Let's Be Reasonable
Newspaper, Magazine and Periodical Columnist's Opinions & News
When you're done with this collection
you should buy cigarettes on the Fourth of July (even if you don't smoke)
|A collection of articles that rail against anti-tobacco antics.|
P. J. O'Rourke - Cato Inst.
|All 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, please.
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
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.
Anti-fat police are ready to bust heads
Reason - Kelly Jane Torrance - December 23, 2003
|NYC C.L.A.S.H. Note:
Where to put this... It really should be part of our unreasonable
page but it's being reported from the reasonable perspective.
"Public Health Is Everybody's Business," read the button a chirping woman pushed into my hand at November's annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in San Francisco. A day later I discovered firsthand that public health is everybody's business but mine. I was "escorted" out of the meeting for the crime of documenting what America's food fascists have planned for our plates.
A man in a "Howard Dean" cap, who refused to identify himself, made a fuss when he discovered that an operative from the Center for Consumer Freedom had infiltrated the event. (It wasn't hard; I wore my professional affiliation on my name badge.) Standing in front of my camera, he loudly proclaimed to the room that I was with a "right-wing foundation," and claimed that I had misrepresented myself. Maybe it was a personal thing—he told the group that CCF and I hate fat people like him. He managed to get me ejected for videotaping the proceedings, and I left to the sound of a hundred busybodies clapping. (Although not before one duly noted to an official that she had seen me taping other sessions. I wondered if she hoped they would ransack my hotel room.)
Never mind that the conference (for which I paid my $500) had no official rule against recording. Or that I was told members of the media were welcome to make videos. APHA members didn't want me to record what they were up to, and I can't blame them. If Americans were aware of what this group and social engineers like it have are planned, they would gag on their Grand Slam Breakfasts.
APHA members used to worry primarily about preventing AIDS and slowing the spread of contagious diseases. Now their big concern is what you and your family eat. Politically charged talk about the so-called "epidemic" of obesity has, itself, reached epidemic proportions. Elected officials, presidential candidates, mid-level bureaucrats, and left-wing activist leaders are playing a high-profile game of leapfrog to see who can come up with the most outrageous proposals.
Busybodies are looking to control one of the most basic of human functions—eating. Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate snack-food and soft-drink marketing. New York state assemblyman Felix Ortiz promotes a draconian "Twinkie tax." At least one person who's had the Bush Administration's ear has bought into the idea that Americans are not accountable for their own weights. "Many people believe that dealing with overweight and obesity is a personal responsibility," former Surgeon General David Satcher recently said. "To some degree they are right, but it is also a community responsibility." It takes a Samoan village.
The American Public Health Association is over 125 years old. More than 60 percent of the full-time researchers and policymakers at state Departments of Health are APHA members. And over 13,500 members attended last month's San Francisco meeting. It was ground zero for planning Public Health's "next big thing."
Attendees were well versed in obesity-epidemic rhetoric, chuckling en masse at anti-corporate jokes. In their world, it's an article of faith that the food industry is largely to blame for America's collective weight problem. It's no surprise that they loved media darling Marion Nestle's talk on food politics at a session sponsored by APHA's Socialist Caucus.
Speaker after speaker scorned the notion that individual Americans are responsible for their own choices. Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI—the Ralph Nader spinoff that has already ruined movie popcorn for millions of us), made no effort to hide her agenda. "We have got to move beyond personal responsibility," she pleaded with her audience. In a session titled "The Politics of Food," Skip Spitzer of the radical Pesticide Action Network added that "the idea of 'personal responsibility'" is merely "a cultural construct," ready to be superseded for our own good.
Yale psychologist Kelly Brownell, best known as the father of the "Twinkie tax," was one of the meeting's most popular speakers. Showing some politicking skill, Brownell suggested that activists should make use of children to sidestep commonsense arguments about personal choices: "Another, very utilitarian reason for focusing on children, of course, is then you get away from these arguments about personal responsibility."
Incidentally, Brownell scoffed at the idea that obesity can be successfully treated and reversed. Funny he should think so. The Associated Press noted last year that he gained a good deal of weight while writing a book. The experience apparently "kept him relatively sedentary and snack-prone." In San Francisco, Brownell appeared considerably leaner and meaner, but offered no hint as to which tax or other government program helped him shed the extra pounds.
Robert Ross, CEO of the $3.4-billion California Endowment, led a session named (without a hint of irony) "Is Childhood Obesity the Next Tobacco?" that boasted some of the convention's most heated rhetoric. Ross asked: "Do we go out for all out holy war against industry from day one?" Answering his own question, he later declared that "the most prolific weapons of mass destruction in this country are a cheeseburger and a soda."
What would the world look like if decision-makers listened to these nannycrats? Public Health Institute lawyer Edward Bolen provided a glimpse of their Utopia, promoting very specific policy ideas. He called for tobacco-style restrictions on food, including price controls; minimum age requirements to buy certain foods (Does a bag of chips really need to be rated "R"?); zoning limits on the number, density, and location of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores; and even outright product bans. "Any sort of interaction you can put between [a] consumer and the product is going to cut the use," Bolen noted.
Shrewd stuff indeed. But don't expect these activists to be honest while they remake American cuisine. Imagining a world where 7-11 stores would have to move high-calorie snacks behind the counter (presumably next to the cigarettes and porn magazines), Bolen mused, "You can probably rationalize it as cutting down on shoplifting."
Driving extra miles for a burger, showing your license to buy a Snickers, paying $10 for a soda (outside the movie theater)—this still isn't enough. Public health activists are hinting at their preference for completely abolishing some distinctly American foods we all love. CSPI's Wootan noted—as if it were a bad thing—that "Eating out is more affordable; it's very convenient." Arguing that companies should be forced to stop marketing certain foods, Kelly Brownell added that the food industry "cannot be let off the hook for all the unhealthy products they're still promoting."
Luckily, my presence at the APHA conference wasn't noticed until its penultimate day; I was able to record a good deal of the goings-on before then. And in many cases, my camera was the only one rolling. The mass media showed remarkably little interest in a meeting attended by thousands of professionals who influence policy at every level of government, and whose endgame looks a lot like circa-1982 Soviet supermarkets. Why? Because many journalists agree with the activists. And a few high-profile broadcasters have already drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid (sugar-free, of course). A recent Peter Jennings ABC special, How to get fat without really trying, implied just with its title that our weight is not our fault. Which should really motivate the channel-surfer on the couch eating another bag of Doritos.
People laughed a few years ago when The Onion ran a spoof titled "Hershey's Ordered To Pay Obese Americans $135 Billion." It was obviously silly to think that society would deem chocoholics blameless for their own overindulgence. But after spending a few days listening to the people staffing our nation's Public Health infrastructure, I'm not laughing anymore.
Super-size lawsuits whittling away our rights
Calgary Sun - Paul Jackson - December 22, 2003
Denis is a 28-year-old lawyer with one of the sharpest minds I've seen
in the legal world.
I like to see him as a "trial lawyer with a conscience." We met back when he was studying his profession at the University of Saskatchewan and "working his way through college" at the Saskatchewan legislature.
We lost touch, but suddenly he jumped back into my world when I found he is now working with the prestigious law firm of McConnell, MacInnes Graham, and is also the executive director of a new consumer rights organization, the Canadian Centre for Consumer Freedom.
Most "consumer rights" organizations come from the lib-left or are union-inspired and not so much friends of the consumer, but rather enemies of the business world.
Think Ralph Nader and of lawyers who will take on any cause for a huge cut of the award.
The Canadian Centre for Consumer Freedom (www.consumerfreedom.ca) believes individual consumers should be left to decide what they buy, rather than the dictates of government or lobby groups.
Denis' organization recently hired JMCK Polling to conduct a nationwide survey on consumer attitudes.
The survey found 75% of respondents believe it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to eat convenience foods, or go to fast-food outlets.
Fully 69% believe the supposed rising rate of child obesity is the responsibility of parents, while only 9% blame restaurants or food manufacturers.
Denis contends these attitudes are significant because now the battle against smoking has basically been won, the very groups that battled Big Tobacco are now turning their attention to convenience foods and fast-food outlets such as McDonald's and KFC.
This is especially so in the U.S. where lawyers are preparing lawsuits, and Denis notes what happens south of the border tends to drift up to Canada. "We'll be opening a floodgate of frivolous lawsuits unless we fight back and draw the line."
Paradoxically perhaps, the JMCK survey found 87% of Canadians believe smoking is unhealthy, with 65 % supporting higher taxes on tobacco products, but 63% of respondents also believe federal and provincial governments are the chief beneficiaries of higher taxes on tobacco."
"They tend to think taxes collected on tobacco products should go directly to increasing health-care funding, rather than be just a convenient windfall for government from an easy whipping boy of government."
Denis believes Canadians have seen through the hypocrisy of this double-standard. "A majority also oppose using tax money to fund the anti-tobacco lobby. These funds should be used for health care instead of lining the pockets of anti-tobacco activists."
Denis, by the way, doesn't smoke, runs 10 km two or three times a week and watches what he eats.
"But these are my choices. I don't want to impose my choices on anyone else, and I don't want anyone else imposing their choice on me."
He truly does see a trend of "supersized lawsuits" that will start tying up the courts. That's why Denis contends it is every responsible lawyer's duty to protect the integrity of both the profession and the judicial system.
"When it comes to their eating and smoking habits, Canadians support choice," he says. Canadians say individuals should be responsible for their own health habits, and that governments should butt out of adults' decisions to make private lifestyle decisions."
Denis believes government shouldn't interfere in anyone's lifestyle, so long as it poses no threat to others.
"We have seen a chipping away at personal freedom and rights in recent decades as government intrudes into areas it has no business being in. We simply have to call a halt to the erosion of our rights before we have no rights left at all."
I think Denis has something here -- don't you?
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - December 3, 2003
|A fortnight ago,
I wrote "Harm's a Two-Way Street," a column that generated considerable
reader response, some of it angry and nasty. The gist of the column was
that the liberty-oriented solution to the smoking controversy was through
the institution of private property, where the owner of a workplace, restaurant
or bar decides whether there would be smoking or not. The totalitarian
solution was to use the brute force of government.
I argued that harm is a two-way street. Tobacco fumes might harm someone who is allergic or just finds the odor offensive. The person who smokes and is not permitted to do so is also harmed by being denied a pleasurable experience. Quite a few letters asserted, "Williams, you can't compare the health harm to a nonsmoker to the inconvenience harm that a smoker suffers just because he's not allowed to smoke." No, I can't and wouldn't even try. Why?
Using economic jargon, it is impossible to make interpersonal utility comparisons. Let's try a few. A dollar will bring me more happiness than it will bring you. It's better to like opera music than hip-hop music. Human life is more important than money. There's no objective way to prove any of these statements simply because there is no objective standard for comparison.
You might have an opinion, but an opinion is not proof. The same reasoning applies if you said, "The harm I suffer from your smoking is greater than the harm you suffer from not being permitted to smoke." Contrast these statements to: "You are taller than I." For such a statement there are indeed objective standards for falsifying or verifying it -- just get out the measuring instruments.
Another part of the column suggested that an owner of a restaurant, workplace or bar might post a sign indicating whether he permitted smoking or not. After all, private property rights have to do with rights held by an owner to keep, acquire and use property in ways he pleases so long as he doesn't interfere with similar rights held by another. Private property rights also include the right to exclude others from use of property.
Quite a few readers asked, "What if the owner wished to exclude blacks or some other race?" I value freedom of association. An important part of the right of association is the right not to associate for a good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. That's not to say that I don't find some forms of association offensive. But the true test of one's commitment to freedom of association doesn't come when he allows others to associate in ways he deems desirable. The true test of his commitment comes when he is willing to allow others to associate in ways he deems offensive.
One might be tempted to think that if owners were free to reject customers by race, segregation would be widespread. But that's nonsense because there's a difference between what people can do and what they'll find in their interests to do.
Think about it. During the United States' Jim Crow era and South Africa's apartheid era, there was an elaborate legal structure mandating and enforcing racial segregation. Whenever you see a law on the books, your best guess is that the law is on the books because not everyone left to their own devices would behave according to the specifications of the law. After all, why would there be a need for a law saying bars or theaters cannot admit blacks if no white bar or theater owner would admit blacks in the first place?
There're a lot of things we can disagree about, but let's have straight thinking as a part of the process.
American Spectator - Gene Healy - December 2, 2003
|The pall of Bloombergism
has fallen over the nation's capital. On December 3, the D.C. city council
will hold a public hearing on the Smokefree Workplaces Act of 2003, which
would ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. In fact, the bill may go
further even than New York in quashing the rights of property owners to
set the rules for the premises they own.
The bill's supporters characterize secondhand smoke as a life-or-death public health issue. A coalition of D.C. unions backing the bill, including the Washington Metro Labor Council and the AFL-CIO, claim that secondhand smoke kills some 65,000 Americans a year -- a figure three times the national murder rate. (Maybe I'll start defending myself from criminal predators in my gang-ridden neighborhood by brandishing an unlit cigarette and a lighter). New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg compares deaths from secondhand smoke to the carnage of September 11. "Think about all the press attention to 9/11," he says. "That number of people die every year in the city from secondhand smoke." That's right: If we allow smoking in bars, the terrorists will have won.
Of course, the epidemiological evidence doesn't come close to justifying such extravagant claims. Since the dose makes the poison, it's far from clear that passive inhalation of secondhand smoke poses any significantly increased health risk at all. The EPA's attempt to show that it does was laughed out of court as junk science by a federal district court judge in 1998. A study released last May in the British Medical Journal used data tracking 35,561 Californians over 39 years, and concluded, "The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality."
Everyone knows that active, as opposed to passive, smoking is bad for you. And that, in large part, is what smoking bans are intended to suppress. Antismoking activists see public smoking bans as an effective way to reduce smoking by turning smokers into pariahs. At a 1986 antismoking conference, Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education explained: "although the nonsmokers' rights movement concentrates on protecting the nonsmoker rather than on urging the smoker to quit for his or her own benefit, clean indoor air legislation reduces smoking because it undercuts the social support network for smoking by implicitly defining smoking as an antisocial act."
The antismoking activists are becoming increasingly candid about what was once a private strategy. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the New Jersey-based public health group that's donated a quarter of a million dollars to the drive for a D.C. smoking ban, exults at the notion that smoking bans can be used to harass smokers and lower their social standing. On November 18, RWJ ran an eight-page advertising supplement in the New York Times. The cover features a scene from the inside of a smoke-free bar, with glamorous twentysomethings chatting and drinking martinis. Through the bar's window, you can see a forlorn group of smokers huddled in the rain and shivering. The caption reads: "No longer cool, smokers find themselves out in the cold."
Of course, few people will get misty-eyed at the image of young hipsters forced to smoke outside. But D.C. and New York aren't the only places where the crusade for healthy living through coercion is occurring, nor are twentysomethings the only victims. All across the fruited plain, the antismoking movement is helping Americans get in touch with their inner tyrant and discover the joys of self-righteous cruelty.
Case in point: There's a small public housing complex for poor elderly people in De Pere, Wisconsin. As the Green Bay Press Gazette reports, the governing board of the complex is about to force retirees out into the Wisconsin cold whenever they want to smoke. In a letter to the housing authority, one tenant begged: "I smoke in my bathroom with the door closed and the exhaust fan on so as not to impose onto others. So please allow me to smoke in my apartment so I don't have to move and pay more rent so I can smoke."
But such pleas get little sympathy from the paladins of public health. "There's not that many that smoke. It’s like a rotten apple in the bushel, one spoils it for the rest of them," said Jim Quinette, a citizen member of the board. "I'm sorry they have to put a cigarette out. But at that age, what do you need a cigarette for?"
A better question is, At that age, why shouldn't you have a cigarette? There are far nicer places to retire to than a public housing complex in Wisconsin, and simple pleasures like smoking may help combat the gloom. But in the world the lifestyle police are constructing, simple pleasures count as nothing next to the deep glow of self-satisfaction folks like Jim Quinette get from forcing you out in the cold for your own good.
Reason Magazine - Julian Sanchez - November 23, 2003
|In the coming
months, Washington, D.C., will decide whether to join California, New York,
and a host of other towns and municipalities in banning the combustion
and inhalation of tobacco products in its bars and restaurants. To the
delight of the self-appointed guardians of public health, my local watering
hole may soon have the freewheeling ambiance of a dentist's waiting room.
The putative logic of these laws is to protect bar and restaurant workers. In reality, this is something of a fig leaf: The primary support for smoking bans seems to come from folks who don't like having to dry clean their clothes after a night out, and who are therefore asserting their God-given right to visit any bar or restaurant they like on their own terms, owners and other customers be damned.
But the anti-smoking movement's official spokespeople still seem to have the minimal decency required to be ashamed of such a naked appeal to self-interest. Instead, they've been forced to resort to the argument that workers who don't mind smoke must be protected from making stupid choices about their own bodies, while those who do mind it must be protected from the hassle of either making a trade-off or seeking a more congenial job over the course of the many years it takes for environmental tobacco smoke to increase health risks. To the extent that it does, that is—the data on the precise degree of risk involved is notoriously ambiguous.
Ban opponents have countered that those same workers may suffer as smoking patrons opt to walk a mile—home—for a Camel. Despite some evidence that this has not happened to the extent that some feared in California or New York, ban boosters seem determined to prove that, even when they seem to have a legitimate argument, it's more fun to run ads made of ecologically friendly 100 percent straw. Nobody, after all, ever claimed that smoking bans would mean that "no one will ever" go out carousing, "ever," or that it would "wipe out all" bars. And there's something more than a little disingenuous in the claim that people who continue to use non-smoking elevators won't perhaps behave differently when it comes to the decision about how long to spend at the neighborhood pub.
But putting aside this sort of intellectual dishonesty, it's nevertheless true that a welter of studies have not found a dramatic decline in aggregate hospitality sales in many areas that have enacted smoking bans. In some, business even appears to be up.
Yet aggregate data can be misleading. It may be that aggregate revenue doesn't show a drop in business, but that doesn't mean that particular restaurants aren't hurting. In fact, you can count them. The pattern emerging in nearby Montgomery County is that business is steady or improving in big chains like Ruby Tuesdays, while small independent businesses are taking a hit. In an industry with paper-thin profit margins, those places may eventually have to close—a danger that's not visible if you lump together all bar and restaurant revenues, treating them as a mega-business, rather than a collection of separate businesses.
But pretend you don't care about the diversity of nightlife: Students of Mises, Hayek, and their intellectual descendants should spot another problem with the kind of analysis that yields the conclusion that smoking bans aren't economically harmful.
I've never been comfortable with the most extreme forms hyper-a priorism advanced by some adherents of Austrian economics. As the failure of Euclidian geometry to describe our spatially curved universe proves, the internal consistency of a formal system is no guarantee that it models reality accurately. An extreme anti-empiricism can easily become a lazy way of ensuring that being an Austrian economist means never having to say you're sorry. But this seems like a case where the Austrian objection to over-reliance on econometrics seems like good counsel.
Reality, as social scientists frequently lament, is messy. Laboratory experiments can be rigorously controlled; real life is less accommodating. You can measure which way restaurant revenues trend before and after some new legislation, but establishing causality is a trickier matter. The niggling question always remains: Can we be sure we've isolated the independent variable? Have we controlled for every potential explanatory factor?
But these methodological quibbles are secondary. The Austrian insight that's most important to bear in mind when considering the wisdom of such laws is that, contrary to neoclassical assumptions, real world markets are never in equilibrium. Rather, market activity is a constant discovery process.
This is important because, absent this observation, it may well seem as though smoking bans have successfully corrected a market failure. If, in the wake of a ban, aggregate business remains constant, or even picks up, and people report satisfaction with their new smoke-free carousing environments, it seems natural to regard the new status quo as an improvement. And if smoking policies never changed, that conclusion would be right.
In reality, though, these policies change over time: Owners change their mind about which rule will be most profitable, and new non-smoking establishments open while smoke-friendly ones close down. Economists sometimes forget that markets are not lightning calculators. In an old joke, two Chicago school economists are walking down the street when they notice a five dollar bill on the sidewalk. One stops to retrieve it, and the other warns: "Don't bother; if it were really there, someone would have picked it up already." But of course, in the real world, sometimes there is money on the sidewalk.
It seems fairly clear that, at present, the market mix of smoking and non-smoking establishments is suboptimal: It does not yet fully reflect the public's growing preference for smoke free dining and carousing. If we imagine an inverted-U curve, with the relative proportion of smoking and non-smoking establishments on the X-axis and restaurant revenue (and, presumably, customer satisfaction with the available options) on the Y-axis, it's fair to suppose that, at present, localities that permit smoking are well to the left of the optimum, with the mix biased too heavily in favor of smoke-friendly joints. Smoking bans effectively jump the curve, apparently landing at a higher point far to the right of the optimum.
The problem is that, while the market process seeks to approach that optimum over time, uniform prohibition locks in an extreme, almost certainly suboptimal mix. Ironically, an excellent argument for the repeal of these restrictions is provided by the fact that some bar owners have reported with delight that, contrary to their expectations, business picked up in the wake of the ban. Those businesses now know that, given their clientele, a non-smoking policy is optimal for them. The unlucky losers, the bars whose chimneyesque customers have deserted them, discovered the opposite.
It's also worth stepping back to ask whether the debate really is—or should be—really about restaurant revenues at all. Opponents of pork-barrel spending have long cited Frederic Bastiat's famous "broken window" fallacy to explain why government spending doesn't really "create jobs," as its advocates sometimes like to claim. The money injected into the economy at one point had to first be removed somewhere else: The "seen" effect of state spending is perfectly balanced by the "unseen" loss of whatever enterprise would have been supported by the same dollars had they been left in private hands.
Yet the same holds for jobs lost to regulation. A smoker who spends less of her time and money at the local café because she can't puff a clove with her latte isn't just going to use the cash for toilet paper: She'll spend it somewhere else. There are significant deadweight losses and transaction costs while the economy adapts, of course, but it remains the case that less spending at the bar will mean more spending elsewhere.
The obvious rejoinder is that tampering with the natural market outcome makes the reallocation of spending inefficient. But "efficient" here isn't used in the colloquial sense of putting out more widgets per pound of aluminum. Efficiency in the economic sense is about using resources in the way that maximizes the satisfaction of subjective preferences. The problem with regulation isn't that it decreases the net amount of money floating around the economy—it doesn't. Rather, the problem is that it forces that money to be channeled suboptimally, into sectors less productive of customer satisfaction.
Economic arguments, arguments that look at the flow of cold hard cash, have a comfortingly scientific ring to them. You can appeal to objective-looking graphs and figures. That's why restrictions on, say, the color you're permitted to paint your house, are typically justified by an appeal to preserving "property values," rather than the simple majoritarian argument that most of your neighbors think that fuchsia with a puce trim is ugly. But, of course, all it means to say that such a color scheme would lower property values is that one expects a majority of potential buyers would find it ugly.
A smoking ban may or may not reduce revenue at D.C. bars relative to the status quo—that will depend in part on the willingness of smokers to leave the district for smoke-friendlier parts, an easier task than abandoning LA for a bar in Nevada. It will almost certainly be worse, economically, than the mix that the market would eventually achieve. But all that is just shorthand for saying that if we leave owners and customers to make their own choices, everyone can have the kind of experience that they most prefer. And while that's not the kind of argument that translates well to a PowerPoint slide, it has the virtue of being true.
a two way street
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - November 19, 2003
|The largest losers
of America's anti-tobacco crusade aren't tobacco companies and smokers,
it's the American people who are incrementally giving up private property
rights. You say, "Hold it, Williams, I agree that people have the right
to smoke and harm themselves, but they don't have the right to harm others
with those noxious tobacco fumes!" Let's look at it, because harm is a
two way street.
If you're allergic to tobacco smoke or just find its odor unpleasant, and I smoke in your presence, I harm and annoy you. However, if I'm prohibited from smoking a cigarette in your presence, I'm harmed because of a denial of what I find a pleasurable experience.
There's an obvious conflict. One of us is harmed. How can it be resolved? There are several ways. You might consider the harm I suffer trivial compared to yours. You could organize a sufficiently large number of people and lobby lawmakers to enact smoking bans in bars, restaurants and workplaces. Alternatively, I might consider the harm you suffer trivial, and organize a bunch of people and lobby lawmakers to mandate that smoking be permitted in bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Let's think about this for a moment. If you owned a restaurant, and did not allow smoking, wouldn't you find it offensive if a law were enacted requiring you to permit smoking? I'm guessing you'd deem such a law tyranny. After all, you'd probably conclude, it's your restaurant, and if you don't want smoking it's your right. Similarly, I'd deem it just as offensive if smoking were allowed in my restaurant and a law were enacted banning smoking in restaurants.
The totalitarian method to resolve the conflict is through political power and guns. In other words, the group with the greatest power to organize government's brute force decides whether there'll be smoking or no smoking in restaurants. Totalitarians might justify their actions by claiming that bars, restaurants and workplaces deal with the public, and thus the public should decide how they'll be used. That's nonsense. Just because an establishment deals with the public doesn't make it public property.
The liberty-oriented method to resolve conflict is through the institution of private property. In fact, conflict resolution is one of the primary functions of private property, namely it decides who gets to decide how what property is used in what way. Put another way: Who may harm whom in what ways? In a nutshell, private property rights have to do with rights held by an owner to keep, acquire and use property in ways so long as he doesn't interfere with similar rights held by another. Private property rights also include the right to exclude others from use of property.
Under the liberty-oriented method of private property, as a means to conflict resolution, we'd ask the question of ownership. If the owner wishes his restaurant to be smoke-free, it is his right. Whether a smoker is harmed or inconvenienced by not being allowed to smoke in his restaurant is irrelevant. Similarly, if a restaurant owner wishes to permit smoking, it is his right, and whether a nonsmoker is harmed or annoyed is also irrelevant. In the interest of minimizing possible harm either way, it might be appropriate for restaurant owners, by way of a sign or other notice, to inform prospective customers of their respective smoking policy. That way, customers can decide whether to enter upon the premises.
In today's America, the successful anti-tobacco campaign has become a template for conflict resolution through the forceful imposition of wills through the political system. It's part of a continuing trend of attacks on private property rights. Private property rights are the bulwark for liberty, and should be jealously guarded and not be sacrificed for the sake of expediency.
Tech Central Station - Radley Balko - November 19, 2003
|In the world
of debate, philosophy and law, there's a method of attacking your opponent's
argument known as reductio ad absurdum. In this line of attack, you take
your opponent's argument to its most extreme conclusion, you reveal the
most absurd consequences that could come of his position, and oftentimes,
in the process, you reveal the flaws in his reasoning.
Recently, Reason magazine writer Julian Sanchez, who also maintains a personal weblog, coined the term reductio creep. Sanchez came up with the term to describe the age we live in, which he suggests is increasingly becoming an age where absurdity isn't possible anymore, particularly when debating public policy, and particularly for those who happen to advocate limited government. The reductio line of attack doesn't work anymore because we live in an era where the tentacles of government penetrate every nook of our public and personal lives, and for those who advocate this massive, expansive state, there's simply no policy too intrusive, no regulation too absurd, no attempt at social engineering too ambitious that it's beyond the realm of possibility. Not only does the reductio line of argument no longer work on these people, it gives them new ideas.
Ten years ago, when the first of the tobacco lawsuits were making their way through the courts, critics rightly saw them as a subversive way of enacting public policy by bypassing the legislative process, and often used the reductio line of attack when criticizing them. The class action suits absolved the smoker of responsibility, critics said. It's ridiculous to hold the manufacturers of a legal product liable, particularly for damages incurred by smokers who were aware of the ill-effects of smoking. Take these suits to their logical conclusion, critics said, and what's to stop people from suing fast food companies for their own obesity? Why not let victims of violent crime sue gun manufacturers?
It seemed like a good argument at the time, didn't it? Try to make a reductio argument about class action suits given today's headlines. It's tough. There's really nothing too ridiculous to imagine.
About six years ago I took a creative writing class at a local community college. Each week, we'd discuss a piece of short fiction written by one of our classmates. I remember one guy wrote a piece of satire called "The Non-Smoking Section." The guy was a gifted writer. He detailed scenes where smokers huddled together under the gray skies of winter, shivering, crammed together in officially demarcated "smoking zones" drawn up by state officials. The zones that were always outside, always within sight for ridicule from nonsmokers, and always purposely drawn far too small to accommodate the number of smokers who needed to use them. The zones were so small, smokers usually ended up burning one another. Fights broke out. A few people caught fire. The guy purposely drew historical allusions to Jim Crow, even to concentration camps, to hammer home his point.
I remember that our biggest criticism of the guy's story was that it was too over the top, even for satire. Even six years ago, none of us could imagine day when public smoking wasn't allowed anywhere, particularly at privately-owned bars and restaurants.
And yet life and satire inch closer. Today, you can't smoke in New York City's theater district. You can't smoke at CBGB. In New York City, not only is my former classmate's story not overwrought, it underestimates the extent of the state's wrath for tobacco. In New York, smokers can't even huddle and shiver over their fix in the winter cold. That will only get them a citation for loitering. Of course, like all state attempts to curb "bad" behavior, the ban isn't working. It's merely creating more problems. The excise taxes on cigarettes are merely pushing the cigarette market underground. Convenience stores no longer make money off of cigarettes. But criminals do.
Now the nannies are coming to Washington, D.C. And it's likely that they'll get their way. Backed by a quarter-million dollar grant from the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (solidifying its reputation as chief financier of restricting personal choice), sentiment around town is that most of the D.C. city council is set to support the ban. Business owners in the very heart of the free world may soon be told that they aren't permitted to allow their own customers to make their own decisions about whether or not to light up a cigarette. Because the Washington, D.C. city council is set to declare that city council officials are better suited to decide what health risk Washington D.C. residents ought to take than Washington, D.C. residents themselves.
Of course, this isn't really about the right to smoke in a private business. There are plenty of businesses -- bars and restaurants among them -- that don't allow smoking. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, the scolds who want to ban smoking in Washington maintain a list of such places on their website. Oddly, that's precisely the point. There are options in D.C. for those who don't want to be bothered by secondhand smoke. "Smoke Free D.C.'s" list proves that.
Rather, this is about property rights. It's about choice. It's about a Washington, D.C. bar owner having the freedom to run his bar in the manner he sees fit, to cater to whatever clientele he wishes, and to do so without interference from a city council influenced by junk science, politically correct propaganda, and the paternalism of an alleged "public health" foundation in New Jersey.
Give these people your cigarettes, and next they'll come for your beer.
Another reductio argument? Unfortunately not.
The same Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that's sponsoring these "smoke free" initiatives around the country is also determined to restrict access to and reduce the consumption of alcohol. They've spent millions on "Fighting Back," a multi-city program explicitly aimed at curbing per capita alcohol consumption through zoning laws, advertising restrictions, bans on drink specials and happy hours, and a variety of other state-enforced initiatives aimed squarely at social drinking. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences suggested that the alcohol industry is to blame for underage drinking, and suggests that curbing all Americans access to alcohol is probably the only way to curb young Americans' access to it. Trial lawyers and nanny statists are already chomping at the bit.
Legislators in New York state want to ban you from smoking in your own car in front of your own children. Anti-tobacco advocates are suggesting that family courts take the smoking habits of parents into consideration when awarding custody and visitation rights. Yep. They've just found the rhetoric to get into your home.
This stuff is beyond satire. It's beyond parody. Absurdity is dead. Welcome to post-reductio America. It's sterile. It's antiseptic. And we're all a little less free.
But hey, at least we don't go home smelling like smoke.
ban has a strong air of intolerance
Chicago Tribune - Steve Chapman - November 16, 2003
|There are all
sorts of restaurants in this broad land of ours. You can find Chinese,
Mexican, Thai, Indian, German, Ethiopian or Greek. You can choose steakhouses
or vegetarian spots, fast-food or slow, heart-healthy or artery-clogging,
chain or independent, seedy or elegant. But in Wilmette, there will soon
be only one kind of restaurant: non-smoking.
As a lifelong non-smoker, I don't like to see smoke when I'm eating, unless it's billowing from a barbecue pit. But I'm not one of those who think that anything that suits me should also be required by law. If I were, I'd be out campaigning for a ban on sushi, anywhere, anytime.
Wilmette has 39 restaurants, and before the ordinance was passed, 33 of them didn't allow smoking. Anyone with an aversion to the smell of tobacco had plenty of dining options even without venturing into the wilds of Evanston or Winnetka. Chicago, for that matter, has some 500 smoke-free restaurants.
But getting their way 85 percent of the time was not enough for the proponents of total bans. They bring to mind Henry Ford's Model T, which you could get in any color, as long as it was black.
The advocates insist their policy is essential for public health. They argue that secondhand smoke from cigarettes endangers the health of patrons as well as employees, and that a smoking ban is the only adequate protection.
The Environmental Protection Agency says these fumes are hazardous, but not all experts agree. John Bailar III, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago and former editor-in-chief of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is among those with doubts. "We still do not know, with accuracy, how much or even whether exposure to environmental tobacco smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease," he wrote in 1999 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Earlier this year, an article in the British Medical Journal said much better research is needed "if we really want to know whether passive smoking increases the risk of various diseases." Even if prolonged exposure is dangerous, it's not clear that an occasional whiff in a restaurant would have any effect.
But assuming the most dire claims are true, they don't justify a one-size-fits-some policy. People choose to take risks every day, and if exposure to tobacco fumes is one, it's hard to see why they shouldn't have the option of accepting or rejecting it.
You don't like the smell of fried food? Avoid fast-food outlets. You don't like smoking? Go to a place where it's not permitted. In a sector as diverse and crowded with competitors as the restaurant industry, there should be room for places that indulge people who want to light up. Majority rule can be reconciled with minority protections.
The anti-smoking forces say that approach ignores the danger to restaurant and bar employees, who stand to breathe much more polluted air than patrons. "It's not a matter of choice to let people work in conditions that are a health risk," says Joel Africk, head of the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago.
But why not? We don't outlaw logging, even though the industry has an on-the-job death rate about 30 times higher than the national average, or commercial fishing, which is 17 times more dangerous than the typical workplace. We assume that rational adults can judge for themselves what their safety is worth.
That same principle applies equally well to waiters and bartenders. Those who detest or fear tobacco smoke can find countless employers who will accommodate their preferences. Those who don't care are free to work in restaurants that tolerate smoking.
But tolerance doesn't count for much among anti-smoking activists, who think diversity goes too far when it shelters a noxious habit. Their approach is a reversal of the old Burger King slogan: Have it our way.
Mac and Big Brother
Townhall.com - Bill Murchison - November 11, 2003
|If, as matters
stand already, the House and the Senate can't come together on Medicare
drug policy, wait until the federal government pronounces obesity a disease.
"This year," relates The New York Times, "150 bills have been introduced in state legislatures, more than double the number the previous year -- and 10 in the last six weeks alone ... " Bills to do what? Why, of course, to Address the Problem in the political manner, with laws, regulations, demands, subsidies, you name it.
It is malicious to make fun of any disability. A point, nonetheless, requiring more thought is that it is malicious to give the government work for which it isn't even qualified, such as keeping watch and ward over how Americans eat and exercise.
Weight legislation is the latest form of Big Brother welfarism, or will be once this stuff -- for instance, required nutrition information on restaurant menus -- starts to pass, as it very well might. A decade or so ago, the idea of generally imposed bans on cigarette smoking was from Mars -- distant and scary. Then, Mars moved into alignment with Earth's political trends. Try finding these days a restaurant or business office in which to light up.
The villains of the food fight are fast-food companies like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Allegedly, because they sell all this stuff that ruins people's lives, they should be reined in.
Horsefeathers! To live is to choose. To choose a Big Mac with a 24-ounce Coke in preference to water and green salad is to live. Not, perhaps, to live as well or as long, but, then, the life of freedom is more than a series of boxes to be checked off on orders, or overbearing hints, from the government.
What the government's would-be enforcers propose is approximately what that quaint old institution, the family, used to provide: oversight, supervision, instruction in the particulars of life. It would be unfair to blame the obesity "epidemic" solely on the family's ongoing decline as arbiter of culture and standards. It is worth remembering anyway that, where and when the universe is properly ordered, Big Daddy outranks Big Brother.
Campaign is Anti-Freedom
Intellectual Conservative - Alan Caruba - November 7, 2003
against smokers has become an acceptable prejudice in America, thanks to
the way they have been identified as a threat to everyone around them.
I am a smoker. I literally start my workday by lighting up one of the two or three cigars I puff my way through every day. I could quit if I wanted to, but I don’t. I like smoking cigars. My father smoked a pipe for as long as I knew him. My Mother never smoked, but was around his so-called “second-hand smoke” her entire life. She died at age 98. He died at age 93.
I was moved to think about this by an intriguing book by Michael J. McFadden, “Dissecting Antismoker’s Brains." Its ultimate concern is yet another United Nations’ plan to control everyone’s life; a ban on all tobacco use initiated in 1975 and being pursued by its World Health Organization. Its immediate concern is the way Americans in particular have been lied to and manipulated by a diabolical campaign to deprive us of the choice to smoke or not. This campaign is essentially about taking away a freedom we thought we had.
Two organizations, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Group Against Smoker’s Pollution (GASP) have been around a long time, spewing out enough lies about smoking to fill a library or two. McFadden points out their tactic was to make non-smokers feel separated from smokers as “a distinctly important group.” The threat smokers were said to represent never existed. Going all the way back to the 1979 Surgeon General’s report, the science then and now demonstrates that “Evidence that tobacco smoke is antigenic in man, however, is meager and controversial…”
A leading epidemiologist, Michael Thun, was quoted in the Washington Post earlier this year saying, “There’s no definitive way of establishing the cause of a cancer in an individual. Are there people that develop lung cancer without exposures (to any of the known cancer-causing agents)? No one knows.” While logic suggests that smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer, the fact is, “no one knows” if this is the trigger or whether a genetic or other factor played a role. However, on the basis that smoking automatically leads to lung cancer, the American Lung Association is the third organization, along with ASH and GASP, to work endlessly to restrict the right to smoke anywhere and everywhere.
So, if you eliminate the argument that smoking in the workplace, in restaurants and other public places poses no scientifically verifiable threat to anyone, it is simply astounding to contemplate that, by the middle of 2001, the American Medical Association reported that states were spending more than $880 million on antismoking activities. This is such an appalling waste of money that could be allocated to the real social problems, one would expect some public outrage. But as McFadden points out, we’ve been effectively brainwashed to think that a real health threat exists, smokers are less deserving of their Constitutional rights as others, and that anti-smoking programs are working.
Columnist George Will wrote in May that “tobacco policy radiates contempt for law. Cynical lawmaking produced the $246 billion settlement of an extortionate suit by 46 state governments against major tobacco companies, purportedly as recompense for smoking-related health care costs. Never mind that governments probably profit from smoking in two ways. Cigarettes are the most heavily taxed consumer product, but are usually not taxed so heavily that too many smokers give up the lucrative (for governments) habit. Furthermore, governments reap savings in the form of reduced spending for Social Security, pensions and nursing home care for persons who die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses.” The hypocrisy, if not outright criminality, i.e., extortion, involved in the punitive lawsuits against the tobacco companies, is yet another cause for outrage, but it’s just not there.
Discriminating against smokers has become an acceptable prejudice in America, thanks to the way they have been identified as a threat to everyone around them. As McFadden points out though, “If by some chance they (the anti-smoking campaigners) succeeded in eliminating smoking from the face of the earth there would be virtually no time lapse before they sank their fangs into Big Auto, Big Meat, Big Soda, or whatever supposedly idealistic cause was out there that would promise them Big Money and Big Power.”
The fact is, there are groups already engaged in activities designed to exploit or destroy these industries and we see this in the work of the “food police” advocates, the “animal rights” propagandists, and the incessant hatred directed against SUVs by environmentalists.
In America, the power to control your life and everyone else’s presumably is based on the “consent of the governed,” but the restrictions on smoking were generated primarily from the courts. Legislators went along because it promised a new source of funding for their endless schemes. The problem is that everyone lost and everyone loses when the lifestyle choice to smoke or not is denied.
It is a pure fiction that people are safer in so-called “smoke-free” facilities. The science concerning the amount of measurable compounds to which they are exposed demonstrates it is so infinitesimal as to pose no threat whatever. In 1989, the report of the Surgeon General noted that close to 90% of the weight of tobacco smoke is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and plain water. These are natural and necessary components of the environment. Scare campaigns, however, have succeeded in creating fears about smoking that have ultimately deprived everyone of the freedom to smoke anywhere.
Giving up just one freedom is giving up one freedom too many. Everyone pays a price for the loss of any freedom to anyone or any group. That is why, in America, we defend the right of people with whom we disagree to express themselves. You may or may not be a smoker, but you should have a very real concern about the anti-smoking politicians and others who continue to trample on freedom.
ban violates businesses' rights
Lexington Herald-Leader - Jack Weir - October 20, 2003
Jack Weir is a professor of philosophy at Morehead State University
the U.S. Constitution, the judicial branch is to protect our freedoms and
rights from the overreaching power of government. Every law and ordinance
takes away some freedom. At issue in the smoking ban is the extent of local
government's authority to limit liberties given to individuals by federal
and state constitutions and laws.
No one questions that tobacco is unhealthful or that local government has the authority to regulate activities dangerous to health. The real issue is: Are these two premises on their own enough to justify the broad scope of the ban?
Other rights and freedoms are in conflict with the ban. The First Amendment gives us the right to assemble peaceably. Surely, then, law-abiding adults should be allowed to peaceably assemble for the purpose of smoking tobacco. The important matter is that smoking is a legal freedom enjoyed by adults.
Whether assemblies of smokers are public or private and enclosed or unenclosed is irrelevant. Only two conditions are relevant: Are minors present? Was anyone forced to attend?
As with other adult-only activities, local government may pass an ordinance prohibiting minors from attending.
Nothing forces non-smoking adults to go into places where people are smoking. Just as non-dancers are not required to go to dances, non-smokers are not required to go into places where people smoke.
Typically, an assembly of smokers also engages in other legal activities, such as playing pool, bowling, drinking alcoholic beverages and eating food. Many non-smokers also want to participate in these other activities, but without inhaling secondhand smoke. So, the ban prohibits everyone from freely assembling in an enclosed public place for the purposes of both smoking and engaging in the other activities.
Surely this is excessive. People who want to participate in two legal activities should not be prohibited from doing both together merely because other people do not want to. This clearly discriminates against otherwise law-abiding citizens who want to do the two lawful activities together.
Non-participants are free to have their own assemblies.
Sometimes non-smokers are employed in places smoking is allowed. Therefore, the ban prohibits everyone from smoking. This, too, is excessive overreaching by government. No one forces non-smokers to work in these places. They can quit.
What if they cannot get another job (or as good of a job)? That would be a misfortune. But that is not the smoker's fault and does not justify taking away the smoker's freedom. Nor is it the employer's fault. It does not justify taking away the employer's right to engage in an otherwise legal business. If it were not for the employer, there would be no jobs, even for smokers.
With other jobs that are dirty, risky or unhealthful, the most government can require is that employers take reasonable measures to guard the well-being of workers by requiring gas masks, hard hats and so on. It would be reasonable for local government to require employers to provide non-smoking employees with gas masks, but not to ban smoking.
Business owners have rights to property and free commerce. The smoking ban applies to all business where less than 50 percent of the sales are tobacco products. Clearly, the ban has the prospect of causing some businesses to fail -- especially small business where smoking is a major activity of the clientele.
Requiring 50 percent is arbitrary and unduly high. When a business is barely surviving now, the smoking ban is likely to be a death sentence. The likely losers will be small businesses, such as cigar bars, neighborhood bars and pool rooms. If even one business is destroyed by the ban, it will an injustice.
The best solution would be to allow every business to be either all-smoking or all-non-smoking. Post a sign at the door. Of course, minors should not be allowed inside smoking places. To serve families and minors, most businesses would voluntarily be smoke-free. Would bars and bowling alleys? Some will, some won't.
If non-smoking is good for business, why wouldn't bars and other businesses voluntarily become smoke-free? Why must they be coerced by government?
Judges have the duty to protect our freedoms and rights from those in government who would take them away. Judges Sara Combs and Wilfrid Schroder are not as ignorant as some think.
but no thanks
Townhall.com - Neil Cavuto - September 27, 2003
|Is it me, or
have we become a nation of babies?
We must have, because more than a few of us are quite happy to have the government take care of us. Being the somewhat rebellious chap that I am, I don't like it. I don't like it one bit.
The latest assault on common sense comes from no less than New York Assemblyman Alexander Grannis. The Manhattan Democrat is a perfectly nice guy, with what seems a perfectly nice idea: ban smoking in cars in which there are children.
On the surface, that sounds fine. After all, we know smoking is dangerous. And as a cancer survivor myself, I'm all for getting people to stop smoking. But here's my problem -- that's smokers' call, not the government's.
Uncle Sam can coax you to quit, but he can't force you to quit. There is a difference, and unless we see it, we'll miss it, and be run over by something far more dangerous; an intrusive government that begins manipulating and forcing every detail of our lives.
I mean, think about it. You've got the food police monitoring the burgers we eat, the distraction police spying the cell-phone calls we make, and the language police in some towns counting the public curse words we use. I say, for God's sake, stop it!
Look, I know eating burgers is risky, and smoking is dangerous, and making cell-phone calls on the road isn't a good idea. But when the government starts policing what we do in our cars and potentially what we do in a McDonald's, that's getting a little nutty.
I'm all for good health and good behavior. But again, that's our call, no one else's. When a politician insists he is looking after our own good, I start looking after my own wallet. Laws carry consequences and fines. Laws also often carry taxes and fees . . . all in an effort to police good behavior and penalize bad. We've done it for ages, slapping sin taxes on everything from liquor to cigarettes.
But what's next? Slapping similar taxes on Big Macs? Or BLTs? Or those super-sized value meals?
The bottom and regrettable line is we are a nation of increasingly unhealthy people. But it's not the government's job to make us healthy. And if we start thinking it is, we start accepting more government help. It stands to reason that if we're OK having the government tell us what to do in our cars, we'll be OK having the government tell us what to eat in our kitchens and what to do in our bedrooms.
Gerald Ford was right when he said that a "government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have."
regulation of tobacco could be deadly
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - September 26, 2003
|Sen. Judd Gregg,
R-N.H., promises that his bill giving the Food and Drug Administration
authority over tobacco products will "save lives." But it could kill people
That's because the bill, which the Senate Health Committee is expected to consider soon, authorizes the FDA to block the introduction of safer tobacco products. In deciding whether to allow a new product on the market, the agency is supposed to weigh "the risks and benefits to the population as a whole." And what the FDA thinks is good for "the population as a whole" is not necessarily what's good for individual consumers.
In addition to the risk reduction offered by a new product, the FDA is supposed to consider whether its availability will discourage current users from quitting or lure new users who otherwise would not have tried tobacco. The upshot is that a demonstrably safer cigarette that smokers would welcome could be rejected because of its anticipated impact on "the population as a whole."
The same collectivist approach is reflected in a provision of the bill that prohibits risk comparisons between different kinds of tobacco products, information that a summary of the legislation calls "inherently misleading." Among other things, this restriction would prevent makers of smokeless tobacco, which is far less hazardous than cigarettes, from informing consumers of that fact.
Opponents of promoting smokeless tobacco as a safer alternative to cigarettes argue that the health benefits of such substitution would be outweighed by the health costs to new users attracted by the risk comparison and to smokers who otherwise would have decided to abstain from tobacco entirely. Given the huge magnitude of the risk reduction involved in switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco, this scenario is highly implausible.
In any case, it's wrong to insist that accurate, potentially life-saving information be withheld from consumers because they might not use it the "right" way. In a paper released last February, a leading British anti-smoking activist and five European scientists called this attitude "the health professional's authoritarian insistence that the only valid choice for smokers is to quit or die."
Another way in which Gregg's bill jeopardizes the health of smokers is by authorizing the FDA to order the reduction, or even elimination, of nicotine in cigarettes. Other things being equal, reducing nicotine content increases a smoker's exposure to the toxins and carcinogens in cigarette smoke, making the habit more dangerous.
As critics of "light" cigarettes have been pointing out for years, smokers tend to compensate for a lower nicotine yield by smoking more intensely. To get the nicotine dose they're used to, they take more puffs, inhale more deeply, hold the smoke longer, and cover ventilation holes. As a result, the "tar" intake can be substantially higher than what's indicated by the official rating, which is based on yields measured by machines.
Hence if the FDA orders nicotine reductions in an effort to prevent future smokers from "getting hooked," current smokers will be exposed to greater hazards. From a "public health" perspective, the extra deaths among current smokers would be justified by the deaths prevented because low-nicotine cigarettes attracted fewer new smokers than full-strength cigarettes would have.
All these projections are fraught with uncertainty, of course, because no one really knows how current consumers, let alone future ones, will react to new products or new information. That's one reason individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves which products they want and which information is relevant, with the government's role limited to preventing fraud.
Philip Morris, which supports Gregg's bill partly because it wants to introduce a safer cigarette with the government's blessing, is gambling that it will see eye to eye with the FDA about which products are in the best interests of "the population as a whole." The company's other major reason for supporting the bill is the desire to handicap its competitors through marketing restrictions and regulatory burdens, thereby protecting its position as the leading cigarette manufacturer.
The measure also has the backing of tobacco farmers and their representatives in Congress, because they've been promised $15 billion or so in taxpayer-funded bribes euphemistically described as crop quota "buyouts." Depending upon the final details, the legislation may even be endorsed by anti-smoking activists, who have long demanded FDA regulation of tobacco.
If so, the only people who won't get what they want (aside from Philip Morris's competitors) will be consumers. The FDA will see to that.
CNSNews.com - Sterling Rome - September 24, 2003
|When I went after
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg earlier this year for his anti-smoking
legislation, some friends asked me why I got so worked up about the issue
when I no longer lived in New York - and don't even smoke.
I explained that the issue wasn't whether or not smoking is unhealthy (it is), but how many of our freedoms we are going to surrender to elitist politicians that feel entitled to decide what is and is not "good for us" and then enact legislation to criminalize or otherwise dictate our behavior?
When asked about the smoking ban in New York City, Bloomberg said he hated smoking. What if he hated bathing? It shows a level of caprice among elected officials better suited to a dictatorship than a representative democracy.
It was only a few months after New York's ban that the state of Connecticut enacted the same legislation and has now decided to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants - effectively forcing smokers into the street, where I am sure you have already seen them.
How hypocritical is it that the same state governments that lined up to get their "fair share" of the bogus and ridiculously big tobacco settlements, and then taxed cigarettes inordinately to raise money for state coffers have now banned smoking. Many of them, including New York, are so dim-witted as not to realize that a huge tax on cigarettes will do little to raise money if you then ban their use.
Yet many of these politicians ultimately see such legislation as a success. After all, they do not care if people are humiliated by having to go stand in the rain to enjoy a cigarette because they get to preen and cluck about all the good they have done "for the community." As a survivor of the World Trade Center attacks and knowing first hand all the work that's needed as a result of it, I find it fascinating that the mayor of New York City could not find anything better to focus his attention on.
But Bloomberg is not alone. Here in Connecticut, where I moved after 9/11, we have Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who is so desperate to decide what is good for the rest of us he has spent his time in office wasting our state tax dollars on moronic lawsuits like the one against Oracle for attempting a merger; or the one against the Bush administration for 'global warming;' or even one against the makers of the George Foreman Grill.
Since Blumenthal has effectively been running for governor from his office for a number of years now, take a long look at him and imagine the kind of legislation he would enact given the chance. Like Bloomberg, Blumenthal assumes that he knows what is best for us, whether we like it or not.
Since arrogance and ignorance are so commonly displayed by our political elites, it is clear that the ban on smoking is just the beginning. There is already serious consideration of a "fat tax" on foods that politicians decide aren't good for us, and litigation is already underway across the country against food companies for allegedly making people fat.
Why not? After all, the states were able to secure billions of dollars from the tobacco industry for convincing juries that cigarettes can make you smoke them, so why not make the argument that Twinkies can do the same?
The dumbing-down of the public into accepting the premise that there is no such thing as free will or personal accountability might allow for more jackpot jury awards, but it also sows the seeds for nanny-state legislation like the smoking ban - and worse.
Because the political will of the people is so often obstructed by the manipulation of the legislative branch these days, it is not important whether the 'facts' behind legislation are true, only that a court decrees that they are. For big government, nanny-state proponents this offers an irresistible way of changing the laws without actually having to pass them.
Now just in case you're like my friends who thought I was making too much of all this, let me make you aware of the newest advisory from the National Research Council. A few days ago the Council urged Congress and state legislatures to raise taxes on alcohol, most especially beer, to discourage underage drinking. This advisory was heralded by special interest groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Certainly, no one wants to encourage underage drinking, but if you don't think that this suggested tax is just the beginning of legislation against alcohol, recall the price of a pack of cigarettes just a decade ago.
By embracing the victim culture that many of our elites have offered us we have been duped into believing that they really care about us, while they really care about little more than creating a society fashioned in their own image. That the public might be outraged or inconvenienced by their decisions means nothing to them, as they are cocksure in their enlightenment, and our need to be disciplined.
There will soon be nowhere to go to smoke in Connecticut. If our elites have their way there will be nowhere to eat a Twinkie, or drink a beer, either. Apparently, our elected officials and their cronies believe that we should spend our lives working, or running on a treadmill, or "multi-tasking" and doing both.
Those of us who choose to smoke, eat fatty food, or drink beer can't possibly be doing so because we are adults and can make our own decisions; we must be addicted, depressed, stupid, or all of the above. This begs the question of what Richard Blumenthal might decide he hates - besides the George Foreman Grill, of course.
tobacco, now fat
Townhall.com - Bruce Bartlett - September 23, 2003
|In Seattle, there
is a popular restaurant called the 5 Spot. Its signature dish is a huge,
calorie-laden dessert called The Bulge. Access to it, however, is restricted
to those patrons willing to sign a waiver agreeing not to sue the restaurant
for making them fat.
Although obviously a marketing gimmick, the underlying issue is no joke. Greedy lawyers (pardon the redundancy) have been working steadily on a campaign to make restaurants and food manufacturers legally liable for the spread of obesity. Sadly, they are making progress.
In June, the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Boston held a conference on legal approaches to the obesity epidemic. More than 100 lawyers and "consumer advocates" (i.e., left-wing busybodies) heard from prominent veterans of tobacco lawsuits on how to duplicate their success. The goal of the attendees is to make themselves multimillionaires while pretending that their motive is a high-minded concern for public health. It would be laughable if it hadn't already worked so well with the tobacco companies, which not coincidentally, also own many food operations.
Unfortunately, the tobacco companies seem to have learned nothing from their experience with anti-smoking zealots and are actually opening the door to lawsuits against their food divisions. They don't seem to understand that their enemies are not driven by genuine concerns about health or even by greed, but by ideology. They bring a religious fervor to their efforts that combine a Marxist hatred of capitalism with extraordinary naivete about human nature, mixed together with a tort liability system that is eager to award large damages based on the flimsiest of evidence.
Nevertheless, Kraft Foods, a division of Altria Group (formerly known as tobacco giant Philip Morris), thinks it can buy off its prosecutors by cutting portion sizes, reducing fat and sugar in its products, and scaling back marketing to children. These may all be worthwhile things to do, but to its enemies it is virtually an admission of guilt. Just as warning labels on cigarettes proved to be no defense against tobacco lawsuits, neither will Kraft's pre-emptive capitulation. It will only embolden its enemies and provide new lines of legal attack.
The trick that the lawyers play is to start with very reasonable-sounding demands, such as better and clearer nutritional labeling. Then, when labeling is agreed to, they will pick it apart and make deceptive advertising the basis for litigation. John Banzhaf, a leader in litigation against food and tobacco companies, signaled this strategy shortly after the Kraft announcement, saying that it was improperly using adult nutrition guidelines for children's food. And should Kraft put forward guidelines just for children, Banzhaf will no doubt find new problems with them and also demand separate guidelines for women, the elderly, blacks, gays and any other group in society that would make a sympathetic plaintiff.
The lawyers are also pursuing other avenues of litigation that parallel those used against tobacco companies. For example, they heavily promote studies showing that the negative health effects of obesity are equal to those for smoking, and others claiming that fat and sugar are as addictive as nicotine. It doesn't matter how dubious this research is. The lawyers know from experience that they can easily bamboozle uninformed and undereducated jurors with it, and that timid judges seldom throw out even the shabbiest "scientific studies."
The big problem for the lawyers is that most people don't blame anyone except themselves for being overweight, according to a Wirthlin poll in May. A Gallup poll in July found 89 percent of Americans opposed holding fast food restaurants legally liable for diet-related health problems.
Overcoming such resistance will be hard and take time. That is why a public relations campaign is an essential part of the lawyers' legal strategy. This is being waged through a rash of new books blaming the food industry -- and only the food industry -- for all the woes associated with obesity. These include Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" and Greg Critser's "Fat Land." The latest is "Food Fight" by Yale professor Kelly Brownell, one of the first to call for new taxes on fattening foods to discourage their consumption.
At the same time, the lawyers will explore other potential avenues for litigation. Schools are one target, because they serve fattening food in their cafeterias and often provide vending machines with high calorie sodas and candy. Suburban sprawl has also been fingered as a cause of obesity, because it forces people to drive rather than walk to their destinations. This opens up the possibility of litigation against local governments over zoning. There is even the possibility of suing pet food manufacturers for making our cats and dogs fat. Lest you laugh, the prestigious National Research Council recently issued a 450-page report on pet obesity.
Congress should put a stop to this before it goes any further.
campaign against underage drinking targets adults
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - September 12, 2003
|The NAS committee
concedes that "a causal link between alcohol advertising and underage alcohol
use has not been clearly established." But it says the possibility of a
connection means that "alcohol companies should refrain from displaying
commercial messages encouraging alcohol use to audiences known to include
a significant number of children or teens when these messages are known
to be highly attractive to young people."
Acknowledging the constitutional problems with trying to impose such restrictions by force, the NAS committee settles for the threat of force. "In the event that the industry fails to respond satisfactorily to this challenge," the report warns, "the case for government action might become more compelling."
Only if you think the government is justified in prohibiting messages because it worries how people will respond to them. Assuming that teenagers drink more than they would in the absence of advertising (a doubtful proposition), we are still talking about speech, which should be countered not with force but with more speech -- from parents, from teachers, even from activists like George Hacker.
Advertising restrictions are not the only way in which the agenda laid out in the NAS report would impinge upon the rights of adults. The committee also recommends higher alcohol taxes, suggesting that the levy on beer should be tripled.
More fundamentally, raising alcohol prices to deter underage drinking is like raising the cost of tickets for R-rated movies to deter 13-year-olds who sneak in without the requisite parent or guardian. In both cases, the appropriate solution is to enforce the age restriction, not to punish responsible adults for the misbehavior of other people's kids.
Smoke is Harmful to Science
Michael Fumento - September 11, 2003
|Looking for a
surer method of being ripped apart than entering a lion's den covered with
catnip? Conduct the most exhaustive, longest-running study on second-hand
smoke and death. Find no connection. Then rather than being PC and hiding
your data in a vast warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant, publish
it in one of the world's most respected medical journals.
That's what research professor James Enstrom of UCLA and professor Geoffrey Kabat of the State University of New York, Stony Brook discovered last May. That's when they reported in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that their 39-year study of 35,561 Californians who had never smoked showed no "causal relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality," adding, however "a small effect" can't be ruled out.
At this writing there have been over 140 responses on www.bmj.com, and if made into a movie they would be called "The Howling." Many are mere slurs several grades below even sophomoric.
Some demanded the BMJ retract the study because, as one put it, the "tobacco industry will use it." (It didn't). Another made the rather draconian call to ban all use of statistics in science, lest they be put to such wicked purposes as this.
"It is astounding how much of the criticism springs from (personal attacks) rather than from scientific criticism of the study itself," observed one of the few supportive writers. Said another: "As a publisher of the leading Austrian medical online news service, I feel quite embarrassed following the debate on this article. Many postings look more like a witch hunt than a scientific debate."
Sadly, one of the most pathetic responses came from Dr. Michael Thun, vice president for epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. The ACS started the study and formerly collaborated with the authors. Thun claimed that since there was so much exposure to smokers back in the 1950s and 1960s that essentially everybody was a second-hand smoker.
This logic puts the wife of a two-pack-a-day husband in the same category as somebody who once stumbled into a smoky bar. It negates all ETS studies based on spousal exposure including those serving Thun's purposes. But based on the subjects' own recollection decades later in the UCLA study, spousal smoking was indeed a good indicator of their total exposure to second-hand smoke.
One refrain running through the attacks is, "Why take seriously a study that contradicts what everyone already knows?" But "what everyone knows" is wrong. It's the UCLA study that's very much in the majority.
A 1999Environmental Health Perspectives survey of 17 ETS-heart disease studies found only five that were statistically significantly positive. ("Statistical significance" refers to whether an increased or decreased risk falls outside the bounds of what could be expected by chance.) The lead author? Why, Michael Thun!
Likewise, a 2002 analysis of 48 studies regarding a possible ETS link to lung cancer found 10 that were significantly positive, one that was actually significantly negative, and 37 that like Enstrom and Kabat's were insignificant either way.
The reason active tobacco smoking could be such a terrible killer while ETS 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 smoked 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. In scientific terminology, that's called a "tiny amount."
Unable to find significant faults in the UCLA study itself, critics repeatedly harped on what Enstrom and Kabat had clearly stated – that some of the funding was from the tobacco industry. As they explained, this became necessary when the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, which was specifically set up to support this type of research, stopped their funding and no other sources were available.
The big bucks go to those who "discover" that ETS causes everything from pimples to piles. Both governmental and private organizations have directed tens of millions of dollars to groups promoting ETS as a killer, perhaps even a greater killer than active smoking! Meanwhile Big Tobacco has essentially extinguished its efforts on ETS, reserving new spending and political capital for other fights.
So give the BMJ and Enstrom and Kabat an "F" for political correctness. But give them an "A" for honesty and courage.
Michael Fumento is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute.
Disclaimer: Neither Michael Fumento nor the Hudson Institute
it or ticket
Townhall.com - Walter E. Williams - September 10, 2003
having a backyard barbeque. A cop walks in and announces, "This is a random
health and safety check to see whether you've removed the skin from the
chicken before you served it." Though delicious in taste, we all know that
chicken skin contains considerable unhealthy fat. If you're caught serving
chicken skin, the cop gets your ID and issues you a $50 ticket.
If something like this were to occur, most Americans -- I hope -- would see such an action as ludicrous, offensive and a gross violation of our liberties. But not so fast. Let's think about it. Each year, obesity claims the lives of 300,000 Americans and adds over $100 billion to health-care costs. Doesn't that give government the right to dictate what we eat? If you're the least offended by the notion of government dictating our diets, pray tell me how it differs in principle from seatbelt laws and especially the new federal enforcement program called "Click It or Ticket."
Under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the federal government is spending $500 million to aggressively enforce seatbelt laws. According to a July Consumers Research article written by Eric Peters titled "The Federal Government Wants You to Buckle Up," about 11,000 law enforcement agencies across the country have set up random checkpoints and have issued hundreds of thousands of tickets to unbelted drivers and passengers.
Just as in my barbeque scenario, their justification is our health and safety. After all, the 2002 highway death toll was 42,815 and, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, "The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes on America's Roadways," seatbelt usage could have prevented an estimated 9,200 fatalities.
"Click It or Ticket" represents another bold step along the road to serfdom. History knows of no totalitarianism agenda where noble goals weren't used as justification. Nazis used "for the good of the German Volk" and the Soviets used "for the good of the proletariat" as their justification. Health and safety have become the American justification for attacks on liberty.
In a free society, each person owns himself. As such, he has the broad discretion to make his own choices regardless of what others think of the wisdom of his choices. He has the right to take chances with his own health and safety. However, if an American doesn't own himself, and it's Congress that owns him, he doesn't have those rights. Thus, the "Click It or Ticket" program is simply Congress' way of caring for its property, the American people.
Whether seatbelt usage is a good idea is beside the point, for daily exercise, nutritious meals, eight hours sleep, and cultural and intellectual enrichment might also be good ideas. The point is whether government has a right to coerce us into taking care of ourselves.
If eating what we wish is our business and not that of government, then why should we accept government's coercing us to wear seatbelts? America's tyrants might answer, "We just haven't gotten around to dictating diets yet."
Some might argue, but falsely so, that the problem with people exercising their liberty to drive without seatbelts, ride motorcycles without helmets or eat in unhealthy ways is that if they become injured or sick, society will be burdened with higher health-care costs. That's not a problem of liberty but one of socialism.
There's no liberty-based argument for forcing one person to care for the needs of another. Under socialism, one is obliged to care for another. A parent-child relationship emerges between the citizen and the government. That was not the vision of our Founders.
Smoking ban proponents use government to force their beliefs on the rest
The Gazette; Colorado Springs, Colo. - September 8, 2003
|How's this for
irony: a diplomat from a country that spent most of the past century under
a system that didn't recognize private property has a better grasp of the
concept than some politicians in the western United States, a region supposedly
known for holding the individual above the government. That was the situation
on Sept. 2 in two unrelated yet similar situations.
In order to align the United Nations with New York City's ban on smoking in public places and protect employees from second-hand smoke, Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a directive that "no smoking shall be permitted in any of the United Nations premises." There seems to be some dispute over whether the powers that be can force diplomats to abide by the decree.
As Russian U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov made his way to the Delegate's Lounge for a nicotine fix Tuesday, he observed that the secretary general "doesn't own this building," an obvious reference to the concept of private property rights and the idea that an owner should make decisions regarding the use of his property.
Although the U.N. building in Manhattan isn't owned by an individual, the ambassador's comment shows he understands that owners, not some bureaucrat, should make such decisions.
Here in the fiercely independent West, that concept isn't so clear. Greeley's City Council opted to let voters decide if they want to tell property owners whether they can allow smoking in their businesses. That didn't sit well with smoking ban proponents who wanted the council to act immediately to curtail owners' property rights. One former smoker and former council member backing a smoking ban told the council that its members had taken an oath to protect citizens. What about the citizens whose rights are being trampled?
Regardless of the motives of ban supporters, using the power of government to force business owners to bend to their will is a misuse of government and not to be taken lightly. And putting a smoking ban to a public vote doesn't change the concept; majorities don't have the right to step on the rights of their fellow citizens.
We've heard the arguments before: it's a health issue, employees don't always have the option of working elsewhere, I shouldn't have to breathe smoke while my family and I are eating dinner, and the list goes on. What these arguments ignore is that where we work, dine and spend our time are all matters of personal choice. If we're not happy with our choices, we are free to make fresh ones; that's the beauty of our system.
Those who would use government to force business owners to comply with their idea of what's good for people are taking a short cut to their objective. If they want smoke-free dining they should work together on an information campaign to try to sway businesses to their way of thinking. They could work with employees to help them change the environment in their workplaces. Business owners make policy according to the bottom line and they'll change if they see that line changing in a bad way.
Employees who feel trapped in a job at a business that allows smoking can rally like-minded employees and customers to lobby the business owner to change the policy. Customers are free to patronize other establishments whose policies are more to their liking. If enough of them do, or if an owner can't get enough employees, he or she will rethink the policy. Rather than using the power of government, proponents would do better using the power of the dollar to create the change they're seeking. That's their right in a free society and a free market. Forcing change through government action is anathema to both.
Non-Smoker's View Of Foolish Non-Smoking Law
Niagra Falls Reporter - Frank Thomas Croisdale - September 2003
|If it really
was about me, then it's just not working.
The new smoking ban in bars, that is. I'm among the demographic of non-smokers that was supposed to flood the New York State bar scene once the cigarette smoke was removed. Of course, it hasn't happened and never will.
In truth, I would have spoken sooner in these pages on this topic, save the fact that my good friends and colleagues, Mike Hudson and David Staba, hit it harder and more repeatedly than Lizzie Borden whacked her parents with that axe. Of course that fact surprises no one who knows Hudson and Staba. Besides writing the lion's share of the columns appearing in the Reporter, there is nothing else that those two put more effort into than sitting at a bar swilling the sauce and smoking cigarettes.
Far from being nonproductive members of society, however, Hudson and Staba simply engage in a prerequisite for a successful newspaperman -- gathering information at the source of most tips and leads.
I offer you these words as proof of that fact:
"Within a few blocks of virtually every large newspaper in the United States except The Christian Science Monitor, there is a saloon haunted by reporters, a saloon which also functions as a bank, as a sanitarium, as a gymnasium and sometimes as a home.
"A saloonkeeper is useful to a reporter because he can be interviewed about anything. This is an example: If a war breaks out anywhere in the world, an idea for a local story always takes form in the frenzied brain of the feature editor, and the idea is always the same. If the war is between Italy and Ethiopia, for instance, the idea is, 'How do the Italians in New York City feel about the war?' When a reporter is assigned to such a story he goes on a hurried tour of the gin mills in the nearest Italian neighborhood and in his story each saloonkeeper is identified as a 'community leader.'"
Mike Hudson or David Staba could easily have penned the words above, but it should not shock you to learn that they are excerpts from Joseph Mitchell's 1938 book, "My Ears Are Bent." Mitchell spent over 60 years in the newspaper game, writing for such legendary papers as the Herald Tribune and the World-Telegram, as well as serving as the elder statesman for "The New Yorker."
The point is that reporters have always penned the top stories in each newspaper perched atop a barstool, and that is why I don't write the hard news pieces for this paper -- I'm far too dry to be qualified. Which brings me back to where we jumped off together -- the smoking ban.
According to the drafters of this nonsensical piece of legislation, the ban was put into effect to do two things -- protect the health of non-smoking bartenders and barmaids and draw folks to taverns that had heretofore stayed away because of the threat of second-hand smoke. The good news for the puff-free bartenders and barmaids is that they no longer need run the risk of breathing in unwanted second-hand smoke. The bad news is that most of them are now unemployed, due to the fact that most barstools haven't seen a fanny since the new law went into effect.
As a lifelong non-drinker and non-smoker, I feel most qualified to comment on the effect that the law has had on the second group of people that legislators thought they were protecting when they voted "aye" on this resolution. In the 12 months leading up to the ban, I visited a drinking establishment a total of five times. Once was at the Reporter's annual party, held at Misty's in the Days Inn Riverview, and the other four times were to chat with Hudson and Staba at the newspaper's sub-office, housed inside the Press Box. Since the ban became effective, I've not been to a bar even once.
I am quite sure that I won't go to one either, at least not until the tourism season slows down and I have time to commiserate with my two boon companions. The fact that cigarettes are now verboten doesn't make saloons any more appealing to me -- in fact, it makes them less so. As my wife -- who has quit and restarted smoking more times than a California forest fire -- says, "Drinking and smoking just go together."
From a non-smoker, acute-observer-of-people point of view, I must confess that I enjoy watching folks smoke at a bar. With educated, engaging and articulate speakers like Hudson and Staba, the cigarette becomes almost an extension of themselves, used to accentuate points with a flourish -- much like the panache demonstrated by a baton-wielding maestro. A bar without cigarettes is like a bar without alcohol -- pointless.
Anyone who fancies himself a skilled observer of the local scene could have told the politicians that the smoking ban was a bad idea. It was just a few years ago that a jazz club opened on the corner of Third and Main streets. The owners did a wonderful job of restoring and decorating the building. They lined up top-quality jazz acts and spent a small fortune in advertising.
All seemed well, except for one not-so-minor detail. The club would be a non-smoking, non-alcohol venue that specialized in coffee. The out-of-business signs were on the windows within three months.
Howard Stern once did an interview with saxophonist Brandon Marsalis, just as the jazz great was considering leaving his gig as musical director of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Marsalis told Stern that people in the jazz community were telling him that he was selling out by doing the show.
"I want you to repeat after me," Stern told Marsalis. "Jazz music minus 'The Tonight Show' equals welfare."
Marsalis didn't listen, left the show, and hasn't been heard of on the national stage since. In the case of the local jazz club, the math could have been described like this:
Jazz Club - Booze and Cigarettes = Bankruptcy.
None of these things are the reason that I wrote this column, however. The real reason that I am tackling this smoking ban issue in print goes by the name of Kathy Magliarditi. Last week Kathy asked me this question, "If I send you something will you write about it in the paper?"
"Depends what it is," I responded.
"Oh, you'll like it -- a lot," she answered.
Turns out she was right. The "it" that she referred to was a Web page entitled "My Smoker's Rights" at mysmokersrights.rjrt.com. If you go to the site and click on the New York State section, you'll find some very interesting information on the incredible impact that smokers make on our state's economy.
For instance, take a look at this information:
New York's excise tax per pack of cigarettes: $1.50
Keep in mind that our state is reeling financially -- to the point where Gov. George Pataki has put considerable pressure on legislators to find ways to generate income in their districts. When you have a sin tax that is generating over a billion dollars in yearly revenue, with very little complaint from those paying it, why in the world would you want to pass a law that would target the very place where most smokers prefer to light up?
The site also goes on to say that of the $4.72 average price of a pack of brand-name cigarettes, $2.63 -- or 56 percent -- goes to New York State taxes. Again, why fool with a golden cash cow like that?
If you think that drinkers could pick up the slack should people smoke less due to the ban, think again. According to R.J. Reynolds, 197.5 six-packs of beer or 400.6 bottles of wine must be sold to equal the amount of excise tax generated with the sale of just one carton of cigarettes.
The bottom line is that smokers in New York State pay the highest rate of tax for their habit of anyone in the nation. As a non-smoker, I'd like to say, "Thanks." Far from being happy about this ban, I want you to know that I'm going to lobby for not only a return to smoking in bars, but on airplanes as well. For any group that brings over $1 billion to a cash-poor state that would otherwise be slashing my services and raising my taxes, I say, smoke 'em if you've got 'em -- then smoke a few more.
This law has been an unmitigated economic disaster on three levels.
It's put thousands of bar workers on the unemployment line -- further taxing an already overburdened program. It's caused less cigarettes to be smoked because people are no longer sitting at the bar going through a pack or two, thus putting a hit on the excise tax numbers.
Finally, it's hurt the Quick Draw game revenue, because when the bars are empty, there is no one left to bet on the keno draw. It is only a matter of time before these economic concerns force lawmakers to concede that the law was passed in error and vote to return smoking to the state's inns, taverns and saloons.
For anyone running for re-election in November, they better hope that that day comes sooner rather than later, because smokers are red-hot over their loss of rights, and a politician's hope for another term may just go up in smoke.
is the movie industry smoking?
The Daily Journal - Andrew Lisa - August 30, 2003
Warning: Ruining the last enjoyable things on the planet because of a perceived
danger to other people's children is hazardous to my ability not to commit
First, the lid to my Advil bottle became a Rubik's Cube because parents were too stupid to use the top shelf in the medicine cabinet. Then, they said I had to go to a porn shop to buy the Swimsuit Issue because a woman in a bikini could scar the eyes of someone's precious little helmet-wearing child.
I'm being told my junk food options should be reigned in because Little Fatty's zombie parents think exercise is Prozac and a 56K modem.
And now, the last bastion of escape -- cinema -- is under the gun because it's not fulfilling its God-given obligation to make sure kids don't smoke.
Twenty-four attorneys general recently wrote a letter to the president of the Motion Picture Association of America and said studies have shown that "simply by reducing the depiction of smoking in movies, the industry can protect our nation's youth from the known perils of smoking."
First of all, we get it. Smoking is bad. Can we move on?
But more importantly, it's not the MPAA's job to protect our nation's youth. Its job is to put out decent movies, which it can't do because of the obnoxious legions of child-advocacy groups that place the blame of parental shortcomings on everyone but the parents.
I'm sick of having to curtail my life to build a bubble around your children. It's senseless.
But who needs sense when we have studies? All we need is a study done by any back-alley group with an acronym for a title and we'll run around like a bunch of lunatics ranting that the world will end if we don't get those trans-fatty acids. Well, you people are on acid.
Chocolate isn't good. Chocolate is good.
Drink wine. Don't drink wine. No, only drink red wine.
Jog. No, walk.
Eat carbohydrates. No, only eat raw meat and burgers without the buns, and then force this insanity on the rest of the world to protect the kids.
What about the kids? Look at what they're doing to the kids! The kids, the kids, the kids!
I don't care about your stupid kids. Truth be told, I don't care if teenagers smoke or don't smoke. If he's not bothering me, what a kid does is the business of two people: his parents. Their life is over. Mine isn't, and I want to live it.
I paid $8 to see "Pearl Harbor" and it could have been a great movie. But it was contrived and cheesy and unrealistic because 1940s military personnel couldn't be seen smoking cigarettes and kamikaze airplane attacks couldn't involve blood and gore.
Why? Because of the kids.
And that's not to say that I don't like kids. I do. I just don't want to raise them. That's why I don't have any.
Look, I'm sorry you're in child Hell. I'm sorry that upon giving birth, you stopped being the most important person in your own life. But does the rest of the world have to absorb your parental misery? Do I have to burn in child Hell with you?
Parenting is a tough job, and a whole lot of you clearly don't want to handle it. But don't say it's the MPAA's obligation to do your parenting for you and concern itself with what your kid weighs, who he sleeps with or what he smokes instead of confronting your own parental inadequacies.
I don't care about your kid's welfare enough to stomach watered-down movies. That's why they have a rating system.
Stop for a second with the bumper sticker that tells your kid the world wants to know whether or not he made honor roll and try to understand that we don't. And the sooner you realize it's not the world's job to clean up the mess you created, the sooner you'll understand it's not Hollywood's fault you're having a hard time convincing your 15-year-old not to drink while she's pregnant.
I remember being a kid. It was pretty awful. I always had two giant people standing over me telling me I couldn't eat junk food whenever I wanted, I couldn't linger in my room like a spider all day in front of a computer, I couldn't stay out until whenever I wanted, and that I wasn't allowed to watch movies that people smoked in.
It was called parenting, and you should give it a try because your kids are going to grow up to be awful adults.
And that does affect me.
in smoke: tobacco lovers rights ignored
The Chronicle (CT) - Terese Karmel - August 28, 2003
|If they are still
smoking — despite the surgeon general’s warnings and all of the lawsuits
that have come and gone trying to drain the resources (read punish) of
R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco giants — then I must presume those who
still smoke are of sound mind, are aware of the risks to their health and
are simply exercising their free will.
Just as I chose to go on airplanes or cross a busy intersection or drive 70 mph on a highway.
The last time I checked, we still live in a society that allows these kinds of choices, regardless of the risks. As for second-hand smoke, well, exhaust from busses and trucks make me cough and airline engines roar over my home day and night, but hey, that’s the price of living in a community.
The country’s various governmental agencies have enacted so much legislation protecting those who complain about smoke in a bar (in a bar, for God’s sake, we’re not talking about church, here) that it’s quite possible that the trade off has been to deny smokers their rights to choose their quality of life.
In effect, government has relegated smokers to the class of victims without crimes, or to use a more politically correct (or incorrect) expression, second class citizens. In today’s society, they are the lepers of the past.
Government and society, in general, has done this through blanket legislation that rejects everyone who lights up a cigarette (a significant percentage of society — and not just older people with lifelong habits — more on that later) so that those who don’t smoke are protected 100 percent while those who do are denied equal protection. Is that any way to be a government for the people, by the people? Surely there are compromises: sections in bars and restaurants set aside for smokers and in public buildings seemed to do the job for years; why all of a sudden is that not a fair solution?
Recently I taught a class of college students that met for more than three hours a week in the afternoon. At least half of my students used the 15-minute break to grab a smoke while the rest of us munched on potato chips and chocolate candy — both equally or more detrimental to our health (I’ve never heard of second hand fat). My point here is that despite the warnings and at least two generations of anti-smoking legislation and attitudes, people (and not just old timers) are still lighting up because for whatever reason, that’s what they want to do to themselves.
And now the anti-smoke battalion is making in-roads into Europe.
On Jan. 1, Ireland will become the first European country to ban smoking in pubs. I can’t imagine the pubcrawlers in Dublin or, as I’m sure will happen, in London, being unable to enjoy a cigarette while they drink their Guinness on tap. It doesn’t take many visits to either of these countries (and to the heart of their social scene — their pubs) to realize that young people have failed to heed the warnings (probably because their parents haven’t either). They smoke by the carloads. I’m not arguing that it’s a good thing; of course, it’s better to keep your lungs clear of nicotine and other damaging chemicals. But again, faced with a choice, many smokers seem to persist in their habit. And choice is the point here.
In this country, bar owners, especially in New York, and I suspect in October in Connecticut, are going nuts because they have lost business and those smokers who still drop by are making a mess of their entrances with cigarette butts and ashes, forcing them to hire clean-up people. One bar owner told me he’s had more than enough people blowing off their tabs by using the excuse of stepping outside to light up.
Passing legislation such as this or increasing sales tax on cigarettes are no more successful deterrents to smoking as are beefed up penalties for murder. In Connecticut, the tax on cigarettes (a whopping $1.11 on a pack of 20) is at least a quarter of the total cost.
Recently I was on a tour of a new area building with a small group of people, none of whom I had a personal relationship with. At one point, I asked one of my guides what a small room was to be used for. Another member of the party quickly offered a possibility: “Ugh,” she said. “That’s for the smokers.”
The disgust with which the remark was made might well have been said about a rapist or an axe murderer. Later I wondered if any of the other members of the group were either smokers or were intimate with smokers and if so, how offended they might have been by the remark. Would it be any less offensive to have said “This room is for people with curly hair or who have black skin.”
This “holier than thou” attitude is most pronounced by those who have had the will power or luck, or both, to have kicked the habit. Good for them. I know how hard it is.
But the fact that I succeeded in giving up smoking does not give me license to accost total strangers (or acquaintances for that matter) who I happen to be standing behind in a Dairy Mart while they are buying a pack of Marlboros with “You really shouldn’t be doing that” or “Don’t you know you’re polluting the air for other people?” This, I am told by smokers, happens with too much regularity.
Would you tell a total stranger that her hair is a mess or he has a spot on his shirt?
As far as I know, despite shortages of other vital commodities, there is still plenty of air to go around. Especially in open air venues, like baseball stadiums or race tracks where people are forced to crowd into small stairways to smoke — completely, by the way, blocking them in the event of a real emergency.
Racetracks are really a strange place to prohibit smoking. As a colleague of mine pointed out, at least cigarette smoke covers up the odor of the horse dung.
But, perhaps, the whole issue was put into perspective by a recent New Yorker cartoon in which aliens are lighting up as they march one by one off of their spaceship. “We needed to find a place to smoke,” they tell an incredulous Earthling.
out a big lie: Delaware's ban is politics, not science
The News Journal - Albert Z. Conner - August 21, 2003
Albert Z. Conner, of Westerloo, is a retired analytical chemist with experience in epidemiology.
smoking ban, like similar bans across the country, is based on a lie. More
than 60 years ago, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels used the technique.
You repeat the lie incessantly and make it clear that it was supported
by government agencies and political leaders. The Big Lie has been used
to demonize smokers and indict secondhand smoke as a disease-causing health
Anti-smoking zealots had been ranting about smoking for years. Their efforts led to warnings on cigarette packs, pronouncements by the surgeon general, negative advertisements and numerous lawsuits against the tobacco industry.
When these efforts failed to achieve the desired reduction in the number of smokers, anti-smoking forces sought another approach. In 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice that secondhand smoke was a Group A human carcinogen and a known cause of lung cancer. Here was the tool that anti-smoking forces needed to show that smokers were not only killing themselves but threatening other people.
The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the World Health Organization seized on this. It apparently did not matter that the EPA statement was a big lie unsupported by scientific data.
Initially the EPA did not present any analysis of the published studies to support its claim. The agency was pressured to conduct its own risk assessment to save face. In 1992, the EPA published its report, which was challenged in federal court. The court determined that the EPA disseminated false information based on hand-picked data and manipulated statistics. The court nullified the agency's risk assessment.
Since then many retrospective epidemiological studies of secondhand smoke have been reported. A recent overall review of 119 of these studies conducted in several countries over the past 17 years concluded that 77 studies showed no statistically significant risk; 16 studies showed a measurable positive risk; and 30 studies showed a negative risk. These included a WHO study covering 21 countries over 10 years and a study of more than 100,000 Californians from 1960 to 1998.
A basic tenet of toxicology is "the dose makes the poison." There is no valid scientific method to determine the amount of second-hand smoke to which any individual is exposed under normal living or working conditions.
Research in the 1990s used employee monitoring techniques to evaluate the exposure of nonsmoking bartenders to second-hand smoke. Results showed the bartenders inhaled the equivalent of two to six cigarettes per year.
Even the EPA's assessment of direct smoking concluded that smoking less than five cigarettes per day posed no significant health risk. In 2001, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration dropped plans for federal standards for indoor smoking in the workplace.
But the big lie has triumphed. Anti-smoking groups have been brainwashed into accepting propaganda.
In addition, cash to the states from the federal tobacco settlement and financial contributions from pharmaceutical companies that profit from the sale of anti-smoking medications have compounded the felony.
Contrary to the scary statistics in the media, not one single death has been proved to be caused solely by exposure to secondhand smoke.
One day, smokers aren't going to take it anymore.
Wall Street Journal - Collin Levey - August 20, 2003
|Boston has always
liked to think of itself in the same breath as New York--slightly tweedier
but still cosmopolitan, an Eastern enclave leading the country with its
progressive politics and its progressive taxes. That's why, even as much
of the Northeast went dark in last week's blackout, Massachusetts politicians
were hard at work to make sure their citizens wouldn't light up either.
The state specified that cigarette sellers could no longer use discounts called "buy-downs" from manufacturers to keep prices low. Bay State smokers will now face cigarette prices nearly comparable to those paid by New Yorkers, socked with a price hike last summer that brought a pack of butts to around $8 in Manhattan.
This is what passes for enlightened policy among both towns' liberal elites, though New York is still one step more fashionable, having also banned smoking in bars and restaurants.
A funny thing happened, though, during last week's blackouts. Everyone noted how much better New Yorkers behaved compared to the 1977 blackout, when arson and looting were commonplace. And all the while New Yorkers were smoking in candlelit bars. And neither the bar owners nor the police seemed inclined to stop them.
Smokers are a strange interest group. They could sway elections and capture entire states if they voted as a bloc, but they've been so beaten down about their habit that they won't even stand up for themselves. Before applauding, though, antismokers ought to ask themselves whether it's a really good idea to be breeding a pariah consciousness in an otherwise law-abiding 25% of the population.
Although New York's take from the cigarette tax hike is considerable, it's much less than expected because of an enormous outbreak of smuggling or quasi-legal tax avoidance. That has only riled up the enforcers further who've been chasing smokers down to shake every last penny out of their social pariah habit. Even Indian reservations, usually a political untouchable, have found that their sovereign status isn't sovereign when there are cigarette revenues to be had.
The enterprising Seneca, for instance, find themselves targeted by laws that forbid them from selling smokes to nonresidents. (Under this logic, presumably casinos could be restricted to residents, too?)
With giant holes in state budgets from coast to coast, governors and legislators are all chasing after smokers, the only taxpaying class that refuses to defend itself. Even hard-bitten places like Texas have lately been eyeing their Marlboro men greedily.
Worse, foreign countries--from Canada and Europe to Belize, Ecuador and Honduras--are now filing lawsuits against tobacco companies in U.S. courts. What government couldn't use a little more spending money? If American smokers are such a bottomless well of revenue, maybe we can get our hands on them too. Or so the logic goes.
Ecuador has dreamed up a suit in which the tobacco giants are responsible for cigarette taxes dodged by its own citizens. European governments are floating similar allegations. Canada has filed a $1 billion suit claiming a reimportation scheme deprived the country of revenue that it was rightfully owed.
Of course, by the time various governments have piled up several dollars of tax on a pack of cigarettes that cost less than a buck to produce, they've let loose a powerful engine of smuggling, corruption and tax-dodging that can't be corralled. Many of the lawsuits complain that tobacco companies don't knock themselves out to be sure that proper taxes are paid by downstream players in the business. But no business wants to take on the job of enforcing an unenforceable and self-defeating law.
It's time, perhaps, for governments to get a clue. Their efforts to stigmatize smoking are beginning to backfire, undoing the good work that has been done by others to make sure smokers at least understand the risks of their habit.
Canada, Brazil and some European countries have slapped enormous warning stickers on packs, with bold threats or gruesome pictures of the consequences, to little avail. Instead of persuading the unpersuaded, these efforts have aroused a new class of entrepreneurs who sell stickers over the Internet to cover the warnings. They're called "liberty labels" and are designed for "reclaiming cigarettes from the moral scolds."
The antismoking activists will insist that this is somehow a plot hatched by Big Tobacco to continue brainwashing the young and impressionable. But at the end of the day, smokers are grown ups. They know what they are doing. And they are finally speaking up for themselves.
The options are often witty and sometimes thoughtful: "Life is More than Longevity, "Smoking Causes Statistics" and "Smoking Creates Busibodies." And, as found on a British Web site, sometimes relay their message with gusto: "Smoking is Cool," "You could be Hit By a Bus Tomorrow," "Social Smoking Doesn't Count," and, best of all, "Smoking Makes You Look Big and Clever."
If this keeps up, smokers might even start voting.
Tech Central - Sandy Szwarc - July 30, 2003
NYC C.L.A.S.H. Note:
We've said it all along that the war on smoking will be used as a blueprint for all other attempts at busybody government intrusion on our private lives and choices.
Just substitute "smoking" or "ETS" for "obesity" (and the "300,000" for the "400,000" or the 53.000 or the 65,000) and this becomes the perfect primer for the unenlightened.
|"The war on fat
has reached the point where the systematic distortion of the evidence has
become the norm, rather than the exception," wrote Paul Campos in the Rocky
Mountain News on April 2, 2003. Campos is professor of law at the University
of Colorado and author of the upcoming "The Last American Diet."
In their comprehensive review of the scientific evidence on obesity treatment, published by Clinical Psychology Review in 1991, David Garner, Ph.D. and Susan Wooley, Ph.D. concluded: "Evidence that it is more dangerous to be thin than fat is either ignored or minimized in analyses that shape public policy toward weight loss."
But, it has been on such questionable research, or no clinical proof at all, that our public policies on obesity have been built.
In 1998, the rhetoric became more exigent, when NIH changed the definition of overweight from those with BMIs (body mass indexes) over 27, to those with BMIs of 25 or greater. That instantly deemed an estimated 29 million more Americans overweight and in need of weight loss -- folks like Michael Jordan and Brad Pitt.
Across the nation, public health officials and heath care industry representatives are now declaring obesity a public health crisis.
Is it really possible that fashion ideals have blurred the objectivity of scientific study and public policy to the point fatness has been declared a national health crisis? Let's look at some of the ways the evidence on obesity has been "shaped" to support the war on obesity.
The justification for the war on obesity, used by most government officials, healthcare providers, diet industry representatives and special interest groups today, is that "obesity causes 300,000 deaths a year." That figure's been repeated so often it's taken as fact. But, its origins are a classic case of bad science run amuck.
Drink and Sue
Townhall.com - Kathleen Parker - July 23, 2003
is addictive and causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart
disease, kidney stones and menopause. The only proven way to reduce the
health risks of living is to quit.
So might read labels in hospital delivery rooms in order to satisfy the idiot herd out there, which now includes - say it ain't so - alcoholics in Scotland. According to a United Press International story, a dozen alcoholics ages 18 to 60 are suing liquor manufacturers for not warning them that alcohol can be dangerous.
As an American of partly Scottish descent, I think I'm qualified to say: What the hell did you think was wrong with Uncle Rory, you moron?
Some of my best friends are alcoholics and not one has ever considered suing the people who make the brew for not warning them. When you fall facedown in the sand after drinking too much Glenfiddich - but not after a tank of coffee - one might guess something's up.
And of course people do. I don't buy for a minute that anybody with the means to procure liquor doesn't know the risks of alcohol consumption. Or tobacco use. Or the connection between Big Macs and elastic waistbands. We've been here before.
If following the money is the key to most mysteries, this one is solved. Attorneys for the alcoholic plaintiffs plan to study the battle plans used by lawyers who've successfully sued tobacco companies. The goal apparently is to force alcohol manufacturers to provide health-warning labels as is required in the United States.
Meanwhile, litigiousness appears to be a disease of near-plague proportions. Can't hack your life? Blame someone else, hire a lawyer and retire early. The cost? Your lawyer's one-third contingency fee and your pride.
What the public gets for such insults to the judiciary are ads like the one I saw on television the other night. First I heard the voice, Nurse Ratched's twin sister and now a paid spokesnoid for Philip Morris USA, verbally stroking America's moron class with soothing words about the dangers of tobacco.
"At Philip Morris USA, we understand that people want to know where we stand on tobacco issues," said the voice. "We agree that there is no 'safe' cigarette. Cigarette smoking is addictive and causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. The only proven way to reduce the health risks of smoking is to quit."
They might as well have concluded: "There we've said it. You knew it anyway. Now go buy some cigarettes and eat your broccoli."
The truth is, alcohol in moderation won't make you an alcoholic. Research shows that even cigarettes in moderation won't necessarily kill you, absent other contributing factors. Famed biochemist Bruce Ames of the University of California at Berkeley said more than 10 years ago that cigarette smokers who eat lots of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of lung cancer in half.
Likewise, the occasional quarter-pounder isn't going to make you fat. But if you're like one of those cocaine rats that can't stop banging the lever for more, you might want to avoid substances that are known risks for disease and bad behavior.
Anyone who's glanced at a newspaper or news program in the past 25 years knows that heredity is the clearest indicator for health risks. A history of family obesity, for instance, suggests a risk for obesity. Repeat after me: Duh.
If four out of five uncles are drunks, you might want to avoid alcohol. Heart or lung disease? You might figure tobacco smoking is - all together now - A-Bad-Choice.
But no one else is to blame for one's own choices, it should go without saying. The fantasy solution is that lawyers, for their own good, resolve not to accept clients who demonstrate no self-control. Recent trends suggest, after all, that litigation is addictive. And whose fault would that be?
Townhall.com - Walter Williams - July 23, 2003
says that this or that government program is absolutely necessary, I always
wonder, "What did people do and how did they survive before the program?"
If someone says food stamps are absolutely necessary for poor people's survival, I wonder how America's millions of poor immigrants made it. Unless I missed something, mass starvation is not a part of our history. Was there a stealth food stamp program during the 1700s and 1800s?
Then there's the question: How did we manage to build the world's greatest cities without the help of the 1965-created U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development? Did cities become worse off or better off afterward? Or, how did we manage to produce energy to fuel the world's richest economy before the 1977 creation of the Department of Energy?
Recently, I received an email titled, "We Made It." It had to do with the federal safety edicts of agencies like the U.S. Product Safety Commission, established in 1972, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, established in 1966. Congress created these and other agencies to "protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths." That's how toys, cribs, child car seats and childproof medicine bottles came to be regulated. Considering we were a nation for nearly 200 years before Congress started protecting us against "unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths," a natural question is how we managed to survive and grow from a population of 4 million to the 280 million of us today.
According to my email's author, if we listen to Washington, those of us still around who were children during the '40s, '50s and '60s probably should be dead. Nonetheless, there are 58 million of us born in 1945 or earlier who are still kicking. Our parents allowed us to sleep in cribs beautified with lead-based paint. They drove us around in cars that had neither seatbelts nor airbags. They permitted us to ride our bicycles without helmets, just as adults rode motorcycles without helmets. And, horror of horrors, there were no childproof medicine bottles that, by the way, are sometimes so difficult to open that some people summon their children to open them.
The fact that these safety edicts saved some lives and prevented some injuries doesn't provide justification for them anymore than mandating that, because some Americans have headaches, aspirin be put in the water supply.
In a free society, government has the responsibility of protecting us from others, but not from ourselves. Before government got into the business of protecting us from ourselves, we did have a greater measure of protection from others. Yesteryear's children rode their bikes or walked to a friend's house, knocked on the door and let themselves in. Many families didn't lock doors until the last family member was home for the evening, and they did that in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in.
Yesteryear, when we went off to school, parents might have worried about our crossing streets safely. Today's parents have a different set of worries, such as whether their child will be shot, stabbed, robbed, raped or given drugs in school. During the pre-1960 years, neighborhoods -- including poor neighborhoods -- were safe enough for women to walk the streets after dark. In fact, in places like Harlem, N.Y., hot, humid nights saw children and adults sleeping on fire escapes and rooftops. Doing the same today might lead to arrest for attempted suicide.
Speaking of crime, if children did have a scrape with the law, our parents sided with the police.
Don't you wonder how so many Americans made it without today's oppressive, caring, nanny government?
nanny nation, being fat is not your fault
Townhall.com - Kathleen Parker - July 16, 2003
|Years ago when
tobacco companies first came under assault for selling a legal product
to people who might have connected the dots between their breathless hack
and the smoke they were drawing into their lungs, nanny-watchers warned
of the slippery slope. Today cigarettes, they said; tomorrow burgers and
Welcome to their prophecy.
you rather your teenager smoke or cheat?
Townhall.com - Dennis Prager - July 15, 2003
|Decades of lecturing
around America and of speaking with parents on my radio show have led me
to an incredible conclusion: More American parents would be upset with
their teenage children if they smoked a cigarette than if they cheated
on a test.
How has this come about? This is, after all, an entirely new phenomenon. Almost no member of my generation (those who became teenagers in the 1960s), let alone a member of any previous generation, could ever have imagined that parents would be angrier with their teenage child for smoking than for cheating.
There has been a profound change in American values. In a nutshell, health has overtaken morality. Or, if you prefer, health has become our morality.
The war against tobacco is both a cause and a symptom of this moral confusion. It has saturated American society with the belief that smoking is wrong, even immoral, not simply unhealthy.
Anti-smoking zealots (the term is redundant) in the California Department of Health Services launched a statewide billboard campaign equating cigarettes with drugs. Parents call my show to tell me that when their children see someone smoking, they say, "Look, that person is using drugs!"
Judges in child custody disputes have imbibed the moral idiocy that smoking tells us something about a person's character. An increasing number of judges take smoking into consideration when choosing which parent is more fit to raise a child. Millions of Americans agree with these judges that smoking is a moral flaw. That is one reason the government airbrushes cigarettes out of pictures of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other famous Americans. If a young American were to see President Roosevelt smoking a cigarette or Sir Winston Churchill smoking a cigar, what might happen to that child's wholehearted acceptance of the smoking-is-bad (not merely unhealthy) brainwash?
I smoke a pipe and cigar, and I am amazed at the certitude and chutzpah in the 5-year-olds who have visited my home who confidently walked over to me to tell me I shouldn't smoke! Had they seen me drinking alcohol, as children regularly see adults do, it would never occur to them to say such a thing.
That we have a war against tobacco rather than alcohol well illustrates the moral confusion of our time. Eighty years ago, when American society warred against a vice, it was alcohol -- because the society cared more about fighting evil than fighting potential dangers to health. Alcohol leads to more child and spousal abuse as well as to murder and rape than any other single factor. Was one child ever abused because a cigarette or pipe dulled an adult's conscience? Have any drivers ever killed whole families because they smoked before they drove?
But in this Age of Moral Confusion we have chosen tobacco, not alcohol, as the villain. Because health and living long are our greatest values.
When I was a boy, I attended baseball games where most spectators smoked, but none cursed. Today there is no smoking at ballparks, but obscene language is shouted out with impunity. We have traded in opposition to firsthand cursing for opposition to secondhand smoke.
So, ask your children if they think you would be more disappointed in their smoking or their cheating. If your child responds "smoking," you are morally failing your child. If you are pleased with that answer, the situation is even worse. If enough Americans prefer that their children cheat than smoke, we are a doomed society. Nor can the issue be avoided by claiming you don't want your child to either smoke or cheat. That just means you can't say that cheating is far worse than smoking. You are another American led to believe that healthy and decent are synonymous.
But if you do believe that, ponder these questions: Would you rather your business partner smoke or cheat? Your lawyer? Your friends? Would you feel better if your doctor cheated on medical exams or smoked?
The questions would have been considered absurd a generation ago. The war against tobacco is a symptom and cause of a shallower society. It has done far more harm to America than tobacco. Just ask your teenager.
Trial lawyers target fast food--and Americans' intelligence.
Wall Street Journal - Jason L. Riley - July 5, 2003
|As silly as it
is, the coming legal assault on junk food was predictable. The tobacco
victories, which followed big scores in asbestos and breast implants, have
made the trial lawyers richer and more cocksure than ever. The profession
seems incapable of policing its own, and the result has been an explosion
of self-interested legal entrepreneurs masquerading as public servants.
The politicians, particularly Democrats, have done little to advance the
cause of tort reform, lest they clog a major artery of campaign contributions.
What distinguishes this latest class-action money grab, however, is that,
at bottom, it's a bald assault on the public's intelligence.
The case against the food industry--broadly defined by opponents to include everyone from farmers and retailers to advertisers and restaurant owners--ultimately rests on the assumption that overweight Americans are too weak-willed or too stupid to resist food marketing. Hence Prof. Banzhaf's pep rally was preceded and followed by presentations from a dozen or so other activists with tenure, all attempting to separate obesity from individual responsibility.
Prof. James Hyde of Tufts University told the audience the idea that a healthy lifestyle is a matter of personal choice is a common myth. "The reality," he continued, "is that healthy behavior is often dictated by factors completely outside the individual's control." Prof. Marion Nestle of New York University--she's quick to note that her name is pronounced NES-uhl--said that obesity is the result of America's food supply being too plentiful and too cheap, and that "deliberate federal policies make this so." Ben Kelley, who heads the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which sponsored the conference, said he simply wants "to help the many who can't resist the blandishments of the marketplace."
Others couldn't resist dragging their sundry liberal political causes into the mix. After calculating that obesity-related illnesses cost the U.S. up to $50 billion annually, Prof. Aviva Must of Tufts University remarked, "That's a lot, even for very wealthy countries that have a lot of money to spend on things like war." Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the federal government isn't spending enough on the problem because "the Republicans' $400 billion federal deficit will not allow for such things." Stephen Joseph, the San Francisco trial lawyer who filed (and later dropped) a suit to ban Oreo cookies, warned that "male conservative Republican right-wing elements" are the biggest opponents of this litigation. "They're more worried about freedom," he said. "They don't care about kids."
The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, recently introduced by Rep. Ric Keller, a Florida Republican, would quash much of this nonsense pronto. But like all tort-reform legislation approved by the House--a similar bill banning frivolous suits against gun manufacturers passed earlier this year--the measure is likely to stall in the Senate unless Republicans can muster a filibuster-proof majority. In the meantime, says Walter Olson of Overlawyered.com, we can only hope that "a fit of sense will descend on the judiciary and the press, and that this will all be laughed off the national stage eventually."
lobby steams over report
Vancouver Sun - Peter McKnight - June 30, 2003
|What if I told
you there's a group of people who have been blamed for countless thousands
of deaths, yet there's precious little evidence of their guilt?
"Demand an inquiry," you'd say, "Overhaul the system that implicated them!"
But what if I then told you the people are smokers and the thousands of dead were alleged victims of second-hand smoke?
"Oh," you'd say, "you're in bed with the cloven-hoofed cabal running the tobacco companies aren't you?"
That's precisely the reaction researchers James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat received after they published a study on the effects of second-smoke in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal.
Using data gathered by the American Cancer Society, the authors followed more than 35,500 non-smoking spouses of smokers for 40 years. I'm sure the long suffering non-smokers had a lot of cigarette burns on their clothing, but the study discovered they weren't at a significantly increased risk of death.
Those results seem counter-intuitive since the non-smokers faced daily doses of second-hand smoke, and the received "wisdom" says that passive smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 20 per cent and heart disease by 30 per cent.
Those results also got Dr. Enstrom and Prof. Kabat into a whole heap of trouble as the reaction to their heresy was swift and shrill.
The American Cancer Society -- whose leaders' blood pressure must have shot through the roof -- issued a statement before the ink on the pages of the British Medical Journal was dry.
"We are appalled that the tobacco industry has succeeded in giving visibility to a study with so many problems," they indignantly snorted, thereby dismissing, with a convenient ad hominem, a study they originally funded.
The ad hominem gets its currency from the fact that Dr. Enstrom received funding from the cloven-hoofed cabal and Prof. Kabat once worked for a law firm that represented tobacco companies. That the study was published in a peer reviewed scientific journal seems an irrelevant detail.
But all contrary scientific evidence, no matter how convincing, must be dismissed by the anti-smoking lobby, which now resembles a religious cult more than a community of scientists.
The cult also unquestioningly accepts any dubious evidence that suggests the deadliness of second-hand smoke.
For example, anti-smoking lobbyists will never tell you the British Medical Journal study isn't such a maverick -- many studies fail to find a correlation between passive smoking and mortality.
But they're often manipulated through statistical trickery -- treachery, really -- which turns insignificant results into significant ones, thereby producing the stunning statistic that second-hand smoke results in a 20-to-30-per-cent increase in the risk of lung cancer and heart disease.
It's only through the suppression of contrary evidence and the promotion of confirmatory, if dubious, evidence that the anti-smoking lobby has been successful in remaking the culture in its own image.
And it has been enormously successful. Most North American cities have passed strict bylaws prohibiting smoking in public places, and nowhere is the anti-smoking animus stronger than in Vancouver.
I've yet to complete an exhaustive study of Vancouver's bylaws, but if you smoke in a public building in this city, I'm pretty sure you get the chair.
That kind of revolution could never have been accomplished if cigarettes only harmed those who smoked them. In a liberal society, the state has no business in the lungs of the people unless those people cause harm to others.
That's why the dangers of passive smoking are key to the success of the anti-smoking movement. That second-hand smoke is killing thousands of non-smokers is all the proof needed to make public smoking a capital offence.
Even if the proof is liable to go up in a puff of smoke.
shaking it: Government hooked on tobacco
Houston Chronicle - Tommy J. Payne - June 29, 2003
Payne is executive vice president for external relations for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc.
(Does it matter WHO said it as long as the facts are true?)
Richard Carmona uncorked a genie's bottle of political hypocrisy with his
recent comment before Congress that he would support banning tobacco products.
Why didn't such a bold, sincerely delivered statement, coming from the nation's top physician, win him any measurable praise from the anti-smoking lobby and politicians who have long decried smoking? Leaving aside issues of individual freedom, adult responsibility, social engineering and political correctness, the answer may lie in that famous piece of advice: "Follow the money."
Carmona, perhaps unintentionally, revealed the ultimate game of wanting to have it both ways. The government is "addicted" to tobacco revenue.
Between 1998 and 2002, state, federal and local government collected nearly $135 billion from U.S. smokers, who, according to our data, have a median annual household income of about $35,000. Government pockets more tobacco revenue per minute than the average working family brings home in a year. About 47 percent of the cost of an average pack of cigarettes goes to government. In contrast, my company, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, makes a profit per pack of about 3 percent.
State governments are particularly dependent upon cigarette funding. If the surgeon general were to get his wish, for example, California would stand to lose $2.3 billion annually. New York would be out $2.1 billion. Texas would fall short by $1.7 billion and Michigan more than $1 billion.
In 2002, 44 states faced budget deficits. Twenty of them increased cigarette taxes to help make up the difference. To date this year, nine states have increased cigarette taxes.
It's a good thing that a suggestion that amounts to a ban on this enormous revenue stream came from a physician. A number of state governors might need CPR if they were told they'd lost their state tobacco revenues.
Ironically, even the anti-smoking lobby didn't warm up to the concept of banning cigarettes. Perhaps that's not as surprising as it might seem. Revenues from taxes and the Master Settlement Agreement between the states and major cigarette manufacturers have provided more than $2 billion in funding for youth nonsmoking programs and other tobacco-control activities; many of the anti-smoking groups receive a portion of these funds.
Entirely apart from the government's financial dependence upon tobacco, banning a product used by nearly one-quarter of the adult U.S. population is a dicey proposal at best.
Is it realistic to believe that more than 40 million Americans would just quit smoking? The black market created by such a move would make The Sopranos look like a bunch of choirboys.
So, in supporting the abolition of the government's golden goose, did Carmona lay an egg? Perhaps not. He deserves credit for raising an intellectually honest question: Should cigarettes remain legal for adults in this country? If so, should they be manufactured and sold by a government monopoly, as in some nations, or by private enterprise? And if it's to be private enterprise, how should the manufacture and sale of a product with known health risks be regulated?
Among other things, current proposals to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate cigarettes could be tantamount to granting Carmona his wish. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that, as currently chartered, the FDA would be obligated to ban cigarettes.
There are reasonable regulations that could be placed on U.S. cigarette manufacturers, in addition to those already in force, that would serve the public interest -- for example, uniform good manufacturing practices, consistent standards for ingredients and their disclosure, and rules for communicating tar and nicotine yields.
But reasonable federal regulation should not include restrictions that restrain legitimate competition between manufacturers for adult smokers' business, nor should it lead to de facto prohibition by requiring that cigarettes be made in such a way that they become unpalatable to the adults who choose to smoke them.
pariahs: America's relentless war against smokers
The Seattle Times - Cassandra Tate - June 22, 2003
at Historylink.org breathed a sigh of relief (OK, a few may have hacked
in relief) over the demise of a bill that would have banned smoking in
the few public places where it's still legal to light up in Washington
Existing state law permits smoking in designated areas (call them puffer zones) in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, skating rinks and other hospitality-oriented businesses. House Bill 1868, introduced in the last session of the Legislature by Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle, would have amended the law to stipulate that "no person may smoke in a public place," period. The bill passed the House Health Care Committee by a two-vote margin in March, but later died quietly in the Rules Committee. A similar measure by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, did not advance to the floor, either.
The reprieve may be short-lived. According to a group called Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, there are more than 1,600 anti-smoking laws in effect in the United States right now and more are being adopted nearly every day. Four states and more than 50 municipalities have already outlawed smoking in virtually all buildings open to the public, including bars and nightclubs. Among them is New York City, home of the first cigarette factories in America, where 10-foot smoke rings once drifted lazily over Times Square from a famous billboard for Camels.
The act of lighting a cigarette is becoming something done either outdoors or in private, and even there smokers face restrictions. At least a dozen cities have banned smoking in public parks, on the grounds that any trace of tobacco smoke is a dangerous pollutant, even in the wide open spaces of a park; and, further, that children should be protected from the very sight of people smoking, lest they be corrupted by negative role models.
Even a smoker's own home is no longer a guaranteed sanctuary. In Utah, people can be ordered to stop smoking in their apartments or condominiums if their exhalations annoy their neighbors. A bill now pending in California would limit smoking in multifamily housing whether the neighbors complained or not.
"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke," says Paul Knepprath, a lobbyist for the American Lung Association of California, repeating what has become a mantra for anti-smoking activists today. "We have a toxic pollutant that is wafting about and exposing people in their apartments or condos. We have to protect the health of people in these situations."
This is sheer hyperbole, powered by the same impulses that gave rise to and ultimately undermined the first organized campaign against cigarettes, one that began more than a century ago.
Then, as now, cigarette smokers were members of a beleaguered minority, scorned by middle-class America, suspected of bringing death and disease not only to themselves but to others. They faced discrimination in the courtroom, in the workplace and in daily life. In 1904, for example, a New York judge ordered a woman to jail for 30 days for smoking in front of her children. A few years later, a Seattle woman won a divorce on the grounds that her husband was "a cigarette fiend."
Cigarettes were legally restricted as well as socially stigmatized. By 1922, 15 states (beginning with Washington in 1893) had banned their sale altogether, and 22 other states had considered such legislation. Congress rejected several petitions to prohibit cigarettes at the federal level, but in 1892 the Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases agreed that they were a public health hazard and urged the petitioners to seek remedies from the states. Decades before the surgeon general began putting health warnings on cigarettes, reformers proposed that each package of what were commonly called "coffin nails" be stamped with the word "poison," in capital letters above a skull and crossbones.
The first generation of anti-cigarette activists articulated virtually every issue still being debated about smoking, including the effects of "secondhand smoke" (a phrase in use as early as 1911). They differed from their modern counterparts primarily in the matter of emphasis. They gave more attention to reforming smokers than to protecting nonsmokers, and they spoke from a platform braced more by moralism than science.
Not that today's "antis" are free of moralism. They demonize cigarette manufacturers as "merchants of death" who have brought about a "tobacco holocaust." People who smoke cigarettes are "no less guilty of murder than serial killers, even though they only kill us slowly." Secondhand smoke "kills 53,000 nonsmokers a year" — the precision of the number hiding the imprecision of the science behind it.
While numerous studies show that secondhand smoke can cause short-term irritation and respiratory problems in nonsmokers, particularly children, evidence about its role in cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases is equivocal and disputed. By using slogans such as, "If you can smell it, it can kill you," anti-smoking advocates run the risk of weakening their credibility with exaggeration and selfright-eousness, just as their predecessors did.
One of the lessons to be learned from the first anti-cigarette campaign is that any successful reform movement carries within it the seeds of a backlash. Incessant warnings can fade into the ozone of the commonplace, ignored by those they are intended to reach. Furthermore, the more vigorous the attacks on cigarettes, the more attractive they become as symbols of rebellion and independence. It's not surprising that roughly one out of four adult Americans continues to smoke, a figure that has hardly budged since 1990, despite ever-higher taxes and ever-tighter restrictions on the advertising, promotion, sale and use of cigarettes.
Another lesson is that a cigarette is more than just a smoke: It is deeply entangled with larger social and political issues. The first wave of opposition toward cigarettes developed during a period of economic uncertainty and political turmoil, the result of a massive influx of immigrants, a shift from agriculture to industry as the basis of the economy and a corresponding shift of political power from the countryside to the cities. Most middle-class Americans were aware that their world was changing. The cigarette — a habit of people on the fringes of society — was a convenient focus for anxiety about those changes.
The world today is marked by an even more pronounced undercurrent of uneasiness, associated with an unsettled economy and increasing strains on education, health care and other social services — to say nothing of new fears about international terrorism. Cigarettes may catch the eye of the reform-minded in part because they appear to be more manageable than other problems. As one commentator put it a few years ago, "The mannerly middle class may not be able to outlaw assault weapons or rap music or violent movies, but it can shove smokers (usually the working class, the minorities and the young) into the pariah class, right next to the serial killers."
When the world seems out of control, you control what you can. It's certainly easier to pass a local no-smoking law than to challenge a federal government that is steadily retreating from air-pollution-control standards.
The cigarette is now the most vilified product available legally in the United States, blamed for the premature deaths of more than 440,000 Americans a year, besieged in the courts and banished from most public buildings. Given the tenor of the times, it may be only slightly farfetched to imagine the day when any remaining smokers will be required to wear the letter "S," in scarlet, while they slink around in search of illegal "smoke-easies."
Yet, the long history of tobacco in Western culture shows that prognostication is risky where smoking is concerned. A minister in Dayton, Ohio, was certain in 1882 that "the time is not far distant when the use of tobacco will be generally looked upon with disfavor and admit of no apology whatever." Forty years later, another writer was equally confident that "the cigarette smoker of the future is the leper of the future."
If it now seems as if such prophecies are coming to pass, it's useful to keep in mind another, voiced by an Italian physician who was one of the first to study the effects of smoking on tobacco workers: "This vice will always be condemned and always clung to." The date was 1713.
city that never sleeps (or smokes)
The Daily Telegraph - Zoe Heller - June 21, 2003
|The other day
I was talking to a 15-year-old girl. She had just seen Rebel Without a
Cause for the first time and was trying to communicate the epiphanic import
of the experience.
I explained that I, too, had been a big James Dean fan at her age and began to reminisce, in what was doubtless a rather tiresome way, about being a London teenager and going with my girlfriends to all-night James Dean specials at the cinema, where we would swoon through the entire Dean oeuvre in one sitting, while chain-smoking Winstons and eating Curly Wurlys.
"Wait," she interrupted. "You smoked in the movie theatre?"
For a modern American child who has been reared on the
notion that not only is smoking evil, but also that the merest whiff of
second-hand smoke is poison, this information was barely credible. "And...
and the government allowed it?" she asked.
She looked at me in awe. It was as if I had shown her my childhood trepanning scars or the bottles of mercury I once used for cosmetic face-whitening purposes. What ancient, benighted era was I describing? Clearly, I was a very old person indeed.
Encouraged by her expression of wan amazement, I considered telling her how my father always used to insist on smoking his filterless Gauloises in the car, when he took his children on road trips with him. But I took pity and remained silent. I felt I had rocked her world sufficiently for one day.
Innocent though this 15-year-old was, she could at least remember a time when New Yorkers were allowed to smoke in some indoor public places. My own children, by contrast, will grow up in a world where smoking is completely verboten in any enclosed public area.
On March 30 this year, Mayor Bloomberg put into effect a new law banning smoking in all metropolitan-area restaurants and bars. Every single New York establishment - from the swankiest midtown dining club to the diviest downtown hole in the wall - must now forcibly prevent its patrons from lighting up, or risk hefty municipal fines. Smoking outlawed! In New York City, for God's sake!
Actually, I get an odd sort of kick from introducing foreign visitors to this new fascist state of affairs. The amazement and horror of English friends, when they discover that they have flown all the way to the City That Never Sleeps only to be forbidden to spark up a fag with their cocktail, gives gratifying affirmation to my own strong sense of oppression. Nevertheless, eliciting gasps of outrage from tourists is a limited pleasure at best. In the end, you're still left in a joyless, clean-air world.
Bar and restaurant owners are all complaining that their business has radically declined as a result of the new law. (Not for nothing is the mayor's popularity rating at an all-time low of 25 per cent.) And already, one unfortunate bouncer has received fatal stab wounds while trying to remove an obstinate smoker from the premises of an East Village bar. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
One of the oddest things about the new smoking laws is that they do not appear to have made the anti-smoking lobby any happier. You'd think that now that they had trampled over the constitutional freedoms of their fellow citizens, these dullard champions of risk-free living would at last be satisfied, triumphant even. But au contraire.
Now they're peeved about the fact that smokers have been driven to puffing in guilty, refugee fashion out on the street. They're beside themselves about the increased number of cigarette butts on city sidewalks and up in arms about the fact that people can still smoke without fear of arrest in public parks. Already there is angry and determined talk about extending the no-smoking laws to the open air.
Before the anti-smoking zealots start tapping out their vicious little e-mails to me, let me further enrage them by pointing out that, their passionate certainties notwithstanding, nobody has yet been able to prove the fatal effects of second-hand smoke. Recent studies undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation provide no certain evidence of effects contributing to heart disease or cancer.
The allegedly deadly chemicals in environmental tobacco smoke appear in quantities so minute that they can be compared to the trace elements of arsenic in drinking water, or the poisons contained in fluoride toothpaste. Bacteria in cheese, lead in paint and mercury in tuna offer as great - or greater - hazards to the average citizen's wellbeing than the carcinogens in exhaled smoke.
Besides, if you're the kind of person who gets shivery and concerned about environmental pollutants, what are you doing in New York City anyway? New York makes many boasts for itself, but it has never claimed to be a clean-air, quality-of-life kind of a place. The traffic fumes, or the terrorists, or a meltdown at the Indian Point nuclear reactor on Long Island are going to get you long before Joe Schmoe's exhaled fag smoke ever will.
In the meantime, all you are doing with your grim little anti-smoking campaigns is circumscribing and squeezing the simple (albeit outrageously expensive) pleasure of others. Cigarette smoking is ever-increasingly a proletarian habit. The mayor and his trim, SPF-smothered chums are welcome to eschew carbs and do Pilates and never inhale anything more toxic than a perfumed candle, to ensure that they stay creepily hale and hearty into their nineties. But they go too far when they impose their narcissistic keep-fittery on the regular working stiff. Smokers of New York unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains and your prissy mayor.
and Property Rights
Ludwig Von Mises Institute -William L. Anderson - June 19, 2003
|A week ago I
received an email that was part of a mass mailing by an anti-smoking activist
who was championing all of the new "smoke-free" legislation that is being
churned out by state, local, and national governments around the world.
Although I am not a smoker, I must admit to having more than a passing interest in the recent assault on tobacco companies and individuals who use tobacco. (See the recent article by Candice Jackson and me on tobacco litigation.) For the most part, when I receive emails from people and organizations that I believe are anti-freedom, I discard them, but in this case I answered and the director and I then followed with an interesting exchange of emails. From what I read both in his responses to my question, and to the questions that he asked, I was able to look into what I can only say is a totalitarian mindset.
Yes, the activists claim they are only protecting public health and keeping individuals from unwanted intrusions into their "private space," but the methods that they employ only can be successful when government seizes private property—with no compensation for the owners, of course.
After successfully forcing tobacco companies to finance government spending schemes, along with advertisements that use propaganda methods in an attempt to convince people not to smoke, the next step has been to ban smoking in "the workplace." While most of us tend to think of workplaces as offices and the like, the definition that the activists use is much wider, and especially includes establishments like bars and restaurants, which traditionally have been favorite haunts of smokers.
The smoking ban in bars and restaurants in New York City received publicity when a smoker became so enraged after being told to leave a bar that he killed the bouncer. Although anti-smoking activists have jumped on the situation as an example of why smokers are dangerous people, the incident does little to tell us that the real problem with the bans is that they are a form of state theft.
Advocates for "smoke-free workplaces" contend that since nonsmokers work in bars and restaurants, and that since even second-hand smoke contains so-called Class A carcinogens that in large doses can cause cancer, people should be entitled to "safe" places wherein to work. In other words, by banning smoking in these places, government simply is protecting the "rights" of workers.
On the surface, such arguments may sound good, but when one barely scratches the surface, they not only are specious, but downright dangerous. Such laws amount to a confiscation of property. Whatever governing body makes the ruling is using force to limit behavior that can occur on private property, yet it is the owner who is liable for enforcing the rule—on pain of losing the property and perhaps even his or her freedom. Property owners, who in a free market would be able to decide on their own whether or not they want to permit smoking, have that right taken away from them by the state.
One forgets that people who either are employees or patrons of a bar or restaurant are there by choice. To put it another way, those individuals who decide either to work at such an establishment or to eat and drink there freely have made the decision to spend time at that place. No restaurant or bar owner can force anyone to work or eat at his or her establishment, so at best, the state is "rescuing" people from their own free choices, which means that the political authorities—and the activists cheering them on—are in effect also coercing those workers and patrons into making choices that meet state approval.
Much has been made of nonsmokers being "victims" of passive smoke created by smokers. Those of us who are nonsmokers on occasions have complained about breathing the smoke of others, to be sure, and there have been times when I have not gone to certain places where people were smoking. However, it is one thing for me to refuse to patronize a place where people are smoking; it is quite another to employ the state as a vehicle to impose my desires upon others.
The anti-smoking policies in effect give disaffected persons (along with politicians and activists) de facto property rights, something I pointed out to the activist. His response was as follows: "I think ALL Group A carcinogens should be prohibited in the workplace, to the extent possible."
The "Class A Carcinogens" argument, while at first sounding good, is yet another rhetorical trick. According to cancer researchers, tobacco smoke carries the "Class A" carcinogens, and these supposedly also have an effect upon nonsmokers. Given the political motivation of much anti-tobacco research, one must take these results with a very large bag of salt. (For example, the media recently trumpeted a "study" which claimed that smoking bans could cut heart attacks in half. Jacob Sullum of the Reason Foundation clearly debunks that and other studies.
However, as I pointed out in my responses, there are many hazards in this world, and his reasoning would give unhappy people an absolute veto power over nearly everything. For example, if one is able to walk into any establishment and demand people stop smoking, would not someone who is offended by "R" rated movies have the right to order the theater to stop showing that particular film? For that matter, all of us are quite aware of the dangers of alcoholic beverages, and if it is dangerous for people to smoke, it certainly can also be dangerous for them to drink.
That being the case, one would expect the political authorities to be so concerned about alcohol abuse that they order bars and restaurants to stop serving such beverages, or at least permit anyone to enter a bar and declare that all drinking must be stopped.
In fact, if one really wants to get at the source of most cancers, there is the sun. If these public health cancer fighters truly were serious about keeping Americans from being exposed to the dangers of cancer, then they would demand legislation that either would prevent the sun from shining or at least require that we block all windows during the day and venture out only at night, something reminiscent of Frederic Bastiat's "Petition of the Candlemakers."
However, my activist email partner emphasized time and again that he wanted only the "Class A" carcinogens to be eliminated from the workplace. That is not as easy a task as one might think, even if all tobacco smoke is eliminated. Carcinogens, you see, come in all places, including clothing and carpet. It is nearly impossible to go through life without coming into contact with such things.
Thus, the safety issue is nothing more than a red herring, or yet another version of the "Camel's Nose." Anti-tobacco activists most likely will not stop until we have something akin to the 1920s version of Prohibition, this time tobacco being the target, the failures of alcohol and drug bans not affecting them in the least.
While many libertarians have fashioned the argument as a contest between the rights of smokers and nonsmokers, it is a mistake to stop there. There are no doubts that conflicting rights exist here, but legislation targeting tobacco use is not the answer. The real issue here is not whether the law will be used as a mediation device between smokers and nonsmokers, but rather the fact that activists are using the state as a vehicle to hijack private property rights and to take choices away from individuals who are quite capable of thinking for themselves.
"If one abolishes man's freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away," writes Mises.
The decision of whether or not to ban smoking on private property should be solely left up to the property owner, period. Furthermore, individuals who choose to work or patronize such places should not be permitted to claim later that secondhand smoke made them sick (and then have a jury make them multimillionaires).
For all of the "halo-effect" that supposedly surrounds anti-smoking activists, they are little more than closet thieves. Yes, free speech dictates that they should be able to say what they want in a proper forum. And, yes, private property rights should also dictate that they mind their own business when it comes to the property of others.
real threat is not cigarettes
Ayn Rand Institute - Robert W. Tracinski - June 19, 2003
|An epidemic of
local smoking bans has spread across the nation — in 25 states from Arizona
to Maine to Oregon — under the pretense of protecting people from the alleged
threat of "second-hand" smoke. But the bans themselves are symptoms of
a far more grievous threat, a cancer that has been spreading for decades
and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to
the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard
involved — the cancer of unlimited government power. The issue is not whether
second-hand smoke is a real danger or a phantom menace, as a study published
recently in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: if it
were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists
satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and
allowing them to make their own decisions — or should they seize the power
of government and force people to make the "right" decision?
Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than attempting to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the tobacco bans are the unwanted intrusion. Loudly billed as measures that only affect "public places," they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and offices — places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don’t like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is obviously negligible, such as outdoor public parks.
The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on. All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbors. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free, because his life belongs to him — not to his neighbors — and only his own judgment can guide him through it.
Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Cigarette smokers are a numerical minority, practicing a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behavior.
That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favorite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke — while they unleash the systematic and unlimited intrusion of government into our lives.
The tobacco bans are just part of one prong of this assault. Traditionally, the right has attempted to override the individual’s judgment on spiritual matters: outlawing certain sexual practices, trying to ban sex and violence in entertainment, discouraging divorce. While the left is nominally opposed to this trend — denouncing attempts to "legislate morality" and crusading for the toleration of "alternative lifestyles" — they seek to override the individual’s judgment on material matters: imposing controls on business and profit-making, regulating advertising and campaign finance, and now legislating healthy behavior. But the difference is only one of emphasis; the underlying premise is still anti-freedom and anti-individual-judgment. The tobacco bans bulldoze all the barriers to intrusive regulation, establishing the precedent that the rights of the individual can be violated whenever the local city council decides that the "public good" demands it. Ayn Rand described the effect of this two-pronged assault on liberty: "The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories — with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul free-wheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe — but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread" — or, today, when he crosses the street to buy a cigarette. It doesn’t take a new statistical study to show that such an attack on freedom is inimical to human life. No crusade to purge our air of any whiff of tobacco smoke can take precedence over a much more important human requirement: the need for the unbreached protection of individual rights.
smoke myth: junk science's greatest triumph
Financial Post - John Luik - June 13, 2003
|The alleged dangers
of second-hand tobacco smoke, also known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke,
or ETS for short, represents junk science's biggest success story. Ever
since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided 10 years ago that
ETS caused cancer in nonsmokers, the ETS junk science juggernaut has been
unstoppable. Most of us now believe that ETS is dangerous and virtually
all of us live out our public lives -- working, shopping, eating, in smoke-free
But the ETS junk science crusade encountered a major and unanticipated setback a few weeks ago when the British Medical Journal published a study by two U.S. researchers that found no statistically significant association between not only ETS and lung cancer but also between ETS and heart disease.
The study focused on 35,561 Californians who never smoked but had smoking spouses. The participants were all part of the massive American Cancer Society cancer prevention Study (CPS 1) and their lives and deaths were followed from 1960-1998. The relative risks for never-smokers married to smokers was 0.94 for coronary heart disease and 0.75 for lung cancer. Unlike the government reports cited by junk scientists as proof that ETS causes lung cancer and heart disease, this study is not a meta-analysis -- a combination of individual studies to create a pooled result) -- or a so-called "consensus statement" by hand-picked experts. It is an original, primary study of ETS. As the authors note "none of the other cohort studies ... has more strengths, and none has presented as many detailed results."
To anyone who has followed the scientific literature on ETS, as opposed to the anti-smoking movements, statements and government pronouncements, this study should come as no surprise. For one thing, the pattern of study results has been unchanged since the first studies in the 1980s. Over the 20-odd years of ETS studies, some 60 studies have reported results similar to this one, finding no statistically significant association between ETS and lung cancer. Of the 11 studies that have found a statistically significant association, none has reported an overall strong relative risk. This is particularly telling since epidemiological studies of real as opposed to phantom risks are usually weak at first but gain strength and clarity with time. The ETS studies have continued to be equivocal.
The only way in which the "case" against second-hand smoke has been made is through the highly controversial use of meta analysis in which individually inconclusive studies have been pooled to produce statistically significant relative risks. This is the way in which every major government report on the alleged dangers of ETS has been created. The logic here is that if you put 10 leaking buckets together, they might just hold water. Unfortunately, this hasn't worked, for however hard you pound the data the relative risk for ETS and lung cancer and heart disease just won't rise beyond about 1.50, a relatively insignificant level.
Ironically, this study should come as no surprise because it confirms the WHO's own large 1998 ETS study spanning 10 years and involving 12 cities in seven European countries. The WHO study found no statistically significant increase in lung cancer risk for nonsmokers exposed to ETS in childhood settings, workplace environments and homes. Of particular interest for the ongoing Canadian debate about smoking in restaurants and bars is the fact that WHO found such smoking did not result in a statistically significant risk of lung cancer for non-smokers.
In a sane world, sans junk science, one would expect that after 20 years of failing to find a significant risk from ETS, the game would be over. But the strength of junk science comes not from the power of its evidence but rather from the fervency of its believers and their willingness to do virtually anything to silence dissent. Indeed, the weaker the evidence the stronger the belief. There is no room for dissent in the church of junk science; unbelievers face the stake just as surely as the medieval heretic.
Even before the release of the British Medical Journal article, the anti-smoking movement was in high attack mode, denouncing the study as funded by the tobacco industry. Former U.S. surgeon general Julius Richmond was pulled out of retirement to muse that, "This study is just the latest in a long string of studies designed to deny the evidence and confuse the public. The first study linking second-hand tobacco smoke and lung cancer was published 22 years ago when I was surgeon general, and the evidence has only become stronger since then." Perhaps the good doctor is a bit confused, for the evidence has been remarkably consistent in not linking ETS and cancer and it has not become stronger with time. The first ETS study to which Dr. Richmond refers did not find a statistically significant association between ETS and lung cancer. Ironically, the author of that study is thanked by authors Enstrom and Kabat for his help in making their study successful.
So successful has been the junk science counterattack that virtually every major story on the study has concentrated on the fact that one of the authors has received funding from the tobacco industry, rather than on the merits and findings of the study itself. The peculiar and effective pathology of junk science is thus on full display: Deny or downplay the results and instead attack the character of the researcher. What makes this strategy so transparently loathsome is that Prof. Kabat is a well-known expert on cancer and has carried out previous ETS studies that no one has attacked.
After 20 years of failing to link ETS with significant heart and lung disease, one would think that it is time to call it quits on public smoking bans, or at least to acknowledge they have nothing to do with health but merely with the desire to avoid the nuisance of second-hand smoke. One might even think that an apology, however grudging, might be offered up by various governments to the six million smokers of Canada who have been portrayed as recklessly endangering the health of their families, friends and co-workers.
None of this will, of course, happen for the ETS junk science crusade, like all junk science campaigns, has nothing to do with science but everything to do with manipulating the public's perception of reality for ideological ends.
your weight the government's business?
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - June 13, 2003
|The fattest speaker
at a recent conference on obesity was the anti-fat campaigner Kelly Brownell,
who never tires of comparing Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel. If pointing
to Brownell's gut or his extra chin seems mean, consider how you would
feel about a chain-smoking anti-tobacco activist or a slots-playing anti-gambling
Brownell is not the only portly leader of the fight against obesity. John Banzhaf, the George Washington University law professor who is a conspicuous advocate of suing fast food companies, also could stand to lose more than a few pounds.
But according to Brownell, a psychologist who heads Yale's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, their girth is not their fault. The problem is the "toxic food environment": Food is too cheap, too tasty, too readily available, and too heavily promoted. In such an environment, Brownell argues, people naturally expand, just like laboratory rats fed a cafeteria-style diet.
"It's very hard to blame (rising obesity) on personal irresponsibility," he asserted at the obesity conference, sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. "Instead of taking an individual point of view . . . we need to think of why the nation is overweight."
But a nation does not get fat; individuals do, one sticky bun at a time. The nation cannot eat less and exercise more; only people can, and they will do so only if they're persuaded that the costs in terms of foregone pleasure and extra effort are worth it.
A collectivist mentality leads to collectivist solutions. "We have a real crisis," Brownell declared. "There's a public that needs to be protected, and some bold and decisive action is going to be necessary." Given such rhetoric, his proposals are remarkably lame: more bike paths, no soda in schools, special taxes on "junk" foods, restrictions on food advertising.
Meanwhile, Brownell rejects measures that would make a real difference. When I suggested (tongue in cheek, I hasten to add) that the government tax people for each pound over their ideal weight, he objected.
Brownell's complaint was not that such a system would be tyrannical because how much you weigh is your business, not the government's. Plainly, he doesn't believe that. Rather, he worried that a weight tax puts too much emphasis on individual responsibility rather than the environment.
So the prices people pay for food are part of the environment that encourages obesity, but the price they pay for being fat is not? It seems Brownell simply does not have the courage of his convictions.
Likewise, John Banzhaf told the Obesity Policy Report, "I don't think the government can order (people) to exercise." Why not? Which is more likely to make Americans thinner: suing McDonald's, or mandatory calisthenics in the public square every morning?
If you assume that slimming us down is a proper goal of government, it's hard to see the objection to policies that show promise of actually working, as opposed to enriching lawyers or making a statement. But perhaps there is something wrong with the assumption.
The main argument for government intervention in this area is that all of us pick up the tab for obesity-related disease when treatment is covered by taxpayer-funded health care programs. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs put the total medical cost at $93 billion a year, about half of it covered by Medicaid and Medicare.
But since overweight people tend to die earlier than slim people, they may not use as much health care in old age or draw on Social Security as much. Hence the net financial result could be a wash or, as in the case of smokers, taxpayer savings.
More important, the argument based on taxpayer-funded medical treatment proves too much. This rationale could be used to justify almost any interference in our personal lives, since nearly everything we do carries some risk of injury or disease. As University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein pointed out at the AEI conference, the public policy problem is the subsidy, not the behavior.
One of Epstein's colleagues at the University of Chicago, economist Tomas Philipson, put weight trends in perspective by showing that Americans have been getting fatter for at least a century because of technological changes that have made food cheaper and work less strenuous. Those changes come with a cost, but on balance they have been tremendously beneficial. "We are better off being fatter and richer," Philipson said. "I would not want to go back."
this the America we want?
Townhall.com - Walter Williams - June 11, 2003
should be banned from sale to children in California. That's according
to Stephen Joseph, who filed a lawsuit against Nabisco last month in California's
Marin County Superior Court. Oreo cookies contain trans fat, an ingredient
that makes the cookies crisp and their filling creamy. Joseph says that
trans fat is so dangerous that our children should be protected from it.
Last year, Los Angeles Unified School District voted unanimously to ban the sale of soft drinks at all of the district's 677 schools. They said the new rule, scheduled to go into effect January 2004, will improve the health of its 736,000 students, of whom a recent survey of 900 of them found 40 percent to be obese.
New York lawyer Samuel Hirsch and George Washington University's Professor John F. Banzhaf brought lawsuits against fast food restaurants Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hirsch and Banzhaf contend that these fast food restaurants are responsible for obesity; they ignore the fact that two-thirds of all meals are served at home.
The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also demands government control of what we eat. It calls for excise taxes on fatty foods, additional taxes on cars and television sets, and a doubling of the excise tax on beer. By making cars and televisions more expensive, it thinks it will force people to walk more and stop being couch potatoes.
CSPI's Michael Jacobson said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses (and) meat." CSPI wants the tax revenues earmarked for government-sponsored exercise programs.
These tyrannical schemes also have government support. According to a Consumer Freedom article (www.consumerfreedom.com), former USDA spokesman John Webster said, "Right now, this anti-obesity campaign is in its infancy. ... (W)e want to turn people around and give them assistance in eating nutritious foods."
The anti-obesity campaign might seem preposterous and amusing were it not for the successes of the anti-tobacco campaign premised on the idea that individuals are not responsible for their choices. It's a logical follow-up: Food producers, not people themselves, are responsible for overindulgence. Since we have socialized medicine, obesity adds to the nation's health-care costs through its contribution to obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to the food Nazis, that means government has a stake in controlling what we eat.
Americans salute the results of the anti-tobacco campaign that brought successful multibillion-dollar suits against tobacco companies and levied steep tobacco taxes. In some jurisdictions, such as New York City, taxes have led to the tripling of cigarette prices, not to mention the creation of black markets. I'm wondering whether my fellow Americans would like the food Nazi campaign to produce the same outcome. In other words, how would we like taxes that create $10 hamburgers, $5 cans of beer and $12 for a pound of Oreo cookies?
Maybe as an alternative to taxes, there might be a call for laws similar to what's called the Dram Shop Act in some states, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons. Applied to food, that law might ban the sale of hamburgers and fries to a fat person, or a mandate that scales be placed in front of cash registers where a customer is weighed prior to a sale.
Instead of hamburgers and fries, an overweight customer is offered a tasty salad, instead. Instead of suing Nabisco to stop children from eating Oreos, we might have a law requiring proof of age prior to purchase. We could use endangering minors law to exact stiff penalties against parents who gave Oreos to their children.
The anti-obesity movement is simply another step down the road to serfdom and, what's worse, Americans are voluntarily assisting the nation's tyrants.
Smoke: Nuisance or Menace?
Exaggerating the risks of secondhand smoke
Statistical Assessment Service - Maia Szalavitz - June 3, 2003
is smelly, the nasty odor lingers on your clothes and hair and it undoubtedly
aggravates asthma, allergies and other respiratory conditions. But can
it really increase your risk of death from heart disease and lung cancer
- or have these fears been overblown?
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal followed over 35,000 non-smoking spouses of smokers from 1959 -1998. The authors found no significant increase in risk of death.
The study has been criticized by the American Cancer Society, which originally funded it, for not recognizing that in early parts of the research period, most people were widely exposed to secondhand smoke. This could obscure differences in risk between those heavily exposed and those presumed to be less exposed. The ACS and other health groups also criticized the authors for taking tobacco company money to complete the research.
Secondhand smoke research has always been difficult to interpret because it is so hard to measure actual exposure and find comparison groups that differ only in exposure levels. This is why the majority of secondhand smoke studies find little or no effect, and it is only when the data is pooled for meta-analysis are results seen.
Furthermore, if secondhand smoke was as dangerous as smoking itself or even close in risk level, the link between smoking and health problems could never have been uncovered when it was, because at that time so much of the population was so heavily exposed to secondhand smoke that comparisons wouldn't show much difference.
Anti-tobacco groups claim that passive smoke exposure increases cancer risk by 20 percent and heart disease risk by 30 percent. While that sounds like a large increase, most epidemiologists don't consider risk factors particularly worrisome until they get to about 200 percent.
Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day increases risk for all cancers by 200 percent, lung cancer by 1000 percent and heart disease 300-400 percent. Smoking two or more packs a day increases lung cancer risk by a factor of 15-25 (i.e., by 1500 percent to 2500 percent). In looking at research on any substance, it's important to keep in mind that dosage counts.
Oddly, though the smoking ban in bars in New York is based on the idea that passive smoke exposure is risky to employees, the new study wasn't covered by the anti-ban New York Post, nor by the Daily News or New York Times. Only Newsday ran an item covering the controversy. Reason critiqued the research and the UK's Daily Telegraph lambasted it in two opinion pieces and an editorial.
Smoking has become such an emotionally charged issue that the data itself gets lost in the clouds. For adults, secondhand smoke is probably more of a nuisance than a health menace. The media should not bow to health hysteria on one side or commercial pressures on the other and should put the data in context of other risks for their audience.
government says you're fat
The Washington Times - Tom DeWeese - May 20, 2003
|As if the government
isn't already trying to control every aspect of your life, it has now launched
a program to determine what and how much you eat.
In her book, "Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control Over the Lives of Ordinary Americans," author Charlotte A. Twight writes, "Few things are more personal than health care, nor more alien to the legitimate functions of limited government. Yet few things are higher on the U.S. government's agenda at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Step by step, the federal government is usurping power to substitute its medical judgements and therapeutic choices for those of individual patients and their physicians."
Having taken over much of the health system via Medicare, the cost of illnesses that result from smoking and now obesity has become a government concern. As such, the government has embarked on an effort to control individual lifestyle choices, as well as accusing the fast-food industry of causing obesity.
The lessons learned from Prohibition, the outlawing of alcoholic beverages in the 1920s, have not been learned and the result is the virtual criminalization of the tobacco industry and now, it would seem, the fast-food industry.
Nor are Americans aware that the newly proclaimed federal policy comes right out of the United Nations. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization issued a draft "Report of the Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition" that made the case that various restrictions must be imposed on everything from soda to snack foods in order to save the world from fat people. The U.N. report manages to ignore the estimated 815 million undernourished people in the world.
This is a plan to create an Orwellian world in which everyone is compelled to do what Big Brother tells them to do. The U.S. campaign, though couched in terms of obesity's financial costs, is a subterfuge for yet greater control over our personal lives.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson was on television recently pointing the figure at the fast-food industry, urging it to "do what is right for Americans."
What is right is the right of all Americans to determine what and how much they eat, and to be responsible for whatever consequences they encounter. This is not a public issue. It is a private one.
It is one in which the government should have no role nor say.
The absurdity of the new war on fat people is evident in the assertion — soon to be a nationwide environmental campaign — that housing-development plans are actually causing Americans to exercise less, thus contributing to obesity, diabetes and other disorders. This is pure junk science that defies common sense, but watch as Americans are told that suburban life is the new enemy and that it is killing them.
It is a hop, skip and a jump from telling Americans they are too fat to issuing regulations to insure they do not exceed daily food intake rules set by the government. It extends government control that now includes monitoring the right to smoke whenever and wherever one wants.
Getting fat or avoiding it is a personal lifestyle decision. It is not the government's right, nor role, to determine. The new campaign, initiated by the United Nations, can lead to still further loss of freedom in the United States.
BELTS, CIGARETTES AND STOUT
NewsWithViews.com - Mary Starrett - May 28, 2003
|While seat belt
laws and fines vary from state to state there's a move to make belt use
a NATIONAL law…Because you just can't have enough laws to protect us from
ourselves, and what the individual state says is bad the feds say is even
Ronald Reagan summed it up when he said "the role of government is to protect us from each other, not from ourselves". Sadly, more and more of the laws being passed and enforced are designed to "protect" us…from…us! Roadblocks, checkpoints and random stops are now de rigueur here in the land of the free. Kind of reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
While the Nanny State's up nights worried we're not buckling up, Globo-Nanny's having a nic-fit . Under the guise of the World Health Organization's anti-tobacco treaty, we're on the verge of being similarly protected from cigarettes. The world-wide crackdown is designed to protect us from ourselves, by "get(ting) people to kick the smoking habit and reduce the…5 million deaths a year cause by it". Those nice people in Geneva have put together something called The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. WHAT IS IT WITH THESE PEOPLE? Instead of worrying about clean water, they're consumed with controlling our personal habits! Remember: Control of a PRODUCT is always ultimately about control of PEOPLE!
Cities across America are seeing the economic fallout from banning smoking in restaurants and bars. When business owners begged New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse the smoking ban there after a good number of businesses began to fail as a result of it, his response? "Let's give it a little more time". For what, MORE bars in Manhattan to close?
In Tempe, Arizona, an indoor smoking ban there has the downtown area looking like a ghost town. People are going to neighboring cities without the bans for their nights out. One feisty pool hall owner there spent over a million dollars removing a portion of the roof of his building, just to get around the ban. And still, despite the loss of business for thousands of establishments, the smoking ban bus is coming to your town next if it hasn't already been there. So, at the end of the day what this has meant is that even if you own a business, and the building it's in, it's illegal to allow a legal substance to be used on the premises.
Mega-star Nicole Kidman caused quite a ruckus when she was seen (eegads!) SMOKING at Cannes last week. The smoking S.S. were fuming over it. One group derided Kidman as a " bad role model for young women."
Funny, Hollywood-types get naked on screen, hop from bed to bed, promote abortion and other such moral genocide and what gets the headlines is that an actress smoked…
In Ireland, where the pub has been the hub for centuries, the Drinking Nazis have now determined there's a touch too much of the drink being poured 'round. They've have banned alcohol ads from Irish TV before 10pm, at cinemas, sporting events and on buses and trains.(Going to be a bit of a challenge, though, since brewing giant Guinness sponsors soccer there and Heineken has the rugby team.)
So, if you wondered why mayors in cities from Boston to Baton Rouge seemed all of a sudden concerned about second- hand smoke and seat belts and underage drinking, you should recognize these "issues" get decided at the global level and then trickle down to you and me.
I, for one , have grown, oh-so-weary of state, national and global dictates that seem to be coming faster and with greater regularity. Leave us alone. Leave us to run the risk of driving unrestrained, drawing smoke into our lungs or turning our livers cirrhotic. Just leave us alone.
leads to bad laws
National Post - George Jonas - May 28, 2003
|A high degree
of civic consciousness is better than a low degree. It's civic consciousness,
among other things, that makes Toronto, Canada, a better place to live
in than, say, Almaty, Kazakhstan. But all coins have two sides, and this
one is no exception.
Cultures in which people line up in queues have more chance of building a civil society than cultures in which people push, shove, and mill about. When it comes to creating safe and prosperous communities, traditions that respect the rule of law have an edge over those that acquiesce in the rule of men. In addition, orderly and law-abiding societies are more likely to be free than chaotic societies that are merely free-for-all. Show me a culture in which people have little respect for the government and the legal process, and I'll show you a culture in which the government and the legal process have little respect for people. Such societies are usually restive -- and arrestive.
And yet, there are freak exceptions. In some instances, the very civic consciousness that builds desirable societies can undermine them. Like a diseased autoimmune system run amok, respect for the law can attack the healthy cells of the body politic. In a free society, it can cause society to turn on freedom. When a government catches some trendy ideology or modish hysteria, civic consciousness can spread the infection throughout the community instead of guarding against it.
Societies that are resistant to good laws are resistant to bad laws as well. Take the example of Toronto v. Almaty (as Kazakhstan's capital, Alma-Ata, has been known since 1994.) Both cities prohibit smoking in certain public places. In Toronto, smokers are content to huddle in doorways, often in sub-zero temperatures. In Almaty, they puff away at the bar in the Lomonosov Theatre, just as they always have. The management makes no effort to enforce the ban.
In communities with a low degree of civic consciousness, individuals resist, avoid or outwit the law whenever they think they can get away with it. Having no confidence in the goodwill or intelligence of the state, they seek loopholes in edicts whose point escapes them. Rather than abide by the law, people will try to win exemptions though privilege or bribery. Often they'll simply disregard unpopular legislation. Needless to say, this hampers good and necessary laws -- but it also hampers bad and unnecessary ones.
Anti-smoking ordinances aren't the only (or worst) examples of bad and unnecessary laws, but they're close enough to illustrate the point. Smoking is unhealthy, but harm to a smoker's own health has been viewed -- rightly -- as insufficient reason for legislation. Medical and civic authorities, looking for a justification to enact laws to discourage the habit, came up with "second-hand" or "sidestream" smoke, said to put non-smokers at risk. Such potential harm to bystanders -- or the myth of such potential harm -- enabled legislators to curtail the personal liberty and property rights of everyone who preferred to smoke or permit others to smoke on his premises.
Two American scholars, Dr. James Enstrom and Professor Geoffrey Kabat, writing in the British Medical Journal earlier this month, reported they found little connection between second-hand smoke and cancer in their comprehensive study of 35,000 smokers and their non-smoking spouses over nearly 40 years. But the Enstrom-Kabat study, extensive as it is and important as it may be, is only the latest in a long string of observations by eminent scientists casting doubt on the link between "passive" smoking and increased risk for heart and lung disease. In this regard, the authorities have always proceeded by sleight-of-hand rather than science. For instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted no studies of its own before arriving at its assertion in 1993 that sidestream smoke causes "3,000 cancer deaths per year" in America. It relied, instead, on 30 independent studies, of which 24 found no statistically significant connection between second-hand smoke and illness. The EPA simply chose to adopt the conclusions of the six studies that did.
Laws instigated by "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) have less to do with science than with politics. I'd even say they have less to do with science than with fraud, except "fraud" may be a harsh word considering the good faith, or at least good intentions, of anti-smoking activists who lie or delude themselves to save smokers from their habit. There's no question that smoking harms smokers. If we express the normal risk of lung cancer in industrial societies as 1 -- "normal" meaning the risk that comes from merely breathing -- the risk for cigarette smokers rises to an ominous 30. But the additional risk for non-smokers as represented by ETS remains only 1.19. Contrast this figure with 6.14, the additional risk for lung cancer represented by a diet high in saturated fat (see the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, volume 85, page 1,906.) There would be more reason to ban potato chips in bars than cigarettes.
In Almaty, people have a relatively low degree of civic consciousness. They assume the worst of officials. Many view anti-smoking legislation as just another way for the government to raise revenue through fines. People compare the smoking ban to Mikhail Gorbachev's ill-fated attempt to reduce alcohol consumption during the last years of the Soviet Union, which only resulted in the country being flooded with bootlegged (and often poisonous) vodka. In short, Kazakhs greet a bad and unnecessary law with defiance.
In Toronto, people meekly comply -- but then they meekly comply with bad and unnecessary laws far worse than smoking bans in restaurants. They comply with laws that forbid patients to seek treatment in private clinics. Canadians of high civic consciousness will suffer in pain, or flee to America. Canada's overburdened public health services have long waiting lists, and though doctors could remove patients' gall bladders or replace their knees immediately in private clinics, Canada's ideologically challenged government has a mental block against mixing private and public medicine. Canada's officials won't let Canada's taxpayers spend their own money on private doctors. So, having a high degree of civic consciousness, being not just law-abiding but by-law abiding, Canadians will wait for government doctors in agony.
Keep a patient from his doctor? No official would hope to try it in Kazakhstan. He can't even hope to keep a smoker from his smokes.
|The Hazards of
a Smoke-Free Environment
CNSNews.com Commentary - Robert W. Tracinski - May 26, 2003
of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation - from New York
City to San Antonio - has nothing to do with protecting people from the
supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke.
Indeed, the bans themselves are symptoms of a far more grievous threat; a cancer that has been spreading for decades and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved - the cancer of unlimited government power.
The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger
or a phantom menace, as a study published recently in the British Medical
Journal indicates. The issue is: if it were harmful, what would be the
proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with
educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make
Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than attempting to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the tobacco bans are the unwanted intrusion.
Loudly billed as measures that only affect "public places," they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and offices - places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don't like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is obviously negligible, such as outdoor public parks.
The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.
All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbors. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free, because his life belongs to him, not to his neighbors, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.
Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Cigarette smokers are a numerical minority, practicing a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behavior.
That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favorite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke while they unleash the systematic and unlimited intrusion of government into our lives.
The tobacco bans are just part of one prong of this assault. Traditionally, the political Right has attempted to override the individual's judgment on spiritual matters: outlawing certain sexual practices, trying to ban sex and violence in entertainment, discouraging divorce.
While the political Left is nominally opposed to this trend - denouncing attempts to "legislate morality" and crusading for the toleration of "alternative lifestyles," - they seek to override the individual's judgment on material matters: imposing controls on business and profit-making, regulating advertising and campaign finance, and now legislating healthy behavior.
But the difference is only one of emphasis; the underlying premise is still anti-freedom and anti-individual-judgment. The tobacco bans bulldoze all the barriers to intrusive regulation, establishing the precedent that the rights of the individual can be violated whenever the local city council decides that the "public good" demands it.
Ayn Rand described the effect of this two-pronged assault on liberty: "The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories--with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington.
The liberals see man as a soul free-wheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread," or, today, when he crosses the street to buy a cigarette.
It doesn't take a new statistical study to show that such an attack on freedom is inimical to human life. No crusade to purge our air of any whiff of tobacco smoke can take precedence over a much more important human requirement: the need for the unbreached protection of individual rights.
TownHall.com - George Will - May 23, 2003
|The Florida appeals
court did not confine itself Wednesday to overturning the class-action
$145 billion judgment against the tobacco industry. The court also roasted
the plaintiffs' attorney. But his behavior, although contemptible, is congruent
with the increasingly cynical government policy of keeping tobacco companies
prosperous enough to be worth looting.
Three years ago a Miami jury decided that cigarettes, even when used as intended, are often addictive and sometimes lethal. The jury awarded compensatory damages for three people with cancer and punitive damages for 300,000 to 700,000 Florida smokers. This, even though the three had chosen to use this legal product, the health hazards of which have been relentlessly publicized by government for almost four decades. And even though cigarettes, although addictive, are not irresistibly so: There are about as many American ex-smokers as there are smokers.
The appeals court denounced the plaintiffs' attorney's ``pandering'' to the predominantly African-American jury with ``inflammatory and prejudicial'' and ``racially charged'' statements. The attorney incited the jury to nullify the settled law establishing that selling cigarettes is neither tortuous nor otherwise improper. Reproving him, the appeals court tartly noted that ``nullification arguments have absolutely no place in a trial and violate state and federal due process by exposing defendants to liability and punishment based on lawful conduct.''
The plaintiffs' attorney had made much of the fact that a defense witness' resume revealed that he had studied John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century statesman who defended slavery. And the attorney said that disregarding the law on the legality of selling cigarettes would be akin to Martin Luther King's and Rosa Parks' civil disobedience. He said that respecting the right of tobacco companies to stay in business is akin to saying there are ``two sides'' to slavery or the Holocaust.
The appeals court notes that although the plaintiffs' attorney concedes that attorneys cannot explicitly tell juries to ignore the law, he has written a book boasting of his ``subtle way'' of insinuating ``my 'Piss on the Law' theme.''
Tobacco policy now depends on tobacco products not being priced out of the reach of too many of today's smokers, and on tobacco companies finding a steady supply of new smokers. Because tobacco policy has two primary ends, both monetary, both inimical to public health.
One is a reliable stream of money transferred from smokers (a regressive transfer; smokers are increasingly low-income) to state governments desperate to finance spending programs they improvidently launched during the perishable boom of the late 1990s. The second is the transfer of money from smokers to trial lawyers (their fees from the $246 billion settlement totaled upwards of $15 billion) so they can transfer a portion to the Trial Lawyers Protection Association, aka the Democratic Party, that scourge of exploiters.
An Illinois judge (that state is panting for $7 billion to $9 billion from the 1998 settlement) negotiated a reduction of Altria's required $12 billion bond to $7 billion. Meanwhile, when the major tobacco companies raised prices to cover the $246 billion settlement, low-price discount brands began gaining market share. So the major companies have been cutting prices. Which will increase smoking. Which state governments, those virtuosos of situational ethics, deplore. And desire.
tobacco case shows the cost of justice can be prohibitive
TownHall.com - Jacob Sullum - May 23, 2003
|"At first blush,"
wrote Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Kaye in a November 2000 court order,
a $145 billion punitive damage award "seems so far outside the comprehension
of any reasonably thinking person that one would immediately say it is
shocking and not in keeping with rational thought." Kaye should have stuck
with his first impression.
Last Wednesday, Florida's Third District Court of Appeal threw out the $145 billion verdict that Kaye let stand when he presided over a class action lawsuit against five tobacco companies. The court said the "astronomical" award, the largest in U.S. history, was a "grossly excessive" judgment -- "roughly 18 times the defendants' proven net worth" -- from a "runaway jury" that was "swept along in lemming-like fashion" by a lawyer who "inflamed juror passion and prejudice" through "improper race-based appeals" that "irretrievably tainted the case."
During the trial, plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt likened selling cigarettes to genocide and slavery. He informed the six jurors, four of whom were black, that tobacco companies segment their markets by race, and he urged them to emulate Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. by flouting the law.
The jurors did so, violating the well-established principle that prohibits punitive damages that would bankrupt a plaintiff. Judge Kaye also ignored the law, putting "the cart before the horse" (as the appeals court put it) by allowing punitive damages to be set for the entire class after compensatory damages had been determined for only three members.
According to the appeals court, the trial was not only "fundamentally unfair"; it was a mistake from the beginning: How could the claims of an estimated 700,000 smokers -- each with his own personal history, knowledge base, and medical condition -- possibly be assessed in one class action?
liberation of smoking
TownHall.com - Emmett Tyrrell - May 22, 2003
|With regard to
the last great persecution of the 20th century, is it possible that we
are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel?
The last great persecution experienced in this most repressive of all centuries is, of course, the hysterical persecution of tobacco. And the light that I hope we are seeing is the lighting of an elegant Marlboro poised on the lips of a sophisticated sybarite. Is it not about time that discerning adults be free to light up in a proper setting? In the land of the free and the home of the brave, I view cigarette smoking as a First Amendment Right.
Now there are indications that cigarette smokers have their growing vanguards of freedom fighters. The most glamorous of these civil libertarians is, it appears, Nicole Kidman, the Oscar-winning actress, who boldly enjoyed a smoke the other day during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. Almost immediately she was harassed by her director, Lars Von Trier, who directed her new move, inelegantly titled, "Dogville." The ugly name was, I assume, his idea, not hers. He has shown himself to be a cad. She is showing herself to be a lady of taste and independence.
I salute her, notwithstanding her opposition to the recent war in Iraq. Iraqis are famous cigarette smokers, so I suppose it is possible that Nicole, in her opposition to the war, was merely showing solidarity with the Iraqis in their right to enjoy tobacco in public places. Perhaps she feared an American expeditionary force would bring with it the tobacco patrols that now haunt such once-free American cities as New York, governed by the Suicide Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Raise those taxes a bit higher, Mike, and even non-smokers will call for your neck.
The American-led persecution of tobacco is another blot on our history. Smoking was once championed by liberals, and though lighting up just anywhere is insensitive to the rights of non-smokers, lighting up in properly ventilated places is a right that all freedom-loving Americans should defend.
Nicole, I am with you. Let us sit down in a smart cafe, light up and talk things over. Writers and other members of the intelligentsia have long known the digitalis to the cerebral cortex that is supplied by benign nicotine. It quickens the wit, strengthens perception and expands memory. Civilized people have for over a century noted that tobacco was the sine qua non of every intellectual salon. The obvious dimming in what Jacques Barzun has called the House of Intellect is doubtless in part a consequence of the persecution of cigarette smoking.
Nicole, after a glass of wine and a long leisurely smoke with you, I might even see the sapience of letting Saddam off the hook. On the other hand, you might come to my point of view and join me in calling for a little saber rattling toward the Iranian mullahs. I particularly like cigars, as did that famed Nobel-Prize winner in literature W.S. Churchill.
Not only are modern sophisticates such as Nicole joining us in the liberation of smokers, but science is also coming to our side. A massively researched paper in the May 17 British Medical Journal reports that all the hysteria over "secondhand" smoke is without scientific support. After studying the health records of 100,000 people over four decades, the paper reports, "... environmental tobacco smoke was not associated with coronary heart disease or lung cancer mortality at any level of exposure." And the report goes on, "These findings suggest that the effects of environmental tobacco smoke, particularly for coronary heart disease, are considerably smaller than generally believed." I knew it all along.
There are other benefits to be derived from nicotine. It has been used for the treatment of various psychiatric conditions, and at a modest cost. It lightens up the gloom now experienced in such unwholesome venues as health food stores and aerobics studios, where the clientele is so morbidly obsessed with health that it has no time for life. Nicole's perky temperament and lovely looks are a testament to tobacco's many benefits.
So smokers and friends of freedom, breathe easier. An end to this dreadful persecution may be at hand. Nicole Kidman has joined our cause and suggested to me a revision in Kipling's great line, "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke." How about "A woman is only a woman, but a cigar-smoking woman is a star"?
Tomkins: Never trust an ex-smoker
Financial Times - Richard Tomkins - May 22, 2003
and customs do change. Once, everyone wore hats, but at some point in the
20th century their headgear mysteriously disappeared. More relevantly,
they smoked pipes, chewed tobacco or took snuff. And they spat prodigiously
- into gutters, into spittoons and on to the sawdust covering the bar-room
Clearly, it was the dream of health advocates and anti-smoking activists that cigarettes would go the same way as phlegm. And for years, it looked as though that would happen. After medical evidence linked smoking with cancer in the 1960s, smoking prevalence among adults plunged from more than 40 per cent in the US and more than 50 per cent in the UK to around 25 per cent in both countries by the mid-1990s.
The trouble is, since then, the decline has more or less stopped. What has happened is that, although the health risks have scared many older people into quitting, smoking levels among the young have stayed high: and we have now reached a point of stasis where, in spite of all the smoking restrictions, the advertising bans, the social obloquy and the punitively high tobacco taxes, enough young people are taking up the habit to compensate for the older smokers who quit or die.
It is hard to see what you can do about this. Telling beautiful teenagers that, on average, they can expect 13 or 14 fewer years of drooling senility if they continue to smoke all their lives is not exactly a winning argument. And besides, who are the people telling them to quit? Answer: people like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former smoker who, having had his fun, now wants to pull up the ladder behind him.
Bloomberg, it should be recalled, is the mayor who has just banned smoking in all New York's bars under the pretext of protecting bar staff from the health risks of passive smoking. You have to wonder if there is some parallel universe in which this makes sense. Did the people who decided to take up bartending really have no inkling that they would inhale tobacco smoke while at work? Or were they forced into the job against their will?
You would also have thought that, in the home of competitive capitalism, the market would have solved the problem without the need for the mayor's intervention. If customers wanted no-smoking bars, and bar staff wanted to work in them, why did the market not supply them?
Now, thanks to the British Medical Journal, Mayor Bloomberg's passive smoking argument is looking even more wobbly. Last week, the publication revealed the results of a huge US study conducted over 40 years, focusing on 35,500 Californian smokers who had never smoked but who lived with a spouse who did. It found no significant link between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and an increased risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.
This, surely, was a cause for celebration. It suggested that, while smokers might be stupid enough to kill themselves, at least they were not taking others with them. Much as non-smokers might resent the stench of tobacco smoke and the way it lingered in their hair and clothes, at least they were not going to die of it.
The health and anti-smoking lobbies, however, reacted with outrage, arguing that the study was partly funded by the tobacco industry and that its findings were inconclusive - as if the earlier studies linking passive smoking with heart disease and lung cancer were not even flakier.
You can understand their fury. Environmental tobacco smoke was the issue that turned smoking from a non-communicable disease into a communicable one; that turned the smoker from a fool to be tolerated into a monster to be crushed. But if smoking is not dangerous to non-smokers after all, where is the justification for banning it among consenting adults in pubs, clubs and other privately-owned premises?
At risk of stating the obvious, there is an unpleasant whiff of hypocrisy about some of the anti-smoking arguments. You get the uneasy feeling that zealots like Mayor Bloomberg are motivated not so much by concern for the health of their fellow citizens, but by envy. They simply cannot bear to think that people are enjoying a pleasure they themselves have decided to forgo. Worse, there is statistically a 50-50 chance that these smokers will not even be punished by premature death for their stupidity.
But the key to stopping smoking lies in persuading young people not to start, and that is an extremely hard sell. Maybe a cocktail of hypocrisy, envy, illiberalism and weak science will surprise us all by doing the job, but personally, I would not bet on it.
Telegraph - May 18, 2003
|All but the most
blinkered puffers among us will freely admit that smoking is a nasty habit.
It stains the fingers, rots the will-power and scents the breath with stale
tobacco. It can also be highly injurious to a smoker's health. Yet last
week's findings in the British Medical Journal - that people married to
smokers are at no significant extra risk of lung cancer or heart disease
- will surprise many.
It has long been argued by anti-smoking zealots that smokers endanger the lives of other adults around them, by means of "passive smoking". That now appears not to be the case, although there are some risks to children.
Prof James Enstrom, the lead author of the BMJ paper,
has said that he has had
Such hysteria does their case no credit. There are many powerful arguments against smoking, but they should not involve the vilification of respected scientists and a patent unwillingness to consider carefully-researched evidence. Smokers may indeed be misguided and reckless with their own health: to portray them as immoral, wilful killers is an accusation too far.
the health police can seriously addle your brain
Telegraph - Robert Matthews - May 18, 2003
|It was a rare
good news story in an otherwise grim week. A landmark study into the effects
of inhaling other people's smoke revealed that fears that passive smoking
kills more than 1,000 a year in the UK alone are unfounded.
After studying the health of tens of thousands of people married to smokers, US researchers found that they face no significant extra risk of lung cancer or heart disease. It may sting your eyes, take your breath away and make your clothes smell, but other people's cigarette smoke will not kill you.
The demise of a supposed major risk to public health might be expected to prompt celebration among medical experts and campaigners. Instead, they scrambled to condemn the study, its authors, its conclusions, and the journal that published them. The reaction came as no surprise to those who have tried to uncover the facts about passive smoking. More than any other health debate, the question of whether smokers kill others as well as themselves is engulfed in a smog of political correctness and dubious science.
Researchers who dissent from the party line face character
assassination and the
The furore over last week's negative findings, reported in the respected British Medical Journal, has its origins in research published in the same journal in October 1997. After reviewing the evidence from dozens of studies, researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London, concluded that being married to a smoker increases the "risk" of lung cancer and heart disease by around 25 per cent.
The results were seized on by health campaigners as final proof of what they had known all along: that smokers are not just killing themselves - they are also killing innocent bystanders, and must be stopped. The same issue of the BMJ carried an editorial by Dr Ronald Davis, the editor of the journal Tobacco Control, declaring: "Health advocates should pursue all strategies that would help accomplish that goal, including education, legislation, regulation and litigation."
Just how willing campaigners are to pursue all strategies soon became clear. In March 1998, The Telegraph revealed that an international study by the World Health Organisation had failed to find any convincing evidence of a link between passive smoking and cancer. The article prompted uproar among anti-smoking campaigners and denials from the WHO, which insisted that the study had found a 16 per cent increase in cancer "risk" among those married to smokers.
The WHO, in what has become a standard ruse in the passive smoking debate, ignored the fact that the 16 per cent risk figure was not "statistically significant". That is, it had failed to meet the standard of proof usually demanded by scientists.
As The Telegraph has discovered, however, passive smoking research is an area where the usual standards do not apply. If they did, last week's wholly negative findings would have surprised no one. For long before the publication of the original BMJ studies, it had been clear that the 25 per cent extra risk figure was likely to prove a wild exaggeration.
The evidence comes from research into a key issue in the passive smoking debate: just how much smoke do non-smokers actually inhale? Surprisingly few attempts have been made to gauge smoke exposure directly. Those that have raise grave doubts over claims that passive smoking poses a significant health risk.
In studies across Europe over the past decade, air quality
experts at Covance
So small a risk is, however, in line with last week's negative findings. It also explains an awkward fact rarely mentioned by anti-smoking campaigners: more than 80 per cent of all studies of passive smoking have failed to find a statistically significant link to lung cancer. Only by subjecting them to abstruse statistical techniques can they deliver the goods.
One technique is anything but abstruse, however. It involves simply ignoring results that do not fit. In the original BMJ reports, a major US study showing no extra heart disease risk from passive smoking was excluded on the grounds that it did not fit with the positive results, and had been funded by the tobacco industry. The air monitoring studies have been ignored for the same reasons.
Scientists are understandably chary of research backed by an industry with a history of deceit. Yet so widespread is the conviction that passive smoking is a proven killer that researchers who think otherwise have little choice but to apply for tobacco industry support. Prof James Enstrom, of the University of California, the lead author of the study whose negative findings sparked last week's controversy, said the research would never have seen the light of day, except for support from the tobacco industry.
Originally set up in 1959 by the American Cancer Society, who recruited 118,000 Californian adults into the study, the follow-up effort was long supported by taxes levied on cigarettes. In 1997 the funding was suddenly cut off. Prof Enstrom suspects that health officials in California just were not keen to fund research that might undermine the original BMJ studies.
Prof Enstrom, compelled to take tobacco industry money to complete the study, then found that journals were unwilling to publish his negative findings. He told The Telegraph: "One journal we tried had published three positive studies before, but despite getting a glowing referee's report on our work, they refused to accept it."
After the BMJ published it last week, he has been subjected to a barrage of criticism: "The whole process has been aggressive, vitriolic hate," he says.
Within hours of publication, he and his co-author Dr Geoffrey Kabat, of the State University of New York, came under attack by the very organisation that had set up his study: the American Cancer Society. "We are appalled that the tobacco industry has succeeded in giving visibility to a study with so many problems," said a spokesman, adding that the study was "neither reliable nor independent".
But, Prof Enstrom said, the speed of the society's response to the negative findings is particularly revealing. "They wrote the complaint before they even saw the paper," he said.
In the UK, the anti-smoking pressure group Ash accused Prof Enstrom and his colleague of "deliberately downplaying the findings to suit their tobacco paymasters". But Prof Enstrom says they were subjected to rigorous peer review, and denies tobacco industry influence.
The denial appears to have satisfied the BMJ. Dr Richard Smith, the journal's editor, told The Telegraph that the decision to publish the findings was made only after they had been thoroughly refereed, and full disclosure made of the source of funding. "This is a big study with very complete follow-up about an important question," Dr Smith said. "I take the view that not to publish is a form of scientific misconduct."
Now Dr Smith, too, is under fire from his own colleagues. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said: "There is decades of overwhelming evidence that passive smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease, as well as triggering asthma attacks."
The reference to asthma hints at a new strategy by anti-smoking campaigners - towards a focus on the health of children. Unlike the risks from lung cancer and heart disease, the evidence that passive smoking damages the lungs of children is strong. Last week the British Thoracic Society called for more funding into this aspect of the smoking and health debate. That suggests that children with disorders such as asthma may soon become the focus of attempts to introduce a total ban on smoking in public places.
In the meantime, health campaigners show no enthusiasm for giving up their most potent claim: that the person puffing away next to you is not merely making your eyes water, but killing you as well. The scientific evidence is just not there, says Prof Enstrom. "But maybe we've gone past the point where anyone cares about the facts."
just want to hear the truth about passive smoking
Telegraph - Tom Utley - May 17, 2003
|To believe that
passive smoking may not be very harmful has become a thought-crime almost
akin to Holocaust denial. Those who dare express doubts must expect gales
of hysterical abuse from every point of the PC compass. Their integrity
will be questioned, along with the marital status of their parents. The
difference, of course, is that while the evidence for the Holocaust as
historical fact is overwhelming, by no means has it been proved that inhaling
other people's tobacco smoke causes the suffering attributed to it.
This week, two American academics have felt the full of force of the anti-smoking lobby's righteous wrath, after writing in the British Medical Journal that the link between passive smoking and disease "may be considerably weaker than generally believed" (News, May 16). Dr James Enstrom and Prof Geoffrey Kabat reached this conclusion after studying the husbands and wives of no fewer than 35,500 smokers over almost 40 years. That is an enormous sample, and if there were a strong link between passive smoking and heart and lung diseases, you would certainly expect it to have emerged.
Anti-smokers have put the increased risk of lung cancer among those who live with smokers at 20 per cent, and the increased risk of heart disease at 30 per cent. If the causal connection were anything like as strong as that, it is inconceivable that a 40-year survey of 35,500 people would not have brought it to light.
Instead, the researchers found no hard evidence of a link of any sort. "Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke could not plausibly cause a 30 per cent increase in risk of coronary heart disease," they concluded. "It seems premature to conclude that environmental tobacco smoke causes death from coronary heart disease and lung cancer."
In the present climate of opinion, that is an extraordinarily brave thing to say. It is particularly courageous of Dr Enstrom, who works at the school of public health at California University, Los Angeles, which I imagine to be the very Kremlin of political correctness in the world capital of the phenomenon.
Prof Kabat teaches at the department of preventive medicine in the State University of the relatively civilised New York - at least, New York was civilised, before the unspeakable Mayor Bloomberg turfed the city's smokers out of its bars and restaurants and on to the streets. (No letters, please, pointing out that Prof Kabat is based in Stony Brook, Long Island, and not NYC. I must be allowed my gratuitous dig at the mayor.)
Sure enough, the ink was hardly dry on the findings of this voluminous survey before the health lobbyists weighed in with their abuse. They seized particularly on the information that Dr Enstrom has received money from the tobacco industry over the past few years, and that last year Prof Kabat carried out some work for a law firm whose clients included tobacco companies.
The accusation here, if I understand it, is that these two academics (life-long non-smokers, both of them, incidentally) deliberately falsified data collected over nearly 40 years from 35,500 people, in order to please the tobacco industry. Either that, or they suspended their scientific judgment so as to put the most favourable possible interpretation on their findings, from the cigarette manufacturers' point of view. Both charges strike me as not only grotesquely libellous, but also thoroughly implausible.
It does not seem to occur to any of the health lobbyists that Dr Enstrom and Prof Kabat may simply be trying to discover the truth about a matter of great importance, upon which much public policy depends. If I am putting the lives of my family and friends at risk by smoking in their presence, then I am clearly doing something very wicked, and I should be stopped. But if, as I firmly believe, I am doing no such thing, then it is an insufferable and unjustifiable assault on my freedom to confine me to windowless smoking-rooms or throw me on to the street in the rain. The findings of Dr Enstrom and Prof Kabat strongly suggest that the systematic persecution of smokers by governments, employers and local authorities is based on a false assumption.
It is a pity, I grant you, that so much of the research that casts doubt on the dangers of passive smoking has tobacco money behind it. But, against that, it must be said that almost all the research that plays up those risks is funded by the health lobby, in one form or another. What is more, in the prevailing atmosphere of hostility to smokers, much higher standards of proof are demanded of the pros than of the antis.
When Doreen McIntyre, chief executive of No Smoking Day, attacks the researchers' study as "an insult to thousands of people who are suffering and dying" she is saying nothing more grown-up than that she refuses to believe it. She seems to offer no serious critique of the researchers' methods or their findings.
Perhaps I, too, should declare an interest.
A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from Forest, the pro-smoking people, informing me that I was the winner of their Journalist of the Year Award, 2002 - presumably because I had been judged to have smoked more cigarettes last year than any other journalist. This was my first award since I won a trophy for ballroom dancing at the age of 12, and I was right chuffed.
I have been waiting in vain ever since to discover what physical form the award would take. At first, I imagined a large cheque, or at the very least a golden ashtray. As the weeks went by, with no further word from Forest, I lowered my expectations to a carton of Marlboro reds, or maybe just a packet. But no. It seems that there is not even to be an award ceremony - no opportunity for me tearfully to thank my mom and pop and all you beautiful people out there, my public, between coughs. The award seems to consist entirely of a sentence on an obscure website on the internet. But an award-winning journalist I am, thanks to Forest, and perhaps therefore corrupt.
In all the brouhaha over the report in the BMJ, the only intelligent comment that I have read came from the British Thoracic Society, whose spokesman described the paper as "yet another piece of evidence in the difficult debate on passive smoking". All I ask is that people should be a bit nicer to smokers, until somebody can produce convincing evidence that we are harming anybody but ourselves.
|It will survive
Taki - The Spectator - May 17, 2003
|The Big Bagel
is facing one of the worst financial crises since the city teetered on
going broke during the Seventies, when it actually defaulted on its bonds,
and President Ford famously told the place to ‘drop dead’. I remember being
in Elaine’s at the time, and when the headlines came in with the morning
papers a cheer went up from the drunken customers. Elaine’s, the favourite
watering-hole for writers and showbusiness folk, was packed back then,
at five in the morning. Not this time. I was there last week, hosting a
party for friends, and the place was like a library on Saturday night in
Belfast. Business at New York bars and restaurants has plummeted by as
much as 50 per cent in the wake of the smoking ban, and many establishments
are on the brink of shutting their doors. It is as if Mayor Bloomberg purposely
set out to kill off what was left of post 9/11 nightlife in the country’s
most swinging city.
Which, of course, he has not. What we have here is a severe form of narcissism, a grandiose, self-centred, over-inflated ego imposing its will on a supine populace much too cowed by authority to practise civil disobedience. Mind you, Bloomberg has a tough job — one he inherited — but his dictatorial streak of all or nothing is hardly helping matters. Most people I’ve spoken to, smokers and non-smokers alike, feel that people who own and run bars and restaurants should be given a choice. An owner decides whether his establishment is smoking or non-smoking, and then the customers decide where they want to eat and drink. It’s very simple, really, but the Ayatollah Bloomberg thinks otherwise. In the meantime, deserted city bars and restaurants have fallen on very hard times. Again last week, at Le Cirque, the poshest restaurant in the Bagel, the magnificent art nouveau bar was totally deserted after dinner. The head waiter had some choice words for the mayor, words I wouldn’t dare repeat even when describing the foreign minister of Belgium, or that democrat down in Zimbabwe, Bob (le flambeur) Mugabe.
Needless to say, Bloomberg’s popularity has hit rock bottom. His job approval is at an all-time low — 32 per cent — which is sub-basement. Worse, celebrity-obsessed Noo Yawkers have turned thumbs down when pollsters asked whether they would dine with Mayor Mike. Only 40 per cent of those asked said dining with him would be fun; 60 per cent of those surveyed thought the mayor was out of touch with the little people, a billionaire who is unaware that an 18.5 per cent tax hike on property means the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
What Bloomberg lacks is sensitivity. He is seeking to block a bill that would make it easier for siblings of firefighters and cops who died in the 11 September tragedy to follow in the steps of their siblings. On a 100-point civil service exam, a sibling of a dead firefighter or cop would be given a ten-point bonus. No big deal, and only fair, but the mayor does not see it this way. In fact he sees it as unconstitutional, obviously never having heard of racial quotas or Affirmative Action. (The bill would hamper the city from recruiting more minorities, as most firefighters and cops who died on 9/11 were white.) To say that relatives of those who died are irate would be like saying Tony Blair is not confined by facts, a gross understatement.
Never mind. Noo Yawk is Noo Yawk, and the place will survive, with or without Michael Bloomberg. I think he will be a one-termer, like David Dinkins, but the election is 18 months away. What he should do is cut the fat out of city government, not hound smokers. What he should do is deal with the city’s unions — bloated and demanding as ever — not tax small businesses to death. What he must do is make tough choices, not showboating ones. Every livery car in the city runs its engines while parked in order for the drivers to speak non-stop to various customers. These cars pollute more than all the smokers put together throughout the century, yet there’s no law about idling one’s engine 24-hours per day and night. And spitting. The Bagel looks like a Chinese spittoon, yet not a word from our mayor against this particular health hazard. I guess Bloomberg was abused as a child by a smoking parent or neighbour and is out to get even.
Townhall.com - David Limbaugh - May 17, 2003
lawsuit against McDonald’s hamburger chain strikes me as frivolous, even
laughable on its face. But I’m not laughing because it is not just some
isolated, renegade, over-the-top lawsuit. It’s representative of a society-deadening
illness in America.
Last year lawyers filed a number of lawsuits against fast food distributors for making their consuming clients obese and unhealthy. While none of the lawsuits has yet been successful, a few are still looming and people are beginning to take them seriously.
The theory behind the suits is that the defendants failed to disclose clearly and conspicuously the nutritional content and harmful effects of their food, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
Just how far are we going to take this developing principle that a person is not responsible for his own actions if there is a deep pocket to which we can shift the blame? The tobacco suits were bad enough. After all, if as a pre-teen some forty years ago I was aware enough of the risks in smoking to try to convince both my parents to quit the habit – which I was and did – how could any sentient human being have been ignorant of the risks?
It didn’t matter that everyone knew the risks, said the tobacco plaintiffs, because the evil, conspiratorial tobacco companies tried to conceal the risks and also laced their product with addictive ingredients. They needed to be punished – not just for their tortious behavior, but also just for being big corporations -- no matter how irresponsible the plaintiffs may have been.
You better believe this insanity will not stop with McDonald’s and it won’t stop with fast foods – because this really isn’t about nutrition. It’s about changing our societal relationships, restructuring our economic system and undermining the nuclear family. It’s about destroying our liberties by divorcing them from personal responsibility and accountability – freedom can’t long survive without them.
Folks, this country will eventually collapse if we don’t exercise a little self-help and use some of that common sense that doesn’t seem to be quite as common anymore. Not every societal problem is an injustice that must be remedied. Utopias don’t exist, the Cuban Paradise notwithstanding.
What we really need is not more policy-making lawsuits or mandatory nutrition guides accompanying each meal, but a nationwide crash course on the "nutritional" ingredients essential for a vibrant, prosperous and free society.
grounds for skepticism about secondhand smoke claims
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - May 16, 2003
|New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg says his ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, which
took effect last month, will save "literally tens of thousands of lives."
Anti-tobacco activist Stanton Glantz claims such bans cut heart attack
rates in half.
In a political environment where such extravagant claims are credulously accepted, it's useful to be reminded that the scientific debate about the hazards of secondhand smoke is far from settled. A study in the May 17 issue of the British Medical Journal shows once again how tricky it is to measure the effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
UCLA epidemiologist James Enstrom and State University of New York epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat analyzed data from an American Cancer Society study that tracked 118,000 Californians from 1959 until 1998. They focused on 35,561 subjects who had never smoked and whose spouses' smoking habits were determined through a questionnaire. As is typical of research in this area, Enstrom and Kabat used marriage to a smoker as an indicator of ETS exposure, subdividing subjects based on how much their spouses smoked.
"No significant associations were found for current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke," they report. "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. . . . Given the limitations of the underlying data in this and other studies of environmental tobacco smoke and the small size of the risk, it seems premature to conclude that environmental tobacco smoke causes death from coronary heart disease and lung cancer."
Since anti-smoking activists and public health officials confidently assert annual death tolls from secondhand smoke of 50,000 or more, you may suspect that Enstrom and Kabat's findings are unusual. They are in fact similar to the results of most studies looking for a connection between ETS and lung cancer or heart disease. Such research typically finds small, statistically insignificant associations.
If you pool the data together, you can generate statistically significant results. But such meta-analyses tend to mask the weaknesses of the studies on which they're based.
As Enstrom and Kabat note, these weaknesses include the possible misclassification of current or former smokers as lifelong nonsmokers. Because smokers tend to marry smokers and are at an elevated risk of lung cancer and heart disease regardless of their ETS exposure, that kind of mistake could account for the observed associations.
Spouses also tend to share other habits -- related to diet and exercise, for example -- that can contribute to illness. Since smokers tend to be less health-conscious and risk-averse than nonsmokers, their spouses might be more prone to disease even if ETS had no effect. Another interesting point raised by Enstrom and Kabat is the effect of being widowed, which happens more often to spouses of smokers and is independently associated with higher death rates.
Finally, there is the problem of publication bias: Studies that find an association are more likely to see print. Hence the link between ETS exposure and fatal disease could be even weaker than it looks in the published research.
The question is not whether tobacco smoke can be dangerous. At high enough levels, it clearly is, as Enstrom and Kabat's study confirms. "As expected," they write, "there was a strong, positive dose-response relation between active cigarette smoking and deaths from coronary heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
The question is whether there's a threshold below which tobacco smoke has no measurable impact on mortality. Based on the epidemiological data, Enstrom and Kabat calculate that smoking one cigarette a day would be associated with something like a 20 percent increase in lung cancer risk (as opposed to an increase of roughly 1,000 percent for a pack a day) and virtually no increase in heart disease risk.
"It is generally considered that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is roughly equivalent to smoking one cigarette per day," Enstrom and Kabat note. If so, a small increase in lung cancer risk is possible, but the commonly reported 30 percent increase in heart disease risk -- the purported cause of almost all the deaths attributed to secondhand smoke -- is highly implausible.
Tobaccophobes such as Michael Bloomberg and Stanton Glantz are determined to eliminate smoking from bars and restaurants regardless of what the evidence shows. But those of us who have more respect for the truth should not let them banish skepticism along with cigarette smoke.
are threatened by the latest influx of nannies
Delaware Online - Jeffrey A. Jackson - May 11, 2003
|In the formative
years of the United States, the principal political debate was, for all
intents and purposes, who should run the country. The federalists felt
strongly that power should remain in the hands of the educated elite of
the young nation, on the grounds that only they were able to command sufficient
knowledge to make the right choices. The Democrats, on the other hand,
championed the right of the common man to determine his own fate.
Jeffersonian democracy eventually won and the privilege of self-determination was subsequently extended to persons of all colors and to women.
Nevertheless, elitists have refused to give up. People convinced they have discovered a one-size-fits-all way to live have from time to time imposed their version of proper behavior on the rest. The awesome power of government is used to enforce this.
The grounds for doing this are universally high-minded. Morality has been a frequent vehicle. Protecting children is a close second. Right behind that comes health and safety.
The Federalists of yore have become the nannies of today. They know what is good for you and they'll make you live that way whether you like it or not.
Delaware's latest excursion into nannyism is the euphemistically titled Clean Indoor Air Act. Recognizing that the anti-smoking education campaign that began in 1964 is a failure, the champions of clean living are making it difficult or impossible to smoke. The rationale is that the health of non-smokers is jeopardized by those who partake in the nasty habit. Non-smokers, I guess, don't have enough sense to avoid smoky environments.
Nannies will run your life if you let them. Only you should decide what is good for you.
believes flimsy secondhand smoke theories
The News Tribune - Jim St. John - May 4, 2003
is a leading cause of statistics. We read new ones almost daily in our
newspapers, but how accurate are they?
A case in point is a recent Associated Press posting (on April Fools' Day) about a short-term reduction in heart attacks in Helena, Mont. - from seven to four per month - all attributed to a six-month smoking ban in bars and restaurants. No joke.
The authors of the study are two antismoking-activist doctors, who themselves admit that their statistics are well within the realm of chance, and that they made some "adjustments" to the numbers.
Their self-described "natural experiment" blissfully ignored probable contributing factors to these cases, such as obesity, illness, diet, old age, active smoking and other causes that had no relation at all to not breathing traces of smoke in a Helena bar.
Nonetheless, this tidbit of anecdotal junk-science generated applause at a cardiology convention and headlines nationwide, passing across editors' desks without question or red pencil.
Newspapers, TV, radio and billboards all advertise the mantra that 53,000 people die annually from secondhand smoke - a newly inflated and unproven scare statistic brought to us by sellers of pharmaceutical nicotine.
Nontribal entertainment and hospitality businesses must fend for themselves, with a virtually nonexistent budget, against bullying by pharmaceutical interests and their ideological minions in government and special interest organizations.
Where can we look for better facts in the debate? Perhaps by introducing sober lab science instead of more dreamy, new-age Helena numbers. Antismoking activists insist on statistical guesses only. What they don't want is what is lawfully required in industrial workplaces: fitting employees with personal air sampling monitors to identify, in a lab, the exact level of exposure to certain substances.
ain't my fault that I'm fat
Townhall.com - Doug Bandow - April 15, 2003
|I'm trying to
lose a few extra pounds, but the other day some Brach's chocolate eggs
began calling to me: "Eat me, eat me." I was powerless to resist. In just
an hour, I devoured a pound of them. I've decided to stand up for all Americans
and sue Brach's.
I have spent the last decade or so more than 50 pounds overweight. Only with great effort did I lose most of the excess last year. But the calorie pushers are making it hard for me to keep it off.
There are, of course, many evil fat dealers. So I'm eagerly awaiting the outcome of the upcoming legal summit at Northeastern University at which a coterie of activist lawyers who torture the law for a living are going to plot a strategy for "attacking obesity." Luckily, they are not going to advance the tiresome mantra to "eat less, exercise more." It's almost impossible to do that when you are surrounded by fat sellers, attempting to hook you on their dangerous products.
But new strategies are desperately needed. George Washington University's John Banzhaf has led the way in targeting McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants for being responsible for obesity.
Consumers are responsible? What an outdated concept. But apparently we need to find more targets than just the burger pushers. Indeed, I was already looking elsewhere: I only frequent a McDonald's or similar establishment once every couple weeks, if that. Even Banzhaf & Co. might have trouble proving they are to blame for my fat, though he claims two such meals a week is enough to cause obesity. If you're a lawyer, you obviously will believe anything. Apparently jurors will too; one survey shows that one-quarter of jurors would vote to hold fast-food restaurants responsible for obesity.
So why don't grocery stores tell us that apples are better for us than vanilla wafers? It certainly isn't my fault that I more often carried mint chocolate chip ice cream home with me than melons. We - me, Caesar, and everyone else forced to consume all of those extra calories - were victims of the lack of honest supermarket advertising. Sue them all! But that's not enough. If Burger King is at fault for selling food dripping in fat, what about the farmers who raised the cattle and grew the potatoes? They knew they were feeding Americans' addictions. They are the moral equivalent of the cocaine cartel.
The field is wide open for creative tort attorneys. Hopefully, the upcoming obesity summit will encourage Banzhaf & Co. to look beyond fast-food restaurants. It should be obvious that nothing is anyone's fault, which means everything is someone else's fault. I'm ready to line up the defendants.
alarmists blowing smoke
Seattle Post Intelligencer -
Gustave Hellthaler and Jim St. John - March 26, 2003
|"There is no
credible scientific evidence that 'secondhand smoke' causes illness in
That may be a shocking statement to many who believe otherwise, but one of the largest scientific studies to assess the effects of passive exposure, funded by the American Cancer Society, came to that conclusion a decade ago. With the advent of new test equipment and more accurate methods, it is becoming even more apparent that the risk from environmental tobacco smoke is much lower than advertised, and for purposes of regulation, non-existent.
The debate over prohibiting smoking in entertainment and hospitality businesses hinges on accurate measurements of exposure among employees who work in those establishments. According to several recent field studies, a bartender in a smoking-permitted tavern (with no smoke-abatement systems in place) will inhale the approximate equivalent of one-500th of a cigarette per shift. These measurements were taken by means of monitors worn by bartenders and waitresses, with the collected respirable suspended particulate analyzed in a laboratory. These findings correlate with measurements cited by the Environmental Protection Agency Report on Secondhand Smoke. The EPA adds that there is no risk to health identified among those who actively smoke three or fewer cigarettes per day.
Why, then, are we constantly bombarded by scare statistics in the news media and on billboards, proclaiming tens of thousands of deaths annually from exposure to this particular kind of smoke? A case in point is the March 12 Op-Ed column by Alonzo Plough, director of Public Health-Seattle & King County, that relied on old and discredited statistical manipulations generated by an activist anti-tobacco academic group in California, whose conclusions were rejected by the EPA.
A 1993 survey by the county health department found that significant air pollution levels in restaurants were generated by grilling meats, in some cases measured at twice the levels generated by tobacco smoke. Meat smokes are high in heterocyclic amines -- a known, prevalent indoor air carcinogen. This finding has never generated the media that secondhand smoke does, perhaps because the politics of hamburger cooking aren't as sexy. However, there is a clear reason why smoking has hijacked the focus of health authorities these days: money.
Flush with a $29 million yearly propaganda budget, courtesy of the "tobacco settlement" (with additional funds coming from a drug company seeking to promote nicotine inhalers), is a media blitz exaggerating the risks of secondhand smoke. The prohibitionist lobby is bigger than "big tobacco" -- a coalition of government and private feeders at a huge trough of cash, with resources dwarfing those of small-business groups that oppose them: non-tribal restaurants, bars, taverns, charitable bingo. Prohibitionists see these enterprises as convenient bludgeons to coerce public behavior, ignoring the probable economic damage that would accrue if they get their way.
For example, California's smoking ban is the wall trophy for tobacco haters, but the political rampage was not without victims. More than 1,000 bars, taverns and "mom & pop" restaurants closed their doors, with thousands of servers losing their jobs.
In Canada, a citywide ban in Ottawa has nearly destroyed all downtown bars and restaurants as patrons flock to the suburbs. In British Columbia, a disastrous experiment with a ban lasted only 80 days, but in that brief period, 910 workers were laid off, with multimillion-dollar losses in the hospitality and tourism industries. When polled, 77 percent of British Columbians agreed with a constructive solution: new ventilation/filtration standards that now accommodate the public and workers.
In the business of hospitality and entertainment in Washington state, the playing field is far from level. A smoking ban would make it much worse, because nearly everyone is a short drive from sovereign tribal lands, where smoking would not be affected by any law enacted by regulatory fiat, public ballot or the Legislature. Private gathering places would likewise be unaffected. Customers would relocate to those venues where they would be free to light up, depriving the state of millions in needed tax revenues.
Another puzzling product of Plough's data is his assertion that 70 percent of restaurants in King County are now smoke-free. Since that demographic nearly matches the 79 percent of adults do not smoke, they are free to choose the 70 percent of restaurants that prohibit it, courtesy of market forces.
If there were scientifically compelling proof of risk to workers and the public, the uncompromising regulation touted by Plough would be justified, but the evidence is absent. If the issue truly is clean air, that's something readily achieved through ventilation and filtration technology, reducing smokes of all kinds to levels below laboratory detection. Why not try this kind of solution, instead of throwing businesses into bankruptcy and forcing workers out of jobs?
a smoking ban isn't the answer
Lexington Herald-Leader -
Merlene Davis - March 16, 2003
|Now that I am
a non-smoker, now that the smell of smoke irritates me more than it conjures
up loving memories, I am still against the government or the health department
legally binding businesses to become smoke-free.
If we all know smoking is bad for us, the moment we smell it or see someone smoking near us, we should leave. We should move to safer ground.
We don't need a law to protect us. We just need common sense and mobility.
I agree with A1A Sandbar and Grill owner Larry Dean, who said none of us has the right to enter his establishment. "You have the privilege of coming onto my private property," he said at a forum last week concerning the banning of smoking in Lexington.
And that's true.
We also have the privilege of not going to his place.
Vote with your feet.
If we don't like the smoke-filled atmosphere of his bar, we should find one more suitable to our tastes.
We Americans preach diversity, but we don't live it. We want everything to be one way -- our way.
But, see, even God didn't have such stringent rules. He gave us all the ability to make our own choices, for better or worse.
He'd like for us to head down a particular road, and even points that road out to us.
But he doesn't force us to do the right thing, and he still accepts us when we don't.
We're asking government to go further than God.
smoke doesn't work
Townhall.com - Bruce Bartlett - March 14, 2003
|With many states
now running large budget deficits, legislators are looking anew at higher
cigarette taxes. Even though these taxes have been raised sharply in almost
every state in recent years -- on top of price increases mandated by the
tobacco settlement -- politicians still seem to think that this cow can
be milked even more. However, several new studies suggest that there are
diminishing returns to higher cigarette taxes. Evasion is now so great
that revenues are starting to fall in some places.
Long ago, Adam Smith noted that it is possible for tax increases to reduce revenues. Said Smith, "High taxes, sometimes by diminishing the consumption of the taxed commodities, and sometimes by encouraging smuggling, frequently afford a smaller revenue to government than what might be drawn from more moderate taxes."
New York City is probably the best example of where cigarette taxes, which now total $3.00 per pack, are so high that a tax cut would probably raise revenue. A new report from the Small Business Survival Committee notes that the city is getting less than half the revenue expected from last year's increase from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack. (The state also levies a tax of $1.50, putting the total price per pack at $7.50 in New York City.)
The city had anticipated $250 million in additional revenue from the tax increase -- a tenfold increase from the $27 million expected from the previous 8 cent tax. Since the rate was increasing almost 20 times, the city clearly anticipated that there would be a substantial falloff in demand. Since this lower demand would also affect state cigarette tax revenues collected in New York City, the state demanded that its lost revenues be reimbursed by the city. Hence, the city was forced to give the state 46 percent of the higher revenues.
Thus, out of the $250 million, New York City was only going to get $107 million of additional revenue even if everything went as planned. But according to the SBSC study, conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute, cigarette sales from legal sources fell much more than expected -- by 189 million packs. This led to a further reduction in the sales of other products at corner groceries and other small businesses, resulting in lower incomes and profits. This forced stores to cut back on employment, resulting in a loss of about 10,000 jobs.
The loss of cigarette sales, ancillary product sales, and income to businesses and workers reduced New York City's tax revenue by $64 million. Thus the city's net revenue from its $250 million tax increase turns out to be just $43 million.
Some of the lost sales undoubtedly resulted from reduced demand -- people quitting smoking or cutting back. However, it appears that smuggling, out-of-state purchases and sales on Indian reservations (where no taxes are collected) are the main reason. According to a new Cato Institute study (pdf), New York City has been waging a losing battle against cigarette tax evasion for 50 years. Well-organized smugglers buy cigarettes in North Carolina, where the tax is just 5 cents per pack, and resell them in New York for easy profits. According to the March 10 issue of U.S. News & World Report, such smuggling is even conducted by terrorists to fund their activities.
Another study by a group of convenience store owners looked at the impact of reduced sales throughout New York State. According to the study, which was conducted by economist Brian O'Connor, untaxed cigarette sales resulting from smuggling, cross-border sales, Internet sales and sales on Indian reservations cost the state as much as $609 million in revenue in 2001 and almost $900 million in 2002. This just represents lost cigarette taxes. Taking account of lost ancillary sales and income undoubtedly would increase the state's overall revenue loss even more.
What is going on in New York is also going on throughout the United States. And the magnitude of the problem is in direct proportion to cigarette tax rates. States with high taxes have high evasion; states with low taxes have little evasion. According to economist Mark Stehr of Drexel University, the 10 lowest taxed states had cigarette tax rates averaging 10 cents per pack in 1999 and had untaxed consumption of 2.6 percent. By contrast, the 10 highest taxed states charged an average of 74 cents per pack and had untaxed consumption of 10.6 percent.
The record is clear that cigarette smokers are not sheep. They do not sit back passively and just pay exorbitant taxes. They take actions to minimize their burden, which have the effect of reducing revenues without reducing consumption. In some cases, such as New York City, lower taxes undoubtedly would actually raise revenue.
food 'addiction' feeds only lawyers
USA Today - Sally Satel - March 11, 2003
addiction" like "heroin addiction?" Will fast-food chains become the next
tobacco industry, forced to charge patrons extra to eat burgers, as smokers
now pay premium prices to buy cigarettes?
Such implausible ideas got a boost recently in the respected British weekly New Scientist, which detailed "new and potentially explosive findings ... that eating yourself into obesity isn't simply (due) to a lack of self-control."
As a psychiatrist who specializes in treating conventional drug addicts and alcoholics, I find the claims flatly offensive. But unfortunately lawyers don't. A legal summit is scheduled in June at Northeastern University to plan legal strategies for "attacking obesity."
George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, a key architect of tobacco litigation, already has connected obesity and addiction.
"Addiction as a concept was a breakthrough in terms of successful tobacco litigation," Banzhaf told me. "With growing evidence that fatty foods can have addiction-like effects, this will be a new, untested weapon in obesity suits."
On his Web site, Banzhaf cites the experiments described by New Scientist. Rats fed diets high in fat and sugar exhibited changes in brain neurotransmitters typically associated with using drugs such as heroin.
The only ones who should salivate at this are lawyers who stand to collect hefty fees if juries buy the line that high-fat food is as habit forming as heroin.
It is true that people can "crave" pizza as they might a cigarette, that they feel weak and shaky when calories (or heroin) "wear off" and that they sometimes consume fries (or cocaine) compulsively. But these facile comparisons tell us little about the nature of overeating. Instead, they show how the term "addiction" can be stretched until it becomes meaningless.
Virtually every pleasure we encounter — listening to beautiful music, sex, even exercise — is associated with surges of dopamine similar to those during a high-fat meal. But we call these pleasures, not addictions. Scientists cannot look at dopamine levels or brain scans and tell the difference.
The word "addiction" is perilously close to losing any meaning. If lawyers can turn fast food into an addiction and pin liability on restaurants, it won't be long before adulterers sue Sports Illustrated, claiming its swimsuit issue led them astray.
Fast food addiction? The addiction we really need weaning from is spurious litigation.
UPI - Joe Bob Briggs - March 10, 2003
|Why do we have
10,000 actual non-smoking announcements a day when there's no smoker who
would dare lighting up in a public place unless he'd first located a sign
identifying it as a smoking area? After all, there are lots of other laws
you could make public announcements about. You could have P.A. announcers
who said, "Welcome to New York's La Guardia Airport. Please remember that
this is a gun-free facility. Firearms are prohibited in all areas of the
terminal. Your cooperation is appreciated."
You could have a recording at the mall that said, "Please refrain from depositing chewing gum on the undersides of the cafe tables."
In other words, this law has been singled out for some reason. It's the ONLY law that's consistently drummed into our subconscious, almost like the continuously played propaganda tapes of the communists and fascists. It's intended to penetrate at some subliminal level: "There shall be no smoking," "We forbid smoking," "Do not smoke," "Smoking is forbidden," and "Smokers will be prosecuted." On Delta Airlines they even have an announcement that goes, "Smoking is forbidden on this OR ANY OTHER Delta flight." It's not enough for us to be told not to smoke. We need to be reminded that there is no one smoking anywhere else in the entire worldwide Delta system. On New Jersey Transit trains, the sign says, "Smoking is illegal and rude." Wouldn't just "illegal" have summed it up?
When people are continually warning you against illegal behavior that no one is committing in the first place, you have to wonder what's REALLY going on. Let me take a stab at it. These non-smoking warnings have the feeling of a mantra, a ritualized societal pronouncement that has no practical value but is considered comforting to the bourgeois.
Since there's no logical reason to be hammering the non-smoking message 24 hours a day, you have to think it's one of two things:
1. It's to marginalize these smoking groups, which would otherwise seem dangerous, in the way that gangs of roving teenage boys seem dangerous.
2. It's an attack on smoking itself. In this case it would be the classic paranoid substitution of a smaller ill for a larger one. Since the real fear that our air is dirty is a fear that's probably based on truth, since factory pollution standards have recently been loosened but since the paranoid citizen feels no possible way to remedy that, he instead directs his anger toward the pale imitation of it, the scruffy tattooed individual smoker who has the misfortune to be standing on the sidewalk.
hysteria and environmental politics
Townhall.com - Doug Bandow - February 25, 2003
one of the wonders of human creation. They help heal and feed us; they
help fuel our autos and heat our homes; they help produce toys and computers.
Yet some chemicals can hurt, making them a perfect target for alarmist
Chemicals are an integral part of our lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control's latest "National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals," most people had contact to many of the 116 chemicals it studied. Yet this conclusion reflects the dramatic advances in biomonitoring.
For now scientists are capable of detecting the minutest trace of a substance, measuring concentrations of thousandth, millionth and billionth parts.
This enables us to better assess chemical exposure and risk. But it also enables extremists to conveniently ignore contact levels when claiming an epidemic of chemical exposure.
Alas, good news never deters environmental extremists. The Environmental Working Group conducted its own study and found an average of "91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals" in nine volunteers studied.
Many of these chemicals, claimed the group, cause cancer, birth defects or other harms. The result is a significant "body burden," as the group puts it.
But this is fear-mongering at its misleading worst. Simple exposure demonstrates nothing. As the CDC explained: "Just because people have an environmental chemical in their blood or urine does not mean that the chemical causes disease."
Another argument has been advanced by groups such as the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, an umbrella group for the most active alarmists. It claims that multiple chemical exposure can be harmful - indeed, that chemicals are currently hurting one-third of the population. And the health and environment group is being aided by the PR firm Fenton Communications, which specializes in turning junk science into newspaper headlines.
This is an attractive argument for the scientifically uninformed, but it fails the basic test of evidence. As Steven Milloy, publisher of Junkscience.com, points out: "Despite more than 40 years and countless billions of dollars of research, no credible scientific evidence exists to link typical exposures to chemicals in the environment with disease."
What of children? People naturally worry about the impact on youthful development, but, warns the American Council on Science and Health, "we are at a juncture where emotion, fear, and uncertainty compete with scientific data, toxicological principles and principles of risk analysis."
In fact, reports the council in a new book, "Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals?," "There is little toxicological evidence to support the premise that children are consistently more susceptible to environmental chemicals than adults." Where there is a problem, as with lead and PCBs, kids need to be protected. But parents should not live in morbid fear of a world that is actually getting safer and healthier every day. And they need to be aware of what American Council on Science and Health terms a "disturbing pattern in which activists with a non-science agenda manipulate the public's legitimate and appropriate concern for children's health in an effort to promote legislation, litigation, and regulation."
Fast Foods Addictive?
Tech Central Station - Iain Murray - February 20, 2003
|A number of studies
have emerged recently that try to claim that fast food is "as addictive
as heroin." This cancerous cluster caused the once-respectable magazine
New Scientist to ask the question on its front cover, "Can Fast Food Alter
Your Brain in the Same Way as Tobacco and Heroin?" A four-page article
within the magazine came to the conclusion that the science doesn't matter,
because the courts would decide the issue anyway. Such is the nature of
scientific inquiry today.
We have already seen the first shot fired in a war of litigation over the fast food issue. Caesar Barber, a middle-aged New York City janitor, claimed that he suffered diabetes and two heart attacks as a result of the fat in fast-food sold to him by McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and KFC. He lost his case, but more lawyers are sharpening their quills in anticipation of a lucrative crusade against "Big Fat." As New Scientist says, "Some time soon the allegation that fast food is addictive will be made in court, and once that happens the terms of the debate are out of the scientists' hands."
The issue is therefore a microcosm of the way the scientific process is distorted today. Scientists come up with a tentative set of research results. The subsequent press release spins the results so as to grab public attention, which presumably will help gain more funds for further research.
In the meantime, the resulting headlines are seized on by litigators, who take the issue out of the realm of scientific research and into courtrooms. The scientific process is pre-empted and the search for truth suffers while people go after a quick buck. And, doubtless, some people will grow fat on the proceeds.
young - but still adults
OC Register - Brian Doherty - February 16, 2003
Koretz, D-West Hollywood, has reintroduced a publicity-driven, needless
bill to raise the smoking age in California to 21. If the bill passes,
it would give California the highest smoking age in the nation. Currently
in California and in 46 other states anyone 18 or over - that is, any adult
- can legally buy and use tobacco (the smoking age is 19 in Alabama, Alaska
Over the past decade, the "war on tobacco" has increased in ferocity and casualties. We've seen increased taxes, advertising bans and huge jury awards against tobacco companies. Koretz defends his bill with standard rhetoric from this "war." He argues that tobacco use eventually kills 400,000 Americans each year and that nearly 90 percent of smokers start their habit before age 21.
On the surface, the gist of those arguments is true enough.
But from that truth
It is true, though, that smoking can kill you and that most people start smoking when they are young.
But it is the very truth at the heart of the anti-smoking crusade that should make all Americans nervous - if they value their liberty. Koretz says that because "our highest calling is to do things that save lives," his bill is therefore justified. But this is a very dangerous legal philosophy for a limited government for a free people.
Most Americans tend to believe that adults should have
as much freedom as is
It is of course true that banning cigarette sales to a certain age group and preventing them from smoking are two very different things, but the restriction on freedom is still there nonetheless.
Koretz's arguments about the potential dangers of smoking are dangerously beside the point. So, for that matter, are arguments against the bill objecting only to the tax money California would lose in cigarette taxes - though a state in a budget crisis needs to think of such things.
The real point: People over 18 years old are adult Americans. And if being an adult American means anything, it means being free to make decisions about one's pleasures - and risks. That Koretz doesn't see this means he doesn't want to be our legal representative - he wants to be our daddy. And that's the last thing adult Americans need, or want, from the government.
Don’t Poop in My Salad
The Heartland Institute - Joseph L. Bast - February 13, 2003
advocates sure know how to hurl insults at those who defend smokers’ rights.
In response to an opinion piece of mine that ran recently in a daily newspaper,
I received an email from “Harry” in Milwaukee saying if “Bast promises
not to smoke within ten feet of me, I promise not to poop on his salad
bowl while he’s eating.” Only he didn’t say “poop.”
Thanks, Harry. I hope the guys you have lunch with know about your curious habit.
Defending smokers isn’t popular, but if you care about jobs, property rights, the rise of the Nanny State, and the use of junk science in public policy, you just can’t look the other way when smoker abuse occurs.
On January 7, opponents of legislation to ban smoking in Chicago’s restaurants and bars had a chance to testify at a hearing at City Hall. For the better part of a day, dozens of restauranteurs, bar owners and managers, waiters and waitresses, experts on ventilation, community leaders, and at least one public health expert testified that a ban is unwanted, unnecessary, would destroy jobs and hurt tourism, and would violate rights.
When it was over, Ald. Ed Smith, chairman of the Health Committee, told the Chicago Tribune, “there was nothing said in the hearing today that we had not heard all along. It’s the same old soup just warmed over.”
Ald. Smith apparently slept through some pretty compelling testimony.
For example, a Gallup poll was cited showing 52 percent of the public believes restaurants should set aside space for smokers, versus 44 percent that supports a ban. Support for a ban would have been even less if respondents were told restaurants already are required to make accommodations for nonsmokers, or that bans on smoking could cause the loss of jobs or closure of small businesses.
Nonsmokers who visit restaurants and bars are not complaining. The Public Health Department of the City of Chicago received just 16 complaints about cigarette smoke in restaurants and bars in all of 2001. If current accommodations are inadequate, why aren’t nonsmokers complaining?
Bar and restaurant owners stressed the fact that no one is forced to eat or work at establishments that allow smoking. Bars and restaurants are privately owned businesses that earn a profit by giving customers what they want. As demand grows for smoke-free entertainment, the owners of these establishments will deliver it; indeed, many already do. Since they own the property, their right to set the rules of conduct concerning guests should be respected.
Science writer Michael Fumento testified how the threat of secondhand smoke has been greatly exaggerated. Claims that secondhand smoke causes as many as 65,000 early deaths in the U.S. each year have been debunked as “junk science.” Studies by the Congressional Research Service, World Health Organization, and U.S. Department of Energy all failed to find secondhand smoke to be a significant health risk. In 1998, a U.S. District Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to classify secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen.
Why, then, is Chicago’s City Council debating a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants when the public doesn’t want it, the public health benefits would be nonexistent, and the costs in terms of jobs and our rights would be so heavy? Part of the answer lies in the corps of tax-financed professional anti-smoking activists. Lobbying for this legislation is how they earn a paycheck.
But I think there’s another reason. There are far more bars and restaurants in Chicago than there are cops to enforce a smoking ban. Deciding which establishments to ticket would provide many opportunities for corruption, favoritism, and harassment. I think Chicago’s crafty aldermen are looking for another way to shake down bar and restaurant owners, what we Chicagoans call “payola.”
With 645 murders in 2002, Chicago barely missed repeating its title as “murder capital of the U.S.” Diverting scarce law enforcement resources from fighting real crime to harassing smokers just so some alderman can line his pockets with bribes is disgusting, irresponsible, and could be downright deadly.
And that, Harry, is why I defend smokers’ rights.
right to resist treaty
USA Today (Opinion) - Robert Levy (CATO) - February 11, 2003
|If the Bush administration
seems lukewarm to the more radical proposals the World Health Organization
(WHO) is considering for its treaty on tobacco control, that's good news.
After all, tobacco use isn't infectious. Nor is a wisp of smoke harmful
as it crosses national borders. An adult's decision to smoke is voluntary
and individual. Children are different, of course, as proven by 50 state
laws that make the sale of cigarettes to minors illegal. Clearly, we don't
need world government to deal with that issue.
As to specifics:
Using the terms "mild" and "light"
in ads? The more information the better, provided the ads are truthful.
Consumers can distinguish puffery from hard evidence.
If we've learned anything from nourishing a free society for more than two centuries, it's this: Individual decisions are best left to individuals. When occasionally those decisions impose costs on innocent bystanders, state government is sometimes justified in intervening. Rarely is there a need — much less constitutional authority — for the federal government to dictate private consumption choices. And never do we relinquish national sovereignty over such matters to a global organization, especially one like the WHO, which will only be encouraged to expand its social agenda without any sense of restraint or concern for personal liberty.
U.S. leadership does not consist of harmonizing international
regulatory and tax policy, suppressing commercial advertising or banning
cigarettes in private places. Real leadership — especially important for
developing countries trying to shake off their stifling socialist traditions
— promotes respect for private property and free choice. The best lesson
the U.S. could teach is to reject the WHO tobacco treaty.
nannies are creeping into your life
NY Daily News - John Leo - February 9, 2003
campaign is a good example of how creeping nannyism works. First you propose
a program that seems limited and reasonable - in this case, stopping tough
kids from preying on weaker ones. Then you gradually extend the program
until a truly demented level of government intrusion is reached.
Notice, too, the creeping nannyism on cell phones in cars. Now that the campaign to ban hand-held phones by drivers is catching on, many of the campaigners have upped the ante. They want to prohibit drivers' use of hands-free phones, too. The centerpiece of this effort is a new study by University of Utah psychologists. It finds that drivers suffer just as much "inattention blindness" with hands-free phones as they do with hand-held ones. So let's ban all phones, and car radios, too. The California Highway Patrol found that 768 of some 9,000 crashes were caused by drivers fiddling with radios or CD players.
In Australia, the Democrats, a small political party, announced that if drivers' mobile phones are illegal, then smoking should be, too, since fishing around for cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays is as distracting as phoning. Presumably, this also would be true of hands-free smoking, as when drivers use a hookah on the highway.
The Australian Democrats deserve a medal for identifying the only remaining place where nobody had thought to ban smoking - one's own car. A New York court case prohibited smoking in one's own home. Various jurisdictions made smoking a no-no in restaurants, bars, offices, stadiums, dorms, government buildings, public transport, sidewalks and other public spaces. Smoking has even been banned on old Beatles albums. The cigarette has been removed from Paul McCartney's hand on the reissued cover of "Abbey Road," probably for his own good.
The frontier for anti-smoking nannyism is the attempt to make all outdoor smoking impossible. Smoking on outdoor public property is banned in some jurisdictions. Here in New York, activists have targeted Central Park, presumably because a gust of deadly secondhand smoke might waft from the park's 840 acres into the window of a distant apartment building and kill somebody.
And the city Department of Public Health has just issued a severe nanny warning: It announced that doctors could face malpractice suits if they don't push patients hard to stop smoking.
for sanity in product liability?
Townhall.com - Jacob Sullum - January 31, 2003
solution suggested by these three cases is to get rid of juries in civil
cases. Certainly in the gun case and probably in the tobacco case, bad verdicts
would have been the result had the judges not intervened.
By contrast, given the widespread ridicule that greeted the fast food lawsuit,McDonald's had a good shot at winning. But in a few years -- after the predictable series of revelations about the industry's targeting of children, disregard for its customers' waistlines, and knowledge of the french fry's addictive properties -- Big Food may start to seem just as sinister to jurors as Big Tobacco.
If doing away with juries seems too extreme, surely it's
time to change the way
The future of New York City
National Review OnLine - Christopher E. Baldwin - January 8, 2003
|Is New York City
dying? Events of the past month suggest the seemingly implausible conclusion
implied by the question. What it suggests is not that New York will disappear,
but that its role as showcase of the world's best and brightest could diminish
Consider the grim reality of Mayor Bloomberg's 18.5 percent real-estate-tax hike now manifest in all its ugliness as city residents begin to pay their monthly real-estate assessments.
Its not surprising that new extortionate tax regime will be imposed contemporaneous with Mayor Bloomberg's successful effort to ban smoking in all public (and many private) areas of the city. The curtailment of economic and social liberties goes hand in hand. Want a Marlboro with that beer? Take it outside. Want an after-dinner cigar at your private club? Tough. In this new, grim era, Bloomberg's New York does not tolerate the most traditional of vices. New York shall be the poorer for it.
...the threat to New York City (and others) comes not just from the terrorist, but also from the compound stupidities of soaring taxes and profligate spending that bleed of the city of its animal spirits. Like the practitioners of medieval medicine whose leaches sapped life out of the weakening patient, tax hikes and curtailment of social freedoms will achieve the exact opposite of their intended results. We should be mindful that it could all end, as Eliot put it, not with a bang but a whimper.
you than me, sister
The Globe and Mail - Margaret Wente - January 7, 2003
|Yet as I sat
in my PJs cataloguing my sins, it occurred to me (not for the first time)
that Healthism has become our new religion. How else can you explain a
mass desire to run and run until you use up all your electrolytes and throw
up? And yet, the dogmas of Healthism are unquestioned. We have all internalized
them. Our leaders preach them from their pulpits and our media faithfully
report their message. Instead of being photographed in church, our leaders
are now photographed practising good health habits to demonstrate their
piety and civic virtue. Health Minister Anne McLellan has announced that
she's starting an exercise program in order to lose weight. When are you?
Once it was a mark of status to show how much you could consume. Now it's a mark of status to show how much you can refrain from consuming. People who have cut out salt, sugar, fat, caffeine and alcohol are regarded as more virtuous and more moral than those who haven't. Sloth, smoking, obesity and an addiction to Quarter-Pounders are secretly regarded as lower-class. Liberal egalitarians (who, of course, pretend that class does not exist) are certain that society would be far better off if only the lower orders gave up their sinful ways and learned to control their appetites.
Have we all gone crazy? What's so wrong with drinking beer? Whatever happened to the pleasure principle? And how did the most hedonistic generation on Earth turn into a bunch of self-righteous, guilt-ridden self-deniers?
|AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH presents||
Fast Food Fallacy [June 30, 2003]
Indeed, Banzhaf's proposed lawsuit against food chains calls into question his motivation - and that of some other anti-smoking advocates - in campaigns against cigarette companies: Were they based on public-health concerns?
There is evident in the anti-smoking community a general antipathy toward corporations, not just cigarette makers, which has made it hard for the movement to stay on message.
Those of us who are outspoken on the dangers of cigarettes but who also, for instance, argue that regulated food additives and pesticides do not pose health hazards, or that food irradiation and products of biotechnology are safe, are viewed with skepticism, as if we can't really be anti-smoking because we failed the general anti-industry litmus test.
Now Banzhaf's willingness to apply the same legal tactics against food that he used on companies selling life-threatening cigarettes suggests that his agenda is mainly fueled not by health concerns but by a general contempt for profit-making enterprises, regardless of whether the product is hazardous or not.
Smoking Ban Arrives, Benefits Exaggerated [March 27, 2003]
A New York City ban on smoking in bars goes into effect this coming Sunday, and a statewide ban goes into effect four months later. Some see it as reasonable regulation. Others condemn smoking but question the rationale for the regulations. And some see it as a direct blow against liberty. The differing opinions were nicely summed up by the article "Pataki Inks Strict Smoking Law" in today's New York Sun, which quoted, among others, ACSH's own Jeff Stier:
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in an impassioned speech in favor of the [state] bill, argued that tobacco users have no right to "poison" the people around them...
A spokesman for the American Council on Science and Health, Jeff Stier, said anti-tobacco activists are exaggerating the dangers of second-hand smoke. "Cigarettes are bad enough on their own," he said. "You don't have to make stuff up."
Republican Assemblyman Daniel Hooker of Schoharie County, a major in the Marine Corps Reserves, said he thought soldiers fighting in Iraq will be disappointed to learn they can't smoke in their favorite bars when they get home. "While you were overseas fighting for freedom, your legislature was quietly legislating your freedom away," Mr. Hooker said. "My father smoked, and he died of lung cancer. But he died a free man."
The case of the mute scientists [February 27, 2003]
Science — today and every day — is under assault. The
assailants are members of the media, trial lawyers, self-appointed consumer-activists
and environmentalists. The science being mutilated pertains to a wide spectrum
of health topics — including "facts" on the purported health hazards around
us, including acrylamide (a chemical formed in cooking high-carbohydrate
foods), breast implants, PCBs, phthalates (plasticizers), aspartame
In these instances — and so many more — outright blatant misrepresentations of the available science are made, health hazards that do not exist are claimed and picked up by the news media, and ultimately by lawyers intoxicated with the possibility of a cash reward in court from a corporate deep pocket.
It is time to ask why, in light of this ongoing distortion of scientific reality, American scientists are not barking in protest.
...why are American scientists not outraged? Why aren't physicians and scientists picketing in front of CBS — or at least writing letters in protest (My letter to "60 Minutes" was neither answered or acknowledged). Why aren't American scientists barking? Why do they remain mute?
First, most scientists feel more comfortable in labs and classrooms than on op-ed pages and TV studios — and they have no real clue about how to go about challenging what they read and see. Second, in virtually 100 percent of cases where scientists have stepped forward to debunk the "carcinogen scare de jour," they have been subject to ad hominem attacks and labeled "paid liars" for industry. That threat of humiliation is enough to cause many to bite their tongues. Third, science these days has become so very specialized, that the overwhelming portion of our country's scientists have very narrow areas of expertise. Those with a Ph.D. in entomology, biology, veterinary medicine or physics might possibly be as duped as the average citizen when Mr. Cochran talks about the PCB-induced epidemic in Alabama.
Science on the Rocks [February 26, 2003]
The current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) carries a lead article and accompanying editorial that are long on advocacy, short on data. The topic: alcohol consumption in America, who is drinking how much — and how much is too much.
The study comes from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which is headed by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., who was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter. The source of the study alone should have been a red flag for the editors at JAMA: last year, the same group released a study, which later had to be withdrawn, that carelessly doubled the estimate of how much of the nation's alcohol was drunk by teens. In l994, the same authors were caught up in another misrepresentation of data, claiming that 28% of adults on welfare were impaired by drugs or alcohol, when the actual government estimate was more in the order of 4.5%.
A study like this one, however, diverts attention from sensible solutions by wildly exaggerating the problem and shifting the focus from problem drinkers to nearly all those who consume alcoholic beverages. Surely the best way to focus attention on the l0% of Americans who do misuse alcohol is not raising taxes. Why should the 90% of drinkers who use alcohol in a safe and health-promoting matter be forced to pay more for a pleasurable, life-enhancing product — one which in moderation dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease?
The publication by JAMA of this flawed Califano study raises serious questions about the credibility of this prestigious journal — and puts the spotlight on the inherent dangers of using the pages of a scientific journal to promulgate biased views — in this case, anti-alcohol propaganda.
Health Panel on McDonald's Suit: "A Scientific Travesty"! [February 19, 2003]
Physicians and scientists at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) called a second filing of a lawsuit against McDonald's Corporation "without scientific merit."
The revised suit alleges that the plaintiffs ate McDonald's foods to the detriment of their weight and health. It decries McDonald's food as being "non-nutritious," in part because many of the products contain preservatives and other "chemicals."
In fact, ACSH scientists note, not only are chemicals such as preservatives not harmful, they help protect health by preventing spoilage, and all have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The lawsuit implies that natural, unprocessed foods are chemical-free—and thus "healthier." But nothing could be farther from the truth. According to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH president, "All foods are chemicals—we're just not routinely provided with the long list of natural chemicals in the meals we eat every day. Potatoes, for example, naturally contain over 150 chemicals, including traces of arsenic and solanine—chemicals that are safe in low doses but harmful at high ones. Coffee, for another, naturally contains methanol, acetaldehyde, isoprene and dimethyl sulfide—enough polysyllabic items to scare any chemophobic citizen!"
The suit is misleading in that it falsely implies that consuming processed foods with 'chemicals' can cause obesity. Indeed, the suit went so far as to list the chemical ingredients in McDonald's products such as Chicken McNuggets—implying that because the ingredients were unfamiliar they were somehow unhealthful and caused obesity. This is absurd. As already noted, all foods are composed of chemicals and it is an excess of calories consumed relative to calories expended that causes weight gain," she commented.
"Consumers are often told that certain foods or types of foods are 'fattening' and that others are not. The truth is that eaten to excess, any food can contribute to overweight and obesity, whether that food is considered a good source of nutrients or not," Dr. Kava explained.
Suits like this one against McDonald's serve only the interests of litigators, not consumers.
Americans are constantly being bombarded with warnings about dire health consequences from traces of environmental chemicals. But, in truth, many of these warnings simply relate to evidence of exposure, not to any demonstrated adverse effects on health. Merely because a substance can be detected does not therefore mean that it poses any real risk to health.
Read Let's Be Reasonable in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 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
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