Saturday, June 28, 2008

Your SHS might kill me

The smokers stood huddled in the alleyway next to the small sports bar where they had joined some non-smoking friends to watch Hockey Night in Canada on the big screen TV. Heads down, collars up and hands tucked into their armpits to protect them from the cold, they didn’t see the man approaching along the empty, snow-covered sidewalk.

“Excuse me”, the man said. He had stopped several metres from the three smokers, as if afraid to get any closer to the group.

“Yes sir. Can we help you?” asked one of the smokers, smiling at the newcomer.

“Could you please put out your cigarettes. I’d like to pass”, said the man.

The smokers looked quizzically from one to the other. One turned back to the stranger.

“I don’t understand, sir”, said the smoker who had been the first to speak to the new arrival. “Why do we have to put out our cigarettes?” he inquired, his face breaking out in a friendly grin, not entirely sure he had heard the man correctly.

“Your cigarette smoke is blocking the sidewalk”, responded the man, “I may have a heart attack. And could you please hold your breath while I pass? I have my rights, you know”.

“What the fu . . .”, started the lone female in the group, her pretty face breaking into a grin as wide as the ones now sported by her fellow smokers. “Is this guy for real?” she inquired of her companions.

All three broke into gales of hysterical laughter.

You may, or may not, find the preceding anecdote humourous. But there is nothing humourous about the extent to which the non-smoking public has been brain-washed into believing that secondhand smoke (SHS) is injurious to their health.

Recent polls suggest that 80% of the population believes that SHS is a hazard of the first magnitude. The public also seems to have been convinced that the scientific evidence is conclusive in this regard.

That’s not really surprising when you consider that the public is exposed to only one side of the argument. The public is largely unaware that there is open debate in the scientific community as to the hazards of secondhand smoke; that for every scientific study suggesting an association between SHS and lung cancer, there are half a dozen studies which suggest the opposite.

The press, at least the mainstream press, has been derelict in their duty to report the whole truth to their respective audiences. The result is that the public is subjected to the misinformation of the anti-smoker fanatics with no attempt made by the media to verify the integrity of the scientific evidence on which the propaganda is based. No attempt is made by the press to solicit or publish opposing scientific opinion.

As a result, politicians pass draconian smoking bans, and impose punitive levels of sin taxes, with no consideration of the possible (probable) social and/or economic consequences of their actions. They are free to ignore all evidence which does not conform to the gospel according to the anti-smoker brigade, whether it’s the real hazards posed by SHS or the economic impact of their smoking bans. Any evidence or documentation supporting an alternative point of view is excluded from consideration.

And they do it all under the watchful eye of a press which has abdicated its responsibility to keep the public informed (and politicians honest).

These are totalitarian tactics meant to force (coerce, pressure, intimidate) smokers into quitting; for their own good, of course, and to protect the children. Unfortunately, many people are beginning to believe the lies.

Even if it's mostly bullshit and bafflegab.

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