of us over the age of consent, old enough to serve in the military, and old enough to vote are simply not to be trusted on matters such as whether we choose to smoke or not. And the operative word here is “choose.”
The President, a man who likes to surround himself with “czars”, signed a new law that gives the Food and Drug Administration unprecedented authority to regulate tobacco. Typically, this piece of tyranny is dressed up to look like something else. It is called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Every pernicious attack on freedom is always done on behalf of the “family” or “for the kids.”
I have searched the U.S. Constitution to find where it says anything about the government having the right to prevent people from smoking if they want.
The law does not let the FDA ban nicotine outright, but it will be able to regulate what goes into tobacco products, require the amount of nicotine to be reduced, and do everything short of requiring a skull and crossbones on the package.
This impulse of people in public office to pass laws and regulations to prevent people from doing what they are going to do no matter what the laws says is so base, so vile, and so useless that one need only cast one’s eyes back to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to understand how wrong it is.
Ghost of Al Capone, Prohibition
The 21st Amendment repealed it in 1933 when it was apparent to everyone that people, adults, were going to drink some form of booze no matter what the do-gooders in government said about it. The “experiment” was called Prohibition. It was a failure.
One can only hope that this experiment in crowd control and private behavior will fail, but we can be very sure that tobacco bootleggers from Canada and Mexico will grow wealthy smuggling the real deal into the nation to satisfy the tastes of Americans grown tired of paying exorbitant prices for one of life’s simple pleasures.
The ghosts of Al Capone and the gangsters from the period of Prohibition are probably having a good laugh over this new law.
Control and Thought Control
Townhall.com - Steve Chapman - June 21, 2009
great judge Learned Hand once said, "The spirit of liberty is the spirit
which is not too sure that it is right." If so, the tobacco regulation
bill recently passed by Congress indicates that the spirit of liberty is
even scarcer than usual in the halls of government.
What motivates advocates of stricter tobacco regulation is the unassailable assurance that they are not only completely right but that their opponents are a) wrong and b) evil. This invigorating certitude makes it possible to justify almost anything that punishes cigarette companies, even if it does no actual good -- or does actual harm.
One of the main purposes of the new law is to reduce the number of smokers in the name of improving "public health." This is a skillful use of language to confuse rather than enlighten.
An individual decision to take up cigarettes is a private event, not a public one, and its health effects are almost entirely confined to the individual making the choice. Swine flu warrants government intervention because it is transmitted to people without their consent. Not so with tobacco addiction.
That's not the only Orwellian touch in this measure. It is called the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act," which raises the obvious question: What does "family" have to do with it? Answer: nothing, but doesn't it sound sweet?
Like many intrusive government actions, this law is supposed to protect children. That's the pretext for telling tobacco companies, in exhaustive detail, how and where they can communicate with consumers, actual and potential -- allegedly to prevent the contamination of young minds.
So: Cigarette makers are forbidden to use color in ads in any publication whose readership is less than 85 percent adult. They are barred from using music in audio ads. They are not allowed to use pictures in video ads. They may not put product names on race cars, lighters, caps or T-shirts. From all this, you almost forget the fleeting passage in the Constitution that says "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech."
When it gets in a mood to regulate, Congress doesn't like to trouble itself with nuisances like the First Amendment. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for Massachusetts to ban outdoor ads within 1,000 feet of any schools and playgrounds. So what does this law do? It bans outdoor ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
The court said the Massachusetts law was intolerable because it choked off communication about a legal activity. "In some geographical areas," complained Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "these regulations would constitute nearly a complete ban on the communication of truthful information about smokeless tobacco and cigars to adult consumers."
But to anti-smoking zealots, that effect is not a bug but a feature. The only problem they have with imposing "nearly a complete ban" is the "nearly" part.
The crackdown on magazine ads is supposed to foil a dastardly plot to enslave middle-schoolers to lifelong nicotine addiction. In the 1998 legal settlement between states and the tobacco industry, cigarette makers agreed not to target adolescents in their advertising. But since then, reports the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tobacco companies have sharply increased outlays on marketing efforts "that reach and influence kids."
If the point was to recruit new smokers, they've wasted their money. Students in middle school and high school are 44 percent less likely to try cigarettes today than they were in 1998. Only 6.4 percent of teens smoke every day, less than half as many as before.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says "cigarettes that are the most popular among kids are those that are also heavily advertised." But that doesn't prove advertising causes teens to take up the habit. It only indicates advertising may affect the brand preference of those who already smoke.
Corporate marketing doesn't explain very much about teen substance abuse. There are as many kids who use marijuana once a month or more as there are who smoke cigarettes that often. When was the last time you saw an ad for cannabis?
Punishing tobacco companies, which provide a legal product that consumers want, may not achieve anything in terms of reducing teen smoking or improving health. But in that case, sponsors may take satisfaction in the sheer pleasure of inflicting that punishment. Rest assured, they will.
will it stop?
Canada Free Press - Beryl Wajsman - June 12, 2009
have railed against the control state mentality of government for quite
some time now. We have warned that the slippery slope of politically correct
social engineering policies and politics is steep and swift in its descent
into nothingness. Our use of the term nanny-state has become so ubiquitous
that many said we were out of touch with the “new” Quebec.
Well, as troubling as Quebec’s latest foray into the état-nounou is, we are pleased that it has progressive francophone voices troubled too. This foray involves the oversight by state authority of the relationship between parent and child. Though, as always, it is clothed in the most altruistic of motives.
The Quebec government has introduced legislation making it an offence for a parent to smoke in a car if a child is in it. Obviously, smoking in front of an infant in a small enclosed space is not the most intelligent or responsible act. But herein lies the rub. How far is the state to be allowed to go? And more importantly, where will it stop?
As Le Devoir’s Denise Bombardier has pointed out the role of the state should be “pedagogical” not punitive when it involves private actions in private domains. If the state can regulate an issue like smoking, what is to stop it from sending say food inspectors to make sure meals are prepared without any trans-fats?
Health Minister Yves Bolduc’s logic is impeccable of course. He stated that though smoking is a free choice, second hand smoke – particularly to an infant – is not the child`s choice. True enough. But neither are the ingestion of trans-fats. Or to go even further, neither is the age at which a parent decides to teach their child to bike or skate. Should we have control regulation to prevent broken bones?
As Bombardier has pointed out, bad things in life will happen. It takes courage, and honesty, for elected officials to tell that to citizens. If they fail to do so, then we will fall victim to Benjamin Franklin’s warning of centuries ago that “Those who would trade permanent liberty for temporary security shall in the end have neither liberty nor security.”
Government must be a teacher not a nanny nor a brute. The state has a legitimate role – and may legitimately spend – to educate and persuade, but not to compel or coerce.
The state is their to serve individuals, not demonize them. We have progressed as human beings. When people see someone hurting or abusing a child – even a slap on the bottom in public – people react to protect the child. The power of what Bombardier called “reprobation sociale” is stronger than even the force of law. Our officials should get that.
The power of punitive law as a successful preventative measure is highly questionable. There is usually more push-back than acquiescence. Even the anti-smoking measures have now proved ineffective as the number of smokers has ceased to drop and in fact have risen in teens. Human nature eventually reacts against suffocating statist dictate.
In the case of parent and child it is even more important to remember that. And further, that if the Quebec Charter of Rights recognizes in section 7 the inviolability of private domain, how much more important is it to recognize the inviolability of relations between parent and child. We are not talking here of ignoring child abuse. That is another matter. But the sight of police officers pulling over cars and ticketing parents is something that should trouble us all. What personal behavior in personal domains shall be beyond the reach of the state? What price freedom? And more importantly, when will we understand that the state cannot solve all problems?
We as individuals need to take responsibility for our lives and not assume that it is the state`s role to solve all problems and protect against all ills. It cannot do that. If this latest venture in nanny-statism is not just another tax-grab and Mr. Bolduc really believes this kind of intervention is acceptable and appropriate, we are all in for some Orwellian days ahead. Jeremy Bentham wrote at the start of the industrial revolution that “perfection is the enemy of the good.” M. Bolduc, are you listening?
Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty
The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights - Don Watkins - March 6, 2009
Beach is considering banning smoking in a variety of new places, potentially
including parks and outdoor dining areas. This is just the latest step
in a widespread war on smoking by federal, state, and local governments--a
campaign that includes massive taxes on cigarettes, advertising bans, and
endless lawsuits against tobacco companies. This war is infecting America
with a political disease far worse than any health risk caused by smoking;
it is destroying our freedom to make our own judgments and choices.
According to the anti-smoking movement, restricting people’s freedom to smoke is justified by the necessity of combating the “epidemic” of smoking-related disease and death. Cigarettes, we are told, kill hundreds of thousands each year, and expose countless millions to secondhand smoke. Smoking, the anti-smoking movement says, in effect, is a plague, whose ravages can only be combated through drastic government action.
But smoking is not some infectious disease that must be quarantined and destroyed by the government. It’s a voluntary activity that every individual is free to abstain from (including by avoiding restaurants and other private establishments that permit smoking). And, contrary to those who regard any smoking as irrational on its face, cigarettes are a potential value that each individual must assess for himself. Of course, smoking can be harmful--in certain quantities, over a certain period of time, it can be habit forming and lead to disease or death. But many understandably regard the risks as minimal if one smokes relatively infrequently, and they see smoking as offering definite value, such as physical pleasure.
Are they right? Can it be a value to smoke cigarettes--and if so, in what quantity? This is the sort of judgment that properly belongs to every individual, based on his assessment of the evidence concerning smoking’s benefits and risks, and taking into account his particular circumstances (age, family history, etc.). If others believe the smoker is making a mistake, they are free to try to persuade him of their viewpoint. But they should not be free to dictate his decision, any more than they should be able to dictate his decision on whether and to what extent to drink alcohol or play poker. The fact that some individuals will smoke themselves into an early grave is no more justification for banning smoking than that the existence of alcoholics is grounds for prohibiting you from enjoying a drink at dinner.
Implicit in the war on smoking, however, is the view that the government must dictate the individual’s decisions with regard to smoking, because he is incapable of making them rationally. To the extent the anti-smoking movement succeeds in wielding the power of government coercion to impose on Americans its blanket opposition to smoking, it is entrenching paternalism: the view that individuals are incompetent to run their own lives, and thus require a nanny-state to control every aspect of those lives.
This state is well on its way: from trans-fat bans to bicycle helmet laws to prohibitions on gambling, the government is increasingly abridging our freedom on the grounds that we are not competent to make rational decisions in these areas--just as it has long done by paternalistically dictating how we plan for retirement (Social Security) or what medicines we may take (the FDA).
Indeed, one of the main arguments used to bolster the anti-smoking agenda is the claim that smokers impose “social costs” on non-smokers, such as smoking-related medical expenses--an argument that perversely uses an injustice created by paternalism to support its expansion. The only reason non-smokers today are forced to foot the medical bills of smokers is that our government has virtually taken over the field of medicine, in order to relieve us inept Americans of the freedom to manage our own health care, and bear the costs of our own choices.
But contrary to paternalism, we are not congenitally irrational misfits. We are thinking beings for whom it is both possible and necessary to rationally judge which courses of action will serve our interests. The consequences of ignoring this fact range from denying us legitimate pleasures to literally killing us: from the healthy 26-year-old unable to enjoy a trans-fatty food to the 75-year-old man unable to take an unapproved, experimental drug without which he will certainly die.
By employing government coercion to deprive us of the freedom to judge for ourselves what we inhale or consume, the anti-smoking movement has become an enemy, not an ally, in the quest for health and happiness.
Third-Hand Smoke and Junk Science
FNC's Red Eye - Greg Gutfeld - December 31, 2008
here's another example of how junk science has become even junkier than
something really junky:
Researchers have identified "third-hand smoke," an invisible evil that acts like a deadly Ghost of Cigarettes Past: Polluting the air, killing innocent babies and ottomans — even if they aren't present at the time.
As you can guess, this research is geared toward one end only: The banning of all smoking on private property — including your home.
But look, most researchers knew for years that second-hand smoke was a joke, but most were too scared to speak up, while others saw it as a self-righteous way to look sensitive and get butt loads of grant money.
The problem is, once you're addicted to junk science, you can't stop. What's next, after third-hand smoke? Fourth-hand smoke? Where you can actually feel the negatives effects of smoking simply by staring at an unopened pack of cigarettes?
I'm told even the blind are not immune.
But get this: After saying that a smoker's third-hand smoke is bad for babies, the researchers then note that for a smoker, breastfeeding a baby is still better than bottle-feeding. So after all this crap about poisoning the air, they're saying breast milk from a smoker is still better than milk from a bottle. Theoretically, a smoking mom that breastfeeds is a better mom, than a non-smoking bottle-feeder.
Now put that in your baby and smoke it!
And if you disagree with it, then you sir are worse than Hitler.
anti-smoking damages public health
Spiked-online - Tim Black - October 2, 2008
images are not off the top shelf, however. Following similar campaigns
in 23 other countries, including Canada, Brazil and Australia, the pictures
have come directly from the Department of Health (DoH) and will appear
on cigarette packets across the UK. Featuring rotting teeth or open-heart
surgery, and accompanied by beguiling sentences like ‘Smoking clogs the
arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes’, the aim, in the words of
UK chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, is to ‘emphasise the harsh health
realities of continuing to smoke’.
But did the ‘harsh realities’ of smoking really need any more emphasis? Since 2003, cigarette packets have been adorned with such artful subtleties as ‘Smoking kills’ and ‘Smoking seriously harms others around you’. Admittedly, ‘Smoking kills’, lacking an object, does sound a little indiscriminate, but, by and large, the message is pretty clear: nicotine is bad for you. Add to that the DoH’s anti-smoking advertising campaigns, alternately guilt-inducing and stomach-churning, the school awareness sessions, and, of course, the smoking ban in public places, and it’s difficult to imagine that smokers were unaware of the health effects of their trusty ‘cancer sticks’.
Little wonder that the DoH’s ever-increasing efforts seem to produce ever-diminishing returns. After all, what more information do smokers need? Will a picture of two contrasting sets of lungs, the unhealthy one a lovely mahogany colour, the healthy a deathly white, really tell a smoker something they didn’t already know? It’s not as if the accompanying tag line – ‘smoking causes fatal lung cancer’ – will come as much of a surprise. Or take the rather horrific picture of a man with a wispy beard beneath which bulges the raw fleshy outgrowth of throat cancer. ‘Smoking can cause a slow and painful death’, it reminds the smoker. (Strictly speaking it’s the cancer that’s causing the ‘slow and painful death’). Perhaps the strangest, though, depicts what can only be described as a wilting cigarette. Underneath is written ‘Smoking may reduce the blood flow and causes impotence’. Given its surreal pretensions, ‘This is not a cigarette’ would have been more fitting.
In many ways, whether these images do any more to convince smokers to quit is beside the point. For these images don’t so much address the intransigent hardcore of campaign-defying smokers as pander to the fantasies of health crusaders, be it fag-handlers’ droop or medieval dentistry.
The effect is twofold: on the one hand, they turn smokers into objects of bodily disgust. From images of tarred lungs to rotting teeth, the implication is clear: smokers are dirty and revolting. On the other hand, as exemplified by the piece of phallocentric surrealism, smokers are humiliated: they are portrayed as suitable targets for mockery, be it their inability ‘to get it up’ or their plain-as-day ignorance of their horrific, facially disfiguring demise. Indeed, this last sentiment behind the new images, the presumed thickness of smokers, is writ large in the very existence of the DoH’s campaign. Despite all the information out there about the risks of smoking, you continue to do it, it says, because you are monumentally stupid. In fact, so unfeasibly thick does it presume smokers are, the DoH has decided it had to use pictures, not just words.
The effect is to reinforce the image of smokers as the lowest of the low, the imbecilic ruiners not just of their own lungs (and hearts and teeth and throats and skin) but of others’ health, too. The proximity of these images to pornography proper is striking. If pornography objecitifies women in terms of the male gaze, turning them into objects for a very specific mode of consumption, then this pictorial addition to the anti-smoking crusade provides similar relief for the anti-smoking lobby. It transforms those who choose to smoke into objects of moral and not-so-moral masturbation. And just as it is argued that in objectifying females, porn influences women’s self-perception, so this set of images aims to transfer the image of smokers as revolting, selfish imbeciles to smokers themselves. Sin becomes guilt; disgust becomes self-disgust.
While it is debatable that these images will make much of a difference to those who smoke, they will inflame the zeal of those who would have them stop. More broadly, they will further stigmatise the smoker, pushing him even further beyond the social pale. Already huddling outside Britain’s pubs as the objects of politically subsidised sanctimony, these mocking images will only elevate the smoker’s standing in the constellation of social pariahs.
It is this sanctimonious climate that differentiates the anti-smoking crusade from the public health campaigns of old. There is no practical message in this latest campaign; it is purely moralistic. This is not about access to clean water or the need to get a certain jab; it is about submission to moral instruction. ‘People ought to be living a healthy life’ is the message; every last one of the disgustingly unhealthy infidels must be converted to the cause.
In committing itself so fully to the pursuit, not of the Good Life but of its pale imitation – the healthy life – the government renders each citizen’s body as the effective property of the state. To not dispose of it as one ought is to bring down society’s wrath upon oneself. Whittled down to objects of lifestyle diktat, you either conform or enjoy a lifetime of state-inspired persecution.
the line from anti-smoking to anti-smoker
The Calgary Herald - Rob Breakenridge - September 2, 2008
years ago, the impressive regime of anti-smoking initiatives now in place
would have been incredibly controversial. Conversely, what was controversial
10 years ago is now accepted.
Anti-tobacco groups have been remarkably patient and persistent -- by taking it one battle at a time and never letting up, they've amassed quite an array of policy achievements.
The debate over any new anti-smoking initiative is generally a question of the new initiative versus the status quo, which in turn implies an acceptance of the status quo, including every new anti-smoking measure adopted along the way.
The appeal of anti-smoking measures derives from their ostensible goal of protecting people -- non-smokers, children, and smokers themselves. However, the anti-smoking lobby may be a victim of its own success, in that they're running out of people to protect.
The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is calling on the provincial government to enact a further increase in tobacco taxes -- working out to about $2 per package of cigarettes. As we debate the merits of this proposal (so far, the government seems unconvinced) we should ask this question: Who are we protecting and what are we protecting them from?
For non-smokers, it's obvious -- it's second-hand smoke we're to be protected from. Given the raft of measures regarding smoking in public, it would seem to be mission accomplished.
Children transcend these categories -- they are among the non-smokers, of course, but some children also smoke, and even the most ardent smokers-rights advocates would concede that smoking is and should be an adult activity.
But if we agree that smoking is an adult activity -- a most unhealthy adult activity, mind you -- what, then, are we protecting adult smokers from?
Certainly there's been a need to ensure the public is fully aware of the dangers of smoking, but you'd be hard-pressed to argue we haven't accomplished that. There's also a need to ensure help is available to those who need assistance in quitting.
But that leaves us with the adult smoker, fully aware of the dangers and obstacles of his or her habit, who does not wish to quit. Does this group really require protection?
If the answer is no, then maybe we've crossed the line from anti-smoking initiatives to anti-smoker initiatives.
It may have started with ostracization, which was billed as a means of protecting the non-smoker. But I fail to see how a further increase in tobacco taxes protects me as a non-smoker. Prying more out of the wallets of smokers seems punitive; a fine of sorts for their refusal to go away.
The obvious argument for a tax increase is that it will reduce smoking rates for minors and adults alike.
The former is the real selling point -- we don't want kids smoking at all. The argument for adults is much more nanny-statish, based in part on the notion that health-care costs give us all a say in each others' lives.
But, even if you accept the latter point, there's a cold calculus that offsets it. Earlier this year, research from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment found that due to differences in life expectancy, "lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers."
Also, an op-ed last year in the New Zealand Medical Journal observed that "smokers pay more in cigarette taxes than they ever cost the public purse."
On the consumption side, the case is more complex than the pro-tax increase side would admit.
There is conflicting research on just how price-sensitive teens are when it comes to tobacco. There are some groups of smokers -- including it would seem some sub-groups of teens -- who appear to be unaffected by price increases.
Research led by McMaster University health economist Philip DeCicca suggests peer pressure and peer acceptance may be more relevant factors for teen smokers. Moreover, DeCicca's research has found taxation has little impact on whether teens start smoking, leading him to conclude that "price hikes are not a very effective tool to discourage youth smoking."
At the risk of embracing the status quo, I would argue that tobacco taxes are high enough. When it comes to minors, let's focus on education and enforcement.
Children need protection -- informed, consenting (albeit unwise) adults do not.
fag end of advocacy research
Spiked - Patrick Basham and John Luik - July 3, 2008
though it is a bit early for the season of miracles, readers of the UK
Daily Mail were treated to one last month when the paper reported, just
in time for the one-year anniversary of England’s public smoking ban, that
the smoking ban had ‘cut the number of heart attacks by more than 40 per
cent at some hospitals’.
What the Mail was claiming, of course, was that there was a decline of 40 per cent in the numbers of people admitted to some hospitals suffering from heart attacks due to the fact that smoking was no longer allowed in public places in England.
The real miracle here is that such a scientifically illiterate story would be (a) written, and (b) make it past the editors of (c) even the sensationalist Daily Mail. There are so many problems with this claim that we shall confine ourselves to the three most glaring.
First, the story is based on starkly incomplete data since it fails to cover all of the hospitals in England. And even the hospitals that it does cover present a misleading statistical picture. For instance, one NHS trust - Shrewsbury and Telford, which had a supposed 41 per cent drop in heart attack admissions - accounts for almost a third of the total reduction in heart attack admissions for the entire country, according to Brian Bond writing on Michael Siegel’s The Rest of the Story blog (16 June 2008). Yet this same hospital accounts for only one per cent of the total patients in the country. This alone raises significant suspicions about the accuracy of not just this Trust’s data but of the entire statistical analysis being presented.
Second, even allowing for the selectivity of the data, the scale of the reduction in heart attack admissions is nowhere near 40 per cent across the country. Indeed, the overall reduction in heart attacks was only three per cent, and this figure needs to be put into context in the sense that heart attack figures vary substantially from year to year. For instance, heart attack admissions increased by over five per cent from 2001/2002 to 2002/2003, but then fell by that amount in 2003/2004 (1). A further bit of context suggests that heart attack rates have been declining all across Europe for about the past decade. So a three per cent decline in one year is nothing unusual.
Third - and here things become very interesting - there is absolutely no evidence that the already small and statistically non-signficiant reduction in heart attacks was due to the smoking ban. Simply because there was a reduction in heart attack admissions during the same period that there was a smoking ban does not mean that the one was the cause of the other.
The Mail presented no data about whether those admitted to hospital with heart attacks were smokers or ex-smokers, or whether they had ever been exposed to second-hand smoke, or most crucially, how much they had been exposed to. In other words, the crucial component of science - warranting that you have accurately measured something - is completely absent here. And, of course, the entire idea that such a short period without public smoking can lead to a startling reduction in cardiac admissions is itself biologically implausible given that the alleged damage from second-hand smoke would not be so quickly undone. In fact, the best epidemiological evidence suggests that there is not a statistically significant link between heart disease and second-hand smoke in healthy non-smokers.
One can be somewhat forgiving about all of this scientific illiteracy since, after all, we are talking about the Daily Mail. What is much less acceptable, however, is the fact that the British Heart Foundation and the British Cardiovascular Society, both organisations that presumably claim scientific foundations, could spout such nonsense. The British Heart Foundation said these results ‘proved’ that the public smoking ban was ‘the most significant public health initiative this century’ - which suggests that these folks have as weak a grasp on the history of public health as they do on science.
Similarly dubious claims were made about the Scottish smoking ban - which preceded England’s - in September 2007, where a 17 per cent decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks was similarly put down to the ban. That claim was based on statistics from just nine hospitals (1). Anyone spot a ban-justifying pattern here?
So here’s where we are in terms of public discussion about smoking and smoking policy in the UK today: a tabloid paper can produce a dramatic and scientifically untrue claim about the effects of a ‘smoking policy’, trumpet that claim and have it endorsed by two scientific societies, who know, or at least should know, that it is false, while the rest of the press, along with the government, look on either with approval or in silence.
have a basic human right to look at fag packets
The Spectator - Claire Fox - June 4, 2008
your personal life been ‘denormalised’ yet? Mine is about to be, and believe
me it’s not pleasant. The health ministries in Scotland and Westminster
have just announced plans to make a perfectly legal habit seem as abnormal
as possible. The SNP’s Public Health Minister Shona Robinson, quickly followed
by England’s own health secretary Alan Johnson, tells us that public displays
of cigarettes are hindering official ‘efforts to denormalise smoking’.
Apparently, being able to see the rows of cigarette packets that are a
familiar sight in every corner shop and garage in the country makes smoking
seem like a normal part of life. And that just won’t do.
The problem for our great leaders is that notwithstanding their best efforts, smoking is a normal part of millions of people’s lives. What a nuisance — 25 per cent of the adult population just won’t conform. Despite being bludgeoned with gory details of the health risks and being evicted into the cold and rain, they keep puffing away. Maybe further humiliation will make them feel even more like deviant pariahs. Smokers will now have to purchase their illicit weed furtively under the counter, reminiscent of the days when backstreet shops used to sell porn and condoms. A perfectly everyday, innocent transaction will now become embarrassing and hence, ‘de-normal’.
I don’t expect anyone to get overexcited by the detail of the new ‘point of sale’ restrictions, which seem largely silly gestures rather than serious proposals. Whether it’s not being able to see the variety of brands and prices behind the counter or the proposed ban on vending machines, these plans may inconvenience smokers — they’ll certainly cause a loss of business for cornershop retailers — but they’re hardly life or death changes. Meanwhile, the plan to prohibit the sale of packets of ten is just plain daft; as others have noted, you wouldn’t try to cut chocolate consumption by only selling supersize bars. Yes, I concede, these measures are fairly petty and trivial. However, more serious and not a little sinister is when politicians start legislating to impose their version of normal on us all. Bet I can guess what a life lived according to government approval looks like. Mr & Mrs Normal Citizen will: count their units, eat their greens and recycle (and cycle) with gusto — meet the modern-day Young Pioneers.
One good thing about this relentless war on tobacco is that it makes a mockery of the original arguments for the smoking ban. That law, we were assured, was certainly not about the government interfering in individuals’ choices. Instead we were subject to the loudly touted but less convincingly proven pseudo-scientific ‘evidence’ that passive smoking caused harm to others. Politicians conceded that the state had no jurisdiction over people taking risks with our own health; the ban was solely to protect hapless non-smokers in the pub, club or bar. Now no such spurious explanations are given. Even zealots cannot make a case for linking vending machines to second-hand smoke. This is explicitly about making smokers stop smoking (and to reach the government’s target of reducing the smoking rate to 21 per cent by 2010).
Of course, this is not posed as a coercive measure to force the hardcore to go against their choice to smoke. Rather it’s official help for us to do what we all are supposed to agree is in our best interest. Robinson explained to the Scottish parliament that ‘displays stimulate impulse purchases among those not intending to buy cigarettes and, importantly, among smokers who are trying to give up’. Stella Duffy, chief executive of the anti-smoking campaign ASH, tells us, ‘Putting cigarettes out of sight will support smokers who are trying to quit’. How nice — these caring Samaritans are just trying to protect muddled smokers from their own impulses and weak wills.
The problem with this outlook is that it flies in the face of the very basis of a free democratic society. It undermines the idea that people are self-determining subjects. Instead we are posited as impressionable, prey to addictions, incapable of resisting advertising, compelled to act by the mere glimpse of a few fag packets. The serious implications of infantilising adults in this way were spelt out by none other than freedom’s champion John Stuart Mill 150 years ago. In one of the less fashionable sections of On Liberty, Mill wrote about the regulation of ‘beer and spirit houses’. He classed drinking as an individual act (as indeed smoking is), ‘for right or wrong’, and argued that along with religion, opinion and other ‘experiments in living’, it should be ‘outside’ the scope of the law. He pointedly described attempts at making alcohol ‘more difficult to access’ and ‘diminishing the occasions of temptation’ as ‘suited only to a state of society in which the labouring classes are avowedly treated as children or savages’.
Speaking of children and savages, it is not surprising that one of the 21st-century excuses for ‘diminishing temptation’ is the protection of the young. Whenever excessive regulation is on the horizon, you can guarantee our kids will be wheeled out as a battering ram against adult opposition. Alan Johnson claims that because ‘you can’t have any control over the age of the person’ buying cigarettes from a vending machine, they should be scrapped (even though the law already prohibits those under 18 from pubs that host vending machines). He claims that younger people ‘are more influenced by advertising’. That will explain the popularity of cannabis, then, all those billboards and TV ads. Finally, packets of ten are popular with non-wage-earning teenagers. But even with falling educational standards, the average 15-year-old can calculate that buying a packet of ten every two days can be replaced by buying a packet of 20 every four days.
What’s more, it doesn’t take an expert in child psychology to surmise that turning cigarettes into an under-the-counter purchase will most likely make them even more glamorous to your average rebellious teen. When politicians scaremonger about the alarming recent increase in numbers of underage smokers, they fail to acknowledge that this coincides with the most intensive anti-smoking drive ever known. Might there be a lesson in this?
Of course, coming up with rational objections to these illiberal measures misses the point. As the use of that ugly word ‘denormalising’ makes clear, this legislation is less concerned with enforceable policy than in sending messages about what constitutes normal, acceptable behaviour. Ms Robinson explained her legislation as an attempt ‘to shift cultural perceptions of smoking’. In other words, this is law used as propaganda. But all is not lost — in England at least. The proposals are only going out for consultation this month, so we can all have our say. Oh sorry. The Secretary of State for Health has already gone on Andrew Marr’s TV couch pre-consultation and declared that he supports the Scottish bans. Presumably anyone consulted who dares express ‘denormalised’ views will be ignored. Let’s bombard him anyway. For those many of us still keen to embrace Mill’s ‘experiments in living’, and to normalise a freedom, it really is time to draw the line here.
ban unfair, insulting
Freep.com - Jacob Grier - May 15, 2008
I head to the Upper Peninsula every summer, one of my favorite activities
is relaxing outside with a cigar on a beautiful Michigan night. I'm lucky
I don't visit in the winter. Now that the state Senate has passed a bill
to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, Michigan smokers may soon find
themselves out in the cold.
The ban is touted as a way to rescue bar and restaurant workers from the much-hyped perils of secondhand smoke. But before approving such legislation, it's worth asking whether these workers really need protecting. Often working as a bartender, I find it a bit disconcerting to see my profession become the object of such concern in so many states and cities. Firefighters, fishermen, coal miners, and even pizza delivery drivers take on far greater dangers than I ever have serving drinks.
Dangerous occupations are often regulated by the government to protect workers. But the risks of secondhand smoke are neither hidden nor so excessive as to warrant a ban. Given the rapid rates of employee turnover in the hospitality industry and the array of smoke-free job options in bars and restaurants, people are capable of deciding for themselves whether to work in a smoky environment. Business owners who try to force undesirable conditions on their employees will find themselves losing staff and having to pay higher wages.
Government interference is unnecessary and, frankly, insulting to many of us who labor in the industry.
Ban proponents disingenuously compare smoking laws to benign regulations such as keeping rats out of the kitchen, making the staff wash their hands and keeping meat refrigerated. They're missing an obvious point: There are not, so far as I know, groups of oppressed consumers demanding restaurants where the cooks have dirty hands and the meat is rotten. People do demand places where they can smoke and drink together.
In addition, what goes on in the kitchen is difficult for diners to discover from the outside, while smoking policies are easily ascertained. So long as entrepreneurs, customers and employees gather in such places willingly, there's no justification for the government stepping in to prevent them.
Supporters of these bans may be sincere about protecting workers. I suspect, however, that for many of them, the public health argument is a feel-good excuse for imposing their preferences on the rest of society.
The fight that ensued over this issue in Washington is a telling example. Before our ban was passed, City Councilwoman Carol Schwartz introduced a compromise that would have provided tax breaks to smoke-free businesses, increased fees for those that allow smoking and required smoke-friendly establishments to install expensive ventilation systems.
If the council's goal had truly been to provide workers with more options, the Schwartz proposal would have done that. But predictably, her sensible compromise was roundly ignored in favor of a citywide ban. The lawmakers in Lansing are taking a similarly excessive approach.
The good news for nonsmoking Michiganders is that business owners are already curtailing smoking in response to consumer preferences, just as they were in Washington before our ban took effect. A glance at the Web site of Michigan Citizens for Smokefree Air reveals 3,500 restaurants in Michigan are smoke-free. As tolerance for tobacco smoke continues to wane, more and more managers will see the benefits of joining them.
Nonsmokers have good reason to desire smoke-free bars and restaurants. Tobacco smoke is smelly and annoying. Or is it aromatic and enjoyable? The difference is a matter of taste. Smokers ought to have places that cater to their preferences, just as nonsmokers do. Michigan should resist the urge to join California, the District of Columbia and countless other states and cities in the panic over tobacco.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether the government should take steps to discourage indoor smoking, but a complete ban would go far beyond legitimate health concerns to violate the freedom of business owners, workers and customers throughout the state.
American Thinker - Anonymous - May 10, 2008
The author has requested anonymity for career reasons.
new battlefront in the war to erase politically incorrect civil liberties
is taking place across corporate America under the innocuous-sounding banner
of "Wellness." Wellness certainly sounds nice; what kind of person
is against wellness? That sounds as crazy as being anti-hope, or
standing in the way of change.
Obviously we all want to be well, but now it appears you won't have much choice in the matter. Be well or face consequences beyond the state of one's health. But always remember: We're doing this for your own good.
The latest thing that's in our best interest is a renewed focus on quitting smoking, or as they say in more sophisticated circles, smoking cessation. And I'll take a brief time out to recognize that, indeed, quitting smoking is in a smoker's best interest, however, what's different this time around are the tactics employed.
of the zealots
Numberwatch - John Brignell - March 2008
age has its dominant caste. This is the age of the zealot. Twenty years
ago they were dismissed as cranks and fanatics, but now they are licensed
to interfere in the every day lives of ordinary people to an unprecedented
degree. When Bernard Levin first identified the new phenomenon of the SIFs
(Single Issue Fanatics) many of us thought it was a bit of a joke or at
most an annoyance. Now the joke is on us. In that short time they have
progressed from being an ignorable nuisance to what is effectively a branch
of government. They initiate legislation and prescribe taxation. They form
a large and amorphous collection of groups of overlapping membership, united
and defined by the objects of their hatred (industry, tobacco, alcohol,
adiposity, carbon, meat, salt, chemicals in general, radio waves, field
sports etc.) Their success in such a short time has been one of the most
remarkable phenomena in the whole of human history.
This quotation says it all:
Imagine telling somebody twenty years ago that by 2007, it would be illegal to smoke in a pub or bus shelter or your own vehicle or that there would be £80 fines for dropping cigarette butts, or that the words "tequila slammer" would be illegal or the government would mandate what angle a drinker's head in an advertisement may be tipped at, or that it would be illegal to criticise religions or homosexuality, or rewire your own house, or that having sex after a few drinks would be classed as rape or that the State would be confiscating children for being overweight. Imagine telling them the government would be contemplating ration cards for fuel and even foods, that every citizen would be required to carry an ID card filled with private information which could be withdrawn at the state's whim. They'd have thought you a paranoid loon.
There is no question that tobacco haters are in the van and their unflinching, ruthless, mendacious campaign serves as an example to the rest. Their remarkable success is a spur to the others and their methods a model to be emulated. These include the gross abuse of the statistical method; the invention of numbers (particularly body counts, with no actual bodies or post-mortems) that grow mysteriously with time; the eschewal of anything approaching the scientific method; above all, the relentless, unceasing drum beat of propaganda. They never give up. Each tawdry victory strengthens the appetite for more. Having achieved the ban in public places (i.e. private property) they now seek to penetrate the home.
In order to get their ban, the activists followed the advice of Adolf Hitler (The broad mass of a nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one). They needed to plant an arrant falsehood in the public mind, that second hand smoke was a deadly poison. The charge was led by the US EPA, who in 1994 published a so-called meta-study that was then a unique example of multiple statistical fraud and revealed the lowest standards of statistical significance ever recorded (since greatly bettered by subsequent zealots). Thereafter the campaigners did not even bother with corrupt science. They simply made pronouncements that were dutifully reproduced by their allies in the establishment media. One oft repeated one is that “there is no lower limit for damage caused by second hand smoke”, which is an example of the concentration fallacy and a contradiction of the first law of toxicology (the poison is in the dose). They pioneered the virtual body count, produced from nowhere and endowed with a remarkable capacity to grow on its own. The British zealots announced a body count of 1,000 a year (considerably greater pro rata for population than the EPA claim) which became 4,000 and then 11,000, with no evidence adduced..
It is now a matter of history that the campaign for a smoking ban was astonishingly successful. It was not only a bad day for human liberty and freedom of choice, but also defeat for science and a model for other zealots to embrace dishonesty in their crusades. At a time of threatened collapse of our society it was remarkable for its irrelevance. It offers the activists the ineffable pleasure of being able to oppress and humiliate a minority on the basis of an apparent justification. The anti-democratic EU, as always, leads in the suppression of free speech.
One of the most frequently heard pieces of propaganda is that passive smoking causes childhood asthma. Children of the fifties did more passive smoking in one visit to the cinema than modern children do in their whole lives. Childhood asthma was then virtually unknown. It has increased steadily in subsequent decades, while environmental tobacco smoke has declined. It is now a major health problem. These facts are incontrovertible. Yet to state them is to arouse wrath. The sad side-effect of the dogma is that it diverts impetus from the search for the real cause: not a unique result of zealotry.
is the first casualty of activism
National Post - George Jonas - March 15, 2008
Griffiths, co-director with Patrick Luciani of The Salon Speakers Series,
sent me a copy of Czech President Vaclav Klaus' address delivered at Prague
Castle this week.
"Future dangers will not come from the same source," said the Czech head of state, speaking at the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover of the former Czechoslovakia. "The ideology will be different. Its essence will nevertheless be identical: an attractive, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice a man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality.
"What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its present strongest version, climate alarmism."
Indeed. There are many systems of social philosophy built on the proposition that public causes transcend individual freedoms, interests or morality. Lying in a good cause is OK. So is coercion. The main champions of this proposition used to be Marxists and Nazis, but it doesn't take a Marxist or a Nazi to bully and lie. Just about any "activist" can do it. So can any official, carrying out social policy. The current champions may be the climate alarmists of the environmental movement, but anti-smoking crusaders come a close second.
Take extortion. After British Columbia, New Brunswick has become the latest province to try its hand at it: extortion masquerading as a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The Ontario government is mild in comparison: It merely proposes to outlaw smoking in private cars while transporting children.
For the record, I don't smoke, don't allow children in my car and own no tobacco stocks. I believe staying away from cigarettes would save lives (as would staying away from fast-food, fast sex and fast demagoguery). Educational efforts to gradually phase out smoking are fine by me.
What isn't fine is bullying and lying. In reverse order, actually, since the anti-smoking lobby has to lie before it can bully. A key lie continues to be that the health hazards of secondhand smoke have been scientifically established.
In 1986, when then-U.S. surgeon-general C. Everett Koop wanted to see cigarettes banned, he made a flat statement, backed by the considerable weight of his office, that the effects of second-hand smoke were responsible for 2,000 deaths in the United States. Challenged by scientists, he blithely retreated, saying that while he may have pulled the figure out of a hat, it was all in a good cause. The principle was right.
But the principle wasn't right. A 1987 study by the American National Academy of Sciences found no evidence that second-hand smoke jeopardizes the health of non-smokers. As even Koop admitted, the majority of 16 studies on environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer found no statistically significant relationship. (One field study concluded that a nonsmoker would have to sit behind an office desk for 550 continuous hours before being exposed to the nicotine equivalent of a single cigarette.)
If your aim is to ban or regulate smoking, you must show that smoking harms non-smokers. And if you can't show it because the evidence is equivocal, you must create an atmosphere of hysteria.
In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went one better than Koop. They took the official position that second-hand cigarette smoke is a health hazard, responsible for 3,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S.
Five years later, a federal judge in North Carolina found the EPA made serious mistakes evaluating the risk of second-hand smoke. Federal District Judge William Osteen ruled in 1998 that the "EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before research had begun," and that the "EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information."
The EPA defended itself by saying it had never claimed that minimal exposure to second-hand smoke posed a huge individual cancer risk. It only said that, while the lung cancer risk from second-hand smoke was relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk was often involuntary.
It was a splendid illustration of how regulators, whose stock in trade is removing people's choices, can blithely cast themselves as protectors of volition. Don't smoking bans replace volition altogether? Oh well, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. (For eggs, read liberty -- piffle compared to the sacred cause of public hygiene.)
I have nothing against the EPA's agenda; I only dislike coercion and lies. I'm not in favour of environmental smoke, only opposed to environmental hysteria. And I marvel that we don't even blink anymore as government metastasizes into such private spaces as our cars.
Unhealthy as smoking is, it's not half as unhealthy as politicized science. When the Czech President raised the alarm this week about the cause-driven state "that transcends the individual in the name of the common good," he was only reminding us that in order to survive cancer or global warming, it's unnecessary to succumb to tyranny.
Do Smoke, If You Like
Why Gov. Kaine's Ban for Restaurants and Bars Is a Bad Idea
Washington Post - Thomas Firey and Jacob Grier - January 20, 2008
The writers are, respectively, a policy analyst and media manager at the Cato Institute.
Gov. Tim Kaine recently announced that he'll renew his fight to ban smoking
in all Virginia bars and restaurants. He defended this push by citing the
dangers of secondhand smoke, saying, "The scientific evidence about the
health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is clear and
convincing. Recognizing the negative health effects and high public costs
of secondhand smoke, Virginia must act to protect the workers and consumers
in its restaurants."
We're pleased the governor has such command of the epidemiologic literature. Usually, when politicians make such statements, they have little if any familiarity with the scientific research. Kaine should cite the empirical studies showing the health effects of bar and restaurant patrons' occasional exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. We're not aware of any such studies; even the much-cited recent surgeon general's report on secondhand smoke offered no statistical evidence of diminished health from occasional exposure. The findings on health effects that we've seen involve people who are chronically exposed to secondhand smoke -- people such as the spouses and children of smokers who've had decades of regular, concentrated exposure.
The governor further claims that he has "clear and convincing" scientific evidence that a ban would decrease health risks and reduce "high" public costs. Can he tell us what those costs were and how they were calculated? How much will Virginia's current trends in mortality and morbidity change as a result of his prohibition? Will he and state legislators promise to repeal the law if no such change materializes?
Of course, people have a right to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, no matter what studies show. But they don't have the right to force everyone else to live according to their preference. Fortunately, the world can accommodate their desires along with those of people who don't mind tobacco smoke, just as it can accommodate people who like Chinese food and people who prefer hamburgers. Restaurant and bar owners want to make money, and they do so by catering to different market niches. In Northern Virginia, many restaurants and bars advertise that they are smoke-free, while others cater to a smoking crowd. This offering of many different choices is a virtue of open markets. So why would Kaine override the smoking choices of different people and instead impose his preference on all Virginians?
The governor noted his concern for the health of hospitality workers, who may have more exposure to secondhand smoke. But when bar and restaurant owners set their smoking policies, they must consider the preferences of their staff or else they'll find themselves facing rapid turnover and paying higher wages. Why should all Virginia bar and restaurant workers be forced to work in a nonsmoking environment that only some of them demand?
Liberal societies allow people to make decisions that others don't like. If some Virginians want to eat and drink in an establishment that allows smoking, and some workers want to work there, and some entrepreneur wants to finance that business, why does the governor think he should overrule them?
Once again, personal choices are under attack by good-for-you government.
L.A. Times - Jonah Goldberg - January 20, 2008
this? "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt
to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make
it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we
will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control
Younger readers may not remember the opening to "The Outer Limits," a pretty good sci-fi rip-off of "The Twilight Zone" (and they may have only a fuzzy understanding that TVs used to have knobs to control the horizontal and vertical). But as they read the news these days, maybe they can find a new appreciation for the creepy feeling of powerlessness that opening once gave viewers.
For instance, California is proposing revisions to its housing code that would require all new or remodeled homes to have a "programmable communicating thermostat." Equipped with special "nonremovable" FM radio receivers, these devices would allow state power authorities to set the temperature in your home as they see fit. Ostensibly to manage demand during "price events" and other "emergencies," you would basically cede control of your home's heating and air conditioning to the state (when and if state officials wanted to exercise it).
Taken by itself, this may not sound so scary. But then again, as Gulliver learned, one Lilliputian is an intriguing freak. Two are kind of cool. But 10,000 teeny-weeny folk tying you down?
Of course, tying Americans down, limiting their options, foreclosing on any path not acceptable to today's social controllers of the right and the left is perhaps the defining spirit of our age.
In New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a champion of a supposedly new "post-partisan" movement of for-your-own-good-government, trans fats are off the menu. Smoking has become the ceremony of heretics and outlaws. In 2006 alone, New York City banned -- or attempted to ban -- pit bulls; trans fats; aluminum baseball bats; the purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds; foie gras; pedicabs in parks; new fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods); lobbyists from the floor of council chambers; vehicles in Central and Prospect parks; cellphones in upscale restaurants; the sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C.; mail-order pharmaceutical plans; candy-flavored cigarettes; the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus; and Wal-Mart.
David Harsanyi, author of "Nanny State," reports that there are "No Running" signs in Florida playgrounds, perhaps to make it easier for the authorities to catch toddlers and outfit them with mandatory helmets, chin guards and corrective shoes.
Nor is this a purely American phenomenon. Paris -- where smoking a Gauloise while tucking into some runny cheese has long been the national pastime -- recently banned smoking in bars, restaurants and cafes. Britain has gone just plain bonkers, updating its omnipresent anti-crime and anti-terror security cameras to catch people eating in their cars while on the road, now a major offense.
In Canada, there are now a slew of public service announcements that use fear, terror and gruesome imagery to encourage workplace safety. You can find them on YouTube. My favorite features an attractive young female chef in the kitchen of her restaurant, gushing that she's about to get married and have a wonderful life. Unfortunately, proper safety precautions weren't taken, and in the middle of the ad, while she's speaking to the camera, she slips and falls, pouring boiling oil on herself. She screams in agony. We see her scalded hands clenched in pain, the singed flesh on her face peeling off. So remember kids, safety never takes a vacation!
Much of this, as Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum has long argued, stems from the "totalitarian" temptation inherent to seeing healthcare as a sub-category of politics and policy. When government picks up the tab for health costs, it inevitably feels it is responsible for curtailing them through "prevention," which can often elide into compulsion. As Faith Fitzgerald, a professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine, put it in the New England Journal of Medicine: "Both healthcare providers and the commonweal now have a vested interest in certain forms of behavior, previously considered a person's private business, if the behavior impairs a person's 'health.' Certain failures of self-care have become, in a sense, crimes against society, because society has to pay for their consequences."
But there's another factor at work as well. We are seeing a return to the idea -- first championed by social planners in the progressive era -- that government can and should play the role of parent. For instance, Michael Gerson, once a speechwriter for President Bush, advocates a new "heroic conservatism" -- an updating of his former boss' compassionate conservatism -- that would unleash a new era of statist regulations. On the stump, Hillary Clinton refers to her book, "It Takes a Village," in which she argued that we all must surrender ourselves to the near-constant prodding, monitoring, cajoling and scolding of the "helping professions." Clinton argues that children are born in "crisis" and government must respond with all the tools in its arsenal from the word go. She advocates putting television sets in all public gathering places so citizens can be treated to an endless loop of good parenting tutorials.
Mike Huckabee, who represents compassionate conservatism on steroids, favors a nationwide ban on public smoking. Everywhere, from Barack Obama to John McCain, we are told that our politics must be about causes "larger than ourselves." What we used to think of as individual freedom is now being recast as greedy and selfish.
We've seen this before. The original progressives -- activist intellectuals, social reformers, social gospel ministers and other would-be planners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- touted "social control" as the watchword of their movement. One reason the progressives supported World War I so passionately was not because they supported the aims of the conflict but because they loved domestic mobilization. John Dewey, the American philosopher and educator who sang the praises of the "social benefits of war," was giddy that the conflict might force Americans "to give up much of our economic freedom. ... We shall have to lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step." The progressives believed that people needed to be saved from themselves. Journalist and commentator Walter Lippmann dubbed average citizens "mentally children and barbarians." "Organized social control" via a "socialized economy" was the only means to create meaningful freedom, argued Lippman, Dewey and others. And by free, the progressives meant free to live the "right" way.
A similar dynamic defined much of Nazi Germany. Nazi Youth manuals proclaimed that "nutrition is not a private matter!" "Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz" -- essentially, all for one, one for all -- was the rallying slogan of the Nazi crackdown on smoking, the first serious anti-tobacco campaign of the 20th century. The first systematized mass murder in Nazi Germany wasn't of the Jews but of the "useless bread-gobblers" and other lebensunwertes leben ("life unworthy of life"). The argument was that the mentally ill, the aged, the infirm were too much of a drain on the socialist economy.
Now, nobody thinks anything like that is in store for us these days. But we can come far short of that and still overshoot the mark of what is desirable by a wide margin.
More important, it's worth remembering that liberty is usually found in the small joys of daily life. In "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville warned: "It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones."
liberty by increments
Republican American - Walter E. Williams - January 14, 2008
Bush signed an energy bill last month that will ban the sale of Edison's
incandescent bulb, starting with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and ending with
the 40-watt bulb by 2014. You say, "Hey, Williams, what's wrong with saving
energy, reducing our carbon footprint and stopping global warming?" Before
you get too enthused over governmental energy-saving efforts, you might
ponder what's down the road.
The California Energy Commission recently proposed amendments to its standards for energy efficiency. Its standards include a requirement that any new or modified heating or air-conditioning system must include a programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) whose settings can be controlled remotely by government authorities. A thermostat czar, sitting in Sacramento, would be empowered to reduce the heating or cooling of your house during what he deems as an "emergency event."
Should you disagree with the czar's temperature setting for your house, the commission is one step ahead of you: "The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events." In other words, the thermostat must be configured in a way that doesn't allow the customer to override the czar's decision.
Some people might agree with this level of government control over their lives, but if these amendments become law, you can bet there are other intrusive energy-saving proposals waiting in the wing. For now, California's energy communists simply are testing how much intrusiveness Californians peaceably will accept. I can imagine the state Energy Commission requiring remotely controlled main circuit-breaker boxes that control all of the electricity coming into your house. That would enable the energy czar to manage your electricity use.
Say you're preparing a big dinner. The energy czar might decide that you don't need so much heat in the rest of the house. Or, preparing a big dinner might mean the energy czar would turn off the energy to your washing machine and dryer while the electric stove is on.
There's no end to what the energy czar could do, particularly if he enlists the aid of the Department of Health Services. Getting six to eight hours of sleep each night is healthy; good health lowers health costs. So why not make it possible for the energy czar to turn the lights off at a certain hour? The Department of Education knows children should do their homework after school rather than sit playing video games or watching television. The energy czar could improve education outcomes simply by turning off the television or at least turning off all non-educational programs.
You say, "Williams, you must be mad. All that would never happen." That's the same charge one might have made back in the 1960s, when the anti-tobacco movement started, if someone predicted that the day would come when some cities, such as Calabasas, Calif., would outlaw smoking on public streets. If someone had predicted that there'd be bans on restaurants serving foie gras; citations for driving without a seat belt; and school bans on children having peanut-butter sandwiches in their lunch boxes, I'm sure people would have said that would never happen.
California's Energy Commission, along with its legislature, has the power to mandate that all heating and cooling devices have programmable communicating thermostats by 2009. After all, it's never too early to start saving energy or prepare for an "emergency event." The reason they won't is they would encounter too much political resistance. Their agenda is far more achievable using techniques dear to all tyrants: There's less resistance if liberty is taken away a little bit at a time.
Lying, Cheating Do-Gooders: Part Two
Center for the Advancement of Capitalism - Edward Cline - December 5, 2007
the “debate” over anthropogenic global warming, the “debate” over the alleged
health risks of secondhand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS)
is apparently over, not because the advocates of smoking bans have proven
their assertions, but because: first, the advocates wish their allegations
to be true; and, second, government force is backing up those assertions,
thus giving them an aura of legitimacy in the name of “public health.”
Hand Smoke and Health
Stogie Fresh Cigar Journal - Terry Simpson, M.D., F.A.C.S. - December 3, 2007
Terry Simpson is a physician - surgeon, writer, and avid cigar smoker.
On June 27, 2006, long after the first Report and yet likely based on its long-lasting impact, Surgeon General Richard Carmona issued the following statements regarding second hand smoke:
(a) The scientific evidence is now indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.
(b) Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, and is itself a known human carcinogen
(c) There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 40 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
The Surgeon General also stated that 49,000 deaths per
year were caused by second hand smoke. As a surgeon, I was stunned, because
I had never seen an autopsy report listing second hand smoke as the cause
of death. Nor had I seen this as a secondary cause of death. So I asked
six pathologists if they had ever listed second hand smoke as a cause of
death – not one had. In my years of clinical practice, I have seen patients
die from many devastating diseases, and yet I have never seen anyone who
has been disabled by, or has died as a result of, second hand smoke. This
was my first clue that perhaps there was more hyperbole than science involved
in the reports issuing from the Surgeon General’s Office. To give a contrast:
33,000 people die per year of pancreatic cancer – all of the pathologists
have listed pancreatic cancer as a cause of death.
Science: Food Nannies’ Halloween Cancer Scare
Fox News - Steven Milloy - November 1, 2007
latest food scare was announced, appropriately enough, on Halloween. But
the science behind the scare is about as believable as are ghosts and goblins.
"Landmark Report: Excess Body Fat Causes Cancer; Panel Also Implicates Red Meat, Processed Meat and Alcohol" blared the media release about a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
The massive 537-page tome "assembled over five years by nine independent teams of scientists, hundreds of peer reviewers and 21 international experts who reviewed over 7,000 large-scale studies” purports to be the “most comprehensive ever published on the evidence linking cancer risk to diet, physical activity and weight."
"The most striking finding in the report is that excess body fat increases risk for numerous cancers... Even small amounts of excess body fat, especially if carried at the waist, increase risk," proclaimed the media release.
The report advises limiting the intake of hamburgers, French fries, milk shakes, pastries and soft drinks. It says that there is "no safe level of consumption" of processed meats a hysterical claim that is not even true for the most poisonous substances.
This certainly is a landmark report never before have so many scientists labored so long to embarrass themselves and their academic disciplines.
There’s not enough room in this column to debunk each and every claim made in the AICR report, but we’ll look at some examples after considering some fundamental facts and principles.
First, scientists don’t really understand carcinogenesis very well. It’s known that the risk of cancer increases with age possibly because of the deterioration of DNA repair mechanisms and a few well-documented risk factors, such as family history of cancer, heavy smoking, and exposure to certain viruses and some exposures to radiation. Outside of those and perhaps a few other risk factors, the occurrence of cancer is largely inexplicable.
Significantly, not a single case of cancer among the tens of thousands studied in the "7,000 large-scale studies" was definitively linked with any specific dietary factor. The AIRC report’s claim to link diet with cancer largely amounts to post-facto guesswork abetted by statistical hijinks and imagination run amok.
A cardinal principle of epidemiology is that it is a very useful methodology when looking for linkage between high rates of rare diseases the sort of relationship classically found, for example, in outbreaks of food poisoning.
But epidemiology is wholly incapable of identifying low risks of relatively common diseases or conditions, such as most cancers. The reason for this is simple: the margin of error in study data due to inaccurate and incomplete data collection is typically far greater than the size of any statistical relationship that may exist or be detected.
Accordingly, the rule of thumb in epidemiology, as famously espoused by the National Cancer Institute, is that, "In epidemiologic research, [increases in risk of less than 100 percent] are considered small and usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias or effects of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident."
Further, just because a reported risk is greater than 100 percent, that does not necessarily indicate a cause-and-effect relationship. Such reported risks may be statistically insignificant (indicating they could have occurred by chance) or have wide margins of error (indicating flaky data). And, of course, for any statistical risk to have meaning, it must be backed up by biological plausibility.
With these concepts in mind, let’s consider the AICR report.
The vast majority of the results from individual studies between every type of food and every type of cancer cited in the report are either significantly below 100 percent and/or statistically insignificant. The relatively few cited risks that exceed 100 percent are typically not statistically significant or have wide margins of error.
Consider the data presented for processed meat, which the AICR report claims to be too dangerous to eat.
Of the 17 study results concerning processed meat and colon cancer comparing high consumption to low consumption 15 are way below, and one is at the 100 percent-risk threshold. Thirteen studies aren’t statistically significant. Not only is the lone study claiming a risk above 100 percent (a reported 250 percent increase in risk) barely statistically significant, it has a margin of error four times the size of the reported risk.
Of the seven studies reporting a cancer risk per serving of processed meat, all reported risks are substantially below the 100 percent threshold. Four results are clearly not statistically significant and two are borderline insignificant.
On the basis of these dubious statistical results, the AICR report concludes that “processed meat is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer.” This is an appalling and unsupported conclusion.
In the end, the AICR report isn’t really science at all it’s more of bloody crime scene where science got violently mugged by hoods costumed as health and nutrition experts and wielding statistical pepper spray. In some ways, this shoddy science isn’t surprising when one considers that the AICR also pitches cranberry recipes and other culinary snake oil as a means of reducing cancer risk.
The AICR advocates against consuming fat, salt, sugar and alcohol-- an agenda worth $37 million in charitable donations in 2006. So we shouldn’t be surprised when the food police issue a “report” advancing such a lucrative agenda.
the Consensus on Secondhand Smoke?
Heartland Institute - Joseph Bast - November 1, 2007
than a year has passed since U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said,
"The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere
annoyance, but a serious health hazard."
At the time, Carmona released a seemingly impressive 727-page report on secondhand smoke, the introduction of which claims secondhand smoke killed approximately 50,000 nonsmoking adults and children in 2005.
Carmona's report stated the new orthodoxy in the anti-smoking
establishment: There is a "consensus" on the dangers of secondhand smoke.
But did his report actually make the case?
Junk Science and Courtrooms
Understanding Carmona's report requires familiarity with a different report--the Federal Judicial Center's 2000 "Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition," the official guide for judges to understand and rule on science introduced in courtrooms.
According to the manual, nearly all the studies cited in Carmona's report wouldn't pass muster in a court of law because they are observational studies, the sample sizes are too small, or the effects they show are too negligible to be reliable.
state becomes granny state
San Francisco Chronicle - Debra J. Saunders - October 14, 2007
week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure that subjects drivers
who smoke with minors in cars to a $100 fine. The Belmont City Council
passed a measure to ban smoking, not only on sidewalks or in parks, but
even in your own apartment or condo, if the neighbors complain.
Witness the Florida-ization of California. Wags have called California the Nanny State. Now it's turning into the Granny State - as Sacramento lawmakers pass laws that work like real estate CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) that restrict how other people can live.
My generation is the generation that got away with everything. We partied. (OK, maybe you didn't, but I did.) We partook of illegal substances. We changed the drinking age to 18, as we chanted, "Old enough to fight, old enough to drink." We promised that when we were in charge, we wouldn't tell people how to live their lives. We would let others find their own path and make their own mistakes.
So what do we do when we are old enough to run things? Having sown our wild oats, we're outlawing oatmeal. The drinking age in America is 21 - states that don't comply stand too lose 10 percent of federal highway funding.
California lawmakers repeatedly have tried to pass bills to make California the first state to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. After the Belmont vote, it seems only a matter of time before it passes.
Look what we've done with America. If you're 18, you can serve in Afghanistan, but don't drink a beer. You can vote, but if some California lawmakers have their way, you won't be able to buy a cigar.
In Belmont, soon you might not be able to smoke in your own home, while statewide you will be subject to a fine if you drive and smoke with someone under 18 in your car.
What about freedom? Perhaps Californians should be grateful that the bill by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, to make it a crime for a parent to spank a young child did not survive. Ditto Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill to require car seats for children up to 8 years old.
Note that liberals are leading the way in pushing granny state laws. Only one Republican in the entire Legislature voted for SB7 (the smoking in cars with minors bill), while Democrats provided all 44 aye votes in the Assembly and 20 yes votes in the Senate. Democrats were behind bills to ban the sale of soft drinks first in elementary and middle schools - then in high schools. (Fairweather Republican Schwarzenegger signed said legislation.) The generation that lobbied for kegs on campus is booting cola out of classrooms.
Sure, liberal lawmakers talk about choice. But if they believe your choices are bad for you, they will use the full force of the law to impose their will on you.
"It is, 'I can do it, so I'm going to'," explained Belmont Councilman Bill Dickenson, who voted against the even-in-your-own-home smoking ban.
Assembly GOP Leader Michael Villines of Clovis lamented bills to mandate "what you can eat and can't eat" - when mainstream voters are looking for "a good school, a good job and to live in a safe community."
Pity the poor busybody politician in search on an excuse to pass laws that mandate how other people live. After all, they can't outlaw all unhealthy behavior, so they have to find unpopular targets - smokers, fat people - or claim they are passing a granny law For The Children.
Then, they expand childhood. So that law to require booster seats for children until they're age 6 or weigh 60 pounds is reapplied to kids up to age 8. After all, Sacto solons can't allow parents to decide whether or not to put school-age children in car seats. And they want to tell voting-age military-age 20-year-olds, who can't drink, that they can't smoke.
I don't want to knock old people. I plan on being one some day. But I don't want a stereotypical old lady, who peaks through her curtains, passing laws that dictate what I can or cannot do - especially in my own home.
Yet that is what Sacramento lawmakers - the macho Schwarzenegger even - have decided they have the right to do. My generation thought we'd be so tolerant and open to the different drummer. Yet we keep electing politicians who believe they have a right to dictate how other adults live. Busybody granny politicians treat adults - whether they're 20 or 50 - like children. Maybe they're right, because California voters let them do it.
Crusaders Boldly Go into Smokers' Homes
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - October 10, 2007
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine
Prohibition, making and selling liquor was illegal, but drinking it was
not. With tobacco, we are moving toward the opposite situation, where it
will be legal to make and sell cigarettes but not to smoke them.
A smoking ban recently approved by the city council of Belmont, Calif., a town halfway between San Jose and San Francisco, is so sweeping that saying where it does not apply is easier than saying where it does. Smoking will still be allowed in tobacco shops, in automobiles, in some hotel rooms, in private residences that do not share a floor or ceiling with other private residences, and on streets and sidewalks, assuming you can find a spot that is not within 20 feet of a smoke-free location.
That may be hard, since Belmont's smoke-free areas include not only buildings open to the public but outdoor locations where people wait, such as ATM lines and bus stops, or work, such as construction sites and restaurant patios. But a smoker who despairs of finding an outdoor area where smoking is allowed can still light up even if he does not own a car and is unlucky enough to live in an apartment or condominium. He just has to land a role in a theatrical production "where smoking is an integral part of the story."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles suburb that dubbed itself "Clean Air Calabasas" when it was leading the smoke-free march into the great outdoors is considering an extension of its ordinance that would cover apartments. Even if your landlord doesn't care whether you smoke, Clean Air Calabasas does.
The official justification for these ever-more-intrusive smoking bans is that the slightest whiff of secondhand smoke poses an intolerable hazard. The Belmont ordinance claims tobacco smoke is "extremely dangerous," regardless of dose, and warns that even "exposure to outdoor secondhand smoke may present a hazard under certain conditions of wind and smoker proximity."
Predictably, the ordinance cites former Surgeon General Richard Carmona's assertion that "there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure." But this pseudoscientific leap of faith amounts to saying that every little bit hurts, even if the damage can't be measured.
Epidemiological studies generally find that adults who live with smokers for decades are slightly more likely to get lung cancer and heart disease. The difference is so small that it's hard to say whether it signifies a causal relationship. There is also evidence that very young children of smokers are more prone to earaches and lower respiratory infections.
What do these studies of prolonged, relatively intense exposure prove about a little smoke seeping under the door of your apartment or wafting your way on the street? Absolutely nothing.
But the politicians who take the misleading statements of public-health officials like Carmona and run with them cannot be bothered by the facts. New York Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining), who wants to ban smoking on playgrounds, recently told Newsday that "the scientific reports say that secondhand smoke has as much of a negative effect on your health as smoking directly."
Got that, kids? If your parents smoke, you might as well start smoking yourself; the health effects won't be any worse.
One of Galef's colleagues, Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Queens), said lighting up around children is worse than physical abuse. "They're both horrible things," Lafayette averred, "but one is going to kill the child."
As those remarks suggest, the next rationale for banning smoking in private residences may be child protection, which will allow the government to go after smokers in detached homes as well as apartments. Already several state and local jurisdictions have banned smoking in cars carrying minors.
Such laws raise the question of why legislators are ignoring the setting in which the vast majority of children's exposure to secondhand smoke occurs. Now that anti-smoking crusaders have crossed the threshold into people's homes, they are not likely to turn back.
Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty
The Conservative Voice - Don Watkins - October 2, 2007
Don Watkins is a writer and research coordinator at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA.
the country, state and local governments are banning smoking on private
property, including bars, restaurants, and office buildings. This is just
the latest step in the government's war on smoking--a coercive campaign
that includes massive taxes on cigarettes, advertising bans, and endless
multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies. This war is infecting
America with a political disease far worse than any health risk caused
by smoking; it is destroying our freedom to make our own judgments and
According to the anti-smoking movement, restricting people's freedom to smoke is justified by the necessity of combating the "epidemic" of smoking-related disease and death. Cigarettes, we are told, kill hundreds of thousands of helplessly addicted victims a year, and expose countless millions to unwanted and unhealthy secondhand smoke. Smoking, the anti-smoking movement says, in effect, is a plague, whose ravages can only be combated through drastic government action.
But smoking is not some infectious disease that must be quarantined and destroyed by the government. Smoking is a voluntary activity that every individual is free to choose to abstain from (including by avoiding restaurants and other private establishments that permit smoking). And, contrary to those who regard any smoking as irrational on its face, cigarettes are a potential value that each individual must assess for himself. Of course, smoking can be harmful--in certain quantities, over a certain period of time, it can be habit forming and lead to disease or death. But many individuals understandably regard the risks of smoking as minimal if one smokes relatively infrequently, and they see smoking as offering definite value, such as physical pleasure.
Are they right? Can it be a value to smoke cigarettes--and if so, in what quantity? This is the sort of judgment that properly belongs to every individual, based on his assessment of the evidence concerning smoking's benefits and risks, and taking into account his particular circumstances (age, family history, profession, tastes, etc.). If others believe the smoker is making a mistake, they are free to try to persuade him of their viewpoint. But they should not be free to dictate his decision on whether and to what extent to smoke, any more than they should be able to dictate his decision on whether and to what extent to drink alcohol or play poker. The fact that some individuals will smoke themselves into an early grave is no more justification for banning smoking than that the existence of alcoholics is grounds for prohibiting you from enjoying a drink at dinner.
Implicit in the war on smoking, however, is the view that the government must dictate the individual's decisions with regard to smoking, because he is incapable of making them rationally. To the extent the anti-smoking movement succeeds in wielding the power of government coercion to impose on Americans its blanket opposition to smoking, it is entrenching paternalism: the view that individuals are incompetent to run their own lives, and thus require a nanny-state to control every aspect of those lives.
This state is well on its way: from trans-fat bans to bicycle helmet laws to prohibitions on gambling, the government is increasingly abridging our freedom on the grounds that we are not competent to make rational decisions in these areas--just as it has long done by paternalistically dictating how we plan for retirement (Social Security) or what medicines we may take (the FDA).
Indeed, one of the main arguments used to bolster the anti-smoking agenda is the claim that smokers impose "social costs" on non-smokers, such as smoking-related medical expenses--an argument that perversely uses an injustice created by paternalism to support its expansion. The only reason non-smokers today are forced to foot the medical bills of smokers is that our government has virtually taken over the field of medicine, in order to relieve us inept Americans of the freedom to manage our own health care, and bear the costs of our own choices.
But contrary to paternalism, we are not congenitally irrational misfits. We are thinking beings for whom it is both possible and necessary to rationally judge which courses of action will serve our interests. The consequences of ignoring this fact range from denying us legitimate pleasures to literally killing us: from the healthy 26-year-old unable to enjoy a trans-fatty food, to the 75-year-old man unable to take an unapproved, experimental drug without which he will certainly die.
By employing government coercion to deprive us of the freedom to judge for ourselves what we inhale or consume, the anti-smoking movement has become an enemy, not an ally, in the quest for health and happiness.
mirrors and taxes
Scripps Howard News Service - Dale McFeatters - October 1, 1007
proposes to fund its $35 billion expansion of children's health coverage
-- assuming it survives an expected presidential veto -- with a 61-cent
increase in the federal cigarette tax, bringing it to a dollar a pack.
Superficially, the idea has considerable appeal. The high tax might discourage -- it certainly punishes -- people engaged in a life-threatening habit that the government officially discourages. Simultaneously, it provides the funds to extend health coverage to uninsured children.
But Congress may find it has run afoul of the law of unintended consequences.
If the tax works as planned, the number of smokers will decline and so will the revenue. Increasing the tax again might run afoul of another law -- diminishing returns -- and Congress would face the unpleasant task of either capping the program or increasing taxes elsewhere.
Critics of the tax say that funding the natural increase in the child health program over the next 10 years will have Congress in the perverse position of needing 22 million new smokers.
The tax will fall most heavily on the poor and the poorly educated because disproportionately more of them are smokers. It may be correct if mean-spirited to say they shouldn't be smoking in the first place, but taxes that single out a class of people are generally not good policy. However, the cold political fact is that cigarette smokers are just not politically popular and the imposition of this punitive tax smacks of "serves them right."
The tax increase will raise the cost of cigarettes substantially. Six states already impose a tax of $2 per pack or more -- Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island and Washington, with New Jersey topping the list at $2.57. And counties and cities also add taxes, with New York City hitting smokers for $1.50 a pack on top of the state levy of $1.
As cigarettes become more expensive, they also become more attractive targets for robbery, theft and hijacking, and more states are likely to join New York and New Jersey in their battle with a black market in bootlegged cigarettes.
The price of a justifiable expansion of child health care may have the unintended consequence of creating a new class of tax evaders.
Wants to Smoke Out Taxpayers — Again
FOXNews.com - JD Foster - September 7, 2007
JD Foster is the Norman B. Ture senior fellow in the economics of fiscal policy at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
is looking to raise the federal tobacco tax again.
The excuse this time is to help pay for a huge expansion of the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Expanding the SCHIP program is unwise, not least as another step on the road to government-run health care.
Raising taxes to pay for more spending generally is a case of the old adage that two wrongs don't make a right. But turning to a tobacco tax hike is discriminatory and thus especially unsavory.
Congress has long held tobacco users and the industry in high contempt. Smoking and the tobacco industry are widely unpopular, especially among upper-class trendsetters (and even among conservative economists).
The product is severely unhealthful. And the only real defense the industry can muster is their shareholders' contentment in enormous ongoing profits.
Yet Congress won't eradicate tobacco entirely. Why is that?
It's not as though we're dealing with poppy growers in Afghanistan. The whispered excuse is the political power of tobacco interests.
To be sure, the tobacco industry has been a big player in Washington, D.C., for a long time, but that's not why Congress has won't match actions to rhetoric. The real reason is that Congress itself is addicted to tobacco.
The tobacco addiction Congress suffers is tax revenues -- the nico-tax addiction. The federal tobacco tax is now 39 cents a pack, generating $7.2 billion in tax receipts in 2005.
Of course, the tobacco tax addiction extends well beyond our nation's capital. Every state levies a tobacco excise, from a high of $2.75 a pack in New Jersey to a low of 7 cents a pack in South Carolina.
If lawmakers meant all the mean things said about tobacco companies, they would drive the product from our shores.
They need not pass a constitutional amendment or alter the Federal Drug Administration mandate to erase the touted scourge. As Chief Justice John Marshall once said, "The power to tax involves the power to destroy."
If Congress really wanted to destroy the tobacco industry, a truly punishing tax increase would do the trick.
But Congress loves tax revenue more than it hates tobacco. And so, from time to time, they threaten to raise the tobacco tax further, but not too much.
In this case, Congress is looking to roll in an increase in the tobacco excise to $1 a pack along with expanding this specific government-run health-insurance program.
SCHIP was part of the 1997 budget deal as the first step toward national health insurance. Congress now wants to take the next step by vastly expanding coverage.
The Senate has already passed a bill to more than double the program to $60 billion. But under the budget rules, it has to pay for the new spending.
Enter the higher tobacco tax -- just high enough to generate the needed revenues, but not so high as to reduce materially the ranks of smokers or do real damage to the industry.
Though most Americans actively disdain tobacco and tobacco companies, they still ought to take great affront at a tax policy expressly designed to discriminate against the use of a legal product.
This discrimination cannot be justified on the basis of
tobacco's alleged costs to society, because no other product is subject
to such a test.
This discrimination cannot be justified on the basis of personal health because, again, no other product is subject to such a test and, in any event, that should be a personal decision.
A tax on tobacco at any level is government-sanctioned economic discrimination justified only on the basis of political whim and expediency.
Even if one could somehow justify a higher tobacco tax, there is no justification for a higher overall tax burden.
If Congress raises the tobacco tax, then some other tax should be reduced commensurately. At 18.8 percent of gross domestic product, the federal tax burden is already again above the modern historical average, and it is expected to increase in coming years even with the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.
Congress should be looking for ways to cut taxes, not to raise them. The historical average tax share should be regarded as a dangerous ceiling, not a target or a floor.
The SCHIP reauthorization bill is a bad bill all around. It's far too expensive. It's a big next step toward national health insurance. It requires a big increase in taxes that are already too high. And the tax hike in question shows that the sad congressional addiction to the nico-tax is undiminished.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Dimitri Vassilaros - August 31, 2007
you really be addicted to substances and behaviors?
John Luik, University of Oxford Rhodes Scholar and senior fellow at the Democracy Institute in Washington, D.C., says the definition of addiction has been manipulated to increase health-care profits by lowering personal responsibility. So, could dark chocolate from Belgium be addictive?
Fat chance, he says.
"When people hear the word 'addiction,' they imagine addiction means hopelessly and compulsively using against your will -- addicted to illegal drugs and smoking," says Mr. Luik, author of "Science Through the Looking-Glass: The Manipulation of 'Addiction' and Its Influence on Public Policy."
But now the word also is used by lawyers regarding certain
foods, essentially saying people have no control over eating and drinking
as well as other types of human behavior, Luik says.
"My central message is that when you look at the research, it's simply not true. People do have control over their behavior. They are not forced to do any of these things. When people say they have to eat hamburgers and milkshakes, there's no scientific evidence to suggest that is true," he says.
That could have profound implications regarding lawsuits alleging harm by the fast-food industry.
Your Honor, and ladies and gentlemen of the jury; every day Ronald McDonald ordered me to eat a dozen Big Macs and untold supersized fries. I am at his mercy. To be made whole, that clown must be made to pay.
"So the downside of this is that you have a whole group of people who've had the burden of responsibility removed. They are no longer responsible for their own behavior," Luik says.
Addiction labeling accelerated in the 1970s when the culprit -- the pubic health establishment -- said smokers were addicted and, therefore, it was supposedly harder for them to quit, he says.
The impact was horrible, Luik says, because it lessened the motivation to try changing their behavior. The alternative was to look for redress from the government or the evil industry. Picture Big Tobacco thugs ramming unfiltered cigarettes up people's noses.
Big Health Care may declare addictions to food and video games, he says. New ailments can mean new money from government and other entities for the health-care industry to deal with the so-called malady, Luik says.
Unlike cancer, heart disease or even an ingrown toenail, addiction cannot be proven, he says. There's no test, not even a way to prove that the so-called addict has not tried hard enough to stop.
There's also a nettlesome Catch-22.
"Once you say that any class of people can overcome an addiction, it removes the argument that it's a compulsive behavior," Luik says. "Even if you look at smoking, 50 million living Americans have quit." When that fact is juxtaposed with the claim that smoking is addictive, are there really any "victims"?
Willpower can stop the desire to smoke, drink alcohol or gamble, he says. But can willpower even cure a toenail, let alone cancer?
Rugged individualism and rational thought somehow have morphed into wretched victimhood and repulsive stupidity.
How do "victims" willingly degrade themselves -- demanding rewards for not resisting temptation -- without dying of shame?
Health Police Cometh
NY Sun - Andrew Wolf - August 24, 2007
of the City Council, that intrepid band of public servants hell-bent on
finding the most intrusive ways of interfering in the lives of the rest
of us, have a new cause. They seek to ban smoking in private automobiles
when a child is present.
The question to me is not whether children need protection in this case, but at what point our private space begins and ends, and for what reasons society will tolerate the breaching of that space.
If the police (who obviously, according to some Council members, don't have enough to do already) can stop a parent from smoking in his or her car, is the next step prohibiting smoking in any home with children? Or perhaps the next step is enforcing some future ban on children eating fast food or sugar-laden snacks?
And who is to decide just what is good for you and what is not? Does anyone on the City Council have any expertise here? Or are they just grabbing for a quick headline? These are the folks who brought you the ban on aluminum baseball bats, even in the absence of any evidence that such bats are more dangerous than the more expensive and far less durable wooden variety.
Despite this, the Council was totally comfortable making a decision based on their gut feelings. Similarly, we may surmise that the closed confines of an automobile may expose a child to danger from a smoking adult, but where is the scientific study that confirms this?
Earlier this week I chatted with the chair of the City Council's Health Committee, Joel Rivera.
He was the fellow who proposed restrictive zoning to limit the number of fast-food restaurants in poverty stricken communities, an idea that hasn't advanced even among his eager-to-meddle colleagues, although his advocacy for this scheme won him a measure of press exposure that reached far beyond city limits.
Mr. Rivera was elected to the Council to fill his father's seat, when the elder Rivera moved to the state Assembly back in early 2001. At the time he was a 22-year old college student. He is a very nice young man, but he still hasn't completed his college degree nor possesses any special training in the public health field.
This lack of credentials doesn't stop Mr. Rivera from earnestly prattling on about childhood obesity, soaring diabetes rates, and future heart attacks all due to the Big Macs or Whoppers consumed by the little tykes apparently running wild through the city, unsupervised by parents, their pockets stuffed with cash to buy these dangerous treats.
Despite the mania surrounding all these neverending health crises, the average life span of New Yorkers continues to steadily increase, despite their poor habits, and thus far without any special help from Mr. Rivera or his colleagues.
If we begin stopping motorists because some of us think that they are unfit parents because they smoke in their cars with children present, how long will it be before a similar ban might be imposed on smoking in the home? What will be the punishment for such an infraction? Might the ban on candy bars, chips, ice cream, and other treats, now enforced in school lunchrooms, also be extended to the home? Will future caseworkers from ACS remove children exposed to these dangers from their parents just as they remove children today who are being physically abused?
Does this sound preposterous? This level of government interference may seem extreme, but has been seriously considered in Britain, a place where silly ideas are often market-tested before being brought here. Earlier this year, the mother of eightyear-old Connor McCreaddie of Newcastle, England was called into a meeting with teachers, social workers, and health officials to determine her fitness as a parent. Serious consideration was given to taking the child from her for neglect. Connor wasn't being beaten or sexually abused, and he certainly wasn't underfed. Nicola McCreaddie appears to be a loving mother.
But Connor is quite obese, reported to be over five feet tall and already wearing a size eight shoe despite his tender age. From his size as well as his mom's, it is clear that there is a genetic factor at play here. This didn't stop the local officials from attempting to intervene, and they got support right from the top of the British health bureaucracy.
The BBC reported that the British secretary of state for health, Patricia Hewitt, stated "we have got a boy whose life and health have already been shockingly damaged because he is quite clearly eating the wrong food, and not able to take enough exercise. As I understand it, social services and children's services are rightly very, very concerned about this boy, and are trying to make sure that they give him and his family every possible support in dealing with what is quite clearly a growing threat to this child's health and happiness." Even if it meant taking him from his mother's care.
This case didn't go anywhere as the outrage resulting from an avalanche of international publicity gave Connor and his mom a degree of protection from the intervention of the politicians and bureaucrats. But can this happen here? Our City Council appears ready, willing, and able.
General Soft on Science
FoxNews.com - Radley Balko - July 16, 2007
Radley Balko is a senior editor with Reason magazine. He publishes the weblog, TheAgitator.com
testimony before Congress last week, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard
Carmona said that the Bush administration has an adversarial relationship
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Carmona said. "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds."
This is a common criticism of the Bush administration, made most thoroughly in journalist Chris Mooney's 2005 book, "The Republican War on Science." When it comes to issues such as global warming, stem cell research or the teaching of evolution — the argument goes — the White House adopts what you might call a "faith-based" approach to science, not an approach grounded in empiricism.
I'm sympathetic to this charge.
One issue Carmona didn't address is medical marijuana. Last year, the FDA put out a baldly political press release claming that "no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."
This is flatly wrong. A wide-ranging 1999 Institute of Medicine report actually did show medical benefits from smoked marijuana while also finding minimal harmful side effects. The FDA press release was right in one respect: There have been no conclusive studies since. But there's a good reason for that: The federal government won't allow them.
Carmona didn't mention medical marijuana in his list of grievances because Carmona isn't any more interested in actual science on the medical marijuana issue than the Bush administration is. When the New York Times asked him his position on the issue, he gave the odd reply that he was against medical marijuana because, "Smoking is bad for you."
In other interviews, Carmona has said medical marijuana is a "science issue, not a political issue," which would be a great answer had Carmona actually looked at the science during his tenure and not merely at the political landscape.
Of course, merely suggesting that we study the possibility of reforming federal drug policy cost Dr. Jocelyn Elders, one of Carmona's predecessors, her job. So perhaps you can't blame him.
It may, indeed, be a fair point to accuse the Bush administration of politicizing science. But Richard Carmona isn't the person to make it. Carmona's entire term as surgeon general has been marked by embracing every last hobgoblin promoted by the public health movement, generally above and beyond what the science says. Sometimes in spite of it.
Last year, for example, Carmona boldly claimed that America's weight problem was a "terror within," and that the threat posed by obesity would "dwarf 9/11, or any other terrorist event."
Carmona trumpeted claims from the Centers for Disease Control that obesity kills 400,000 Americans each year to support his bizarre and completely out-of-context comparison, despite claims from critics that the 400,000 was exaggerated and flawed by poor methodology.
The CDC later admitted its obesity mortality estimate was off by a factor of 15.
Carmona never has let the facts get in the way of his positions on tobacco, either. While drumming up press coverage for a report his office published on secondhand smoke last year, Carmona implored, "Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can damage cells and set the cancer process in motion. Brief exposure can have immediate harmful effects on blood and blood vessels, potentially increasing the risk of a heart attack."
This was consistent with the Office of Surgeon General's longtime crusade against smoking, which of late includes support for comprehensive public smoking bans. But the actual report accompanying Carmona's statement to the press said nothing of the kind.
Anti-smoking activist Dr. Michael Siegel — who worked for two years in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health — wrote on his Web site, "The Surgeon General's press release distorts the science presented in the report and ends up presenting misleading and inaccurate information to the public."
Anti-tobacco groups, Siegel wrote, "are widely distorting the science to create a more sensational and emotional impact on the public. When this phenomenon goes all the way up to the level of the surgeon general's office, you know you've got a serious scientific integrity problem."
Carmona has adopted an activist, if not necessarily science-based, hard line on other issues, too.
Take the touchy subject of alcohol and pregnancy. In 2005, Carmona revised the official federal government position recommending that pregnant women "limit" the amount they drink, to warning them to abstain from alcohol altogether. But as Carmona's own press release concedes, there's simply no new science to back up that position. There are no studies suggesting that a glass of wine or two per week has any effect on fetal development at all.
The announcement was typical paternalistic public health hype. It overstated the risk, made an overly cautious, superfluous recommendation and then made an unscientific, "for the children"-type appeal to emotion.
A final example is smokeless tobacco. In 2003 testimony before Congress Carmona stated, "There is no significant scientific evidence that suggests smokeless tobacco is a safer alternative to cigarettes." He then called for an outright prohibition on smokeless tobacco products. The remark was so farcically not true, one anti-smoking activist called it "a barefaced lie."
Users of smokeless tobacco — particularly varieties such as the Swedish product "snus" — are up to 10 times less likely to get lung cancer than smokers. But you wouldn't know that from government or public health literature. The British medical research group Bio Med Central reported in 2005 that, "A study of 316 Internet Web sites showed that most government, health advice and advocacy Web sites suggested that smokeless tobacco use is as harmful as cigarette smoking, even though the risk is actually extremely small compared to that from smoking."
In this case, Carmona's political posturing in the face of actual science may well be costing lives. Were smokers told the truth about the significantly lower risks associated with smokeless tobacco, many would perhaps decide to switch, getting the same nicotine kick at only a tenth of the risk.
None of this is really new. The Office of Surgeon General always has been overtly political, a captive of the most hysterical public health activists. Its only real powers are tongue-clucking and finger-wagging, usually about the latest moral panic, lecturing the American public to knock off its bad habits, lest somebody get hurt. Richard Carmona's tenure was no different, which is why it's laughable to hear him lecture someone else about science.
gone in puff of smoke
Toledo Blade - Letter to the Editor - Joe Ranker - June 10, 2007
C.L.A.S.H. Note: We don't usually include letters to editors in this section but this one was too eloquent to pass up.
wonder what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and
the boys would have to say about the state of the republic, here in Ohio,
What would they say when they learned that all of the courage, sacrifice, honor, and wisdom they expended to start us off on the road to liberty, freedom, and self-determination, has all gone up in a puff of smoke?
What would they say when they learned that the government for which they so carefully drew the blueprint has become so powerful that it can make criminals of its citizens for nothing more than choosing to allow the consumption of a legal product on their own property?
What would they say when they learned that one tavern owner may put up a sign that says "No Smoking," but another tavern owner will be punished for putting up a sign that says "If smoking offends you, don't come in"?
And what would they say when they learned that our scarce law enforcement dollars will be spent to find and punish these tavern owners at the same time that a sworn enemy of our country is trying his best, every day, to expose us all to a firsthand whiff of substances so terrible that they would be beyond the imagination of these fathers of our country?
I believe they would be speechless.
But they would shed a tear.
And their tears would not be caused by secondhand tobacco smoke!
Nanny state may be hazardous to your freedom
Boston Herald - Jonah Goldberg - June 10, 2007
British government recently unveiled plans for a massive crackdown on “excessive
drinking,” particularly among the middle class. It will include all of
the familiar tactics of public health officials: dire new warnings on wine
bottles, public awareness campaigns, scolding from men and women in lab
But the public response has been a bit more strident than what we’re used to over here. Boris Johnson, a member of Parliament and a conservative journalist, writes in The Telegraph: “I am told that the drinks industry is in two minds. Some say capitulate and agree to the ‘voluntary’ code; some say fight and force (the government) to try to bring forward legislation. I say fight, fight, fight. Fight against these insulting, ugly and otiose labels.”
Sarah Vine, writing in The Times, is even more passionate, decrying a “. . . pernicious new Puritanism that is slowly squeezing the life and soul out of Britain. Ye gods, as my grandmother used to say, almost all the middle classes have left is their glass of wine in the evening. . . . Because let’s face it, this Government is doing its best to make our lives about as miserable as any pox-raddled Hogarthian whore’s. Utter the word ‘middle class’ in Whitehall and watch their greedy little pimps’ eyes light up with pound signs. Behold the British middle-classes - a docile, law-abiding army of tax slaves. Hurrah, let’s blow it all on some more social workers in Newcastle.”
As blessedly entertaining as all this is, some might wonder why the Brits are so exercised about a bunch of warning labels. After all, political correctness has been worse over there for quite a while. Police have been known to arrest school kids for insulting their friends. All of England is preparing for a smoking ban that will include “smoking police” making raids on establishments violating the law. The streets of Old Blighty are festooned with hundreds of thousands of closed-circuit television cameras. And, whereas once these cameras were used for anti-terrorism, police in some jurisdictions have actually outfitted them with loudspeakers so they can, like the voice of God, tell pedestrians to pick up their litter and generally behave like good “tax slaves.” You’d think warning labels on vino would seem as uncontroversial as adding green vegetables to the prison cafeteria menu.
One answer might be that this is merely the straw that breaks the camel’s already strained back. Another might be rage at a late hit from the exiting government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Another might be that the Brits can take “nanny state” intrusions in the name of law and order, but if you go after their booze, it’s time for a glorious revolution. Yet another might be that Britain’s underclass seems increasingly unredeemable and, rather than give up on it, the government feels the need to ratchet up the infantilization of the many in order to fix the few.
All of these, and many other interpretations, have merit. But there’s another explanation with some salience for Americans bemusedly - or enviously - watching Britain turn into a penal colony with whacky TV and a line of hereditary wardens called monarchs.
Britain still subscribes to a system where health care is for the most part socialized. When the bureaucrat-priesthood of the National Health Service decides that a certain behavior is unacceptable, the consequences potentially involve more than scolding. For example, in 2005, Britain’s health service started refusing certain surgeries for fat people. An official behind the decision conceded that one of the considerations was cost. Fat people would benefit from the surgery less, so they deserved it less. As Tony Harrison, a British health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun at the time, “Rationing is a reality when funding is limited.”
But it’s impossible to distinguish such cost-cutting judgments from moral ones. The reasoning is obvious: Fat people, smokers and - soon - drinkers deserve less health care because they bring their problems on themselves. In short, they deserve it. This is a perfectly logical perspective and, if I were in charge of everybody’s health care, I would probably resort to similar logic.
But I’m not in charge of everybody’s health care. Nor should anyone else be. In a free-market system, bad behavior will still have high costs personally and financially, but those costs are more likely to be borne by you and you alone. The more you socialize the costs of personal liberty, the more license you give others to regulate it.
Universal health care, once again all the rage in the United States, is an invitation for scolds to become nannies. I think many Brits understand this all too well, which is one reason why they want to fight the scolds here and now.
expression gets smoked
Chicago Tribune - Steve Chapman - May 17, 2007
1st Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press,
takes the view that the people should dictate to the government, not the
other way around. But no one told a group of 32 state attorneys general,
who have taken it upon themselves to instruct the film industry on the
appropriate content of movies.
This time, the cause is not raunchy sex, foul language or blood-spattering violence. It's cigarettes. Many experts think that when actors puff away, they cause teenagers to do likewise. One study went so far as to say that 38 percent of all kids who acquire the habit do so because of the influence of films. So all these state government officials want filmmakers to stop depicting tobacco use.
They evidently have had an effect. Not long after the attorneys general sent a letter requesting action, the Motion Picture Association of America agreed to use smoking in determining each film's rating. "Depictions that glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of a historic or other mitigating context" would run afoul of the ratings board. Apparently it would be OK to show an unwashed lowlife taking a drag just before he drops dead of a heart attack.
The MPAA didn't go as far as demanded by some anti-tobacco groups that want to slap an R rating on just about every film in which actors light up. But it accepted the basic principle that public health lobbyists and politicians should have a big role in deciding what people will see, instead of letting the industry merely cater to its audience.
It's hard to fully credit the notion that kids start smoking just because they see Scarlett Johansson doing it. Steven Milloy, who is the publisher of the Web site JunkScience.com, points out that adolescent smoking has declined even as onscreen smoking has increased. If movies exert such a mammoth influence on impressionable youngsters, shouldn't teen tobacco use have risen?
The studies themselves are not as damning as they purport to be. They indicate that kids who watch more movies with smoking are more likely to smoke. But a correlation does not necessarily show a cause: Just because there is lots of beer drinking at baseball games doesn't mean beer drinking causes baseball.
It may be that kids see a star light up and rush out to imitate him. Or it may be that teens who are inclined to smoke anyway are also inclined to see the sort of movies that feature smoking.
Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, believes the studies greatly exaggerate the impact of tobacco in films. "It is simply one of a large number of ways in which youths are exposed to positive images of smoking (which includes advertisements, television movies, television shows, DVDs, Internet, music videos and a variety of other sources)," he told me in an e-mail interview. "To single out smoking in movies as the cause of youth smoking initiation for a large percentage of kids is ridiculous."
Putting an R rating on smoky movies probably wouldn't do much to reduce teenagers' exposure. Some 75 percent of new releases that feature smoking are rated R -- and a lot of them are accessible even to preteens. In one survey of kids in grades 5 through 8, only 16 percent said their parents never let them see R-rated films.
Siegel points out that applying R ratings to films just because they feature full-frontal shots of cigarettes may backfire. Parents anxious about sex and violence may stop paying attention to the rating system once it factors in smoking. So you could end up with more kids seeing films with smoking.
If the MPAA were responding to the clear preferences of parents, this change might be merely dubious. In this case, though, it acted only after getting overt pressure from state governments -- which have no more business determining what appears on movie screens than they do in deciding what goes into Judy Blume's next novel. In the minds of safety zealots, censorship in the name of public health is no vice.
The MPAA's response validates the politicians in their intrusions and beckons them to find new ways to regulate art and other matters that are supposed to be exempt from their control. A shame it didn't give the attorneys general a simpler, better response: Snuff this.
should have some clout with big biz, politicians
Hernando Today - John Herbert - May 9, 2007
thought minorities were protected by the American Constitution. Not if
you're a smoker, apparently.
The latest to get fired up on non-smoking is Disney World in Orlando. Their 22 hotels and time-share resorts are going the clean-air route next month. Interesting that trucks all up and down State Road 50 continue to belch big black clouds of smoke.
So much for clean air.
Disney cites "no demand" as their official excuse for
introducing a 100 percent smoking ban.
Not when well over 20 percent of this nation of 300 million people smoke. Surely, there's good reason to set aside at least four or five percent of their rooms for smokers.
We smokers are getting run over by political cheap shots from businesses seeking a free round of publicity and legislatures wanting to prove they are capable of taking some kind of action, any action.
What politician or businessman wouldn't love to cushion his or her vote or bottom line by a few more percentage points? That 20 percent is a rather attractive target.
Smokers, as far as I can see, are wimps. They've pretty much taken their lumps lying down. An English smoker interviewed at Disney World by the Tampa Tribune said he couldn't care less. Fine, but I guess that's why the British have now banned smoking in their pubs. They can get away with it. Another cheap shot.
However, smokers should adopt some of the very same tactics the civil right movement employed more than a generation ago. Demonstrate for your rights. In county and state capitals. In Washington, too. Maybe even in London. There must be a case to be made against undermining the very British scenario of the burly rugby player in the pub with a pint in one hand and a smoke in the other.
It isn't just the smoking bans that trouble me. It's the old question of what next?
Many observers are predicting that a new prohibition against alcohol can't be far behind.
Several big cities have already banned trans fats. Some 40 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Too many tacos? My politically correct wife stopped smoking a dozen years ago and almost immediately put on 15 pounds. Her giggly sisters now toss insults like "thunder thighs" her way.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if separate drinking fountains appeared for smokers and non-smokers. And the day may come when smokers are relegated to the back of the bus; their clothes allegedly reek of smoke.
My guess is that a bucket of fried chicken is a bit more lethal than a carton of Marlboros.
Insinuations are about all the no-smoking Nazis can offer. The tobacco lobby, on the other hand, overwhelms us with figures on causes and frequencies of various types of fatality. A few years ago, the U.N. commissioned a study of, as the agency said, the "harmful" effects of second-hand smoke. When the study came up minus conclusive proof, the results were suppressed.
That might be one of the burdens of so-called Big Tobacco. They've used too many statistics to defend themselves -- more than we could ever need or absorb. Of course we die more often as we get older. That's the course of nature -- not of second-hand smoke. No matter what doctors or insurance companies say.
Disney and other big hotel chains like Marriott and Holiday Inn have to remember they are in the hospitality business. We, the customers (and smokers), are paying too much money for the hotels to dare tell us we can't do as we like. They aren't just being cruel; they are downright repressive. Isn't that illegal?
I SEE IT | City bans deny people their constitutional rights
The Star - Michelle R. Distler - April 30, 2007
Michelle R. Distler serves on the Shawnee (KS) City Council
an asthmatic, I initially thought smoking bans were a good idea. I still
think they are, but not one that the government should implement. It is
a decision that is best left to the individual owners and their customers
through the power of the purse.
Upon further thought on the matter, I remembered taking my oath of office and swearing to uphold the Constitution. Although there is nothing stated specifically to the rights of smokers or nonsmokers, the Constitution does speak directly to individual liberties and private property rights. I do not want to open Pandora’s Box and give the government undue power and control over our lives.
Communities across the country are wrestling with the dilemma of whether to enforce smoking bans, and unfortunately we’re quickly losing sight of our obligation as a society to protect civil rights in the process.
The constitutional purpose of our government is to promote commerce, build roads, protect us from foreign invasion and protect individual rights. This includes property rights. Any act to the contrary is an outright violation of the Constitution. A smoking ban is a violation of property rights, period.
The Constitution was written in such a manner to specifically limit the power and scope of government to preserve our individual rights — rights that are being eroded daily with a variety of seemingly small encroachments, such as the smoking ban.
Just as eminent domain started as a good idea and a means to acquire private land for the public good, it has become extremely problematic when untrustworthy government officials and self-serving developers define what is in the public’s best interest. Tax increment financing also began as an effective means to restore blighted areas until insiders began using it to increase their personal profits.
Everyone has the freedom of choice to go into any building where people are allowed to smoke or not smoke. But no one has the inalienable right to go into a privately owned business and demand that it be smoke-free or demand that a smoke-free building allow smoking.
No one should have the right to use government to force an owner to make his property smoke-free. In doing so, all our rights become easier targets for anyone disagreeing with, or who is offended by, the practice of our personal freedoms.
In the long run, this is far more dangerous than secondhand smoke ever could be.
Supply and demand drives free enterprise, and I think the best way to implement a smoking ban is to support those establishments that cater best to your desires. I think we must remember that whether as employees or patrons to businesses, we are the “guests” of the property owners.
My concern is for the property rights of all Shawnee residents and business owners.
of Illinois Smoking Ban: Taxpayers Without Representation
Letter to Editor - Ralph W. Conner - April 30, 2007
Ralph W. Conner, a nonsmoker
smoking ban that looms over the State of Illinois is a storm cloud of government
control raining intolerance and intervention into the private habits
of citizens in the Land of the Lincoln.
Political correctness has reached new heights in its partnership
with junk science. In our modern health conscious society, the U.S.
Surgeon General has engendered the phobia that second-hand smoke
kills. But problems abound in this oppressive scenario:
• despite the hyperbole of the Surgeon General, there is no scientific data which categorically proves without doubt that second-hand cigarette smoke (ETS) can actually cause cancer because it is virtually impossible to measure dosage of consumption of ETS to differentiate between what is a safe or a lethal dosage for a consumer of second-hand smoke.
• Cancer prevention not for profits receive private foundation and government health department grants in order to promote non-stop the persecution of smokers at the level of schools and churches in our communities: there is a virtual anti-smoking cartel which is empowered to restrict individual behavior with a legal product.
smokers are not only persecuted, they also suffer the indignity of paying
millions of dollars in excise taxes to governments in the name of
sin taxes to be utilized for dubious unrelated municipal projects or programs.
Illinois will receive over $200 million of the MSA tobacco settlement
Recently, the Illinois State Senate passed SB 500 which bans smoking in all public places. The Illinois House has similar legislation pending in its Environmental Health Committee. The likelihood is that this year a bill will come out and be signed by the Governor making Illinois a member of that pantheon of nonsmoking states.
What about the children? Although Illinois residents dodged the bullet of “no smoking in cars with Children under 8years old as passengers” before the Easter break, this may backfire when these restrictive tobacco policies encourage a new generation of youth to seek out and succumb to tobacco usage because it will be illegal to indulge in public tobacco use as long as it generates ETS. Imagine rebellious youth imitating cultural icons in R-rated movies who smoke to symbolize adventurous death-defying behavior in charismatic characters.
The War on smokers may be over soon, as weary tobacco users realize they have insufficient representation on either side of the aisle in the State legislatures of America. The nonsmokers have all the political clout so smokers will shrink away bearing the mantle of excise taxation without representation. And we used to call this the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. But there is certainly nothing brave about craven politically correct politicians eroding the rights of citizens to indulge in a legal activity in private property with the owners’ permission.
Nonsmokers can now use the hammer of governmental intolerance to force the free market to accommodate their whims and hysterias without recourse for employers and taxpayers who are law-abiding property owners. Please lower the flag half-staff.
ban inspires 'who's on 1st' routine
Rocky Mountain News - Bill Johnson - April 28, 2007
legislature's quest to outlaw smoking in Colorado fascinates mostly because
of the sheer inequality involved. Then there's the stumblings and fumblings
by elected leaders trying to salvage last year's poorly written, special
interest-protecting law, and, finally, the quite avoidable human and economic
toll the folly has exacted.
A smoker these days could go crazy trying to figure out where it is lawful to light up. Are casinos smoke-free now or not? Cigar bars? How come they smoke in that bar, but not in this one?
Over at the Capitol on Friday morning, the Senate was attempting yet again to decide whether to ban smoking in, of all places, cigar bars. Amendments were added; rules were changed. Not a single head went unscratched. It was kind of funny.
There was more huddling taking place than on a fall Sunday. "If you ban smoking there, you've got to allow it here," some murmured and others shouted.
Who's on first?
No, he's on second.
The bill to outlaw smoking in cigar bars and rid the myriad of exemptions granted in last year's bill finally went up in flames shortly before noon.
I think. It was hard to know.
I approached Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, to ask why he had been so passionate only a month earlier in killing any bill that didn't exempt small mom-and-pop bars and taverns but had just voted minutes earlier to eliminate such an exemption.
He stammered. And then he sighed, shrugged and said something about too many procedural rules, of deals being cut, of different ideas being tossed around.
"No," he finally muttered, "I'm telling Sen. (Betty) Boyd, (the bill's sponsor) to forget it. I'm not voting with her."
Who's on first?
The legislature on Thursday did close perhaps the most unfair, logic-defying loophole in the so-called Clean Air Act when it outlawed smoking in the state's casinos.
Ah, but there is a catch.
Casinos have until January of next year to go smokeless, a sop the legislature would not even consider for less-well-heeled bar and tavern owners like Mike Broncucia, who has run Mickey's Top Sirloin on West 70th Avenue and Broadway for 45 years.
I visited him on Friday to see if he had again set out the ashtrays in the aftermath of Adams County Judge Robert Doyle's ruling two weeks ago that the smoking ban was unconstitutional because it denied bar and tavern owners equal protection.
The bar inside the Top Sirloin was sparsely populated, as it has been since the smoking ban went into effect. There were no ashtrays lining it.
"The D.A. has told us he is appealing the ruling and not to light up," said Mike Broncucia, 70, one of the most ardent opponents of the smoking ban. "I think they are still writing tickets in Adams County."
The ban arrived at the worst possible time for him. He had just torn down the original Top Sirloin and replaced it with a sprawling new restaurant.
In half of the building he installed state-of-the-art ventilators and smoke-eaters at a cost of more than $13,000. They sit idle today.
He pulls a stack of records showing he has been losing at least $3,000 a month from previous years, solely because of the smoking ban.
"Some of it has come back," Mike Broncucia says, bitterness accompanying each word, "but only because I opened a patio and put heaters out there in the winter. Is it like it was before? Not even close."
Like every struggling bar owner I have spoken to over the past year, he rails at the purported reason behind the smoking ban: protecting workers' health.
"What - those people working in the smoking lounge at the airport, in the cigar bars and the casinos - smoke doesn't bother them? It's a joke. And when our ban went into effect, they didn't give us a grace period. Politicians . . . "
I ask Karen Smith, 42, who has worked the bar at the Top Sirloin for 12 years if her health has improved in the nine months she has worked behind the smoke-free bar.
She just laughed.
"I never minded it. Now, I just make less money. Maybe they were protecting me from financial health."
Mike Broncucia and I sit at his brand new bar - finding a stool is not difficult like in the old days - and he reminisces.
"A lot of people just quit drinking in bars. That's all that's happened," Mike Broncucia says.
"You know, the older crowd for years would come in first thing, have a couple of beers and a few cigarettes. I used to open up for them at 8. Now I don't open the doors until 11.
"I don't know what happened to them. All I know is no matter what a judge says or the politicians do, I doubt that they would ever come back."
Anti-Smoking Purge Is Borrowed From The Nazis
Smoking is healthier than fascism
Prison Planet - Joseph Watson - April 25, 2007
wealth of overlooked yet frightening literature concerning the Nazi crusade
against smoking provides a clear parallel to contemporary developments
and an alarming warning that state restriction of personal habits is the
pre-cursor to dictatorship.
Beginning in the early 1930's, as part of the Nazi agenda for racial purity, Hitler spearheaded a national campaign to ban smoking in all public buildings, and denounced the practice as a betrayal of the fascist drive for bodily purity.
"Brother national socialist, do you know that our Führer is against smoking and think that every German is responsible to the whole people for all his deeds and emissions, and does not have the right to damage his body with drugs?" stated one magazine.
As I wrote earlier this year, "The regulation of the personal habit of smoking, including new legislative moves in San Francisco to ban cigarettes in private homes, and its enforcement by an eager cadre of state snoops and snitches, represents nothing more than a move on behalf of big brother towards the complete subjugation and shackling of the individual."
Read these shocking parallels and compare them to the endless lecturing we are forced to endure today about our personal lifestyle choices by the state and their propaganda arm, the mass media.
Science and Public Policy
Towhall.com - Walter E. Williams - April 10, 2007
public has become increasingly aware that the science behind manmade global
warming is a fraud. But maybe Americans like bogus science in pursuit of
certain public policy objectives. Let's look at it.
Many Americans find tobacco smoke to be a nuisance. Some find the odor offensive, and others have allergies or asthma that can be aggravated by smoking in their presence. There's little question that tobacco smoke causes these kinds of nuisances, but how successful would anti-smokers have been in a court of law, or public opinion, in achieving the kind of success they've achieved based on tobacco smoke being a nuisance?
A serious public health threat had to be manufactured, and in 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in to the rescue with their bogus environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) study that says secondhand tobacco smoke is a class A carcinogenic.
Why is it bogus? The EPA claimed that 3,000 Americans die annually from secondhand smoke, but there was a problem. They couldn't come up with that conclusion using the standard statistical 95 percent confidence interval. They lowered their study's confidence interval to 90 percent. That has the effect of doubling the margin of error and doubling the probability that mere chance explains those 3,000 deaths.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) said, "Admittedly, it is unusual to return to a study after the fact, lower the required significance level, and declare its results to be supportive rather than unsupportive of the effect one's theory suggests should be present." The CRS was being kind. This kind of doctoring of research results would get a graduate student expelled from a university.
In 1998, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer released the largest ever and best formulated study on ETS. The research project ran for 10 years and in seven European countries. The study, not widely publicized, concluded that no statistically significant risk existed for nonsmokers who either lived or worked with smokers.
During the late '90s, at a Washington affair, I had the occasion to be in the presence of an FDA official. I asked him whether he would approve of pharmaceutical companies employing EPA's statistical techniques in their testing of drug effectiveness and safety. He answered no. I ask my fellow Americans who are nonsmokers: Do you support the use of fraudulent science in your efforts to eliminate tobacco smoke nuisance in bars, restaurants, workplaces and hotels?
You say, "Okay, Williams, the science is bogus, but how do we nonsmokers cope with the nuisance of tobacco smoke?" My answer is that it all depends on whether you prefer liberty-oriented solutions to problems or those that are more tyranny-oriented.
The liberty-oriented solution has to do with private property rights, whereby the owner of property makes the decision whether he will allow smoking or not. If one is a nonsmoker, he just doesn't do business with a bar or restaurant where smoking is permitted. A smoker could exercise the same right if a bar or restaurant didn't permit smoking. Publicly owned places such as libraries, airports and municipal buildings, where ownership is ill defined, presents more of a challenge.
The tyranny-oriented solution is where one group uses the political system to forcibly impose its preferences on others. You might be tempted to object to the term "tyranny," but suppose you owned a restaurant where you did not permit smoking and smokers used the political system to create a law forcing you to permit smoking. I'm sure you'd deem it tyranny.
The public policy debate on smoking has been settled through bogus science. My question is, how willing are we to allow bogus science to be used in the pursuit of other public policy agendas, such as restrictions on economic growth, in the name of fighting global warming?
big, trans-fat rejection of government grannies
The Washington Times - Adrienne Washington - March 27, 2007
I tell you so? First, they'd go after the cigs, then the french fries.
Now that the government grannies have successfully choked the air in most area restaurant and bars, they're determined to kill the grill, scour the skillet.
Not long ago, I distinctly remember being challenged in a heated public debate during the dust-ups about imposing smoking bans in restaurants and bars. My opposing pundits insisted that I was loony as a bitsy bug to suggest that once the nannylike legislators finish pulverizing smokers, they'll become food police.
Hold the grease. The proposed trans-fat-free zones in Maryland are just a start. In the not-so-distant future, you will rue the day when you face fines and confinement should you get caught sneaking a 100-calorie pack of salty-sweet munchies into your smoke-free, phone-free, hybrid smart car.
Where else but in the environmentalist haven of Montgomery County would the trans-fat-free zone take root first in the metropolitan area?
If the fat-free bans, similar to those adopted in New Jersey and the Big Apple, are enacted in the so-called Free State, you know it won't be long before the District and Virginia follow suit, as they have with smoke-free zones.
So what's a Sistagirl who loves her chicken wings and "fryers," as my mother calls them, to do?
The ol' timers better watch out: Don't be caught anywhere near those soul food shacks famous for a D.C.-style "hot fish sammich, white bread, with hot sauce."
Ben's Chili Bowl won't even be allowed to sell veggie burgers, slapped with chili and cheese sauce.
Bypass Chinatown altogether. And those spicy Chesapeake Bay crab cakes? Fahgeddaboudit.
The Montgomery County Council is slated to vote this week on a countywide measure that would ban foods cooked in trans fats in restaurants. A similar statewide measure was tabled in the Maryland General Assembly to give restaurant owners an opportunity to voluntarily find alternative cooking products.
Trans fats are hydrogenated oils that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says contribute to increasing low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or so-called bad cholesterol.
But trans fats make up only 2 percent of most Americans' diets. Saturated fats, which some consider to be far worse, make up 10 percent to 15 percent. The food police will not stop with the lesser of the evils.
Tell me, who will be left to enforce these expanding food bans against the patrol cops wolfing down doughnuts and coffee loaded with cream and sugar in the 7-Eleven parking lot?
Shrink the Super Size Me zones. Limit food portions. Rest assured that a total ban on foods baked, sauteed, fried or sugared are next.
While the government plays a necessary role in maintaining public safety and order, how far should that regulating role extend? In a democracy, is it desirable or dangerous to devise legislation designed to enforce preferred personal behavior?
Surely, besides taking our prescribed LDL-reducing statins, such as Lipitor and Crestor, we baby boomers could use some help in our struggle to eat more lean and nutritious diets. It isn't always a cakewalk. Take it from one who has tried everything from Atkins to starving.
And I understand how important public health awareness campaigns are for providing updated information, particularly to younger generations and communities where childhood obesity is a growing problem.
Still, deliver us from these meddling government grannies. Often they're like the hypocritical parents who used to scold their misbehaving children by saying confusing stuff like, "Do as I say, not as I do."
Here again with the trans-fat-free zones we have the classic clash between individual rights and public welfare. Agree with them or not, these intrusive initiatives seek to make children of adults.
We're fast becoming the "no-free-choice" society. Can't keep track? No-cell-phone zones, no-doggie-poop zones, no-noise zones, no-smoking zones and no-trans-fat zones.
Wasn't it in Virginia that a General Assembly member unsuccessfully tried to get a no-droopy-drawers zone adopted? I even read that the most progressive government grannies in the nation want to ban smoking on the beach in California.
Why not let free enterprise take hold?
These behavior bans are not necessary. Let the grown-up consumers choose where to eat, smoke and drink based on a variety of options that ought to be available to them.
Food manufacturers, fast-food chains and restaurants already are switching to healthier choices when such products come available.
For example, Aramark, the company that provides hot dogs and chicken fingers to ballparks and college campuses, announced the switch to sunflower and corn oil earlier this month.
Baltimore provides a good model by distributing decals, like a Better Business gold seal, for trans-fat-free restaurants to display.
Virginia legislators are considering similar laws regarding restaurants that don't allow smoking. Then the consumer can decide whether to patronize these establishments before entering.
Don't politicians have enough to do just figuring out ways to spend our tax money? These public health and safety bans are none too helpful to some small owners of hospitality businesses, either.
Some bar owners in the District, for example, are complaining about the drop in their clientele, especially during happy hours, since the smoking ban was enacted earlier this year.
I know a group of guys who used to spend a lot of their money in a small D.C. eatery who now often meet in a private home to enjoy their cigarettes and cigars in peace.
Adults often cling to their bad habits no matter how much you tax them, ban them or shame them. And that is their right.
As I was skewered for stating before: Today, Big Brother is after smokers. Tomorrow, it could be social drinkers, overeaters or people who wear pink. Where will this government grannyism end?
Human Events - Walter E. Williams - March 14, 2007
most fundamental principle of economics is the law of demand, which postulates
that the higher the cost of a behavior, the less people will do of it,
while the lower the cost, the more people will do of it. The law of demand
applies to any behavior, and I'm going to apply it to anti-smoking behavior.
First, let's get the health issue out of the way because it has no relevancy
to the particular principle under examination, which is how people respond
to the cost of something.
The cost to nonsmokers to impose their will on smokers, say, in a restaurant, bar or airplane, is zero, or close to it. They just have to get the legislature to do their bidding. When the cost of something is zero, there's a tendency for people to take too much of it. You say, "Williams, in my book, there can never be too much smoke-free air!" Here's a little test. Say your car's out of gas and stuck in a blizzard. You wave me down for assistance. I say, "I'll be glad to give you a lift to safety, but I'm smoking in my car." How likely is it that you'll turn down my assistance in an effort to avoid tobacco smoke? You might be tempted to argue, "That's different." It's not different at all. The cost of a smoke-free environment is not what you're willing to pay.
Say you don't permit smoking in your house. When I visit, I offer to pay you $100 for each cigarette you permit me to smoke. Instantaneously, I've raised the cost of your maintaining a smoke-free environment. Retaining smoke-free air in your home costs the sacrifice of $100. Of course, I could offer you higher amounts, and economic theory predicts that at some price, you'll conclude your 100 percent smoke-free air isn't worth it.
Air that's either 100 percent smoke-filled or 100 percent smoke-free is probably sub-optimal. At zero prices there will either be too much smoking or too little smoking. The problem in our society is that laws have created too much smoke-free air. To a large degree, it's the fault of smokers, who haven't created a cost to smoke-free air.
You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" Here's an example: A number of years ago, a congressman (who shall remain nameless) invited me to give a lecture to some staffers. I asked him if it was OK for me to smoke during my lecture, whereupon he told me about Congress' no-smoking rule. I told him that if I weren't allowed to smoke, I wouldn't give the lecture. The congressman promised he'd tell the guard that I could smoke, and I gave the lecture. There have been other occasions where I've attached a price to smoke-free air. I fully recognize that people and organizations have their rules, but I also have mine.
My rule is by no means absolute. There are instances where I put up with zero-priced smoke-free air, and there are other instances where I don't. It all depends on the cost to me. I think other smokers ought to adopt the same agenda. Say you're asked to do some volunteer work. You might answer, "Yes, if I'm allowed to smoke." This strategy might also be a nice way to get out of doing something without saying no. Just ask whether smoking is permitted.
The economic lesson to extract from all of this is that zero prices lead to sub-optimal outcomes, and it doesn't just apply to the smoking issue. How would you like zero prices at the supermarket or clothing store? If there were, what do you think you'd see on the shelves when you arrived? If you said, "Nothing, because people would take too much," go to the head of the class.
NY Times - Bob Morris - March 11, 2007
long ago, after a nice outdoor dinner on Jamaica, my brother and I ordered
drinks and lighted cigarettes. My delightful nephew, who is 12, became
miserable. “You really have to put those out,” he told us. “You could die.”
After a few nights of his saying the same thing, it became a bore, especially when he held his napkin to his face like a gas mask for secondhand smoke.
I explained firmly that his father and I are social smokers, who like the occasional cigarette, and that secondhand smoke isn’t an issue outdoors on the water. He went off to sulk. I felt bad.
But later, my brother, a caring father, said he was grateful I had spoken up.
“He won’t accept that the occasional cigarette isn’t going to kill you,” he said. “He’s been brainwashed by all his school programs, and it’s become oppressive.”
I know other parents who say the same. Their younger children are having nightmares from graphic antismoking films they see in school or thinking that their relatives with bad habits are bad people.
One nonsmoking father, Robert Warren, who records albums for children as Uncle Rock, wrote a controversial song he never recorded called “I Love Someone Who Smokes.” His gentle son, in first grade at the time, was grappling with how to reconcile frightening information he was getting in school with his feelings for a beloved grandmother with a nicotine habit.
Still, it would be irresponsible not to applaud the good intentions of substance-abuse programs. And it would be wrong not to note that smoking is linked to 450,000 deaths a year, and that for most people my moderate social smoking is not an option, given the addictive quality of nicotine.
“We’re telling kids in schools all over the country that smoking is addictive and causes cancer and heart disease,” said Joseph Califano, the president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia. “And there’s no way that they’re not going to bring that message home. Kids can have a very potent effect on us.”
But is it possible that the effect they’re having is a little too potent?
Call me a crabby old baby boomer, but I’m tired of parents who let children commandeer every conversation. And should they be allowed to bully us with their concerns? Maybe they’re telling us they’re tired of the pressure to get into the right college. Maybe they’re getting back at parents fixated on their nutrition or video games.
It can’t help that children are living in a transfat-banning, nanny-state culture.
They are asked to sign pledges at school never to smoke, drink or try drugs. They are inspired by zealous organizations to monitor parental drinking. One father I know was called a drug addict by his son for having a couple of beers after work.
Yes, they have good reason not to want parents to smoke, drink or abuse drugs.
But does that mean a 9-year-old from Connecticut should propose a smoking ban in cars where there are minors? That happened last year, when a boy, with his mother’s help, contacted his state representative and collected 200 signatures. The proposed ban has been introduced into the state legislature.
Of course, parents are also touched by children concerned for their health.
That’s why one mother I know has quietly endured Post-it notes all over her home asking, “Do you want to die?” Others let children pull cigarettes out of their mouths and the mouths of their friends. Another mother I know, who smokes occasionally, tells her son she appreciates his concern, but she has to make her own decisions. It’s as if she’s explaining herself to a strict father.
“I think it’s nice to respect the wishes of young people,” said Ann Dexter-Jones, a smoker and mother of five grown children. “But we’ve forgotten who makes the rules in our society. And there’s a fine line between showing concern and bad manners.”
It all comes down to that, doesn’t it?
As for my nephew, he has agreed to lighten up when we light up.
“So we’re O.K. on the occasional smoking thing?” I asked him.
“Sure, Uncle Bob,” he said. “But we still have to talk about drinking.”
the consequences of totalitarianism
Daily Southtown - Ralph Conner - March 7, 2007
Ralph W. Conner, a non-smoker, was the mayor of Maywood from 2001 to 2005. He serves as local legislation manager for The Heartland Institute
states now are considering statewide bans on smoking in public places.
These bans have widespread support from local policy makers and opinion
leaders. But they are based on bad science and even worse public policy.
Last year, Surgeon General Richard Carmona declared there is "no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke." For effect he added, "I would not allow anyone in my family to stand in a room with someone smoking." His opinion supposedly was based on 20 years of scientific evidence, and it has been cited as gospel by smoking ban supporters.
But most of the major media that carried Carmona's declaration failed to probe the scientific merits of his pronouncement ... failing their readers in the process.
According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a white male in the United States (called a USWM) who smokes cigarettes has an 8 percent lifetime chance of dying from lung cancer. A USWM non-smoker has a 1 percent chance of dying from lung cancer. Lung cancer accounts for 3 percent of deaths every year in the United States and 2 percent worldwide.
Michael Siegel, a physician and tobacco control advocate who supports smoking bans, nevertheless criticized Carmona's public statements for "falsely claiming or implying that brief, transient exposure to secondhand smoke raises the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and heart attack."
Siegel pointed out on his blog, "It takes years of exposure to tobacco smoke even for a smoker to develop heart disease," and "It is also quite misleading to tell the public that a brief exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer.
"There is certainly no evidence for this and the surgeon general's report itself draws no such conclusion," Siegel wrote. "In fact, the report makes it clear that most of the studies linking secondhand smoke and lung cancer studied non-smokers with many years of intense exposure."
But these nuances are lost in the public debate. As media and government repeat such frightening rhetoric to the general public, the public responds by incorporating this unfounded "science" into their understanding of the smoking ban debate.
Citizens are tricked into joining the persecution of tobacco users because they see cigarette smoke as a direct threat to their immediate health. Those who support smokers' rights and the rights of tavern and bar owners are then castigated as shills for Big Tobacco or callous killers of innocent non-smokers.
There seems to be no end to the anti-smoking campaign. You cannot smoke on the beach in California. In several states, you cannot smoke in a car with children. Some states even are trying to take the fight into citizens' homes.
For more than a decade, government health officials and elected officials at the federal, state and local levels have conducted a siege against individual liberty and business property rights based on scientific half-truths, innuendo and statements like Carmona's.
The political correctness has become so powerful that, internationally, pushing for a ban on smoking is seen as proof of enlightenment and worldly sophistication. And locally, a survey of registered voters conducted by Zogby International found 45 percent of Americans would support a federal law making cigarettes illegal in the next five to 10 years.
Where will we go from here? Will Big Tobacco be replaced by a black market and the gang violence that follows? Will there be a "War on Tobacco" just as ineffective as the current war on drugs, where the government spends billions and loses billions more in tax revenue?
In a free country, citizens are supposed to be treated with respect and given autonomy to run their lives. They won't always make the right decisions, but the citizenry will remain vibrant, engaged and responsible. But if government starts making hard decisions for us, it opens the floodgates to tyranny.
After all, once they've eradicated smoking, won't they just find something else to outlaw?
Most Persecuted Minority
LewRockwell.com - The Late Murry N. Rothbard - Reprinted February 14, 2007 from Rothbard Collection
which is America's Most Persecuted Minority? No, you're wrong. (And it's
not Big Business either: one of Ayn Rand's more ludicrous pronouncements.)
All right, consider this: Which group has been increasingly illegalized, shamed and denigrated first by the Establishment, and then, following its lead, by society at large? Which group, far from coming out of the "closet," has been literally forced back into the closet after centuries of walking proudly in the public square? And which group has tragically internalized the value-system of its oppressors, so that they are deeply ashamed and guilty about practicing their rites and customs? Which group is so brow-beaten that it never thinks of defending itself, any attempt at which is publicly condemned and ridiculed? Which group is considered such sinners that the use of doctored statistics against them is considered legitimate means in a worthy cause?
I refer, of course, to that once proud race, tobacco-smokers, a group once revered and envied, but now there are none so poor as to do them reverence.
So low has this group sunk in the public esteem that, in rushing to their defense, I am obliged to point out that I myself am not and never have been a smoker. Can you imagine having to put in such a disclaimer against special pleading in behalf of the rights of blacks, Jews, or gays against oppression?
...And so, smokers! Are you mice or are you men? Smokers, rise up, be proud, throw off the guilt imposed on you by your oppressors! Stand tall, and smoke! Defend your rights! Do you really think that someone can get instant lung cancer by imbibing a bit of smoke from someone sitting twenty feet away in an outdoor arena? How do you explain the fact that millions of people have smoked all their lives without ill effect?
And remember, if today they come for the smoker, tomorrow they will come for you. If today they grab your cigarette, tomorrow they will seize your junk food, your carbohydrates, your yummy but "empty" calories. And don't think that your liquor is safe either; neo-Prohibitionism has been long on the march, what with "sin taxes" (revealing term, isn't it?), outlawing of advertising, higher drinking ages, and the neo-Puritan harpies of MADD. Are you ready for the Left Nutritional Kingdom, with everyone forced to confine his food to yogurt and tofu and bean sprouts? Are you ready to be confined in a cage, to make sure that your diet is perfect, and that you get the prescribed Compulsory Exercise? All to be governed by a Hillary Clinton National Health Board?
Bogus 'Science' of Secondhand Smoke
Special to washingtonpost.com - Gio Batta Gori - January 30, 2007
Gio Batta Gori, an epidemiologist and toxicologists, is a fellow of the Health Policy Center in Bethesda. He is a former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention, and he received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts to define less hazardous cigarettes. Gori's article "The Surgeon General's Doctored Opinion" will appear in the spring issue of the Cato Institute's Regulation Magazine
cigarettes is a clear health risk, as most everyone knows. But lately,
people have begun to worry about the health risks of secondhand smoke.
Some policymakers and activists are even claiming that the government should
crack down on secondhand smoke exposure, given what "the science" indicates
about such exposure.
Last July, introducing his office's latest report on secondhand smoke, then-U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona asserted that "there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure," that "breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can damage cells and set the cancer process in motion," and that children exposed to secondhand smoke will "eventually . . . develop cardiovascular disease and cancers over time."
Such claims are certainly alarming. But do the studies Carmona references support his claims, and are their findings as sound as he suggests?
Lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases develop at advancing ages. Estimating the risk of those diseases posed by secondhand smoke requires knowing the sum of momentary secondhand smoke doses that nonsmokers have internalized over their lifetimes. Such lifetime summations of instant doses are obviously impossible, because concentrations of secondhand smoke in the air, individual rates of inhalation, and metabolic transformations vary from moment to moment, year after year, location to location.
In an effort to circumvent this capital obstacle, all secondhand smoke studies have estimated risk using a misleading marker of "lifetime exposure." Yet, instant exposures also vary uncontrollably over time, so lifetime summations of exposure could not be, and were not, measured.
Typically, the studies asked 60--70 year-old self-declared nonsmokers to recall how many cigarettes, cigars or pipes might have been smoked in their presence during their lifetimes, how thick the smoke might have been in the rooms, whether the windows were open, and similar vagaries. Obtained mostly during brief phone interviews, answers were then recorded as precise measures of lifetime individual exposures.
In reality, it is impossible to summarize accurately from momentary and vague recalls, and with an absurd expectation of precision, the total exposure to secondhand smoke over more than a half-century of a person's lifetime. No measure of cumulative lifetime secondhand smoke exposure was ever possible, so the epidemiologic studies estimated risk based not only on an improper marker of exposure, but also on exposure data that are illusory.
Adding confusion, people with lung cancer or cardiovascular disease are prone to amplify their recall of secondhand smoke exposure. Others will fib about being nonsmokers and will contaminate the results. More than two dozen causes of lung cancer are reported in the professional literature, and over 200 for cardiovascular diseases; their likely intrusions have never been credibly measured and controlled in secondhand smoke studies. Thus, the claimed risks are doubly deceptive because of interferences that could not be calculated and corrected.
In addition, results are not consistently reproducible. The majority of studies do not report a statistically significant change in risk from secondhand smoke exposure, some studies show an increase in risk, and ¿ astoundingly ¿ some show a reduction of risk.
Some prominent anti-smokers have been quietly forthcoming on what "the science" does and does not show. Asked to quantify secondhand smoke risks at a 2006 hearing at the UK House of Lords, Oxford epidemiologist Sir Richard Peto ¿ a leader of the secondhand smoke crusade ¿ replied, "I am sorry not to be more helpful; you want numbers and I could give you numbers..., but what does one make of them? ...These hazards cannot be directly measured."
It has been fashionable to ignore the weakness of "the science" on secondhand smoke, perhaps in the belief that claiming "the science is settled" will lead to policies and public attitudes that will reduce the prevalence of smoking. But such a Faustian bargain is an ominous precedent in public health and political ethics. Consider how minimally such policies as smoking bans in bars and restaurants really reduce the prevalence of smoking, and yet how odious and socially unfair such prohibitions are.
By any sensible account, the anachronism of tobacco use should eventually vanish in an advancing civilization. Why must we promote this process under the tyranny of deception?
Presumably, we are grown-up people, with a civilized sense of fair play, and dedicated to disciplined and rational discourse. We are fortunate enough to live in a free country that is respectful of individual choices and rights, including the right to honest public policies. Still, while much is voiced about the merits of forceful advocacy, not enough is said about the fundamental requisite of advancing public health with sustainable evidence, rather than by dangerous, wanton conjectures.
A frank discussion is needed to restore straight thinking in the legitimate uses of "the science" of epidemiology ¿ uses that go well beyond secondhand smoke issues. Today, health rights command high priority on many agendas, as they should. It is not admissible to presume that people expect those rights to be served less than truthfully.
small freedom goes up in smoke
Spiked - Alan Miller - January 26, 2007
the smoking ban was being discussed here in New York a few years ago, I
must admit I argued against it by resorting to the ‘slippery slope’ argument.
‘Next they will be trying to stop people smoking in their own private spaces’,
I’d say. Secretly, even I thought I was probably exaggerating a little,
Apparently not. Bangor, in the heart of rural Maine, has just banned smoking in all cars carrying ‘children’ (which means anyone under 18) (1). Brewer, also in Maine, is following hot on its heels (2). Motor-vehicle smoking bans were introduced in Arkansas and Texas over the summer (3). In Arkansas, the ban is for those travelling with children under six years of age, and violators are subject to fines. In Connecticut, following a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003, there is an attempt to impose a car ban similar to the one now in effect in Louisiana - where the law applies to children under 13 and there is a $150 fine, or 24 hours community service, if it is a first offence.
It is a sign of our small-minded times when the most exciting thing that politicians can declare is that they have helped ban smoking. In keeping with the mood, Nancy Pelosi, new speaker of the House of Representatives, got off to a flying start by banning smoking in the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor, declaring: ‘The days of smoke-filled rooms in the United States Capitol are over.’ And you thought American politicians were lacking in vision.... (4)
Some have been calling for these infringements into our personal space for some time, such as Los Angeles Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, a long-time supporter of smoking bans (5). In Australia in 1999, Professor Simon Chapman argued that just as governments make rules for health in the home with regard to electricity and building standards, so they should do the same for smoking - for the wellbeing of the occupants, of course (6). Now, as bans on smoking in public places take hold in Hong Kong and France, in addition to Britain and Ireland, it is seen as a ‘fact’ that second-hand smoking is one of the evil curses of our time - so how long before the home becomes the subject of more and more smoking-related regulation?
Entirely without irony, the Hudson Journal declared recently: ‘While the home has always enjoyed special protection from government intrusion - police can’t enter without a warrant or exigent circumstances - we see little justification for making the family room a sanctuary for those thoughtless enough to poison their kids with tobacco smoke. In any case, the family car is a fitting start.’ (7)
Since the declaration by Richard Carmona, the US surgeon general, in June 2006 that the science is definitive and ‘any amount’ of second-hand smoking is lethal, others have sought to use this argument to push even harder against smoking anywhere (8). Yet according to Dr Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, the surgeon general misrepresented the facts by not informing the public that the findings were based on non-smokers who had been chronically exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke. Brief exposure would not mean a high risk of cancer and heart disease (9). This view is supported by the work of epidemiologists James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, published in the British Medical Journal, who studied 118,000 Californians from 1959-1998, and concluded: ‘No significant associations were found for current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.’ (10)
The New York Times article on the ban in Bangor pointed out that, today, some foster children do not go to see their birth parents because one or both of the parents smoke. The mantra ‘What about the children?’ seems to be used to beat adults, while sometimes ignoring the real interests of children.
This is an age where politicians are desperate to ‘connect’ with the public, yet that connection can seem painfully elusive. So some politicians, such as Henry Genga in Hartford, Connecticut, a supporter of the car smoking ban, are ecstatic when they feel they have found something popular - especially when the idea came from a nine-year-old child, as the car smoking ban did. As Genga gushed: ‘It’s coming from the young people and you’ve got to listen to the public...this is coming from the public.’ (11)
We all know that smoking is bad for those who do it - but that is a matter for those individuals. Today, we are seeing the rise of a new ethics of behaviour. Unlike the old-fashioned puritans, the modern missionaries declare their holy war on our behaviour under the cover of health and environmental concerns – and if challenged they dangle the kids in front of us as a kind of emotional blackmail.
Mistrusted by many, officialdom seems capable of touching us only by raising fears about our health and the behaviour of others. This is a destructive moment, which could impact on our most personal freedoms.
your own health (and business) and I’ll mind mine
The Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State University) - Marvin Keener - January 23, 2007
was a recent column by Bob Darcy concerning how great it was that the Faculty
Council recommended the Stillwater campus adopt a smoke-free policy. The
“debate is over,” Darcy said in the column.
That may be, but let’s be certain of what the “debate” really is about. It’s certainly not about the health of the campus — it’s about control of people’s lives.
Despite the constant advertising in the media aimed at persuading people not to smoke, there are still some who do smoke.
Apparently that just cannot be tolerated by some, though not all, of those who don’t smoke. Through political action they seek to institute policies and laws to take away the liberties, particularly the right to choose, of smokers, thereby dehumanizing them.
If you take away enough of their rights, maybe they will convert and become nonsmokers, at least temporarily, then allowed to rejoin humanity. The primary issue is that the right decision needs to be made for them. Don’t take a chance lest someone does not make the right choice.
This position is not new, and there is ample evidence that oppression works, at least in the short run. Throughout history there have been people in various societies who seek to control the lives of other people. Most of the time the need to control people is based on the public good.
I remember when there needed to be separate drinking fountains labeled “white” and “colored” for the “public good.” The German government of the 1930s and 1940s figured out what the ideal person should be and executed six million Jews for the “public good.” The Inquisition was needed to root out the heretics so that more people could get into heaven.
While in today’s society it seems crazy that people bought into these positions, it still happened.
Today “health” and “safety” are the buzzwords for the public good. Therefore we are told to root out the last remaining smokers before they do serious damage to the rest of us.
As an admittedly unscientific experiment, I counted the number of people I saw smoking on campus over the course of a month or so last fall. The number was 62, and many of those were the same people on different days.
It’s pretty safe to say that there are not many people smoking on campus anyway. The advocates of this proposed policy would have us believe that these people are a real and present danger to the over 25,000 students, faculty and staff of this campus.
Though the mechanism is not well stated, they are nevertheless certain many of us are coming down with illnesses (or we will 10 or 20 years from now) because these folks smoke on campus. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is what is implied as the real and present danger to us all.
Freedom is a fragile thing. Sometimes you may have to tolerate those who do not choose to behave as you would. You may have to acknowledge their right to choose even if you believe their behavior is self destructive.
If you believe a person is jeopardizing your health by walking around campus smoking, then walk a different way.
There is plenty of room on campus. What if taking a different route is not possible? For example, you’re handicapped, and a person is smoking by the only handicap-accessible building entrance. Respectfully point out to them that you have no choice but to go in their direction. I bet they will be more than willing to accommodate your need. They have accommodated all the other policies and laws so far.
A recent O’Colly columnist asked, “When will these oppressive measures cease?” Judging from the past, if the administration accepts this recommendation, it will certainly encourage more severe punishment to be administered to any remaining smokers.
Soon we will be told we cannot hire people who smoke and need to fire employees who continue to smoke away from campus.
Perhaps prospective students will be screened about whether they smoke. What’s next, take away their homes and their families? It’s entirely possible.
The administration could end the debate by simply not accepting the recommendation and raise a voice for individual rights. That would take courage, wouldn’t it?
of the food tyrants
WorldNetDaily - Walter E. Williams - January 10, 2007
the wake of New York City's ban on restaurant use of trans fat, Mayor Michael
Bloomberg said the ban is "not going to take away anybody's ability to
go out and have the kind of food they want, in the quantities they want.
... We are just trying to make food safer."
That, my friends, is tyrannical double-talk. Let's look at it. Trans fats are derived from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They can raise blood levels of LDL, the "bad cholesterol." According to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of American Council on Science and Health, trans fats are about 2 percent of our daily caloric intake, while saturated fats, which also raise LDL blood levels, make up 10 to 15 percent.
Naturally, we might ask, why the attack on restaurants using trans fats and not saturated fats? The answer's easy; we just need a historical reference. When the anti-smoking zealots started out, they, too, went after a relatively small target by demanding non-smoking sections on airplanes. That success emboldened them to demand no smoking on planes at all and in airports as well. Then came laws against smoking in restaurants.
Today, in Calabasas, Calif., smoking is prohibited outside, and several California cities have banned beach smoking. Had the anti-smoking zealots revealed their full agenda when they started out, they wouldn't have been nearly as successful. They would have encountered too much resistance.
The nation's food zealots have taken a page from their anti-smoking counterparts. They've started out with a small target – a ban on restaurant use of trans fats. Here's what I predict is their true agenda: If banning a fat that's only 2 percent of our daily caloric intake is wonderful, why not ban saturated fats, the intake of which is much higher? Then there's the size of restaurant servings. Instead of a law simply requiring restaurants to label the calories in a meal, there will be laws setting a legal limit on portions.
There's a Washington, D.C., organization, Center for Science in the Public Interest, that some call busybodies, but they are more accurately described as petty tyrants. They've made a list of foods you shouldn't eat. Among them are: Dove and Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Mrs. Field's cookies and McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. If they are successful, you shouldn't be surprised to see a ban on these and similar foods.
Food zealots, who share the mindset of Mayor Bloomberg and are "just trying to make food safer," will not be satisfied controlling restaurant menus. After all, most eating is done at home. So why wouldn't the food zealots enact bans on what can and cannot be sold in supermarkets? Nine chances out of 10, most of a person's saturated fat intake occurs during the family dinner.
You say, "Williams, that's ridiculous! They would never tell us what we can eat at home." That's precisely what you might have said when the anti-smoking zealots started out. Belmont, Calif., has recently enacted a law not only banning smoking in apartments and other attached dwellings, but also on the street, in a park and even in one's own car.
Smokers have been relatively passive and have allowed the anti-smoking zealots to run roughshod over them. The question is whether those of us who wish to eat as we please will allow the food zealots to do the same. These people are cowards, and here's why: If Mayor Bloomberg and other food zealots think I'm eating too many trans fats, let them personally come and take fatty foods off my plate or remove them from my shopping cart. Since they don't have the guts to do that, they correctly deem it safer to use the brute force of the state to control what I eat.
bans are dangerous to a free society's health
Baltimore Sun - Thomas A. Firey - December 6, 2006
Thomas A. Firey is a Cato Institute policy scholar
and senior fellow for the Maryland Public Policy Institute.
next year, the Baltimore City Council and the Maryland General Assembly
will likely vote on legislation to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants.
If passed, these laws would end the nuisance and clothes-fouling stench
of tobacco smoke in public places and reduce the health risks of secondhand
And yet, the city and state would be wrong to pass them.
Proponents justify a ban by arguing that secondhand smoke is a health risk. But all sorts of human activities are risky - from contact sports to rock climbing, from skiing to swimming, from riding a bike to having sex. Yet many people swim, bike and play football because they take pleasure in doing so, and that's their choice. In a liberal society, people are free to make their own risk and lifestyle choices - including whether to smoke.
Ban supporters respond that smokers inflict harm on other people, including bar and restaurant employees and other patrons. But again, all sorts of activities impose risks on others, and again, those people bear those risks willingly. Rock climbers endanger rescue workers, pool owners endanger lifeguards and patrons, fishing boat captains endanger their crews, and so on. We grant people the choice to be rangers or lifeguards or commercial fishermen. Why shouldn't we allow people to choose to patronize or work in smoking bars and restaurants?
Ban supporters may dispute this, arguing that our society has health and safety regulations to protect people from risk. Smoking bans, they say, are no different than those regulations. But their reasoning is wrong. Most health and safety regulations are justified because they protect people from hidden risks. For instance, government inspects restaurant kitchens because patrons can't. Bars where smoking is permitted are hardly hidden risks.
In fairness, some safety regulations do involve recognized risks, but few of them are outright bans. Coal mining, farming and commercial fishing are all extremely risky jobs and heavily regulated, yet there is no push to ban them. We respect the entrepreneurs' choice to own these businesses and the workers' choice to operate them. If smokers want to smoke in a bar, and an entrepreneur wants to provide that bar, and workers are willing to work there, why shouldn't we accept their choices?
Liberal societies have market economies in part because the pursuit of profit and the threat of competition force the marketplace to provide choices for people with many different preferences. This should include the choice of smoking-allowed and smoke-free bars and restaurants.
The City Council and General Assembly can nurture that choice by requiring all bars and restaurants to determine their own smoking policies. Smoking-allowed establishments can then choose whether to be all-smoking or to have separate smoking and nonsmoking sections. To help consumers identify which establishments cater to their preferences, bars and restaurants could be required to post their smoking policies at their entrances, and they could be penalized for violating them.
A law like that would allow smokers and nonsmokers to enjoy the environments they choose. If most customers prefer a nonsmoking environment, many bars and restaurants will follow the money and prohibit smoking. But other establishments will cater to smokers and allow tobacco use.
Free societies allow people to make decisions that others don't like. That includes allowing smokers to have bars and restaurants to cater to their preferences, just as nonsmokers should have establishments that cater to theirs. Baltimore and Annapolis should stand by the ideals of a free society instead of opting to force smokers to live by the preferences of some nonsmokers.
efforts go too far
Personal choice to light up warrants no legal controls
Atlanta Journal Constitution - Bob Barr - November 29, 2006
Former congressman and U.S. Attorney Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta
cheap six-paneled door cracked loudly and easily swung off its hinges as
the burly Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent in
full SWAT regalia rammed it with the metal battering ram. Eight fellow
ATF agents, with automatic weapons drawn, burst into the three-story townhouse
in one of Belmont's tony subdivisions in California. The agents quickly
secured the premises, as they executed the no-knock search warrant. Within
three minutes, they had located their quarry, hidden on a closet shelf
in the master bedroom behind a pile of folded men's shirts. The lead agent
beamed as the contraband was carefully lifted from its hiding place and
stacked neatly on the floor, where an eager press corps videotaped it for
the evening news: 10 cellophane wrapped, unopened cartons of filter-tipped
While this account of a federal cigarette bust is fiction, if political leaders in Belmont and a number of other jurisdictions —- including the federal government —- have their way, the scenario could soon become a reality. Moving beyond prohibiting smoking in restaurants and other facilities open to the public, governments are gearing up to prohibit smoking in one's own homes and cars. Some are even going so far as to make infractions subject to criminal penalties.
How far has the anti-smoking movement come in just the past four years? Much further than many of its most ardent activists would have dreamed of in the 1970s, when the notion of smoking bans first surfaced and was met largely with derision.
In the Far West, where freedom and Big Sky country gave birth to one of the advertising age's most lasting icons —- the Marlboro Man —- states such as Colorado and Idaho now ban smoking statewide in many public areas. Cities in otherwise freedom-loving states such as Wyoming, Utah and Montana have done likewise. Voters in Arizona recently approved a statewide ban on smoking in most public places. Nevada banned smoking at bars that serve food, and around the slot machines at supermarkets, gas stations and convenience stores.
Back East, New York's tandem of Big Government Republicans, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki, have teamed up to ban smoking in most areas where patrons congregate. (Interestingly, however, at least one cigar club in Manhattan prominently displays color photos of the mayor smoking a stogie.)
Of course, as with most limitations on personal freedom, California leads the way.
In Santa Monica, one of those beachfront communities about which the Beach Boys once sang in terms of "Fun, Fun, Fun," fun can no longer include smoking a cigarette, even if you're simply waiting in line at the ATM. Burbank, once the butt of many Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" jokes, is poised to follow Santa Monica down the anti-smoking road, as is Belmont, just south of San Francisco.
The small town of Belmont is considering blazing new legal territory in its anti-smoking zeal. If the City Council finalizes its actions as early as January, police in Belmont would be empowered to issue citations to individuals caught lighting up in their own car or while walking down a deserted street.
That these efforts would end up expanding the police power of the government to fine and, presumably next, jail people for simply smoking in their own car raises troubling questions of liberty.
Unfortunately, not everyone —- not even a majority of Americans —- is so troubled.
In Golden, Colo., a judge has upheld the power of a homeowners association to ban smoking even in the confines of a person's own home. More troubling, a near majority of Americans actually favor a federal law making cigarettes illegal, according to a recent Zogby poll.
Based on the results of this poll, things are not likely to get better anytime soon, at least for those Americans —- including this writer —- who believe government already regulates far too much personal behavior. Zogby found the strongest support for a federal anti-smoking law was prevalent among those ages 18 to 29; 52 percent of "born-again Christians" favored such a law, as did 60 percent of those labeling themselves "very conservative." So much for "conservative" ideology as a bulwark against government power.
With many of the recent smoking bans based on an expansive view of smoking as a "nuisance," Americans who might favor making tobacco illegal, but who support other forms of personal enjoyment, might want to think twice before embracing the criminalization of such conduct.
Is it much of a leap, after all, for foods containing trans fats, or target practice with "loud" firearms, to also be considered nuisances?
New York's Mayor Bloomberg has already targeted the "nuisance" of firearms to protect one's self. And Bloomberg is already moving against fatty foods.
of Speech as Victim of Global Warming
The Korea Times - Christopher Lingle - November 27, 2006
Christopher Lingle is a senior fellow at the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi
What’s up with journalists in the mainstream media? In most cases, they tend to be unconditional supporters of free expression and strive to report on controversial views. However, reporting on issues relating to global warming has become strikingly one-sided. With no need to persuade using rational argument, a new conventional wisdom is being formulated that is beyond challenge by ``sensible’’ people.
Trying to create groupthink and mass behavior is something that should be an anathema to any honest journalist. Otherwise, reporters become opinion makers rather than neutral observers. Following this line, there are signs of a growing intolerance in the debate about global climate change. Climate-change denial has become a taboo that invites a sense of moral repugnance for the deniers.
In some quarters, raising questions about the projected impacts of climate change is treated as though it were a crime against humanity. In other cases, climate-change deniers are treated as cranks or ``flat-earthers of the 21st Century.’’ Perhaps worse, climate-change skeptics are often deemed to be lackeys of industrialists or oil companies. Demonizing or ridiculing those that doubt the extent and cause of climate change has a chilling effect on free speech and makes open, rational debate almost impossible. For example, Great Britain’s Royal Society asked Exxon Mobil to cease funding groups that ``misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.’’ It is disturbing that such an august body would claim that any scientific discipline must be treated as though it reveals untouchable, cast-iron facts.
As such, the Royal Society has reinforced a false image in the media and the minds of politicians that current assessments of climate change are based on an un-falsifiable scientific model. As such, no theoretical counter-proposals merit consideration. Scientific data are presented as though they were ``facts’’ to discourage disagreement. But honest scientific inquiry requires falsifiability whereby no issue or conclusion is considered settled or beyond continuous investigation and experimentation.
Indeed, even the ``facts’’ are far from being upheld by the so-called scientific consensus. For example, while weather satellite temperatures that have been measured since 1979 indicate a slight warming trend, the magnitude is disputed. Melting glaciers and ice sheets, rising sea levels, severe storms or floods and droughts may indicate a warming trend. But these phenomena offer no answer to the question about what causes warming.
Since climate is always either warming or cooling and ice is either melting or accumulating, the current warming trend is not unusual. Climate changes are just as certain as continental drift or growth and decay in mountains. And to suggest there is a scientific consensus for the extent of anthropogenic (human-caused) warming is simply false. Whatever the extent of the warming effect, it is impossible to discern whether it is due to human influences or a natural fluctuation.
It turns out that evidence indicating an appreciable human contribution to current climate warming is quite weak because many natural causes, like the sun or volcanic activity, affect climate. And these have effects of greater magnitudes than greenhouse gases emitted by all of mankind. A recent report by the former chief economist of the World Bank, Nicholas Stern, has received considerable press coverage. It should be remembered that economic projections are notoriously controversial and often wide of the mark due to the complexities of human behavior.
But what makes his finding more problematic is that his economic analysis relies upon forecasts from climate models that are based upon very subjective assumptions. As such, climate models should be considered even less reliable that short-term weather forecasts! Climatologists admit that the complexity of the microphysics of clouds requires that their models include highly-arbitrary parameters. Consequently, most models provide imperfect representations of the real atmosphere since they do not reliably represent clouds or account for the effects of water vapor.
Despite these criticisms of causes and consequences of climate change, suggestions are made that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere should be stabilized. But this would require emissions to be reduced worldwide by between 60 to 80 percent. Such a dramatic reduction would come at an enormous cost that would be shouldered today against uncertain benefits in offsetting warming in the future. For example, the most optimistic estimates are that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would delay the increase in greenhouse gas levels by about six years and scarcely affect climate. But the cost to the US economy alone would be about $4000 per family of four per year.
Instead of attacking researchers that seek to challenge the status quo view on global warming, journalists should investigate the motives of the global warming alarmists. Consider researchers that follow the ``scientific consensus’’ line. There is a strong incentive to do so to continue their access to the billions of dollars of public funds for studies into global warming. Meanwhile, opportunistic politicians use ``fear’’ to induce citizens to give up more of their hard-earned income by imposing carbon taxes. A fatuous assault on gas-guzzling SUVs provides evidence of this opportunism since industrial production produces far more carbon emissions than all automobile usage.
Many journalists and politicians have joined environmentalists as self-styled warriors on a new frontline of class warfare. Their preferred response is to force up carbon costs though taxes, tolls, or charges. But such moves can have unintended regressive effects by imposing a heavy burden on the poor. Lowering emissions of man-made greenhouse gases requires dramatic cuts in manufacturing with fewer jobs in rich countries and lower economic growth in poor ones.
I smoke (cigars)
WorldNetDaily - Dennis Prager - November 21, 2006
are few personal confessions more likely to alienate many Americans than
to admit to smoking. Singles ads are filled with people who will never
even go on a first date with someone who smokes. I strongly suspect that
more women would date a millionaire who earned his money disreputably than
a millionaire who smoked.
Drinkers are far more highly regarded than smokers, as are playboys, gamblers, lawyers, politicians and almost anyone else except child molesters.
So I have no doubt that some readers who until now have held me in esteem will lose respect for me when they learn that not only do I smoke cigars and a pipe, but I love doing so, have no interest in stopping and have been happy to pass this pleasure on to my older son. In fact, we regularly have some of our best talks while we enjoy our cigars.
For the record, I never smoke cigarettes, which I happen to dislike the smell of, and which I acknowledge to be dangerous. But what I write here largely applies to cigarette smokers as well. In fact, I find anti-smoking zealots far more dangerous to society than cigarette smokers, and would much sooner date a cigarette smoker than one of the zealots.
Having said that, however, it does need to be pointed out that there is little in common between cigar (or pipe) smoking and cigarette smoking. Most important, we don't inhale. This is not meant in the way former President Bill Clinton meant it when he said he "never inhaled." The purpose and joy of cigar and pipe smoking are to enjoy the taste of tobacco in one's mouth. The purpose and joy of cigarette smoking are only vaguely related to the taste of tobacco.
And that leads to two other great differences between cigarette smoking and cigar (and pipe) smoking: First, there is no issue of addiction regarding cigars or pipes. I have been smoking both since I was 15 years old, and could stop tomorrow if I wanted to. Indeed, as a Jew who observes the Sabbath prohibition on kindling fire, I do not smoke for a day every week, and it is effortless. Likewise, I am frequently on the road lecturing and often miss days at a time with absolutely no discernible effect. Second, because one does not inhale when smoking a cigar or pipe, the likelihood of lung cancer is minimal.
Yes, I am warned by doctors that I am more liable to contract mouth or lip cancer, but while physicians may see such diseases, in 40 years of smoking I have never met or heard of one person with either cancer.
Indeed, I am quite convinced that my one-a-day cigar or pipe may well have had a positive impact on my health given how much relaxation it induces. Stress kills far more people than cigars or pipes do.
It is a sign of the times that the latest James Bond film has prohibited 007 from smoking a cigar. One of the most benign practices a person can engage in was banned, but our macho hero can be shown drinking alcohol and bedding women (and without any mention of condoms!), not to mention killing people and engaging in behaviors infinitely more dangerous than cigar smoking.
We live in the Age of Stupidity. This new age has been induced by widespread college education and widespread secularism – Psalms is entirely accurate: "Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord" – which explains, for example, why only well-educated secularists came to believe that there were no innate nonphysical differences between men and women.
Nearly 100 years ago, before widespread college education and before widespread secularism, when America tried to prohibit a vice, it chose alcohol, not tobacco. It knew that there were immoral consequences to alcohol consumption – most child abuse, most spousal abuse, about half of violent crimes and most rapes are accompanied by alcohol. Nobody has ever raped because smoking a cigarette or a cigar numbed his conscience. And no one fears smoking drivers; we rightly fear drinking drivers.
Both in my hometown and on the road, I find great joy in visiting cigar stores and schmoozing with the owners and with the guys smoking there. In fact, cigar stores may be the last place men can get together without women.
Of course, if you think I am really killing people due to the secondhand smoke they inhale from my cigar or pipe, I presume all discussion ends. I am then simply a killer who needs to be stopped. I find absurd the notion that more than 50,000 Americans are killed every year just by being in the presence of smokers. But if you believe it, all you need to do is open a window and enjoy yourself.
The late legendary comedian George Burns was a listener to my radio talk show. When he was around 90 years old, he invited me to his Beverly Hills home. In the course of our two hours together, he smoked two cigars and had a couple of martinis. I asked him what his doctor said about those habits. George looked at me and responded, "My doctor died."
My father is 88 years old and has been smoking a few cigars a day (in my 87-year-old mother's presence, I might add). They are both in near-perfect health. He not only taught me the joys of cigars; he also taught me the importance of thinking for myself and how to lead an honorable life that includes as much joy as possible.
Sullum: Just leave fat people alone
Dallas Morning News - Rod Dreher (Points editor) -- November 19, 2006
Sullum, a Dallas-based senior editor for the libertarian magazine Reason,
has been pointing out what he considers the dangers and hypocrisies of
the war on obesity. He recently spoke with Points editor Rod Dreher:
In your recent writing, you've criticized America's anti-obesity crusade. What's wrong with wanting to fight fat, which is a public health issue?
I don't agree that obesity is, properly speaking, a public health issue. To the extent that obesity itself (as opposed to the poor diet and sedentary lifestyle associated with it) is causally related to disease, it's a health issue. But it's not a public health issue in the sense that the government has a responsibility to address it. Today the "public health" agenda goes far beyond its traditional focus on communicable diseases and other health risks that are imposed on people against their will, where the case for government intervention is strong. It now encompasses health risks, such as those associated with overeating and lack of exercise, that people voluntarily assume, where the case for government intervention is much weaker. The government's duty to protect "the public health," as currently understood, extends to everything people do that might result in disease or injury, a definition with totalitarian implications.
What evidence do you see that the anti-obesity movement is a moral crusade wrapped in medical gauze?
At the heart of the public health mission to minimize morbidity and mortality, even when they are caused by the voluntary assumption of risk, is a moral injunction: "Thou shalt not compromise thy health." Period. This means it's not OK for people to accept an increased risk of disease or injury in exchange for more pleasure or less discomfort – to be fat, for example, if it means they can eat what they want and relax instead of exerting themselves in their spare time. This is a moral position disguised as science, a moral position no one bothers to defend because its validity is simply assumed. Instead of forthrightly condemning sloth and gluttony as sins, public health officials and anti-fat activists pretend they are neutral and objective.
Why is it not in society's economic interest to use government power to stigmatize obesity, much as it has stigmatized smoking, and helped bring down smoking rates?
The truth is that smoking probably saves taxpayers money. You can't just add up all the medical expenses associated with smoking; you have to compare those expenses to what would have been spent on health care for those people if they hadn't smoked. Because nonsmokers live longer, they tend to cost taxpayers more, consuming more health care in old age, drawing on Social Security more, spending more time in nursing homes. An analysis published in The New England Journal of Medicine several years ago concluded that if everyone stopped smoking, total medical expenses would go up, not down. So by the logic of the fiscal argument, the government should be encouraging people to smoke.
Something similar might be true of obesity; I have not seen any studies that look at the complete fiscal impact. Even if obesity does impose a net burden on taxpayers, the problem is not that some people are fat; it's that the government forces other people to pay their medical bills. Taxpayer-funded health care inevitably means subsidizing risky habits – including not just overeating, underexercising and smoking but drinking too much, eating rare hamburgers, working too hard, sleeping too little, skiing, sunbathing, riding motorcycles, and neglecting to brush and floss, to name just a few. If you don't want to pay for the consequences of such dangerous behavior, you shouldn't support taxpayer-funded health care. If we were to keep these programs but try somehow to prevent people from doing anything that would make them more likely to need medical care, we would once again be facing the prospect of a government with an open-ended license to meddle in what used to be considered private decisions.
on earth are baby boomers still alive?
Herald Sun - Neil Mitchell - November 9, 2006
Neil Mitchell is a Melbourne broadcaster.
He was born in 1951.
this is prompted by an approaching birthday that will confirm "mid life"
as mathematically well gone, but is anybody else beginning to wonder how
they have managed to stay above ground for so long?
Peter Costello says ageing baby boomers are the most significant problem facing Australia.
This puts them narrowly ahead of those things he finds truly awful: the ALP, John Howard's popularity, and the failure of Essendon to look even slightly like a football team.
But that causes great puzzlement. How is it that so many boomers have survived so long that their continued breathing is about to become a political and economic catastrophe?
The way the world is run, it seems extraordinary that anybody over the age of 60 is still upright.
They should be dead. Consider what they have had to survive to get this far.
These people, in fact anybody over 30, went to school during very dark days indeed.
They were days when the canteen sold doughnuts, pies and chips to anybody who wanted them.
They drank carbonated water with weird flavours and absurdly mixed full-cream ice cream in it at times to make something called a "spider".
There were no teachers searching for contraband chocolate in school lunch boxes and no self-righteous doctors from VicHealth explaining impressive charts about childhood obesity.
How did anybody survive past puberty without a fridge and cupboard full of things labelled "lite" or "low fat"? How could life exist and thrive when nobody had the faintest idea what "low GI" meant?
But it did. These baby boomers ate fried dim sims and potato cakes with salt, gulped down bags of lollies, and considered Twisties a health food.
Red meat was served at one meal a day, not one meal a week.
Fish had to be cooked before you ate it, preferably in batter and boiling oil.
Tofu, if ever considered, would have been considered revolting.
Today's food police would have locked up the entire generation.
So, how did that generation of boomers survive long enough to become a financial problem important enough to agitate Peter Costello?
Of course, the threat was not restricted to killer food. That's only one of the social evils now identified and attacked.
Most of the boomers also managed to survive other people's cigarettes.
They went to football games where fans were allowed to smoke in the grandstand in the belief the smoke would blow away.
They travelled on trains with carriages marked "smoking" and "non-smoking", in the belief people could make a choice about their own lives.
They even experimented with 10-to-a-pack cigarettes that were almost certainly designed as starter kits for kids. Yet most of them still developed the good sense to give up smoking.
But how did they survive such a dangerous social life?
How did they eat in restaurants where the bloke on the next table would light up an after-dinner smoke with his coffee?
Why are so many still alive after spending years drinking more than 4.3 standard drinks a day in bars where smokers were not treated like dangerous criminals?
Again, it is probably my approaching birthday, but modern history seems to have thrown up so many questions and so few answers.
Questions such as:
How did anybody survive in the days before mobile telephones? How did we get through life while out of contact for hours on end? How did we manage to drive cars in silence, rather than treating them as a mobile telephone booth?
And why was there music?
Music could surely not have existed without $5 million spent on a video clip and a choir of half-dressed women gyrating in a manner that would have brought in the vice squad.
How could the Beatles happen without a public relations army and a television show behind them?
When did water become a fashion accessory?
How did up-market women survive for so many years without a water bottle on hand for instant hydration?
Think about germs, too.
A smelly old horse with a smelly old driver used to deliver bread and milk to the front door before dawn.
How did people survive drinking milk that wasn't straight out of the refrigerator and eating bread that wasn't so tightly sealed it could be opened only by laser beam?
And speaking of bread, how did generations thrive while eating bread that wasn't bursting with Omega 3, calcium and a dozen other additives nobody is sure exist?
How could young women still manage to look so attractive 20 years ago without a scientifically designed uplifting device guaranteed to deceive nature and gravity?
How did we consider football entertainment when it happened only on a Saturday afternoon and involved only Melbourne teams?
How did cricket exist without slow-motion replays and "snickometers"? Who trusted umpires to decide a player was out?
How did the Melbourne Cup carnival survive for so long without international horses and 16-year-old drunks in suits?
Who sorted out the rubbish in those days when it was placed in only one bin?
How did households survive without three colour-coded monsters and an army of bin police likely to lay charges if a chicken bone is inadvertently re-cycled?
What about the internet and Google?
Without Google, how did we know what day it was or who was Prime Minister of England?
At the risk of wandering further into "grumpy-old-man" territory, it must be acknowledged these are questions created by the boomer generation and answered by nobody.
But perhaps the greatest question of all is this:
Why did a generation that spent the first half of its adult life dedicated to excess, independence, freedom and loud music decide to spend the second half of its life writing rules that tell everybody else how to live?
a grudge against smokers
Spiked - Brid Hehir - November 7, 2006.
Brid Hehir is a nurse and the lead for patient and public involvement in Camden PCT, London
September 2006, the Ohio District Court of Appeals upheld a local court
decision that a mother and former nurse with a 20-a-day habit should lose
custody of her six-year-old son to her former husband because she smokes.
The court cited various health reports which link secondhand smoke to respiratory
illnesses, in justification. In a 3-0 ruling, the judges wrote that a parent
who smokes was a ‘factor to consider when making custody determinations’
Although the UK hasn’t emulated the USA in this regard yet, many here consider parents who smoke to be child abusers. Secondhand smoke, or passive smoking, has assumed enormous importance here, and illiberal tendencies are developing which suggest that the UK will not be far behind America in taking authoritarian measures against smokers. In the run-up to the national smoking ban indoors in public places, which begins in July 2007, the UK government’s White Paper Choosing Health has made a commitment to make government departments and the National Health Service (NHS) smoke-free by the end of 2006.
Some organisations have pursued this goal with vigour, and well-ahead of the deadline. It’s becoming common for councils and NHS organisations, for example, to tell tenants and patients that they mustn’t smoke in their homes if expecting a home visit from council or NHS staff, because a smoky environment is now considered an unsafe one. Some organisations have banned staff from having cigarette breaks or from smoking in or near their premises, car parks or vehicles. Sutton Council has even tried, albeit unsuccessfully to date, to ban employees from smoking in their own cars while driving to and from work. And all of this is done in the name of protecting people from the effects of secondhand smoke.
While initiatives like these might seem laudable, caring and even progressive to many, even if a bit ham-fisted, I think they are actually coercive, manipulative, moralistic, intolerant and anti-social. Sadly, my professional organisation, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), has been at the forefront of pushing through these measures...
and clueless in Omaha
WorldNetDaily - Joseph Farah - October 25, 2006
we fool ourselves into thinking that Washington has cornered the market
on government madness.
It is hardly the case, as the city leaders of Omaha, Neb., showed us earlier this month.
Not only did the city council cave into the pressure of the anti-smoking Nazis – banning cigarettes in 97 percent of public places – but this group of tyrants went further than any in America thus far.
City officials in Omaha, with the support of the police department, called on citizens who witness violations of the new prohibition to call 911 to report them.
Silly me, I thought 911 calls were about emergencies. Apparently, smoking in a no-smoking zone is considered a high crime in Omaha – right up there with murder, rape and robbery.
There was, I am happy to report, one voice of sanity expressed amid the madness.
Bucking the voices of the establishment, Douglas County emergency director Mark Conrey said people should not call 911 every time they see someone light up in a restricted area. He said the very idea threatens Douglas County's emergency system.
I would think so. In fact, don't police and emergency responders in most cities across the country deliberately discourage all but emergency calls on 911?
Nevertheless, despite the plea from the man in charge of making the emergency system work, Omaha police and city officials insisted residents should use 911 to report smoking law violators.
Maybe it's a bid to raise cash, as penalties are $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third and subsequent infractions.
Or maybe this is the type of crime city officials and police officers feel confident they can actually deter. Maybe these are the type of "criminals" they can actually bust – and without much threat to their own safety other than the possibility of inhaling second-hand smoke.
Maybe it seems like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here. Maybe it seems like I'm picking on Omaha officials. Maybe it seems to you there are more important issues facing us than the smoking ban in a Nebraska city.
If so, then you are missing the point entirely.
This kind of insanity, this kind of tyranny, this kind of misguided political correctness is going to be the death of our great country if we're not careful.
These laws have a way of multiplying. Despite challenges to the anti-smoking bans in cities across the country, despite the way these laws hurt businesses, despite the way they destroy freedom and "choice" and "diversity" and all the other lofty buzzwords used by the very people inclined to impose such draconian laws, not one anti-smoking ordinance has yet been repealed.
Do I care about smoking?
No, not that much.
But I do care about freedom.
I know what you're thinking.
"Farah, don't smokers violate my rights and the rights of my children to breath clean air?"
Freedom is for everyone – not just non-smokers. I think property owners who want to allow smoking in their establishments – their restaurants and bars – have every right to do so. And people have the right to patronize those establishments or not.
If non-smokers are so organized that they can impose their will on others by force, why not just use that power to persuade some restaurants and bars it is in their best interest to remain smoke-free?
Besides freedom, I also care about truth. And the truth is that those who claim all kinds of terrible dangers from second-hand smoke are lying through their glistening white teeth.
Maybe it's time for some local officials to stop playing "follow the leader," by doing exactly what other cities are doing, and to start actually leading. That requires, by the way, the ability to think for yourself, which may be beyond the capacity of the Omaha political elite.
Restaurant Smoking Bans
Washington Post - Thomas A. Lambert - October 23, 2006
Thomas A. Lambert is associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law. His article "The Case against Smoking Bans" will appear in the winter issue of the Cato Institute's Regulation Magazine.
a regulatory tidal wave, smoking bans are sweeping the nation. When D.C.
goes smokeless in January, it will join 18 states and 474 municipalities
that have imposed smoking bans on restaurants, bars, and other workplaces.
Proponents of smoking bans contend that they address the "negative externality" smokers impose upon nonsmokers, shape individual preferences against smoking (thereby reducing the incidence of smoking), and alleviate the health risks associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke or "ETS." Considered closely, though, each of these arguments fails to justify the government-imposed restrictions.
EXTERNALITY First consider the externality argument. Negative externalities are costs that are borne by people other than the cost-creator -- for example, the smoke a factory foists costs onto its neighbors. Such externalities often give rise to injustices (third-parties are victimized by the conduct at issue) and inefficiencies (there's an excessive level of the activity at issue, because the party doing it captures all the benefit, but not all the cost, of his conduct). Accordingly, governmental restrictions may be desirable as a means of avoiding injustice and inefficiency.
Ban proponents contend that indoor smoking imposes externalities on the nonsmoking patrons and employees of public establishments and is therefore an appropriate target for government regulation. But that's not right. When it comes to indoor smoking (as opposed to pollution outdoors), there is a single individual who ultimately bears the costs and benefits associated with smoke-filled air.
That person is the business owner. If he permits overly dirty indoor air, he'll tend to lose business unless he somehow compensates aggrieved patrons with lower prices and/or more attractive products. Similarly, he'll lose irritated employees unless he pays them some premium for working in smoke-filled air. A vast body of empirical evidence demonstrates that employers must routinely pay this sort of risk/inconvenience premium to their workers. Thus, no patrons or employees are victimized (they're compensated for the inconveniences they agree to suffer), and we needn't worry about an inefficient level of smoking. The owner has every incentive to select the level of air quality that maximizes the welfare of his patrons and employees -- many of whom may desire smoking-permitted space.
PREFERENCE-SHAPING Ban proponents' "preference-shaping" argument contends that smoking bans are justified as means of changing individuals' preferences away from smoking. The idea is that smoking bans stigmatize smoking, making the behavior "costlier" and thereby reducing its incidence.
This argument rests, of course, on an extraordinarily slippery slope: Is it appropriate for the government to limit individuals' rights in order to "shape preferences" regarding, say, fat consumption? Moreover, the strategy may backfire.
A large percentage of smokers acquire the habit at a young age, and they frequently do so because smoking is "cool." Smoking is cool, of course, because it's rebellious. The harder anti-smoking forces work to coerce people into stopping smoking, and the more they engage the government and other establishment institutions in their efforts, the more rebellious -- and thus the cooler -- smoking becomes. Smoking bans may therefore have the perverse effect of enticing young people to smoke.
RISK Finally, ban proponents seek to justify sweeping smoking bans, regardless of whether externalities are present, simply as a means of reducing the risks associated with ETS inhalation. Citing a recent report from the U.S. surgeon general, ban advocates maintain that ETS exposure poses significant risks that justify intrusive regulations. Examined closely, though, the surgeon general's "scientific" report cannot support imposition of sweeping smoking bans.
In releasing his ETS study this past June, Surgeon General Richard Carmona proclaimed that "there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke" and that "even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer."
The problem is, that's not what his study actually concluded. The report was a "meta-analysis" that combined the results of a number of previous studies, and those studies considered only chronic, long-term ETS exposure. The raw data covered in the report thus doesn't address the risk of short-term exposure that is the subject of Carmona's hyperbolic statements -- statements that conflict with the toxicology conventional wisdom that "the dose makes the poison."
Moreover, the report itself, which covered only studies published through 2002, ignored perhaps the largest ETS study ever conducted -- a 2003 study that followed, from 1959 to 1998, the health histories of more than 35,000 never-smoking Californians who were married to smokers. The authors found no "causal relationship between exposure to (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality," though they acknowledged that "a small effect" cannot be ruled out.
But even if the surgeon general's report is accepted on its face, it still does not provide sufficient support for government-mandated smoking bans. The report purports to find a 20 to 30 percent increase in cancer and heart disease risks for nonsmokers after chronic ETS exposure. While those numbers sound large, nonsmokers' risks of cancer and heart disease are quite small to begin with, and even with a 20 or 30 percent increase, those risks remain quite small. They hardly justify preempting people's right to choose to accept those risks and patronize a smoking-allowed establishment.
CONCLUSION The case for smoking bans thus fails. Contrary to ban advocates' claims, the costs of smoking's externalities are ultimately borne by the owners of smoking-allowed establishments who, as a group, have incentives to efficiently accommodate smokers and nonsmokers. Efforts to shape people's preferences regarding smoking run into individual choice issues and may be counterproductive. Scientific evidence on the risk of ETS may be overstated and never addresses the important point that some people are willing to take that risk.
A better approach would be a hands-off policy permitting business owners to set their own smoking policies. Motivated by the pursuit of profits, the owners would have the proper incentive to maximize social welfare. The market would be far more likely than government regulation to accommodate the various preferences of nonsmokers and smokers alike.
data on secondhand smoke
The Free Lance-Star - Jerome Arnett Jr. - October 8, 2006
Jerome Arnett Jr. is a pulmonologist and writer. He
wrote this commentary for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
federal government's 30-year anti-smoking crusade has been so successful
that there are now more ex-smokers than smokers in the United States. But
about a quarter of the population continues to smoke cigarettes, and over
the past decade a new health hazard has been fabricated and publicized.
The news media have parroted the idea that secondhand smoke is harmful, and a recent survey finds that more than 80 percent of adults now believe this. But the secondhand-smoke scare is based largely on speculation reminiscent of superstitions from the Middle Ages, before the discovery of the scientific method.
The 2006 surgeon general's 709-page report "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke" further promotes this sham. The report claims that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause immediate harm and cites reports that estimate secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and tens of thousands of heart disease deaths among nonsmokers each year.
It concludes that there is no risk-free level of exposure, and recommends "smoke-free policies" to eliminate all indoor smoking. Surgeon General Richard Carmona himself stated at a June 27, 2006, press conference, "The science is clear: [secondhand smoke] is a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and non-smoking adults."
The Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, and American Cancer Society all concur. The California Air Pollution Authority has labeled secondhand smoke a toxin and the EPA has initiated a "Smoke-Free Home Pledge Campaign."
Marriott has announced that its 2,300 hotels will become totally smoke-free by October 15 of this year. In June, a California state Senate committee approved a bill to ban smoking in private cars with children.
But the science is not "clear." In fact, there is no credible scientific evidence to support any of this. Whereas the association of cigarette smoking with heart disease and lung cancer in epidemiologic studies is strong--an increase of 100 to 300 percent and 900 percent respectively--the association found between secondhand-smoke exposure and heart disease and lung cancer in the studies cited by the surgeon general is very weak, an increase of about 30 percent for each.
In addition, the report cherry-picks studies that support its claims and ignores other important ones that do not. For example, it cites a 1993 EPA meta-analysis of 30 studies, that has since been discredited, and ignores an excellent 1998 World Health Organization large single study that showed a reduced association for children of smokers and no association for spouses and co-workers.
The largest single study of all, a 39-year analysis of over 35,000 Californians published in 2003 in the British Medical Journal, found no connection between passive smoking and mortality. It was not cited.
Epidemiology is the study of disease in populations. Epidemiologists collect data using poorly controlled observational studies and evaluate it by using statistical methods.
These methods are not adequate to test the hypotheses required by the scientific method, so epidemiology can never prove or disprove anything. It uses "relative risk" to report its findings of association. An RR of 1.0 is average, while an RR of 3.0 or more--a 300 percent increase--is required to suggest causation.
The epidemiologic studies cited by the surgeon general's report cannot determine causation largely because they are unable to control for inherent systematic errors. These include measurement errors, confounding factors, and at least 56 different biases, including "recall bias."
In the studies cited by the surgeon general, not only do the researchers have no control over the exposures to secondhand smoke, they don't even know what the data are.
A weak association is a fortuitous finding. Converting it into a causal link bypasses the scientific method, and has been termed "statistical malpractice" in the literature.
This unethical application of statistics to the imperatives of health policy is a common occurrence in politically motivated science.
The report claims that the weak statistical associations found in the studies "were not determinant" in making causal inferences, but instead, "judgments were based on an array of considerations." What these considerations were, and why they were more important than the results of the studies cited, is not apparent.
Finally, a basic principle of toxicology is that "the dose makes the poison." The surgeon general's report admits that secondhand smoke "is rapidly diluted as it travels away from the burning cigarette," and that it cannot be defined or measured.
It takes many years of persistent exposure for cigarette smoking to cause disease. For example, a patient's smoking one pack of cigarettes (22 cigarettes) a day for 10 years alerts a physician to search for lung disease. But even in the smokiest of smoke-filled rooms, nonsmokers inhale only a fraction of one cigarette a day.
To be beneficial, public policy must be based on good science. Bad science inevitably leads to bad public policy.
All government bureaucracies have one hidden agenda--to increase their funding and power. This leads to misrepresentations like the secondhand-smoke scare.
The 2006 surgeon general's report reminds us that one ongoing peril for citizens is being misled by government bureaucrats seeking to expand their power.
We need to shape our policies on the basis of good science, instead of shaping the science to fit the policies.
assault launched on selling tobacco by mail
The Hill - Bob Barr - September 21, 2006
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in Congress from 1995 to 2003
Big Government. Isn’t it wonderful? Ever searching for more ways to fleece
taxpayers, the government now has a direct financial interest in seeing
big tobacco companies prosper.
Thanks to the so-called “master settlement agreement,” or MSA, which ended the threat of state lawsuits against tobacco companies, government now reaps a generous cut of their profits. In essence, increased cigarette sales from the big tobacco companies flow directly into government coffers.
When government do-gooders look at products like tobacco, there are basically two strategies to prevent individuals from using harmful products.
One way respects individual freedom, while the other replaces it with government coercion. Not surprisingly, government’s financial interest in tobacco has increasingly led it to choose the latter in recent years.
The first path involves providing individuals with the information they need to make an informed choice on whether or not to use specific tobacco products. This strategy begins with sound, scientifically based research that pinpoints the specific health hazards associated with particular types of tobacco use.
Then, the choice-based approach simply conveys this information to the public and allows individuals to exercise their own best judgment on how to balance the risks of tobacco against the enjoyment derived from using it.
Fundamentally, this is no different from how we treat high-cholesterol foods, long-distance driving, air travel, use of power tools or any of the myriad other potentially dangerous activities in which individuals choose to participate.
The second approach to tobacco regulation rests on using the power of government to force individuals not to use tobacco. Of course, advocates of this anti-freedom approach realize it is difficult if not impossible for government to simply outlaw en masse products that millions of Americans choose to use.
Instead of outlawing tobacco directly, they move to restrict its use and raise its costs to the point that individuals pay a heavy price in dollars and convenience if they choose to smoke.
This is a win-win situation for government bureaucrats, because they can say they are “fighting smoking,” when what they are really doing is raising taxes and shielding big tobacco companies by keeping competitors out of the marketplace.
This project began with draconian bans on smoking, first in public buildings, then in restaurants and bars, and now even in outdoor public places like beaches and parks. It continued with efforts to hike taxes on cigarettes to absurd levels, ensuring that politicians would get a payoff for doing the bidding of so-called “public health” advocates.
The latest front in this battle involves companies that provide opportunities for individuals to order cigarettes in the mail.
Mail-order tobacco companies, which allow consumers to purchase through the phone and Internet, are the distribution backbone for smaller, independent manufacturers that offer lower-priced products than major, well-known brands. These independents rely on direct-to-consumer sales to build a following, because they don’t have access to massive retail distribution controlled by Big Tobacco.
Shutting down direct sales has long been a goal sought by both Big Tobacco and Big Government. Independent manufacturers, and the competition they represent, would be decimated if the mail order tobacco companies were put out of business.
Additionally, mail-order tobacco companies expand consumer choice in tobacco products. Organic cigarettes and hand-rolled cigars are just some of the products individuals are able to enjoy only if they obtain them through the mail.
Not surprisingly, those who would control our actions from federal offices in Washington were not and are not content to allow the market to function without interference. They have joined with big tobacco companies – which don’t like the competition — to shut down small entrepreneurs who sell tobacco products online and through the mail.
Rather than tackle the issue openly and fairly, the anti-freedom forces have chosen postal-reform legislation currently moving through Congress as their vehicle of choice through which to cut mail-order tobacco firms off at the knees. This bill is intended to make the U.S. Postal Service – which currently operates somewhere at the level it did in the 19th century – start acting like a modern corporation.
At the behest of big tobacco and its special-interest lobbying dollars, however, some members of Congress are attempting to insert a rider onto the postal reform bill that will shut down mail-order companies that compete with major cigarette manufacturers.
Tacking an anti-freedom tobacco measure onto postal-reform legislation takes a well-intended reform measure and turns it into a stealth assault on the principle that individual consumers should be able to decide for themselves what is and isn’t healthy behavior. Whether one likes or dislikes tobacco products, allowing government nannies in cahoots with private industry to play favorites and decimate competition should not be a part of the game plan. Conferees who will be considering the postal-reform legislation should resist efforts to make them a party to such underhanded tactics.
Rights Attack Continues
Human Events - Walter E. Williams - August 30, 2006
year, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Kelo v. New London decision, ruled
that the private property of one American could be taken and given to another
American as long as it served a public purpose. The public purpose in that
case was greater tax revenues for the fiscally strapped city of New London.
The city figured that if it used its powers of eminent domain to force
private homeowners out and then transferred their property to developers
to build commercial property, there would be greater tax revenues.
Many Americans were angered by this violation of both the letter and spirit of the Fifth Amendment, which in part reads, ". . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Public purpose is not the same as public use. Public use means property can be taken, with just compensation, to build a road, a highway, a fort or some other public project.
My response to the Kelo decision was, "See, I told you so." For decades, Americans have been willing to allow politicians to trample over private property rights, so why should we be surprised when politicians become more emboldened?
Here's a brief history. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fined one landowner $300,000 for "destroying" wetlands because he cleared a backed-up drainage ditch on his property. The Fish & Wildlife Service told one landowner he couldn't use 1,000 acres of his property so the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker could have a place to dwell. Another owner was prevented from clearing dry brush near his home to make a firebreak because it would disturb the Stephens kangaroo rat. Building a deck on his house brought one owner a $30,000 fine for casting a shadow on wetlands.
Smoking bans are another violation of private property rights supported by most Americans. If a person owns a restaurant, it is his right to decide whether or not he will permit smoking. If a restaurant owner wishes to permit smoking, he might put up a "Smoking Permitted" sign and let customers decide whether they wish to enter. Similarly, if an owner didn't permit smoking, he might put up a "No Smoking" sign and let customers decide.
I'm guessing that a restaurant owner who didn't permit smoking would see it as a violation of his property rights if a coalition used the political arena to create legislation forcing him to permit smoking. It is no less of a property rights violation the other way around.
Tyranny breeds tyranny. Chicago's City Council recently enacted a ban on foie gras -- a French delicacy made of duck and goose liver. The ostensible justification given for the ban is that foie gras represents cruelty to animals because it involves force-feeding ducks and geese in order to fatten up their livers. Mayor Richard M. Daley has mocked the ban as the "silliest law" passed by the council. Pressured by animal rights activists, a Philadelphia councilman, following his Chicago brethren, has recently introduced legislation that would ban foie gras in Philadelphia restaurants. These bans are just more of the same -- attacks on private property rights.
Animal rights wackos won't be satisfied with banning foie gras. Why not ban lobsters for the same reason as the ban on foie gras? After all, putting a live lobster in boiling water can be interpreted as cruelty to animals. What about banning beef? Can't it be interpreted as cruel to leave a calf parentless by slaughtering his mother and father? John Adams warned, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist."
- the new deviants
Toronto Star - Patricia Pearson - August 20, 2006
need not apply," ran a classified ad for a job in Ireland this past May.
"Why not?" asked Catherine Stihler, a British Labour party MEP, who posed the question on behalf of one of her constituents. Should women not apply, either? Or homosexuals? Muslims? What about high-functioning alcoholics, or fat people?
The answer, from the European Commission that oversees anti-discrimination legislation in the EU, came back to Stihler this month: Smokers are fair game for discrimination.
"A job advertisement saying that `smokers need not apply' would not seem to fall under any of the prohibited grounds (under EU legislation)," Vladimir Spidla, the commissioner for employment and equal opportunities, wrote to Stihler, who showed the letter to the press.
This would have pleased the employer who placed the ad, call-centre director Philip Tobin, who reportedly told Irish radio in May, "If these people (meaning smokers) can ignore so many warnings and all that evidence then they haven't got the level of intelligence that I am looking for. Smokers are idiots."
In other words, if you're addicted to nicotine, a substance that studies have repeatedly shown to be more difficult to withdraw from than heroin, you're too dumb to answer the phone.
Joni Mitchell need not apply. Kurt Vonnegut doesn't have the brains to say, "How may I help you?" Peter Jennings, thick as a plank. C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill — inferior minds all around.
And we believe this. We've bought into it because health is now the basis of our prejudices. We judge one another's conduct according to how well we maintain ourselves physically.
It isn't confined to smoking. British surgeons have begun to refuse doing certain operations for obese patients. Women who drink more than a glass of wine a day are made to feel they're alcoholics. Mothers who choose not to breast-feed are castigated as if they were amoral.
The objective of life, in this health utopia of ours, is to live it as long as possible, in mechanically perfect condition. Compare that to previous utopian cultures, where the objective of life would have been, variously, to be honourable, or spiritually sublime, or warrior-like or, in the case of Communism, a humble devotee of collective economic well-being: an impeccable worker ant.
Every culture with a utopian vision has its officially acknowledged deviants.
The Ontario government's anti-smoking website is addressed http://www.stupid.ca. It's for stupid people. Deviants addicted to nicotine.
The degree to which we have turned an addiction into a moral failing really came home to me last year when Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. On his last ABC news broadcast, when he announced his diagnosis, he explained to his viewers that he had quit smoking 20 years earlier but had fallen off the wagon after 9/11. He apologized. He actually apologized for dying of cancer.
Imagine if Jennings had said on the air: "I've got lung cancer, but I enjoyed every cigarette I ever smoked, and my life has been really full and interesting. Live fast and die at 67."
It would have been viewed as an apostasy.
Consider, by contrast, how AIDS activists have so successfully turned around the stigma of their affliction. How someone — gay or straight, male or female, young or old — contracted HIV doesn't matter. As The New York Times reported, in a lead-up to the Toronto AIDS conference, "In 1996 in Vancouver, the audience cheered after a grandmother told the conference: `How did I get infected? The answer is very simple: It just doesn't matter.'"
How do smokers, young or old, get addicted to nicotine? A new study out this month by McGill University epidemiologist Jennifer O'Loughlin shows that some people are so susceptible to nicotine that they can begin to crave the substance after one cigarette. One cigarette. One shared needle. One night of unprotected sex. It just doesn't matter.
In the last several years, the U.S. has made available to smokers a huge arsenal of nicotine-replacement therapies, such as the lozenge, a nasal spray, and a new pill called Chantix that blocks nicotine reception in the brain, none of which is available in Canada. The Americans run in-patient rehab programs for nicotine addiction. We Canadians run public-service ads in movie theatres specifically produced to demonstrate that smokers are knuckleheads.
Are we seriously committed to helping people wrest free of nicotine? Or are we writing them off as deviants?
What the EU discrimination ruling about the Irish call centre reveals is that the door is wide open for health discrimination in the upcoming decade. Until we snap out of it and realize that there's more to life than its length, we are in for a whole new wave of prejudice.
Tech Central Station - Duane D. Freese - July 18, 2006
likely, but implausible."
If that statement makes sense to you, then you might seek career summarizing science panel reports, or even working as a science writer for Nature or a major newspaper.
For you would be well versed in what my fellow TCS columnist Jim Pinkerton has dubbed "adjective creep."
Adjective creep amounts to increasing the strength of a finding as it is condensed, simplified and becomes more widely disseminated. It is much like what happens to rumors as they pass from person to person, with each person embellishing on what the previous gossip has told them. One minute Mary sniffles, the next her husband is getting condolences on her passing from pneumonia.
In scientific circles there is lot of that disease going around.
Back in February, an Institute of Medicine panel looking to marketing's possible influence on obesity found:
"[R]egarding the influence of televised food and beverage advertising on children's and teens' short term consumption, the committee concluded there was enough evidence for both younger and older children, but 'an absence of evidence' for teens. ... For younger and older children, on balance, the evidence supported the finding that advertising influenced intake, whereas for teens, on balance, the evidence supported the finding that advertising did not influence intake. ... [F]or the findings regarding advertising's influence on usual dietary intake, there was moderate evidence for such influence for younger children (ages 2-5 years), weak evidence for such influence for older children (ages 6-11 years), and weak evidence against such influence for teens (ages 12-18 years)."
If you looked through the actually studies, even that influence was debatable. Most of the studies dealt with brand preference. None of the studies found an actual connection between marketing and obesity or any health outcome.
Yet in releasing the study, J. Michael McGinnis, IOM senior scholar and chair of the committee, engaged in adjective creep, telling reporters, "There is strong evidence that television advertising of foods and beverages has a direct influence on what children choose to eat." He asserted: "Current food and beverage marketing practices put kids' long-term health at risk."
That led to Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa saying, "Food marketing is endangering the health of our children, pure and simple," and headlines such as "Junk Food Marketing Out of Control, Report Concludes."
McGinnis, though, had nothing on Richard Carmona, Surgeon General of the United States, with the release a study on the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.
The study itself is thorough in its analysis and exhaustive in its review of studies. They find a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in risk of developing lung cancer, respiratory and heart disease, and 3,000 premature deaths from cancer and 46,000 from heart and respiratory diseases. That compares with a 100 percent to 900 percent increase for such diseases for smokers and 400,000 deaths a year, and 1.95 million deaths from other causes every year.
So, ETS is a serious health issue, especially for children and spouses who live with smokers and for workers in environments where there are smokers.
Yet, Carmona took these deadly findings of chronic exposure, and took increased risk up a notch. He proclaimed: "We know that secondhand smoke harms people's health, but many people assume that exposure to secondhand smoke in small doses does not do any significant damage to one's health. However, science has proven that there is NO risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Let me say that again: there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."
He went on to say: "Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can damage cells and set the cancer process in motion. Brief exposure can have immediate harmful effects on blood and blood vessels, potentially increasing the risk of a heart attack."
None of this appeared in the actual report, for which Michael Siegel, a physician and anti-smoking advocate, took exception, because it diminished legitimate tobacco control efforts and spurred specious ones -- such as police contemplating charging smoking parents with child abuse.
Which brings us back to plausible.
Last month, a National Academy of Sciences panel looking into temperature reconstructions over the last 2,000 years used the word in a conclusion about one such reconstruction by paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and others that "the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium."
That claim, coupled with what become known as the "hockey stick" graph, became controversial when it was prominently featured in the summary for policymakers in the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change in 2001 as an indication that the 20th Century warming by an average of 1 degree Fahrenheit globally was abnormal and thus induced by humans.
Well, the controversy eventually reached Congress and through Congress the NAS. And the 12 member panel looked at the Mann study and concluded:
"... the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that 'the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium" because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstruction for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales."
Plausible has three definitions in Merriam-Webster: 1. "superficially fair, reasonable, or valuable but often specious." 2. "superficially pleasing or persuasive." 3. "appearing worthy of belief."
But it got a new one when reporters asked what it meant.
"It's likely," responded Ellen Druffel, an oceanographer and co-writer of the report. "Likely" was also the answer given by panel member John "Mike" Wallace, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington.
Goddard Institute for Space Studies Climatologist and Mann supporter Gavin Schmidt said the same in his RealClimate.org blog: "According to the statements in the press conference, they chose 'plausible' because they didn't want to quantify likelihood a la IPCC, but I would read it as equivalent to 'likely', which is of course what MBH said all along."
What does likely mean, according to Webster's? 1. "having a high probability of occurring or being true: very probable." 2. "apparently qualified, or suitable." 3. "reliable, credible."
And thus the Boston Globe told Northeasterners: "A signature piece of evidence for global warming -- a chart showing that a sharp rise in temperatures made the late 20th century the warmest period in at least 1,000 years -- is most likely correct, a national panel of scientific experts concluded today." And John Heilbron of the Associated Press wrote, "The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, probably even longer." And finally CNN broadcast to the nation: "Study: Earth 'likely' hottest in 2,000 years"
So an investigation that has less confidence in a study's findings about the 1990s likely being the warmest decade in 1,000 years, becomes a study showing the Earth is likely hotter than any time in 2,000 years -- or double the original study's claim.
What's plausible has become likely, and what is likely has become implausible!
Are mandatory aerobics classes in your future?
Reason Online - Ronald Baily - July 14, 2006
anyone dies at an early age from a preventable cause in New York City,
it's my fault," New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden declared
recently (Financial Times registration required). In his campaign to make
sure that no New Yorker dies before his or her time, Frieden has adopted
an expansive notion of public health.
Historically, public health has focused on protecting people from the risks of communicable diseases. Thus public health officials have been empowered to mandate vaccinations, require the chlorination of water, order that milk be pasteurized, and quarantine sick people in order to control epidemics. Even the city's recent broad smoking ban was justified in part on the grounds that smokers were harming the health of others by exposing them to second-hand smoke.
But safeguarding people from the risks potentially imposed on them by third parties is no longer enough—Frieden now wants to protect people from themselves. So New York's Board of Public Health has turned its attention to the city's diabetics. In January 2006, the city's health bureaucrats began implementing a surveillance program that will eventually include nearly all of the city's 530,000 diabetics. In the current issue of Science, Columbia University professor of sociomedical studies Amy Fairchild, writes, "If New York comes to serve as a model, public health surveillance will take on a radical new form, entailing a reconfiguration of the relation between public health and medicine."
New York's radical new surveillance system requires mandatory electronic reporting of the glycosylated hemoglobin A1c values of all diabetics tested by all city laboratories to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH). Keep in mind that diabetes is not a communicable disease. The recent increase in diabetes among Americans is associated with the increase in obesity. Unlike measles, a person cannot catch it merely by standing next to someone munching on a Krispy Kreme donut or pigging out on slices of Famous Ray's pizza.
Nevertheless, diabetes is a health problem for 20 million Americans. Diabetics have higher than normal levels of glucose in their blood. Years of higher blood glucose eventually damage small blood vessels leading to high blood pressure, and to kidney, heart, and nerve disease. One physician friend told me that he adds ten years to the age of his diabetic patients. Testing for A1c measures the average level of glucose in the blood for the past 2 to 3 months. Thus it's a convenient way for diabetics and their physicians to check how well they have been controlling their glucose levels. Generally A1c values for non-diabetics are below 7 percent and studies show that the closer a diabetic can keep this value to 7 percent or below, the less likely he or she is to suffer from the complications of the disease. Unhappily, one study estimated that only 37 percent of diabetics in the United States maintained A1c values below 7 percent.
Under the new city diabetic surveillance system, the results from all tests for A1c (estimated to be between 1 million and 2 million annually) will go the city's DOH. The registry will record the full name, date of birth, and address of each person tested and the date each test was performed. Diabetics whose A1c levels are too high will receive a letter and educational materials from the DOH and their physicians will be alerted to their test results. Frieden says that the surveillance information collected will remain confidential and any diabetics who don't want to hear from the DOH can opt out, but they cannot prevent their test results from being filed in the registry.
In her discussion of the diabetic surveillance program, Fairchild makes a distinction between "hard" and "soft" paternalism. "What distinguishes hard paternalism from its softer counterpart is the role of coercion," she writes. Fairchild concludes that the surveillance system is acceptable soft paternalism because "no one would be forced to undergo treatment or lifestyle change." What's wrong with a little education, courtesy of the DOH? As it stands, nothing much; but will the DOH's interventions stop at non-coercive letters, phone calls and pamphlets?
In the United States, the health care costs for diabetes top $45 billion annually and absorb 25 percent of Medicare's budget. In addition, 42 percent of diabetics receiving Medicaid in New York City have dangerously high A1c levels of above 9 percent. Should the chiding approach of letters and phone calls fail to get results, it's not difficult to imagine that Frieden and other city health officials would argue for applying a bit of "hard" paternalism because poor diabetics are busting city and state health care budgets. One step toward harder paternalism might be compulsory exercise and nutrition classes.
And why stop at monitoring diabetics? After all, far more Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases than they do from diabetes. For example, 65 million Americans have hypertension (there is some overlap with diabetics); 100 million Americans have above-normal cholesterol and 35 million have high cholesterol. Heart disease costs nearly $200 billion in direct medical costs every year, much of it also picked up by Medicare and Medicaid. New York's diabetic surveillance program could be the harbinger for similar mandatory programs for monitoring everyone's serum cholesterol, hypertension, and even percentage of body fat.
In the past, Americans recognized a distinction between public and personal health. If I smoked, drank too much, supersized regularly or failed to get to the gym, it was my own fault, not Health Commissioner Frieden's. However, when (and if) government-funded universal health insurance becomes a reality, the distinction between public and personal health will fade away. Then get ready for your prescription for compulsory biweekly aerobics classes.
Pack of Lies
The surgeon general hypes the hazards of secondhand smoke
Reason Online - Jacob Sullum - July 5, 2006
to Surgeon General Richard Carmona, secondhand smoke is so dangerous that
you'd be better off if you stopped going to smoky bars and started smoking
instead. "Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke," claims the press release
that accompanied his new report on the subject, "has immediate adverse
effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease
and lung cancer."
Among smokers, these diseases take many years to develop. So if you got your health tips from the surgeon general, you'd start smoking a pack a day as a protective measure.
But you may want to look elsewhere for medical advice. Carmona is so intent on promoting smoking bans—a key element of the government's campaign to reduce cigarette consumption—that he absurdly exaggerates the hazards of secondhand smoke, hoping to generate enough public alarm to banish smokers from every location outside the home.
As the report itself makes clear, there is no evidence that brief, transient exposure to secondhand smoke has any effect on your chance of developing heart disease or lung cancer. The studies that link secondhand smoke to these illnesses involve intense, long-term exposure, typically among people who have lived with smokers for decades.
Even in these studies, it's difficult to demonstrate an effect, precisely because the doses of toxins and carcinogens bystanders passively absorb are much smaller than the doses absorbed by smokers, probably amounting to a fraction of a cigarette a day. Not surprisingly, the epidemiological studies cited by the surgeon general's report find that the increases in lung cancer and heart disease risks associated with long-term exposure to secondhand smoke are small, on the order of 20 to 30 percent. Among smokers, by contrast, the risk of heart disease is between 100 and 300 percent higher, while the risk of lung cancer is about 900 percent higher.
Because the associations found in the secondhand smoke studies are so weak, it's impossible to rule out alternative explanations, such as unreported smoking or other lifestyle variables that independently raise disease risks. Although the surgeon general's report concludes such factors are unlikely to entirely account for the observed associations, the truth is we don't know for sure and probably never well, given the limitations of epidemiology and the difficulty of measuring low-level risks.
Reasonable people can disagree about the meaning of these ambiguous data, and it's not surprising that supporters of smoking bans like Carmona are inclined to see a clear causal relationship, while opponents (like me) are inclined to be more skeptical. But there is no excuse for the kind of scare mongering in which Carmona engaged when he implied that you could drop dead from the slightest whiff of tobacco smoke.
Even supporters of smoking bans, such as longtime anti-smoking activist Michael Siegel, faulted Carmona for gilding the lily (blackening the lung?) by saying things such as, "There is NO risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure." This position contradicts the basic toxicological principle that the dose makes the poison. Since it's hard to measure even the health consequences of heavy, long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, how could one possibly demonstrate an effect from, say, a few molecules? "No risk-free level" is an article of faith, not a scientific statement.
Speaking of which, Carmona was at pains to say he was merely summarizing the science, not making policy recommendations, even though he emphasized that smoking bans are the only way to eliminate the "serious public health hazard" posed by secondhand smoke. He is right about this much: The issue of what the government should do about secondhand smoke is independent from the issue of exactly how risky it is. Whether smoking bans are a good idea is a question not of science but of values, of whether we want to live in a country where a majority forcibly imposes its preferences on everyone else or one where there is room for choice and diversity.
the passive smoking
Townhall.com - Michael Fumento - June 29, 2006
smoke debate ‘over.” That’s the message from the Surgeon General’s office,
delivered by a sycophantic media. The claim is that the science has now
overwhelmingly proved that smoke from others’ cigarettes can kill you.
Actually, “debate over” simply means: “If you have your doubts, shut up!”
But you definitely should have doubts over the new Surgeon General’s report, a massive 727-page door stop. Like many massive reports on controversial issues, it’s probably designed that way so nobody (especially reporters on deadline) will want to or have time to read beyond the executive summary. That includes me; if I had that much time I’d reread War and Peace. Twice. But the report admits it contains no new science so we can evaluate it based on research already available.
First consider the 1993 EPA study that began the passive smoking crusade. It declared such smoke a carcinogen based on a combined analysis (meta-analysis) of 11 mostly tiny studies. The media quickly fell into line, with headlines blaring: “Passive Smoking Kills Thousands” and editorials demanding: “Ban Hazardous Smoking; Report Shows It’s a Killer.”
But the EPA’s report had more holes than a spaghetti strainer. Its greatest weakness was the agency’s refusal to use the gold standard in epidemiology, the 95 percent confidence interval. This simply means there are only five chances in 100 that the conclusion came about just by chance, even if the study itself was done correctly.
Curiously, the EPA decided to use a 90 percent level, effectively doubling the likelihood of getting its result by sheer luck of the draw.
Why would it do such a strange thing? You guessed it. Its results weren't significant at the 95 percent level. Essentially, it moved the goal posts back because the football had fallen short. In scientific terminology this is know as “dishonesty.”
Two much larger meta-analyses have appeared since the EPA’s. One was conducted on behalf of the World Health Organization and covered seven countries over seven years. Published in 1998, it actually showed a statistically significant reduced risk for children of smokers, though we can assume that was a fluke. But it also showed no increase for spouses and co-workers of smokers.
The second meta-analysis, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2002, likewise found a statistical significance when 48 studies were combined. Looked at separately, though, only seven showed significant excesses of lung cancer. Thus 41 did not.
Meta-analysis, though, suffer from such problems as different studies having been conducted in different ways – the apples and oranges conundrum. What was really needed was one study involving a huge number of participants over a long period of time using the same evaluation.
We got that in the prestigious British Medical Journal in 2003. Research professor James Enstrom of UCLA and professor Geoffrey Kabat of the State University of New York, Stony Brook presented results of a 39-year study of 35,561 Californians, which dwarfed in size everything that came before. It found no “causal relationship between exposure to [passive smoke] and tobacco-related mortality,” adding, however “a small effect” can’t be ruled out.
The reason active tobacco smoking could be such a terrible killer while passive smoke may cause no deaths lies in the dictum "the dose makes the poison." We are constantly bombarded by carcinogens, but in tiny amounts the body usually easily fends them off.
A New England Journal of Medicine study found that even back in 1975 – when having smoke obnoxiously puffed into your face was ubiquitous in restaurants, cocktail lounges, and transportation lounges – the concentration was equal to merely 0.004 cigarettes an hour. That’s not quite the same as smoking two packs a day, is it?
But none of this has the least impact on the various federal, state, and city agencies and organizations like the American Lung Association for a very good reason. They already know they’re scientifically wrong. The purpose of the passive smoking campaign has never been to protect non-smokers, but rather to cow smokers into giving up the habit.
It’s easy to agree with the ultimate goal, but inventing scientific outcomes and shutting down scientific debate as a means is as intolerable as it was when Nazi Germany “proved” the validity of eugenics.
General's report on secondhand smoke -- same-old, same-old
Craig Westover - June 28, 2006
|I almost hate to make another reference to it, but once again we have to deal with a little bullsh*t in the philosophical sense. Bullsh*t is not lying. There may even be some truth in it, but to the bullsh*tter truth is irrelevant. His objective is to create an impression that does not necessarily have any connection to reality. That said, let’s look at the latest surgeon general’s comments on secondhand smoke.|
science is not in
USA Today - Jacob Sullum - June 27, 2006
General Richard Carmona says secondhand smoke is a deadly public health
hazard, lending support to government bans on smoking in private businesses.
Surgeons general have been saying the same thing for two decades, but that
doesn't make it right.
The dangers posed by secondhand smoke are debatable and likely to remain so given the limitations of epidemiology. It's well established that tobacco smoke can raise the risk of diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease. The question is how much it takes.
Because the doses absorbed by non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke are much smaller than those absorbed by smokers, any health risks would be so small that it is difficult to confirm them in studies comparing, say, the spouses of smokers with the spouses of non-smokers. The weak, statistically insignificant associations typically found in such studies are consistent with a low-level risk.
They are also consistent with no risk at all if, for example, factors associated with marriage to a smoker (such as poor diet, lack of exercise, or unreported smoking by subjects believed to be lifetime non-smokers) independently raise disease risks. The surgeon general's report mentions such problems but concludes they probably cannot fully account for the observed associations. The truth is we don't know for sure and probably never will.
Nonetheless, I doubt that the average person encountering tobacco smoke in a bar or restaurant objects to it because he thinks his tiny risk of lung cancer might go up slightly if he stays there for several decades. The main complaint, as always, is the immediate smell and discomfort. Even if there is an added element of anxiety about long-term health consequences, that does not justify imposing a one-size-fits-all solution on every business in the country. Whether secondhand smoke is a health hazard or merely a nuisance, people who want to avoid it can do so by avoiding businesses that allow smoking. A free society that respects diversity should make room for people with different preferences.
TCS Daily - John Luik - June 27, 2006
way the UK government looks at risk policy has been shaken up by a new
report published recently by the Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs.
Though the report's dry title and the abstractions of risk policy might
push its findings off the front page, there are few areas of government
that impinge so consistently, directly, and often unfortunately on the
lives of its citizens.
The report -- Government Policy on the Management of Risk -- grew out of a speech last year by Prime Minister Tony Blair in which he worried both that Britain was becoming a risk-averse society and that this trend was having unfortunate consequences on public policy. While the Lords' report could find no evidence that there was a move toward risk-averse society, it nevertheless found significant problems with the way in which the government thought about and managed risk. And while the report focuses on risk in the UK, its implications about risk and public policy extend to any democratic government.
To begin with, the report notes that government risk policy has "given insufficient weight to available evidence and placed too great a reliance on unsubstantiated reports that often have their origin in the media." This is hardly a minor matter since two of the most important aspects of risk management -- detecting and evaluating risk -- depend on accurate and objective scientific data. If the government proceeds without such evidence, or, worse, relies upon or creates evidence that it knows to be dubious, the risk management process is corrupted from the outset and the public is profoundly misled. Rather than risk policy being driven by science, science instead is "harnessed" to serve the ideological objectives of those managing risk. In effect, risk becomes a cover for far-reaching value decisions that are passed off as scientifically mandated.
A primary instance of this, as the report notes, has been the management of the "risk" of public smoking. Here the evidence is clear not only that the government acted against the best available scientific evidence which showed an insignificant risk (as the report notes the "decision to ban smoking in public places may represent a disproportionate response to a relatively minor health concern"), that alternatives to smoking bans were not given proper attention, and that it acted more with a mind to inaccurate media reports and pressure from special interests groups whose purposes were driven more by making it difficult for smokers to smoke than by protecting the health of nonsmokers.
This tendency to allow risk policy to be driven by a combination of bad science, media frenzy and special interests is unfortunately not confined to smoking policy. For instance, the recent Commons Health Committee report on Obesity -- which provides the justification for the plethora of supposed fat-fighting policies proposed by the Government -- began by reciting the story of a consultant at Royal London Hospital who had "witnessed a child of three" who weighed 40 kilos dying from heart failure brought on by her obesity. The story made instant headlines -- "Three-year old dies from obesity -- but was quickly shown to be untrue. And one could also argue that much of the government's current obsession with the alleged risks of obesity is based not only on inaccurate reports about the numbers of obese people, but on patently false claims such as overweight and obese people live shorter lives than those of "normal" weight and scientifically unproven claims that curtailing food advertising or providing nutritional information will change the way in which people eat. In effect, like public smoking, much of the debate about the risks of obesity is founded on less than robust science.
But risk policies driven by bad science, media frenzy and special interest pleading are not the only problems the report identifies. There is also the problem that the government fails to appreciate the way in which its risk policies frequently erode personal freedoms and civil liberties. This occurs in a number of ways.
For instance, many risk nannies reject the core principle of a free society that individuals should, to the greatest extent possible, be left free to make their own decisions about how to act and to live their lives. Instead, they see risk as a convenient way to engage in social engineering. Then again, the risk assessment process can manipulate the perception of risk by providing false estimates and assessments, by effectively using bad science such that important liberties are overturned on the basis of a nonexistent of minimal risk to the health or safety of others.
Finally, the risk process has no stage in which the trade-offs between liberty and regulation are specifically and critically examined, either on a case by case basis, or, as the report notes, in aggregate. The result is that the default position for government policy is that regulation to control risk should almost always trump liberty- a position that is fundamentally at odds with a free society. This is particularly evident in the debate about passive smoking, where the government appeared to refuse to even consider that restricting public smoking might involve a liberty-limiting issue. The inevitable result of such a failure to force a debate between risk and liberty is that risk-reduction, as opposed to enhancing personal liberty, will inevitably become the defining characteristic of British public policy.
The third major flaw in the government's management of risk that the report finds lies in the use of the Precautionary Principle. The report notes that not only is the principle ill-defined and ambiguous, but it "can induce an excessively cautious attitude to risk", and for these reasons it should be either more carefully defined or abandoned. Redefinition, however, is not possible, making abandonment the only option. This is because the principle is both profoundly anti-scientific and hence anti-risk and self-contradictory.
It is anti-scientific because the logic of scientific knowledge is always contingent: it tells us what the future might be like based on the observations of the past, but it cannot guarantee that the future as precaution demands. Risk assessment is about making the most intelligent choice possible in the midst of the uncertainty. No responsible scientists can guarantee that a product or process will never harm humans or the environment -- as the precautionary principle requires -- for such predictions lie outside the compass of science. In effect the precautionary principle asks of science and of risk policy what neither can provide: a god-like omniscience.
Moreover, it is self-contradictory because it cannot be applied to itself. For instance, is it clear that using the precautionary principle as the basis of risk regulation will not harm either humans or the environment? Obviously not, since preventing change and innovation on the basis of an unknown future can be profoundly risky.
Taken together these risk management problems suggest that a fundamental rethink of the way in which government deals with risk is needed. This is because the public is not as concerned about risks as the government assumes, many "risks" are simply the creation of special interest groups and a scientifically-challenged media, the scientific basis for many risks is highly suspect, the foundational principle of risk management is the ill-defined, incoherent and risk-averse precautionary principle, and most importantly, avoiding risk threatens to displace personal freedom as the core value of contemporary society.
the tobacco Taliban
Times Online (UK) - Rod Liddle - June 25, 2006
taxi driver once told me about a Japanese passenger he’d driven around
central London, a chap mesmerised and delighted by one unheralded attraction
of our capital. “There are so many elegant, well-dressed prostitutes,”
he exclaimed, “and plying their trade in broad daylight outside every office!”
He was referring, of course, to that characteristic huddle of temps and
secretaries you find in the doorway of every London building, chugging
away like billyo on their Marlboro Lights. It is sad to think that the
government is planning to abolish a tourist attraction that is by now as
familiar as the beefeaters at the Tower.
Lord Warner, the health minister, let slip last week that the health bill which outlaws smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants, and which has already been voted on by the House of Commons, could be extended to include people who smoke outside too — in areas such as doorways and bus shelters. This is not what parliament voted for and I suspect it would incur the displeasure, on libertarian grounds, of many non-smokers. But Lord Warner couldn’t give a monkey’s.
He will have the support of a vociferous health lobby that feels itself unchallengeable. This, regardless of the fact that doctors and nurses kill slightly more people every year through misdiagnosis or general incompetence than does smoking. My proposal for a ban on doctors in public places, or at least a special sealed room for them in public bars, etc, to minimise the potential danger of being passively killed by one of them, never really caught on.
The official reasons stated for extending this already draconian legislation are, first, that passive smoking kills people — although the only large-scale longitudinal study, of 118,000 people in California over 39 years, concluded there was no causal link between passive smoking and deaths from lung cancer or heart disease. The risk incurred by standing next to a smoker for five minutes in a bus shelter must be vanishingly small, far smaller than damage caused by traffic pollution.
One suspects the health lobby knows this, which is why other, surreal stuff is brought into the equation. It has been seriously argued that groups of smokers puffing away on pavements might cause terrified non-smoking pedestrians to step outside into the road where they could be killed by a car. I have even seen it asserted that children might injure themselves by stepping on discarded cigarette butts.
Nonsense, of course, and the extension to the legislation will save no lives at all. Some 95% of smoking-related deaths are occasioned by people lighting up in the home. Making smoking illegal everywhere, then, might indeed save a few thousand lives every year. It would be a grotesque infringement of civil liberties to enact such legislation — but it would have a certain logic.
It may well come to that — because the sort of people who populate Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) simply cannot stop themselves; they will agitate for more and more legislation because that is the only reason for their existence.
In the case of Ash, what began as a noble campaign to prevent smokers from inflicting their habit upon everyone else has turned into a far more intensive campaign to perpetuate their own salaries. In the meantime this repulsively pious lobby issues forth ever more spiteful and immoral injunctions.
Its American branch has already said that “firing smokers is an appropriate and very effective way to stop burdening the great majority of employees who wisely chose not to smoke”. Burdening them with what, if it’s a non-smoking building? It has persuaded several US firms not to hire smokers in the first place, causing one former anti-smoking campaigner, Professor Michael Siegel from Boston University, to allege that Ash is on the verge of “running amok” and losing “the integrity of an evidence-based approach”.
There is within some people a deep-seated need to victimise those they consider racially, socially, sexually or ideologically aberrant. Smokers are a convenient and politically correct target for those who wish to take out their inchoate anger but are sharp enough to realise that, these days, you can’t vent it on Jews or homosexuals.
Delving further still, we find what the left-wing Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls the “absolute narcissism” of the anti-smoking lobby; its collective, irrational terror of infection or disease transmitted by “other” people and a concomitant envy of the “intense enjoyment” experienced by other people when they light up a Raffles or a Woodbine.
It is, he asserts, the liberalism of the politically correct yuppie who, for reasons of self-interest, will not address the real problems of society but nonetheless wishes to register some form of a protest against capitalism — and finds a convenient conduit in the giant tobacco companies and their slavish customers.
We are all addicted to something and our acquired habits are only rarely socially beneficial. But it is part of what makes us human. When Ash has got rid of the smokers, who will it turn its guns on next?
the bastards -- I mean the mothers
Townhall.com - Kathleen Parker - June 21, 2006
they came for the workplace, then for people’s homes and cars, and then
the great outdoors.
Now the anti-tobacco jihadists, having helped ban smoking in most public and many private places, have turned their attention to the most private space of all — the womb.
That very personal place where humans incubate could be the next battlefield between smokers and those who have never uttered the words: “It’s none of my beeswax.”
This latest brainstorm comes from Arkansas, where Rep. Bob Mathis successfully shepherded legislation making it unlawful to smoke in cars in which small children are passengers.
Apparently not satisfied with saving the recently born, Mathis wondered whether it would be constitutional to prohibit mothers from smoking while pregnant. Studies show, after all, that fetuses are at risk for low birth weight if their mothers smoke while pregnant.
No, wait, this just in: A new study in Australia shows that women who smoke while pregnant may cause their children to become obese. In a University of Queensland study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that smoking mothers’ children were 30 percent more likely to be overweight.
Underweight, overweight, oh-whatever. Both are bad, both involve tobacco, and that’s enough for John Banzhaf, the heavyweight George Washington University law professor who for years has led the anti-smoking brigade.
More recently, he’s best known for leading the charge against fast-food restaurants that serve fat-laden foods to unsuspecting, um, fat people — otherwise known as people who eat too much and wouldn’t read a nutritional label if it had a cherry on top.
Banzhaf likes to sue people, in other words, and he’s been enormously successful. Which is to say, pregnant smokers, beware.
Already Banzhaf is setting his sights on fetal rights related to their smoking mums. While it is legally defensible to abort a fetus up until moments before birth, it is apparently inconceivable that a woman would expose her unborn child to the harmful effects of smoking.
While you’re struggling to wrap your mind around that nonsensical nugget, Banzhaf is already issuing press releases. In a recent one from the organization he heads, Action on Smoking and Health, Banzhaf predicts that prohibiting smoking by pregnant women would pass constitutional muster.
“Since court after court has held that smoking is not a fundamental right like voting, and that smokers are not a protected class like African-Americans or women, the government has wide leeway in fashioning a remedy for whatever it concludes is a problem requiring corrective action.”
Now there’s a thought to warm a Taliban heart.
Certainly life offers enough problems to keep government regulators and litigators indefinitely occupied, but one has to ask: Are smoking mothers worthy of our censure? What about pregnant women who drink? Or who refuse to take their vitamins? Or who listen to hip-hop when studies show that Bach makes you smarter?
“Sorry lady, but you’re under arrest for dereliction of maternity duty.”
These are silly examples, of course, but no sillier than trying to legislate behavior that is, indeed, no one else’s business. We of a certain generation, meanwhile, recall fondly the sight of our mothers sipping martinis and smoking Salems while large with our soon-to-be sibling.
We should all be dead by now given the amount of secondhand smoke we inhaled. Not to mention the gin-drenched olives we slurped when backs were turned. As a bonus sidebar to these reminiscences, the term “bike helmet” was a non sequitur.
No one’s suggesting that pregnant women should smoke, or drink, or pole-dance — or whatever tempts the masses these days. But people have a right to be stupid, to make bad decisions, to marry the wrong guy, to eat the wrong foods and, alas, to elect the wrong people to public office.
Speaking of which, because of Arkansas’ term limits, Mathis won’t be able to pursue his idea of criminalizing pregnant smokers. And Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whom Banzhaf has credited with endorsing the concept of banning smoking while pregnant, says he has been misrepresented. When reporters asked what he thought about the idea, Huckabee said he hadn’t examined the legal aspects, but that from a health standpoint, “Heck, yeah, it makes sense.”
Clarifying that statement Tuesday, Huckabee told me he would prefer to let common sense, rather than legislation, guide expectant mothers away from tobacco.
In a final bit of irony, the move to prohibit smoking while pregnant would seem to lend strength to the argument that a fetus is a human being entitled to all the rights and privileges accorded personhood.
Instead, it merely strengthens the case that government has no business regulating a woman’s womb. Or any other body part.
freedom just another word for falling on your face?
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - June 21, 2006
day after Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger crashed his
motorcycle, while he was still recovering from surgery to repair his fractured
face, The Cincinnati Post scolded the Ohio native for not wearing a helmet.
"Riders should wear helmets," the paper proclaimed, "and if they're not
going to, perhaps the government should step in and make them."
The Post pined for the days when "all states required helmets," bemoaning the fact that 30 states now let adult motorcyclists decide for themselves what, if anything, to wear on their heads. The laws were changed, the editorial explained, because of "pressure from those who advocate 'freedom.'"
Notice the scare quotes. According to The Cincinnati Post, the freedom to take a risk is not really freedom at all; you are truly free only when you make the right choices -- those that minimize the chance of injury. It's a depressingly common attitude nowadays, when health promotion is routinely accepted as a justification for meddling in what used to be considered our private lives.
By the standards of "public health," which seeks above all else to minimize morbidity and mortality, Roethlisberger should not have been riding a motorcycle at all. Given the nature of his injuries, it's doubtful a helmet would have prevented them, unless it was a full-face model. But it's certain Roethlisberger would not have been in a motorcycle crash if he had never ridden a motorcycle.
If injury prevention were Roethlisberger's overriding goal, of course, he probably would not have chosen a career in professional football. "I wish all our players liked board games or low-risk hobbies," Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage said after Roethlisberger's accident.
"Unfortunately, one of the things that makes these professional athletes is they have an edge that makes them want to seek more."
The same could be said of motorcyclists generally, especially the ones who have fiercely resisted laws forcing helmets on their heads. "If you've never ridden a motorcycle," says Jeff Hennie of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, "there's no way to describe the feeling of freedom. It's got to be the next best thing to being able to fly. When you start putting restrictions on that freedom, people take it personally."
There's that word again. The editors of The Cincinnati Post are not the only ones who are puzzled by the concept. At a recent conference sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who brags about tracking New Yorkers' blood sugar levels and driving down cigarette consumption with high taxes and a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants -- called for "an aggressive, comprehensive public health strategy" aimed at "deadly menaces [that] result from our choices," including "tobacco addiction, unhealthy nutrition, and excessively sedentary lifestyles."
Regarding government efforts to influence what we eat and how much exercise we get, Bloomberg acknowledged that "some people may call that too intrusive." He immediately dismissed this concern by relabeling it: "I call it dynamic and effective public health." You say tomato ...
The problem is that Bloomberg's idea of public health, like the CDC's, does not distinguish between deadly diseases people catch and risky things they choose to do. In his speech he equated smoking, overeating and failing to wear a seat belt with polio, cholera and tuberculosis, wishing away freedom by pretending it doesn't exist.
"We rely on the forceful application of law -- democratically debated and approved -- as the principal instrument of public health policy," Bloomberg said. So as long as your risky hobby or habit meets with the majority's approval, there's no need to worry, unless you think politicians sometimes are driven by their own ideological agendas.
Bloomberg wants us to know he's not one of those fanatics. "Clearly," he said, "there are many matters of personal behavior and personal taste that we have no business regulating." Oddly, he did not name a single one.
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - June 14, 2006
through the years, I've attempted to warn my fellow Americans about the
tyrannical precedent and template for further tyranny set by anti-tobacco
zealots. The point of this column is not to rekindle the smoking debate.
That train has left the station. Instead, let's examine the template.
In the early stages of the anti-tobacco campaign, there were calls for "reasonable" measures such as non-smoking sections on airplanes and health warnings on cigarette packs. In the 1970s, no one would have ever believed such measures would have evolved into today's level of attack on smokers, which includes confiscatory cigarette taxes and bans on outdoor smoking.
The door was opened, and the zealots took over. Much of the attack was justified by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) secondhand smoke study that used statistical techniques, if used by an academic researcher, would lead to condemnation if not expulsion. Let's say that you support the attack on smokers. Are you ready for the next round of tyranny using tactics so successful for the anti-tobacco zealots?
According to a June 2 Associated Press report, "Those heaping portions at restaurants -- and doggie bags for the leftovers -- may be a thing of the past, if health officials get their way." The story pertains to a report, funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) titled, "Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home Foods: Opportunities for Preventing Weight Gain and Obesity." The FDA says the report could help the American restaurant industry and consumers take important steps to successfully combat the nation's obesity problem. Among the report's recommendations for restaurants are: list calorie-content on menus, serve smaller portions, and add more fruits and vegetables and nuts. Both the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA accept the findings of the report.
Right now, the FDA doesn't have the authority to require restaurants to label the number of calories, set portion sizes on menus or prohibit allowing customers from taking home a doggie bag. That's for right now, but recall that cigarette warning labels were the anti-tobacco zealots' first steps. There are zealots like the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest who've for a long time attacked Chinese and Mexican restaurants for serving customers too much food. They also say, "Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply." They've called for caffeine warning labels, and they don't stop there. The Center's director said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses and meat." Visions of higher taxes are music to politicians' ears.
How many Americans would like to go to a restaurant and have the waiter tell you, based on calories, what you might have for dinner? How would you like the waiter to tell you, "According to government regulations, we cannot give you a doggie bag"? What about a Burger King cashier refusing to sell french fries to overweight people? You say, "Williams, that's preposterous! It would never come to that."
I'm betting that would have been the same response during the 1970s had someone said the day would come when cities, such as Calabasas, Calif., and Friendship Heights, Md., would write ordinances banning outdoor smoking. Tyrants always start out with small measures that appear reasonable. Revealing their complete agenda from the start would encounter too much resistance.
Diet decisions that people make are none of anybody else's business. Yes, there are untoward health outcomes from unwise dietary habits, and because of socialism, taxpayers have to pick up the bill. But if we allow untoward health outcomes from choices to be our guide for government intervention, then we're calling for government to intervene in virtually every aspect of our lives. Eight hours' sleep, regular exercise and moderate alcohol consumption are important for good health. Should government regulate those decisions?
anti-smoking lobby's hidden agenda
Canada Free Press - Klaus Rohrich - June 12, 2006
Heather Crowe, the Ottawa waitress who recently died of lung cancer and
had lent her persona to the anti-smoking lobby as the typical victim du
jour. Crowe was said to be a "typical" restaurant worker who spent 40 years
working in Ottawa restaurants, all the while breathing the second-hand
smoke that’s said to have claimed her life.
There are so many things wrong with Heather Crowe’s case that it begs for an official inquiry, but like all politically correct causes the anti-smoking lobby can do no wrong. Crowe, who really did die of lung cancer, was anything but a typical restaurant worker. Apparently she worked in three different restaurants, starting her day at 6:00 AM and ending her day usually around 2:00 AM the following morning. Most individuals working as servers in restaurants do not work three full shifts per day, totaling upwards of 20 hours.
In the commercials that Crowe made for the anti-smoking lobby she said she wanted "to be the last person to die from second hand smoke." If she did die of exposure to second hand smoke, it’s likely that Crowe was also the first person in the world to die from this condition. There is not one documented case of anyone ever dying of second hand smoke. Anti-smoking groups like to bandy about numbers of people who have died of second hand smoke, however the truth is that no one knows if anyone has died as a result of this because the numbers being quoted are not garnered from death certificates, but are made up through epidemiological estimates that do not involve review of individual death certificates.
What’s more, the numbers most people quote as individuals who are dying of second hand smoke vary from place to place. For instance the anti-smoking lobby of Lambton, Ontario claims that this year alone some 5,000 people will die of second hand smoke there. That seems awfully high, given that the overall population is just over 127,000. Other places use different numbers; Calgary claims it’s 3,000 deaths, while British Columbia claims it will only be 500 deaths this year.
When Heather Crowe was first diagnosed, her doctor told her that she had an inoperable "smoker’s tumor" in her lungs. As a diagnosis, the term "smoker’s tumor" is novel in that it is not a medical term and does not appear in medical dictionaries. It sounds like the doctor who made this diagnosis was following an agenda.
What’s more, when Heather Crowe sought compensation from the Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (OWSIB), the board ruled in her favor, a fact which many of the anti-smoking lobbyists tout as being proof positive that second hand smoke causes cancer as well as a plethora of other ills. The OWSIB ruling only proves that it pays to have friends in high places, of which Heather Crowe appears to have had many. A number of influential politicians, as well as Dr. Robert Cushman, Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of health wrote letters in support of Heather's application for compensation. Crowe’s case was supported by a study emanating from California that claimed restaurant workers there inhaled the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 packs per day. I find it curious that the details of the OWSIB ruling were never made public.
As for the study from California, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifies that .5 mg of nicotine per cubic meter is an acceptable level. Testing conducted in 2004 of 18 restaurants in St. Louis Park, Minnesota disclosed that none of the restaurants had second hand smoke levels close to the allowable minimum specified by OSHA. In fact, most were far, far below the minimum.
So why all the hysteria? Can you say money? The anti-tobacco lobby is being controlled in large part and funded by pharmaceutical companies that are doing a land office business in selling smoking cessation medications. That’s the real hidden agenda of which I doubt even the staunchest anti-tobacco crusaders are aware.
But let’s face it, when organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) distribute millions of dollars to anti-smoking groups, maybe someone should take a closer look at this foundation. The board of directors of the RWJF includes some very interesting people. Robert Wood Johnson IV is the chairman and CEO of the Johnson Company, a New York investment firm that seems to hold an inordinate amount of pharmaceutical investments. Other directors include what appears to be the entire former board of directors of Johnson & Johnson Company, which incidentally is a major manufacturer of alternative pharmaceutical nicotine products. Robert E. Campbell is the retired chairman of J & J; George S. Frazza and was corporate counsel and member of the J&J executive committee. Edward Hartnett is the retired group chairman of J&J Pharmaceuticals. Ralph S. Larsen is former chairman and CEO of J&J. So, it’s evident there is a lot of interest in the RWJF to encourage governments to impose smoking bans. Could this by any chance have anything to do with the fact that RWJF is holding in excess of $5 billion in J&J shares?
cigarette tax more harmful than helpful
Asbury Park Press - Gregg M. Edwards - June 2, 2006
Gregg M. Edwards is president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, Bloomsbury, an independent nonprofit organization that addresses the public policy issues facing New Jersey.
perverse consequences of New Jersey's addiction to the cigarette tax are
in public view. According to a published report, Newark's Narcotics Enforcement
Team arrested two men for selling untaxed cigarettes. That's right, untaxed
Law-abiding cigarette wholesalers and retailers may be comforted by the fact that street-corner vendors are being shut down. But surely, Newark's Narcotics Enforcement Team has better things to do than to prosecute the sellers of untaxed cigarettes.
New Jersey has the nation's second highest state cigarette tax. The architects of this high tax policy probably would excuse Newark's apparent squandering of precious police resources as an unintended consequence of the policy. It may be unintended, but it wasn't unexpected.
In 2004, while the last tax hike was debated, the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey warned that the primary beneficiaries of the tax increase would be out-of-state retailers, online cigarette sellers, criminals and teenage smokers. That's because New Jersey smokers — now faced with a $5.95 average per pack price — would feel strong financial pressure to buy cheaper cigarettes.
Smokers who live close to Delaware, Pennsylvania or New York (excluding New York City) can buy cheaper cigarettes in those states. The savings can be significant; the average price of a pack bought in Delaware is almost $2.50 less than New Jersey's. Those for whom traveling across the New Jersey border isn't practical can use the Internet to purchase less expensive cigarettes, although state tax officials are trying to recoup the taxes owed on those transactions.
Some smokers, however, don't have the means either to travel to other states or to possess the credit card necessary for an Internet purchase. These individuals tend to be low-income or young. This large and concentrated group of eager buyers has attracted cigarette suppliers. These suppliers are not the typical convenience store or neighborhood bodega, but rather individuals and street gangs that sell cigarettes stolen from legitimate retailers, purchased in low-cost states and resold here or manufactured by foreign companies and smuggled into the U.S.
New Jersey's cigarette tax has particularly insidious effects in urban areas. Like most taxes on consumption, the cigarette tax hits low-income individuals the hardest. Since urban areas house much of New Jersey's low-income population, the residents and retail businesses located in cities shoulder the burden of the tax's adverse economic impact.
Turning cigarettes into a precious commodity promotes criminal behavior in places already crime-plagued. It encourages the theft of cigarettes from local retailers. It provides gangs and organized crime with a new means to finance their operations.
While the Narcotics Enforcement Team's prosecution of two urban entrepreneurs may seem silly, the crime associated with cigarettes and the pressure that crime places on local law enforcement is no laughing matter.
Street-corner sellers aren't checking IDs to be sure their customers are old enough to smoke. The black market makes cigarettes more accessible to teenagers.
There is no reason to believe that cigarette-related crime is confined to New Jersey's cities. Commenting upon the April bust of a crime ring selling counterfeit cigarettes in South Jersey, a State Police lieutenant said, "If you want to make money, it's (selling cigarettes) even easier than selling drugs."
The trade-off for these negative consequences supposedly is higher tax revenues to support state government services, but even that promise is questionable. The Corzine administration recently acknowledged that its proposed 35 cents-per-pack tax increase would yield only $60 million, which is $20 million less than its original projection. The Legislature's budget experts counter that the increase will be only $50 million. Given that the 2004 increase — also 35 cents — produced only $20 million in new revenues, even the Legislature's projection appears too rosy. That $20 million doesn't seem worth the crime and economic dislocation caused by that tax increase.
Before enacting New Jersey's fourth cigarette tax hike in the last six years, Trenton lawmakers are obligated to consider the consequences of the previous increases. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that New Jersey's cigarette tax is driving smokers away from New Jersey retailers.
Cigarette prices are prompting some smokers to quit the habit, but most of New Jersey's declining sales volume is attributable to cross-border and Internet sales. There also is growing evidence that government-imposed cigarette prices have created a new black market.
Politicians are quick to decry smoking, but they love to tax cigarettes. The political ease with which the cigarette tax can be raised, however, is no excuse for continuing a policy that is doing more damage than good.
Townhall.com - Jay Homnick - May 9, 2006
news last Wednesday: Former President Bill Clinton has brought to completion
an initiative designed to discourage young people from putting anything
into their mouths that might cause them illness or other damage. Under
his bold, visionary leadership, the William J. Clinton Foundation (I kid
you not) has secured an agreement with manufacturers, vendors and schools
to the effect that schoolhouses will no longer house soda machines.
You see, all those seemingly innocuous fizzy drinks are really cutting swaths of devastation across the unsuspecting countryside. Those bubbles have sugar, and the sugar makes calories, and the calories make fat, and the fat is turning into a gigantic blob of blubber that is squeezing the life out of our nation.
Obligingly, as if on cue, new studies and articles are sprouting almost daily over the past two weeks. Obesity crisis, the headlines shriek. Something must be done. We must take stock of the stocky and chunks off the chunky. One more good year and we’ll all be blimps. Who said that inflation was under control? And finally, as the news stories ratchet up the hysteria, we get the most wonderful phrase of all. The Center for Disease Control announced that we have an "obesity epidemic". Apparently it’s contagious; how long before we get the study on "second-hand food smells"?
Although I’m more of an eat-to-live guy myself, I enjoy watching the live-to-eat crowd who bring real gusto to gustation. There have always been some folks who are more, er… well-rounded than others. And actuaries have long told them that they are trading some longevity for those delicacies (though those Reubens models were in greater danger of catching cold). Except that nobody made a federal case of it. Until now.
Darn, I miss those old-time liberals. You know, the ones who were always yelling that the government should stay out of our bedrooms. Wagging their fingers and saying, "You cannot legislate morality". At first, conservatives resisted. Then they shrugged and figured it’s a fair deal; take government out of all our rooms, bedroom included, and if God wants sexual morality in society, He’ll have to sell it to people in their places of worship.
But liberals, like Palestinian terrorists and trophy wives with prenups, never see a deal as a destination, only as a stepping-stone. So now they are trying to press their advantage. Yesterday the smoking room, today the kitchen, tomorrow the world.
We used to complain back in the 1980s about "nanny state liberalism" because they wanted motorcycle drivers to wear helmets. At least the nanny is the lenient one who lets you smoke behind the shed when Mother isn’t looking. What we have now is more like "wicked stepmother liberalism". Or perhaps it’s the witch from Hansel and Gretel, only she has gone dyslexic and is feeling our fingers to see if they are skinny enough.
Not to mention the staggering inconsistency in demanding condoms in schools because "they’re going to do it anyway" but pulling sodas out of the schools on the premise that the kids won’t just walk down to the corner gas station. Let’s just focus today on the arrant, arrogant, mean-spirited, bloody-minded, goody-two-shoes, healthier-than-thou, interfering, meddling, odious, officious, imperious effrontery of the thing.
Methinks that these people will stop at nothing to get control over the lives of others. The same folks who bristle at any expectation that they practice self-discipline are eager to draw the boundaries for our lives. We should not only grant them that sway, they want us to crown them as heroes, here to save us from ourselves. William J. Clinton, already hailed as the Boss of Bosnia and the King of Kosovo, is prepared to take valuable time away from his legacy polishing to free us from being incarcerated by our fat cells. He will sign a new Emancipation Proclamation to emancipate our waistlines from the tyranny of the soda can.
I think not. Soda ain’t the problem, fellas, nor is flour, sugar, or fatty foods. Those are just part of life. On better days we vanquish our demons, but everyday we do battle. We don’t need a law or a lawsuit to tell us that if we eat too much grain from the amber waves and not enough fruit from the fruited plain, then we will be America-the-not-so-beautiful. We can figure this out for ourselves. Or not. Either way, these are private decisions for individuals, and they need not be addressed in formalistic or governmental ways.
This is my life, Mr. Clinton. What part of 'is' don’t you understand?
smoking: is there convincing evidence that it's harmful?
The Independent - Tim Luckhurst - May 2, 2006
year, the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt declared that a ban on smoking
in public places "will save thousands of lives". Official estimates assert
that 12,000 people a year die in Britain from the effects of passive smoking.
In Scotland, a ban on smoking in all public places began in March, following
a lead set by the Irish government. The Welsh Assembly is preparing to
follow suit. In England, smoking will be banned in pubs, clubs and restaurants
from the summer of 2007.
But none of these restrictions is based on convincing proof that passive smoking kills. It is an assertion that owes a great deal to the sanctimonious superstition that there can be no smoke without death. Reputable scientists admit this. On Desert Island Discs in 2001, Sir Richard Doll, the man who proved the incontrovertible causal link between active smoking and lung cancer, said: "The effect of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."
He was right not to fret. One of the largest studies of the health consequences of secondary smoking was published in the British Medical Journal in 2003. It tracked the health of 118,000 Californians over four decades in a rigorous attempt to identify a causal relationship between environmental tobacco smoke (the scientific term for secondary smoke) and premature death. It concluded: "The results do not support a causal relationship between ETS and tobacco-related mortality."
That caused a nasty row. Anti-smoking campaigners condemned the research as "biased" and "unreliable". The anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) declared. "This could be very damaging as it will be used by industry lobbyists to argue against laws to ban smoking in public places and workplaces." And Ash was not alone in being concerned about the threat posed to its ambitions by scientific honesty. The venerable BMJ found itself under attack from all sides.
Publication provoked a barrage of condemnation in which the then BMJ editor Dr Richard Smith was accused of every failing from naivety to active promotion of evil. His accusers demanded that he withdraw the article. To his credit, Smith refused, pointing out that the BMJ exists to publish science not polemic, and that the American study was proper, peer-reviewed science. A robust and persuasive anti-smoker, he replied that although the BMJ was "passionately anti-tobacco" it was not "anti-science". He went on to explain that "the question [of whether passive smoking kills] has not been definitively answered."
Doctors and scientists who make such statements come under extraordinary pressure to withdraw them. Three years later, Dr Smith appeared to be satisfied that passive smoking does kill. Doll was persuaded to emphasise that his lack of concern about secondary smoking was a purely personal perspective. The tragedy, for those who care about truth, reason and scientific method, is that it was not. Profound scepticism about the claim that secondary smoking kills is the only rationally tenable position. Look beyond the lazy political and media consensus that simply assumes that because smoking kills secondary smoking must as well, and the evidence is overwhelming.
When I interviewed her in 2004, Amanda Sandford of Ash acknowledged unintentionally that much secondary smoking science is unscientific. She said: "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 that if secondary smoking were not already the focus of a torrent of moral sanctimony, few reputable scientists would dare to assert that it causes lung cancer, heart disease or any of the other life-threatening conditions with which it is routinely associated.
Dr Ken Denson, a medical professional who is prepared say what others only think, puts it more bluntly: "The ill effects of passive smoking are still intuition rather than scientific fact... All in all, the medical evidence for any deleterious effect of passive smoking is extremely tenuous and it is unlikely that it would ever stand up in a court of law."
A recent report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer reveals that, "In total, 23 studies have been published on [workplace] exposure to secondhand smoke. Only one reported a statistically significant association between exposure to secondhand smoke at the workplace and risk for lung cancer." One out of 23 is usually dismissed as a rogue result.
Since then, further evidence has been published by the BMJ. In March 2005 it offered fresh data suggesting that passive smoking may kill 11,000 people a year in the UK. The crucial word is "may". If there is a direct causal link between secondary smoking and lung cancer it is so tiny that dedicated campaigners have struggled to identify it. Scotland's Green Party, hardly a promoter of smoking, recently alleged that more Scots are killed by exhaust fumes than by secondary smoke.
Of course secondary smoke can be irritating. Some people detest the smell; others believe it exacerbates their asthma - a claim for which there is some evidence, although it is noteworthy that the incidence of asthma in the UK has risen sharply during a period when the level of smoking has fallen. Nor is it a good idea to expose very small children to dense cigarette smoke.
But the best summary of the passive smoking debate was provided by Dr Smith at the time of the 2003 BMJ controversy. He said: "I found it disturbing that so many people and organisations referred to the flaws in the study without specifying what they were. Indeed, this debate was much more remarkable for its passion than its precision." That goes for every claim advanced by politicians, charities and health campaigners who demand a smoke-free environment and consider it legitimate to deny freedom to smokers by pretending that their habit harms non-smokers.
Reputable research shows that a non-smoker inhales between a 500th and 1,000th of the toxins inhaled by the smoker himself. No matter what poor Roy Castle believed about the effects of years in smoky jazz clubs, there is little scientific proof that secondary smoke causes cancer. And, if very little increased risk can be demonstrated for lung cancer, it is beyond improbable that an increased risk can be proven for other smoking-related diseases where the risks for the active smoker are much lower than for cancer.
The logic is that distortions paraded in a good cause are virtuous. But, a non-smoker myself, I find it alarming that the Government is prepared to base legislation on what is barely more than superstition. Smoking only kills you if you stick the cigarette in your own mouth. To pretend otherwise is mumbo-jumbo.
Those who disagree should remember a lesson from the history of anti-smoking. Doll's post-war study was not the first to prove that smoking caused lung cancer: Nazi scientists had reached the same conclusion 20 years earlier. The resulting evidence was ignored in this country because it came from a tainted source. It was assumed that good science could not come from an evil regime. In the modern-day debate over secondary smoking, campaigners who pretend there is proof that it kills are repeating that historic error in reverse. Excellent motives are producing grotesquely distorted science.
Healthy Skeptic: I Hate The Food Police And You Should Too
Blogcritics.org - Sal Marinello - April 23, 2006
days you can't go anywhere without someone or something telling you what
you should or shouldn't eat, or how much or when you should eat, or how
your food should be prepared. I'm really sick of it all.
Menus everywhere — from fast food restaurants to upscale joints — are lousy with healthy choice options. We're told that our foods are cooked with canola oil, that we can substitute Egg Beaters for the real thing and that we can order brown rice instead of white.
Don't worry about some nefarious governmental agency butting into our lives; be perturbed by "The Food Police." They are everywhere. The Food Police are a loosely knit group of know-it-alls who have been brought tighter together by some activist groups and their lawyers, and a handful of governmental no-goodniks...
Philadelphia City Paper - Brian Hickey - April 6, 2006
wanted to get away from the whole smoking-ban thing for a while. Honestly,
I did. But then I read a Washington Post story about the controversy surrounding
a Chicago "tobacco lounge." Within seconds, I was fuming. So sing it with
me: Don't trust anti-smoking crusaders who say they're fighting the good
fight for the greater good.
Now, I won't go so far as Byko, who's taken to calling them "Nicotine Nazis" in his admirable coverage of the issue for the Daily News. I'll happily settle for "Smoke Fascists," the black-shirted types who try to establish state control over personal lives. Well, what's going on in Cubsland finally, and wholly, exposes them as the bait-and-switch shysters they truly are. To wit:
Anti-smoking advocates nationwide argue that public puffing presents a health risk, especially for people who work in "the industry." So last December, Chicago's City Council voted 46-1 to ban smoking in most public places. They gave bars and taverns until 2008 to catch up, but exempted businesses that derive 65 percent of their sales from tobacco, a tiny loophole for establishments that nobody but a smoker would patronize.
So what happens next? Someone opens a lounge that derives 65 percent of its sales from tobacco. It's called the Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans, and you wouldn't be wrong to call it a front for R.J. Reynolds; the cancer merchant is its corporate backer.
With a Web site that, under a prominent surgeon general's warning, reads, "Venture forth into the Earth's most comfortable place to smoke," McGearty's dresses up cigarettes to look and taste fancier, labels them high-end and allows customers to drink beer, wine or liquor as they puff away.
Predictably, Chicago's fascists didn't much like that, even though McGearty's existence did nada to violate nonsmokers' cardiorights.
"This is just a slimy trick by Big Tobacco to circumvent the system," Annie Tegen, program manager for Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, told the Post. "An $8 pack of cigarettes still exudes the same toxins as a $4 pack. For the people of Chicago, this is an equal-opportunity killer."
Translation: Me and my brethren are a pack of holier-than-thou do-gooders who used the protect-nonsmokers argument as a smokescreen. We just really want to banish smokers from God's green earth. And if we could tell you what to do in the privacy of your own homes, well, good golly, we'd do that too. (Note to practitioners of sodomy: We're coming for you next.)
Yep, just like that, Annie exposed pro-banners from coast-to-coast as liars and hypocrites. No matter what they say, their issue is not—N-O-T, not—about protecting bartenders from second-hand smoke. Don't believe me? Well, feel free to drop a line explaining what danger Marshall McGearty's presents nonsmokers.
Back in Philadelphia, the locals for nonsmokers' rights types are hiding behind the same ruse. Do it for the bartenders, they chant. Save the people who go out to eat dinner, they bellow. Businesses won't be affected, they maintain. They even call their initiative the "Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Ordinance," wording that's harder to oppose than "Resolution Honoring Those Who Didn't Club the Baby Seal That Swam Up the Delaware."
Well don't fall for it, City Council. If they get their claws in you now, they'll be back in a couple months like junkies looking for another hit of power. And their demands will have metastasized, like Chicago Annie's. Maybe they'll ask you to force all city businesses to stop selling cigarettes (which should really help the corner markets). Or perhaps it'll be a call to ban city workers from smoking on their private time, since we have to pay for their health insurance (a recruiting boon!). Who knows what they'll come up with next. But vote for their ban, and you'll have nobody to blame but yourself.
There's Smoke, There's Fire
Pennsylvania Independent - Jessica Haralson - March 30, 2006
Jessica is a sophomore in the College
I smell smoke, it reminds me of my family.
That admission might scare anti-tobacco lobbyists such as Truth and the Tobacco Control Network, but I'm not one to succumb to political correctness. The fact is that some of my fondest memories involve the smell of Cuban cigars at the pub my aunt and father loved to frequent. I would never smoke myself -- it's just not my thing -- but as the child of smokers, I don't plan on staging "interventions" with my friends who enjoy their cigarettes.
So when I heard that New Jersey just authorized a smoking ban on almost all bars and restaurants and Philadelphia Councilwoman Marian Tasco is calling for a long bemoaned ban on all workplaces -- including bars and restaurants -- I couldn't help but get peeved. Don't get me wrong; I fully support the banning of smoking in unavoidable public spaces, such as public transportation and public schools. However, Uncle Sam never shoved my relatives -- or anyone else -- into Kelly's Irish Pub. If a private business decides to enable smoking and its patrons want to partake, who is the law to say a business can't err on the side of nicotine?
To my surprise, others agreed. Christopher Brown, a Penn senior, said: "You have to ask yourself where the protection of public health ends and [where] the legislation of morality begins. I feel that a smoking ban crosses that line... as for bars, well, they're supposed to be a bit unhealthy and debaucherous. The fact is that the walk to the restaurant through traffic-congested streets is worse for you than the hour you spend sitting next to a smoker."
Brown's mention of "public health" made me wonder why secondhand smoke is decried as the Great Satan. While it is true that inhaling cigarette smoke is probably no miracle cure for ails and illness, Brown is astute in pointing out that our Philadelphia air is hardly as pristine as the Rockies. Yet, is there any basis to the claim that secondhand smoke will lead to an iron lung?
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is skeptical. The Institute questions the long-standing basis for the war against second-hand smoke, the Environmental Protection Agency's 1993 report "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders". Not only has it been debunked by the Congressional Research Service and North Carolina district court judge William Osteen, but the EPA actually dismissed two studies that doubted the danger of secondhand smoke!
To make things worse, the EPA’s study, now utilized to justify public smoking bans, never focused on lighting up at the local dive in the first place. Instead, the 11 studies consolidated to prove second-hand smoke’s danger actually focused on nonsmoking spouses married to smokers – not bar-hopping socialites. Call me crazy, but I contend that a lifetime of nuptial nicotine use is vastly different than the occasional night out at Smoke’s.
Sam Cohn, a Penn sophomore, feels differently. Says Sam, “If someone wants to smoke, that's fine and that's their choice, but a non-smoker shouldn't have to be in a confined space with polluted air.”
Anti-tobacco lobbyists, under the guise of worker’s rights, have advanced Sam’s idea to a different conclusion. Framing it with populist concern, they contend that “continually endangered” restaurant workers should be protected. While this concern might be laudable, the lobbyists forget one small point – employees continually choose to work in bars and restaurants which permit smoking. The last time I checked, U.S. Army soldiers, miners, oil refinery employees, loggers, and construction workers put their lives in danger every day. Where are the Gucci-clad lobbyists clamoring for their rights?
Other detractors frame it as a matter of choice. They ask, “Where should the ardent non-smokers go on a Saturday night?” In a way, they’re right. Ever since the collective national health-kick in the 1980’s, a sizable number of Americans have demanded smoke-free establishments.
If a person is that adamant about a smoke-free Blarney Stone, he or she should organize with like-minded folk and head down to a public meeting space, where you can sign a petition for the business to consider. Or, hop over to The White Dog Café, a proud non-smoking establishment that proffers cute, canine-themed martinis. Citizens vote with dollars far more than they vote in our representational democracy. When the White Dog is rewarded monetarily for its smoke-free environment, the cigar-proffering competition is unhappy. A business losing customers will likely rethink its strategy, and while many a bar won’t swing towards the health-minded, some will. Every private citizen has the right to boycott, petition, and speak his or her mind. Private citizens to not have the right to cram individual ideologies down the throats of others in the name of public health.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
smoking ban would stomp on human rights
Collegiate Times - Dan Hemp - March 29, 2006
our history, politicians have found it necessary to enact laws that essentially
try to “save us from ourselves.”
For one, fireworks are illegal in many states because they pose too much of a danger to the users. In addition, citizens of most states now have to obtain a permit from the government to engage in what used to be common activities. Recently, the new craze among politicians in state capitols across America has been to ban smoking in virtually every public place for the sake of our own health.
In late February, the Virginia State Senate passed a bill that would have banned smoking in most public places including bars and restaurants. Fortunately, the bill was killed when a House of Delegates subcommittee voted unanimously to reject it.
In America, competition is what makes us the greatest country on Earth. Some bars and restaurants allow smoking, and others do not. For us as consumers, we have the choice of going to any public place where we feel comfortable. Anybody who has taken principles of economics would understand that different establishments cater to different parts of the population. Smoking might be considered evil in today’s world, but many people still smoke and consider smoking a part of their social life. Without a doubt, it would be a huge mistake economically and for the sake of our own liberties to impose a public smoking ban on all public places in the state of Virginia.
In Montgomery County, Maryland politicians have made national headlines for their intense desire to create the ultimate politically correct society. Aside from banning Santa Claus from a Christmas tree lighting and deeming high school mascots related to Native Americans as offensive, Montgomery County was one of the first jurisdictions to enact a sweeping smoking ban that made all public places, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free.
Not only has the ban infringed on the freedoms of citizens who live in the county, but many business owners have filed a lawsuit against the county government claiming that the smoking ban has severely hurt their establishments.
According to the Restaurant Association of Maryland, business in the county has dropped by about 30 percent on weeknights and 50 percent on the weekends. Most of their former patrons simply go elsewhere in Maryland or to neighboring Washington, D.C. where smoking is allowed.
Most proponents of smoking bans argue that they are for the good of the entire public and not part of the government’s yearning to eat away at our rights little by little. However, the new buzz is around taking the next step to ban smoking in every place that is outdoors — including your own personal yard. If politicians have their way, smoking could become illegal in the privacy of your own home. It’s not always accurate to portray any regulatory measure as the beginning of a slippery slope, but this is a prime example of one.
More recently, the Virginia bill received national headlines because of our state’s long legacy of association with the tobacco industry.
Furthermore, Virginia is home to the worldwide headquarters of Philip Morris. But Virginia has a much more important legacy — one that represents the birthplace of American freedom as we know it today. During the founding of our nation, the fathers of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution intended this country to be a place where individual freedom reigns supreme over any state or federal law that infringed on that freedom. When the House of Delegates rejected this expansive smoking ban, they rightfully maintained this historical reputation.
Make no mistake; there is nothing wrong with a private business or organization telling citizens that they should not smoke.
However when our government gets involved to tell us what is best for ourselves, they are verging dangerously close to a type of tyranny that America usually stands up against.
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - March 29, 2006
Treasurer Mark Hillman calls the deal under which the top cigarette manufacturers
pay the states billions of dollars a year "a protection racket." In truth,
it's worse than that.
The so-called Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which resolved state lawsuits against the largest tobacco companies, is not a classic extortion scheme in which a business pays to be left alone. Instead Philip Morris et al. are paying for protection against their competitors, and they are passing the cost on to their customers, the very people whose victimization by Big Tobacco supposedly justified the lawsuits in the first place.
A decade ago, states started suing cigarette makers, demanding compensation for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses under Medicaid. They accused the tobacco companies of tricking people into smoking by denying its health hazards and keeping them hooked with carefully calibrated doses of nicotine.
In 1998, to avoid potentially ruinous liability, the industry's main players agreed to payments totaling more than $200 billion during the first 25 years of the deal. But there was a problem: If the participating companies raised their prices to cover the payments, what would stop existing or new cigarette makers that had not signed the MSA from underselling the big manufacturers and whittling away at their market share?
The answer was a government-sponsored cartel that forces nonparticipating companies to make payments into an escrow account based on their sales, ostensibly to cover their future liability. Under this arrangement (which has been challenged in federal court), cigarette makers that have been nothing but honest with the public pay a penalty so the sleazy, sneaky companies the states sued don't have to.
If that seems unfair, recall that the whole scheme is aimed at forcing those tricked and trapped (and relatively poor) smokers to bear the entire burden of the settlement payments. And then some: Cigarette prices rose by $1.10 a pack during the first two years of the MSA, more than twice the cost of the settlement payments.
Now the states and the big tobacco companies are engaged in an unseemly spat over this unseemly deal. In a bid that recently gained support from an arbitrator, the companies are trying to reduce their annual payments by some $1.2 billion, arguing that the states have not enforced the cartel with sufficient enthusiasm.
The MSA participants' collective market share fell from 99.6 percent in 1997, the year before the deal, to 92 percent in 2003. Even hobbled by the MSA's financial penalties, small manufacturers such as the Virginia-based S&M Brands, maker of Bailey's cigarettes, have managed to lure away smokers with lower prices.
In their defense, the states say they have done their best to destroy competition and hurt consumers. As The Wall Street Journal puts it, "they argue that they have taken the steps required in the settlement to create a level playing field" by passing and enforcing "the necessary laws to deny the upstart tobacco companies unfair advantages."
Unfair advantages? According to the states, the companies that signed the MSA were guilty of a massive fraud that caused millions of premature deaths and racked up billions of dollars in government-covered medical bills. Isn't being unburdened by settlement payments because you didn't participate in such a fraud a fair advantage?
Fairness, of course, has nothing to do with it. This is about money: a windfall that state attorneys general have been happy to take credit for and state legislators have been happy to spend.
Because the settlement payments are tied to cigarette sales, Mark Hillman notes, states are sending "a mixed message to citizens that 'We want you to stop smoking' because it's terrible for your health, but 'We need you to keep smoking' to pay for government programs." Nowadays the states rake in more money from smokers than the cigarette companies do. Big Government and Big Tobacco have not just joined forces; they've become synonymous.
Capitol Hill Blue - Betsy Hart - March 23, 2006
Betsy Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids _ and What to Do About It."
week a place called a "tobacco bar," Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans,
was all over Chicago and national news. Like other major cities, Chicago
has recently gone "smoke-free" in most public places of any kind. Ah, but
there is a place that's exempt _ the tobacco bar is set up as a tobacco
manufacturer (the place is owned by R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant) and
it's free from the anti-smoking law. Customers actually choose from loose
tobacco blends, and an expensive pack of cigarettes is then made to the
And then patrons can puff away -- right there, inside a closed space, and legally.
Is it possible that the anti-smoking do-gooders will leave such folks alone? After all they are adults, there freely of their own accord, choosing to partake in a legal substance, and not bothering anyone else in the process.
No way. No sooner did news stories of the new establishment surface than do-gooders from the City Council and elsewhere were vowing to stamp out the loophole, so to speak, that allows such "treachery."
(Somehow, I think if it were discovered the place was a gay men's bathhouse many of these same folks vowing to shut it down would be strangely quiet instead.)
I'm not a smoker. Oh I snuck my requisite few in high school, but that was about it. It actually wasn't the health concerns that turned me off of the stuff. It was when I found out that smokers show signs of aging faster than non-smokers that I decided it was not for me.
These days I don't really mind being around smokers and getting the occasional waft. I will avoid heavy, smoke-filled spaces. So I won't be going to the tobacco bar.
But where does this Taliban-like anti-smoking campaign come from? It can't really be this stuff about second-hand smoke. The famous 1992 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study showing a causal relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer was so roundly debunked as junk science (even by other federal agencies) it was finally declared "null and void" by a federal judge. Sure, second-hand smoke can be annoying, and it can't be healthy, but if you relegate smokers to their own enclosed space _ say a bar or a separate part of a restaurant where people, including staff, only go of their own free will _ who can object?
The anti-smoking Taliban, of course.
We are a culture that has been conditioned that we must make no value-judgments about anything that really matters. Adultery, divorce, fornication (and isn't THAT an old fashioned word) addictions of all sorts, rampant obesity, things that hurt or even kill, that are profoundly destructive, directly or indirectly, to our young people, behaviors that involve moral components and choices _ these things are all off the table and rarely are value judgments offered. Most telling, with few exceptions we don't legally try to limit such things.
And if the fellow next door leaves his family for a series of girlfriends, or the mom leaves to "find herself"? We are not to offer a value judgment, and the kids will be fine, don't you know. After all, we don't know what goes on "behind closed doors." But, if after the no-fault divorce the departed parent comes to pick-up the children and is smoking a cigarette as he or she pulls into the driveway? Watch out _ the "Taliban" will swoop down and smugly denounce that mom or dad as a "bad parent."
We are, at our core, moral beings. We want to make appropriate moral value judgments (which is, and should be, different than "condemnation" of others.) But in our culture we no longer dare do so. Worse, we've become a people who don't want to call ourselves to moral standards, to deny our passions, or make choices or sacrifices based on the premise that it's "not all about me." I mean, that's not fun!
So, enter the self-righteous anti-smoking Taliban. Smoking is the stand-in, the scapegoat. It's the one thing, an easy thing, we can dump on. It requires no personal sacrifice, no thoughtful and legitimate value judgments, no change of moral behavior or denial of passions on the part of non-smokers. We can carelessly condemn smokers, quite literally run them out of town, and feel just delicious about ourselves.
We shouldn't be surprised, then, that there is an inverse relationship between our increasingly "tolerant" culture _ and our anti-smoking zealotry.
Jewish World Review - Walter E. Williams - March 22, 2006
call the people behind the Washington-D.C.-based Center for Science in
the Public Interest (CSPI) busybodies, but I call them wannabe tyrants.
Let's look at their agenda, which seeks greater control over our lives.
Last year, CSPI filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce the amount of salt in packaged foods. They also called for the FDA to mandate warning labels on non-diet soft drinks that consumption increases the risk of obesity, tooth decay and osteoporosis. Earlier this year, CSPI announced its intent to sue Viacom Inc. and Kellogg Company for marketing junk food to children.
CSPI has long called for excise taxes on fatty foods, cars and TV sets. Their justification is that obesity adds to Medicare and Medicaid health costs. They want some of the tax revenue used to fund exercise facilities and government fitness campaigns.
There's no end to CSPI's consumer control agenda. They say, "Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply." Therefore, they've called for caffeine warning labels. To deal with teenage and adult overconsumption of alcohol, they've called for doubling the tax on beer. According to them, "The last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones."
To fight obesity among young people, CSPI calls for a fast-food advertising ban on TV programs seen by children. CSPI's director, Michael Jacobson, said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses, [and] meat," adding that "CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything."
I'm guessing that most Americans, except politicians, find this control agenda offensive. Politicians might not find it offensive because controlling lives is their stock in trade, plus there's the promise of the higher revenues from food taxes. Most Americans who might find the CSPI agenda offensive are not motivated by principle. It's a matter of whose ox is being gored.
You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" CSPI tyrants are following almost to the letter the template created by the nation's anti-smoking zealots. Their fellow traveler, New York University professor Marion Nestle, says that the food industry "can't behave like cigarette companies. . . . Yet there's a lot of people who benefit from people being fat and sick, and the whole setup is designed to make people eat more. So the response to the food industry should be very similar to what happened with the tobacco companies."
The anti-smoking zealots started out with "reasonable" demands, such as warning labels on cigarette packs and no smoking sections on airplanes. They made exaggerated claims about the cost that smokers were imposing on the health care system. Then cigarette manufacturers faced multimillion-dollar lawsuits and multibillion-dollar local, state and federal extortion, not to mention confiscatory taxes, all of which are passed on to smokers in the form of higher prices.
Just recently, the City of Calabasas, Calif., adopted an ordinance that bans smoking in virtually all outdoor areas. Partial justification is to protect children from bad influences — seeing adults smoking. Had the anti-smoking zealots revealed their entire agenda back in the '60s and '70s, they wouldn't have gotten much. By using the piecemeal approach, they've been successful beyond their dreams, and the food zealots are following their example.
I'd be interested to know just how many Americans would like to see done to our food industry what was done to the tobacco industry: massive multibillion-dollar lawsuits against food companies; massive suits against restaurants that serve too large a serving, and confiscatory taxes levied on foods and snacks deemed non-nutritious.
Consumers will pay for all of this in the form of higher food prices and fewer choices. There's also the possibility that food zealots in some cities, emboldened by the success of the anti-smoking zealots in Calabasas, who are concerned about smokers passing on bad habits to our youth, might call for an ordinance banning public appearance of obese people so as not to pass bad eating habits on to our children.
Scripps Howard News Service - Jay Ambrose - March 21, 2006
is joining 12 other states in banning smoking in restaurants and bars,
as if customers and workers couldn't decide for themselves if they wanted
to spend time where tobacco fumes reside, and as if the owners of these
establishments were something less than American citizens whose freedoms
should be respected.
The legislators cannot be bothered by such trivialities _ self-accountability, ha! _ because they are too busy pretending they are on a noble life-saving mission. It doesn't dampen their enthusiasm to find they are widely applauded by a majority of their constituents who are non-smokers with easily offended nostrils and who are probably mostly ignorant of the most exhaustive research project ever completed on secondhand smoke.
The study involved 118,000 Californians. It followed their health history for four decades, and was conducted by highly respected scientists and published in the highly respected British Medical Journal. Here is what it said: There is no evidence of a "causal relationship" between "exposure" to tobacco smoke in the air around you and death. A "small effect" cannot be ruled out, the scientists reported, but that's it. Period.
On the other side is a once-ballyhooed 1993 "meta-analysis" _ a study of a number of studies _ by the Environmental Protection Agency. It didn't bother to protect the truth.
Careful commentators and even a court of law concurred that the study violated widely accepted statistical methods to arrive at conclusions the EPA had decided beforehand were in the public's best interests. It did not finally demonstrate that passive smoke causes cancer anymore than some more recent studies have shown that smoking bans in Helena, Mont., and Pueblo, Colo., dramatically decreased heart attacks.
The Helena study has been pretty thoroughly debunked by now. Its sample was tiny, the research effort was anorexic and the study didn't account for a similar decrease in a year prior to the ban. On the face of it, quick and substantial declines in heart attacks after a ban such as the one in Pueblo are much less likely to have a connection with the ban than to be a reflection of normal statistical ups and downs. This probability is brought home by a study of the heart-attack drops after smoking bans in states with a combined population of tens of millions, not in one community of tens of thousands. The finding? There was no overall drop.
Secondhand smoke almost certainly can have deleterious health consequences, but what both common sense and science tell us is that the extent of the threat depends on how concentrated the smoke is and whether you are sucking it in day after day, year after year. On the basis of testing, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is rare to find a nook or cranny in any workplace with concentrations thick enough to be deemed dangerous.
None of the above is difficult to discover for anyone with access to the Internet and an inclination to get at the facts, raising the question of what might be going on with all these state and community bans, some of which even deny people the chance to light up outside.
It's politics in part _ as legislators know, non-smoking voters love smoke-free zones _ but it is also zealotry and a new Puritanism. Many anti-tobacco crusaders want so badly to waste this weed that they close their eyes to any argument that might get in the way, and great bunches of morally indignant modernists are intent on imposing their sophisticated values on everyone else, one of them being thou shalt not smoke.
People shouldn't, of course, not if they care for their physical well-being and longevity. But while it is fine and good to scorn smoking and to remind people of its cruelties, it is not so good for governments to engage in sledgehammer coerciveness with little or no regard for individual self-determination, and certainly none for what science tells us.
Telling the truth about smoking has caused millions to quit the habit and any number of private concerns to enforce their own restrictions. We don't need political pretense or blind fervor to keep us marching in the direction of a healthier, happier America. Truth will do fine.
clean air Cossacks
Washington Times - Jacob Sullum - March 16, 2006
Jacob Sullum is a nationally syndicated columnist
it's getting hard to keep track of all the places where you're not allowed
to smoke, the city council of Calabasas, Calif., decided to start over
from scratch and make things simple. "Smoking is prohibited everywhere
in the city," says a Calabasas ordinance that takes effect on March 17,
"except as otherwise provided."
The exceptions are private residences, up to 20 percent of hotel rooms, "smokers' outposts" in shopping-center parking lots, and "any outdoor area in which no nonsmoker is present and... it is not reasonable to expect another person to arrive."
The smoke-free areas, a k a "everywhere else," include sidewalks, streets, bus stops, parks, the outdoor seating of bars and restaurants, and apartment balconies near common areas such as pools or laundry rooms.
The city council, which unanimously approved the ordinance last month and has started calling the Los Angeles suburb "Clean Air Calabasas, a Smoke-Free City," predicts the state government (which already prohibits smoking in indoor workplaces) will follow its example. If so, judging from the history of smoking bans, Calabasas-style restrictions eventually will move from California to the rest of the country. Before that happens, Americans should consider whether they really want to embrace the Calabasas spirit of moralistic intolerance masquerading as "public health."
Tellingly, a provision that would have permitted outdoor smoking in the presence of nonsmokers with their consent was removed from the final version of the Calabasas ban. So if you're in a deserted part of the city late at night with a friend who smokes, he is allowed to light up only if you do, too.
If he lights up and you don't like it, you can file a complaint with the city, which can charge your friend with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. You also can sue him, seeking compensation for injuries inflicted by his tobacco smoke or statutory damages of $250 for each violation, plus attorneys' fees and court costs.
If you can show your friend was guilty of "oppression, fraud, malice, or conscious disregard for the public health and safety," you can recover punitive damages, too. By that point, of course, he might not be your friend anymore.
"We are not trying to pit neighbor against neighbor," Calabasas Mayor Barry Groveman told the Los Angeles Times in January. "We're trying to do this in the least punitive and least disruptive way."
Which is why they decided to resolve the minor annoyance of drifting outdoor tobacco smoke through criminal charges and lawsuits -- instead of, say, public stoning. Presumably the city council members also had the minimization of punitiveness and disruption in mind when they chose to criminalize not only unauthorized smoking but "allowing, aiding or abetting" it by looking the other way or putting out ashtrays.
All this may seem a little extreme when you consider there's no evidence outdoor smoking jeopardizes bystanders' health. But that is not really what the ban's supporters have in mind when they talk about protecting "public health."
Their aim is not just to eliminate secondhand smoke but to eliminate smoking. That's why the ordinance cites the health effects of smoking on smokers as a justification for the ban. And that's why the ban's official goals include "reducing the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle" and "affirming and promoting the family-friendly atmosphere of the city's public places."
The ban's backers see smoking as a shameful vice that must be kept out of sight, an indecent activity from which adults must shield children's eyes as well as their noses.
The logic of forcing people to set a good example for the kids -- which also would justify banning fat people and motorcyclists from public places -- reduces adults to the level of children whenever they venture out of their homes.
those smokers alone
Star-Telegram - Joseph Bast - February 22, 2006
Joseph L. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute.
Stuart Mill wrote in 1859: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully
exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is
to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not
a sufficient warrant."
We live in a nation founded on that principle. People are free to do things both great and foolish so long as they do not conflict with an equal right held by others. That focus on individual liberty is the reason we are the most prosperous and tolerant people in human history.
When we carve out exceptions to this principle, as Fort Worth is considering as it contemplates expanding its ban on smoking, we ought to do so with great care and reluctance.
Unfortunately, I see neither great care nor reluctance in the anti-smoking movement. Instead, I see a $600 million-a-year anti-smoking industry, funded largely by taxes on tobacco products and willing to use junk science, scare tactics, lawsuit abuse and government force to demonize a product and its users.
It's a textbook campaign for stealing the rights of a minority and making government bigger and more powerful. It should be repugnant to anyone who is a friend of freedom.
The only legitimate grounds for interfering in smokers' choices are the potentially harmful effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers. Anti-smoking activists say secondhand smoke contains 4,000 poisons and carcinogens -- that even a tiny dose can cause severe health effects. They claim that "there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."
This is pure junk science. The first principle of toxicology
is that the dose makes the poison. We are exposed to thousands of natural
poisons and carcinogens in our diets every day, but they don't hurt us
because the exposure is too small to overcome our bodies' natural defenses.
Perhaps the best recent academic study of the effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers appeared in a 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal. The authors analyzed data collected by the American Cancer Society from more than 100,000 Californians from 1959 through 1997. They concluded: "The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed."
Various radical environmental groups and liberal advocacy
groups have been warning us about the supposed risk of "getting cancer"
from everything from apples and soda to coffee, chocolate, french fries,
and fish ... and now secondhand smoke. Yet each year Americans are living
longer and healthier lives. Cancer rates are going down, not up. Do the
Voluntary action based on sound information about risks seems to be working. Controlling for the tar content of cigarettes, per capita cigarette consumption has fallen by three-fifths (60 percent) since 1950, according to Harvard University professor Kip Viscusi. Exposure to secondhand smoke, as measured by the amount of cotinine in nonsmokers' blood, has fallen 68 percent for kids and 75 percent for adults from the four-year period 1988-1991 to the four-year period 1999-2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So let's see: Sound science doesn't show a health risk from secondhand smoke; voluntary limits now make smoke-free restaurants and even bars widely available to nonsmokers; exposure to secondhand smoke is rapidly diminishing. Gee, what should we do?
Anti-smoking lobbyists want to ban smoking in the few places left for smokers to enjoy their habits. I don't blame them for this, because attacking smokers is their business, and I mean that literally: They are paid to advocate smoking restrictions. But shouldn't we be just a little more careful before depriving smokers, and the businesses they patronize, of their constitutional liberties?
As I see it, somebody has to stand up for the millions of American smokers who just want to be left alone. Enough already! Leave those poor smokers alone!
Investor's Business Daily - Editorial - February 7, 2006
state senator wants to cut off health care benefits to smokers who get
lung cancer or other tobacco-related illnesses. Yes, cigarettes kill, but
are we going to start discriminating against nonhealth fanatics?
Sen. Ron Teck, a conservative Republican representing western Colorado, has proposed denying Medicaid benefits to smokers depending on when they picked up the habit. Those eligible for Medicaid who started smoking before 1975 would get full benefits.
Every year after that, there would be a 5% decrease, until finally those who started smoking in 1996 or later would be denied any Medicaid benefits for smoking-related diseases.
The bill is up for consideration at the state capitol this week.
Teck, whose stepfather died of lung cancer, doesn't expect his idea to get far in Colorado's Democrat-dominated legislature. But he says he's worried that health care costs for the elderly will bankrupt his state.
Granted: State budgets are near collapse all over the country because of Medicaid and other entitlements. And agreed: New ideas are always worth a listen. But Teck's proposal is disturbing in a number of ways.
First, the same basic idea here has been the government rationale for "sin taxes" for decades: politicians convincing themselves they shouldn't feel bad about excessive levies against those who smoke or drink or gamble or commit some other unfashionable vice.
With morality being redefined in many quarters, practices like smoking or chewing tobacco, wearing fur and driving gas-guzzling vehicles are replacing the old sins, and plenty of politicians are eager to slap a scarlet letter on the offenders.
That can come in the form of a tax, but Teck actually wants the government to discriminate against certain groups of people.Think of where this can lead.
The same argument could be used to deny homosexual AIDS patients end-of-life treatment on the pretext that their behavior caused their condition. Alcoholics could be denied liver treatment. Will the obese be denied medical benefits on the charge that they ate too much during their lives? Will we see a day when instead of hospitals requesting your health insurance card, they ask to see proof of your Gold's Gym membership before granting treatment?
And there's another angle: Would the public accept providing illegal aliens with government-provided health care while denying it to certain groups of U.S. citizens because of their behavior?
Washington doling out rewards and punishments is nothing new. The same fat person who may one day be denied Medicaid today parks in a handicapped space mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Living healthily is a good idea; requiring it by practicing what might be called "healthism" isn't. Elderly Americans shouldn't have to worry about government's bureaucratic nannies judging them based on diet, exercise or habit.
Rights of Smokers
Hawaii Reporter - Joseph Bast - February 2, 2006
Joseph L. Bast is president of The Heartland Institute, a sister think tank to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.
from the Author: A member of The Heartland Institute’s board of directors
called me recently to ask why I spend time defending smokers. It’s a lost
cause, he said, and it surely doesn’t win us any friends. I know smoking
is widely condemned and that banning smoking in restaurants and bars is
all the rage among state and local elected officials. I know many people
think they unfairly shoulder the higher health costs of smokers, hate tobacco
companies, and can’t stand the smell of cigarettes. And I know my writing
on this subject will irk some Heartland supporters. I know all that ...
but I still think it is important to defend smokers. Here are my reasons.
The Rights of Smokers
Forty-five million adults in the U.S.--about 21 percent of the population--choose to smoke. You probably know a few who do. You can detest their habit and support regulations that protect you from any adverse effects their smoking may have on you, but you cannot simply run rough-shod over their rights. They’re still people. They still have rights.
John Stuart Mill wrote in 1859, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."
We live in a nation founded on that principle. People are free to do things both great and foolish so long as they do not conflict with an equal right held by others. That focus on individual liberty is the reason we are the most prosperous and tolerant people in human history. When we carve out exceptions to this principle, we ought to do so with great care and reluctance.
I see neither great care nor reluctance in the anti-smoking movement. Instead I see a $600 million-a-year anti-smoking industry, funded largely by taxes on tobacco products, willing to use junk science, scare tactics, lawsuit abuse, and government force to demonize a product and its users. It’s a textbook campaign for stealing the rights of a minority and making government bigger and more powerful. It should be repugnant to anyone who is a friend of freedom.
Smokers Pay for Their Habit
When calculating the "costs of smoking" it is important to remember that smokers assume the risk, which means they understand the risk to their health but decide that risk is worth taking for the enjoyment they derive from smoking. Whatever losses smokers themselves sustain are not "costs to society" that justify higher taxes or restrictions on smoking.
The 2004 average retail price of a pack of cigarettes was $3.82. The federal tax was $0.47, state tax $1.41 ... nearly half the retail price. Smokers in some states pay more in taxes on cigarettes than in state income taxes, which is a polite way of saying smokers are forced to pay twice as much in state taxes as nonsmokers.
Harvard University professor Kip Viscusi has repeatedly demonstrated that smokers paid more in excise taxes than the social costs of their habits even before the 1999 Master Settlement Agreement raised the price of a pack of cigarettes by $0.40. (All that money goes directly into state government coffers and is spent largely for the benefit of nonsmokers.) Says Viscusi, "excise taxes on cigarettes equal or exceed the medical care costs associated with smoking." That was back in 2001 ... before the enormous hikes in cigarette taxes of recent years. It also doesn’t take into account the politically incorrect but nevertheless undeniable fact that smokers save the rest of society by qualifying for fewer years of Social Security and private pension benefits. Smokers die, on average, six to seven years before nonsmokers.
The only legitimate grounds for interfering in smokers’ choices are the potentially harmful effects of second-hand smoke on nonsmokers. Anti-smoking activists say second-hand smoke contains 4,000 poisons and carcinogens, that even a tiny dose can cause severe health effects. They claim "there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke."
This is pure junk science. The first principle of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. We are exposed to thousands of natural poisons and carcinogens in our diets every day, but they don’t hurt us because the exposure is too small to overcome our bodies’ natural defenses. The same is true of second-hand smoke. No victim of cancer, heart disease, etc. can "prove" his or her cancer or heart disease was caused by exposure to second-hand smoke.
Perhaps the best recent academic study of the effects of second-smoke on nonsmokers appeared in a 2003 issue of the British Medical Journal. The authors analyzed data collected by the American Cancer Society from more than 100,000 Californians from 1959 through 1997.
They concluded: "The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality" although they do not rule out a small effect. "The association between tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed."
Various radical environmental groups and liberal advocacy groups have been warning us about the supposed risk of "getting cancer" from everything from apples and soda to coffee, chocolate, french fries, and fish ... and now second-hand smoke. Yet each year Americans are living longer and healthier lives. Cancer rates are going down, not up. Do the math, guys.
Voluntary Action Working
We don’t need more bans on smoking in public spaces because people are figuring this out on their own. In the first place, fewer people are smoking. Controlling for the tar content of cigarettes, per-capita cigarette consumption fell by three-fifths (60 percent) since 1950, according to Viscusi.
In most cities and towns, more than half the restaurants are already nonsmoking by choice, and virtually every restaurant has seats reserved for nonsmokers. A growing share have physical room dividers and ventilation systems to prevent smoke migration. Few smokers who share a home with a nonsmoker smoke indoors anymore, or at least not in rooms likely to be occupied by nonsmoking family members.
All this is working. Exposure to second-hand smoke, as measured by the amount of cotinine in the blood of nonsmokers, has fallen 68 percent for kids and 75 percent for adults from the four-year period 1988-1991 to the four-year period 1999-2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Recall that even exposure to much higher levels of second-hand smoke in the past hasn’t been plausibly associated with negative health effects ... so how likely is it that today’s much lower levels of exposure are a real public health threat? Not very.
So let’s see. Taxes are already far above any reasonable estimate of social costs of smoking, sound science doesn’t show a health risk from second-hand smoke, voluntary limits now make smoke-free restaurants and even bars widely available to nonsmokers, and exposure to second-hand smoke is rapidly diminishing. Gee, what should we do?
Friedrich Hayek once wrote, "if we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion." Surely this is a case where further coercion is not justified.
Anti-smoking lobbyists want to go one step further by banning smoking in the few places left for smokers to go to enjoy their habits: those restaurants and bars whose owners still permit smoking. I don’t blame them for wanting to do this because continuing to attack smokers is their business, and I mean that literally: They are paid to advocate smoking restrictions.
I’m not paid to defend smokers. Heartland probably loses funding every time I write on this subject. But as I see it, somebody has to stand up for the millions of American smokers who just want to be left alone. Enough already. Leave those poor smokers alone.
this in your pipe and (don't) smoke it
Townhall.com - Paul Jacob - January 8, 2006
"smoking debate" exhausts me. Anti-smoking activists may oppose smoking
on health grounds, but their attempts to stamp out smoking are making our
political society sicker. How? I could repeat the "unintended effects"
mantra, but maybe we should just call it "second-hand smoke." Smother freedom
and democracy coughs up a lung.
On matters of health (and so much else), personal responsibility works best. This entails no small amount of freedom, including the right of individuals to choose their vices as well as their virtues. So the political question becomes not "Is this or that good for me, or you?" but "Where do my rights end and your rights begin?"
Smoking makes this fairly simple issue a little foggy because the exhaust coming out of the mouth and nose of a smoker isn't mere carbon dioxide. It's bothersome, and more poisonous.
The key to resolving this? Property. I may let someone smoke on my property, but you have the right to put up No Smoking signs on yours. It's really not a question of "may people smoke?" but "where may people smoke?"
Trickier on "public property," I grant you, but it does come down to property rights all the same: who owns the property.
Unfortunately, the anti-smoking crusade also crusades against property. Smoking is apparently so bad that the foundation of civilization—the distinction between "mine" and "thine"—must be eroded to prevent people from lighting up.
In city after city, state after state, country after country, the anti-smoking crusade seems to be winning. Anti-smoking laws go into effect, and they usually trump property rights. And liberty. Both the ends hailed and the means chosen blow out the candle of freedom in every locality under attack. The latest? Washington state.
Alan McWain, proprietor of the Spar Cafe and Tobacco Merchant in Olympia, Washington, is giving up, selling out. His business has been outlawed. And not by the politicians in Olympia, Washington's state capital, but by citizens.
Last November, voters made it illegal to smoke in public buildings anywhere in the state. And by "public buildings" they don't mean "government owned"—they mean any building open to the public. Voters overwhelmingly voted for Initiative 901, which went into effect in early December. The law requires all businesses to place No Smoking signs on their entrances, and severely limits locations set aside for employee smoking. Employees who smoke outside, for instance, may not do so within 25 feet of a door, an open window, or a vent.
Now, I'm a strong supporter of citizen-enacted law. But this prohibition is a bad sign, a smoke signal sent up from totalitarian pipe dreams. It's one thing to prohibit smoking in government buildings that citizens must access. Quite appropriate for a democratic vote, no? But for private businesses? Most of my anti-smoking friends simply avoid places like taverns that have excessive smoke. I know people who walk out of restaurants that have even a faint residue of cigarette odor. Isn't this enough?
Ask me, I answer Yes. Ask an anti-smoking zealot, you'll more likely get a resounding No.
This totalist approach spells death for Mr. McWain's hookah cafe. His shop catered to hookah users. A hookah is an ancient smoking device that filters and cools the tobacco smoke with water. It also adds molasses and other ingredients (usually fruit flavors) to the tobacco mix—a regular smokers' smorgasbord.
Hookah cafes are all the rage among the younger folk. New York has 'em, and though technically illegal there, there have been no citations, no arrests. Yet. Washington D.C. has gobs of them, too, I'm told.
Hookah usage tends to be more social than other forms of tobacco smoking. Is this good? I'm no hypochondriac, but I have to say I blanch, a little, when I see people sharing the same large metal water pipe. But that's their business, not mine. Lips that touch hookahs that touch other lips won't touch mine. (This is an easy resolution: my wife smokes cigarettes; if I had any other rule she'd get awfully suspicious.) I worry about normal contagion more than I fear second-hand smoke.
Experts amongst the anti-smoking crowd claim that hookah use is not any safer than other forms of smoking. Most hookah users, however, point out that they smoke less often than cigarette smokers. Perhaps that won't be the case were hookah cafes to become more common.
But that won't happen if anti-smoking activists have their way. They obviously know about the rise of hookah smoking. My guess is that's why the Washington activists responsible for Initiative 901 didn't provide an exemption. The voters would likely have voted for a hookah exemption, had they known about the existence of hookah cafes. The anti-smoking folk don't want to give smokers an inch . . . of pipe. Or freedom.
"The general public doesn't appreciate my type of business," McWain said, "and my type of business caters to smokers. If you can't go to a smoke shop to smoke, where the hell can you go?"
Not New Zealand
The anti-smoking crusade is not limited to North America and Europe. The Kiwi government has made it illegal to smoke in bars in New Zealand. For many people, bars and taverns are where you go to relax, to both drink and smoke. So this new law has had some interesting consequences.
Like civil disobedience.
In Washington state some hookah users and cafe owners have staged a few smoke-ins. In New York, the hookah users blithely puff along, regardless of the laws. But in New Zealand, smokers and drinkers have gone that extra step: they are setting up unlicensed bars in their own garages.
Some of these bars are not really small businesses, but more like community centers. It's strictly BYOB in these places. The New Zealand smoking ban doesn't include private homes, so the garage bar movement seems impeccably legal as well as ethical and convivial.
But other garage bars provide full services, you might say, selling alcohol as well as allowing smoking. The first such full-service garage bar to appear in Christchurch was busted not long ago, and the proprietors face a fine of up to 20,000 New Zealand dollars. Yes, that's real money.
Protest outlawry is not just a garage bar trend. The leaders of the WIN Party, a political party opposing the smoking ban, face prosecution for not enforcing the ban in their legit establishments.
The whole issue has not increased civility or general good-feeling. The decreased profits in the hospitality industry are turning owners of small businesses against their competition, the garage bars. Like most such legislation, the smoking ban has made politics bitter and ugly.
That's a consequence of not keeping government limited. When government sticks to its basic tasks like protecting the "mine" from the "thine" (and "thine" from "mine"), civility and good manners and balanced emotions can rule. But set government to control every aspect of our lives—even for our own good—and chaos and conflict reign. That's not democracy, which works only when each citizen can feel safe within a rule of law, his (and her) property defended.
So what is this chaos, this system of increased conflict for the sake of "health"?
It's civilization going—you guessed it—up in smoke.
walk a fine line on tobacco
Townhall.com - George Will - January 1, 2006
Morris recently got the Illinois Supreme Court to overturn a gigantic judgment
against it in a suit that had originated in a place -- Madison County,
Ill. -- few could locate on a map. The court's ruling resulted in this
Wall Street Journal headline: ``Tobacco-Revenue Munis Get a Lift.'' This
episode illuminates American governance today.
Philip Morris is America's largest maker of cigarettes, a product legal to use but problematic to merchandize legally. Cigarettes are stigmatized by common sense and all state governments. But because those governments are increasingly addicted to cigarette tax revenues, the governments must be careful not to make cigarettes so expensive they do not sell well.
Madison County, located along a bend in the Mississippi River near St. Louis, elects its judges, some of them very friendly to plaintiffs' lawyers who prosper from class-action lawsuits. In 2003, a county court held that Philip Morris deceived 1.14 million current and former Illinois smokers into believing that cigarettes labeled ``light'' and ``low tar'' are safer than regular cigarettes. Without blaming Philip Morris for any illnesses, the purchasers of these products accused the company of fraud. A Madison County judge exuberantly awarded them $10.1 billion in compensation. The 0.1 was a nice touch, suggesting -- speaking of fraud -- scientific precision.
But the Federal Trade Commission has ratified the use of the light and low-tar labels, and Illinois law sensibly says that companies cannot be penalized for conduct authorized by a regulatory body. So the Illinois Supreme Court, in a 4-2 ruling, vacated the $10.1 billion judgment. Two of the four justices in the majority also argued that the judgment should be overturned because the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they had been harmed by Philip Morris' actions. That principle could spoil the fun of the asbestos litigation racket, in which some plaintiffs collect even though they have no symptoms of any ailments associated with exposure to asbestos.
The Illinois Supreme Court's ruling stimulated the market for ``tobacco-revenue munis.'' Those are municipal bonds backed by tobacco revenue streams resulting from a real fraud -- the Master Settlement Agreement. In 1998, 46 states conspired to seize $246 billion from companies that sell products made from a commodity -- tobacco -- the cultivation of which was then subsidized by the federal government. Tobacco subsidies totaled $528 million from 2000 through 2004; then the government paid $10.1 billion -- that number again -- to terminate the tobacco quota system.
Under the MSA, the states are scheduled to get their portions of the pot over many years. But deferral of gratification is un-American, so some states, eager to get their loot, have ``securitized'' their expected portions. Securitization involves selling bonds backed by the anticipated revenues.
The MSA is a deal struck between the state attorneys general and trial lawyers. For the latter, it was a financial windfall, netting about $13 billion in fees that sometimes amounted to tens of thousands of dollars per hour of work. For the former, it was a political windfall, enabling their states to finance this and that with billions paid by smokers, who are disproportionately low-income people.
The MSA rests on the fraudulent claim that smoking costs the states huge sums, principally because of health care costs. Actually, smoking makes money for governments, for two reasons. Cigarettes are the world's most heavily taxed consumer product (state taxes range from 5 cents to $2.46 per pack; the federal tax is 39 cents). And many smokers die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, curtailing their receipt of entitlements for the elderly.
There is one problem with the states' plans to divvy up the money extorted from the tobacco industry: The MSA may be declared unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution says (Article I, Section 10): ``No state shall, without the consent of Congress, ... enter into any agreement or compact with another state.'' A federal district court is being asked to declare that 46 states have done just that.
The states' ability to continue treating the tobacco industry as a ``budgetary Alaska'' -- the last frontier for exploitation -- depends on brisk sales of cigarettes far into the future. So all 50 states, which in 2004 reaped $12.3 billion in cigarette taxes, have an incentive to carefully calibrate these taxes so as to maximize revenues. They want high taxes, but not high enough to cause large numbers of smokers to quit the habit that is so lucrative to states.
The state governments seem to be calibrating cleverly: The adult smoking rate has not fallen much recently. So we have here a rarity -- a government success story. Of sorts.
|AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH presents||
Doc Frieden's Food Voodoo [January 23, 2008]
THE city Health Department yesterday passed new regulations forcing some res taurants to post calorie content for all the food on the menu board. Though the department claims the rules will promote public health, they're really nothing but a spiteful attack on fast-food restaurants...
...It's a real shame: The Health Department deserves a
chief who's truly interested in the public good, rather than in winning
headlines by jumping on foolish, pseudo-scientific fads. Let's hope the
restaurants fight back - and win.
Why Don't Scientists Speak Up When Science Is Distorted? [October 24, 2007]
For years, friends and colleagues have asked me: why don't
scientists speak up when the media hypes the latest health scare? They
ask why scientists sit mute when self-appointed environmental activists
claim there is a cancer epidemic (there is not) or that "chemicals" in
...What scientist wants to subject him or herself to personal
attack for simply stating common sense and basic scientific facts? Easier
to retreat to the laboratory and classroom -- and leave center stage to
the "toxic terrorists" who want us to believe there is a carcinogen on
every plate, a toxin in every drop of water we drink, poison in every bit
of air we breathe. The threat of personal vilification has largely silenced
the scientific community -- and chilled the dialogue so that only the bad
news gets coverage.
Study Delayed: Helena, MT's Smoking Ban and the Heart Attack Study
Near the end of 2005, we (David W. Kuneman, a retired pharmaceutical chemist, and Michael J. McFadden, author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains) and the SmokersClubInc. Newsletter issued a press release and published the outline and results of a study (1) that should have made media headlines around the world while bringing the juggernaut of smoking bans, if not to a crashing halt, at least to a stumble.
Using a database of fully verifiable public data and covering a subject base literally 1,000 times as large as that covered by a previous and heavily publicized study in Helena, Montana (2), the new study showed clearly that claims -- ostensibly bolstered by that Helena study -- of drastic and instant reductions in heart attacks upon the implementation of smoking bans simply do not occur in larger populations. Such a result should have rocked both the media and medical worlds. Thousands of news stories, expert statements, and legislative testimonies based upon the Helena results had resulted in profound lifestyle and economic impacts upon the lives of tens of millions of people and had now been found to be in grievous error.
Instead, the study's announcement was greeted with virtual
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 2005, 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