Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smokers, bad science & bans

The smoking ban in restaurants didn't bother me much. The establishments which I frequent had, for the most part, already prohibited smoking before the government saw fit to intrude on the free choice of the owners. The owners made legitimate business decisions based on what they felt was best for the success of their business. But, before the bans, I could simply retire to my favourite watering hole for a brandy and my after dinner smoke. At any rate, I don't dine out all that often anymore.
The smoking bans in bars, likewise, didn't bother me all that much. Next year I'll be, officially, a senior. Having been married for forty years, the bar scene just doesn't appeal to me anymore.
The ban on smoking in private clubs and legion halls was a little more troublesome. In years past, the Royal Canadian Legion, where I've been a member for over forty years, was at the centre of our social life. We seldom go there anymore. The walk to the parking lot is too long; and winters are far too cold up here in the Great White North. And, besides, it's demeaning.
Once, in the rapidly receding past, smokers and non-smokers could co-habit the same space without rancor. They probably still could. In fact, they still do at social gatherings in private homes. But now, there are efforts afoot to deprive smokers of even that limited social interaction. For now, it's limited to rental accommodation in multi-unit apartment buildings. To-morrow it will include private homes; count on it.
So what happened? There was no grassroots movement to ban smoking in these areas; no hue and cry from the public.
The “movement” was started, and is being perpetuated, by anti-smoker groups and government agencies funded by both the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Many of these groups are funded in part through taxes extorted from smokers themselves.
The outrageous claims of the anti-smoker brigade are based on seriously distorted science and statistics passed off as “fact”. Contrary opinions are simply ignored; their authors disparaged as “tobacco stooges”. But, It has been estimated that for every study showing a link to SHS and cancer, there are six showing no risk at all.
The World Health Organization tried to bury a study they commissioned from IARC because it didn't demonstrate what they wanted to show; that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer. The EPA study in the States was blasted by both the congress and the judiciary for scientific and procedural irregularities, including conflict of interest. The American Cancer Society pulled funding from a study by Enstrom and Kabat when the preliminary findings indicated that, like the WHO study, it wouldn't prove what ACS wanted to prove. Then they criticized the study because it was completed with funding from the tobacco industry.
The anti-smoker activists want people to believe that a society capable of putting a man on the moon, is incapable of building a ventilation system to protect non-smokers from exposure to SHS. They turned the scientific theory that the poison is in the dose upside down by proclaiming that “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Politicians, eager to score a few cheap brownie points with their constituents, routinely take the information provided by the anti-smoker brigade as gospel; their gullibility, apparently, matched only by their lack of scientific literacy.
So the lies continue and the discrimination against smokers grows.
Maybe, some time in the future, there will be a politician with the integrity to do his/her own research and the moral courage to speak out against the discrimination. Maybe.
But, a word of caution; holding your breath that long may be hazardous to your health.
Recommended Reading:
Edmund Contoski posted an excellent essay on this topic recently. Check it out. Death by smoking ban

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