Saturday, May 3, 2008

But . . . SHS kills, right?

The Ontario government is considering legislation to ban smoking in cars carrying children under 16 years of age. The fine for a first offense may be up to $200 with subsequent fines for a second offense rising to $1000.

Children should be protected from the real hazards of exposure to SHS (secondhand smoke). Those hazards include aggravation of pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, increased incidence of ear infections and possibly the onset of asthma. But . . .

According to an April 29 report on, “McGuinty says his government has the duty to protect society's most vulnerable segment, noting one hour of second-hand smoke in a car is the same as giving kids an entire pack of cigarettes”.

This is a patently absurd allegation; fear mongering at its brazen best. The implausibility of his claim borders the ridiculous. Maybe instead of listening to medical experts Mr. McGuinty should use a little common sense.

To claim that the hazards associated with exposure to the SHS from one or two cigarettes an hour is the same as a child smoking a full pack is to suggest that secondhand smoke is 10 to 20 times more dangerous than the mainstream smoke inhaled by the smokers themselves.

The proposed ban is apparently being supported by anti-smoking activists, including the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. That’s not particularly surprising. But . . .

The CTV report notes, “The OMA says children are exposed to up to 23 times the toxins when they're in enclosed spaces like a car, which can worsen asthma and lead to other respiratory illnesses.”

This is another bizarre claim. The size of the space, whether it’s a living room or an automobile, cannot possibly increase the number of toxins released by a cigarette. An ounce of tobacco is an ounce of tobacco. It won’t become 23 ounces of tobacco simply because it is placed in an automobile. Nor can the toxins released by an ounce of burning tobacco be increased by a factor of 23 simply because combustion takes place in a car instead of a living room.

The CTV report also claims, “Second-hand smoke kills more than 300 Ontario residents annually,” But . . .

This statistic is presented as fact when it is simply speculation. Statistics Canada has never recorded a single death due to secondhand smoke. However, in their morbidity and mortality tables they do note that, in 2002, there were 3,051 accidental deaths in Ontario and that 947 Ontarians died by their own hand in that same year.

Ontario’s 2.1 million smokers have been accused of killing their fellow citizens. They have been convicted in the press and the provincial parliament by their elected representatives. They have been sentenced to suffer draconian bans on smoking, punitive levels of taxation, and endure open discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and medical care.

And, it’s all happened without a trial. Only the crown prosecutor has been permitted to provide evidence. The politicians and the press have denied those accused, convicted and who continue to be punished any semblance of a defense.

As a simple matter of justice, shouldn’t both politicians and the press at least make an effort to provide the public with the facts, rather than simply parroting the often absurd claims of the health scare professionals?

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