Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anti-smoker brigade - teaching kids to hate

A couple of posts back, I noted that the education of young people, as it pertains to smoking and secondhand smoke, has, in fact, turned into a blatant form of indoctrination. Youth groups across Canada are apparently being used by the anti-smoker brigade to preach a message of fear and hatred of smokers. And, as with most anti-smoker groups, the information they present to the public is something less than reliable.

Butt Ugly, for example, claims that the equivalent of a bus load of children dies every day, out in Alberta, from exposure to secondhand smoke. It’s a preposterous claim, of course and easily disproved.

But, the point is, someone is feeding this erroneous information to our kids. Deceptive statistics and bald-faced lies are becoming quite commonplace on websites designed to appeal to youngsters. And, young people are being recruited to go out and spread this misinformation to their peers and the public at large.

Another site, similar to the Butt Ugly site in Alberta, has been brought to my attention. The youth group is called the Oxygen Commandos, and it operates in Quebec. According to their web site, "commando teams mobilize to unmask the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke by performing short street-theatre scenes unannounced in public places".

Among the more questionable statements on their web site is that: “The concentration of toxic substances in second-hand tobacco smoke is much higher than in the smoke inhaled directly by smokers.”

This claim suggests that those exposed to secondhand smoke, since they are exposed to higher concentrations of toxins, are at even greater risk from smoking related illness than smokers. A little bit of common sense tells us this claim can hardly be true. If it were, we would be seeing far greater number for deaths due to secondhand smoke than we see for smoking related diseases attributed to smoking. That’s obviously not the case.

Then, there’s this little gem: “In Canada, second-hand tobacco smoke is the third leading cause of death after smoking and alcohol abuse.”

This claim is patently absurd. Secondhand smoke doesn’t even make the top ten in Statcan mortality tables for 2002. Ranking well above estimates for secondhand smoke as a cause of death are Septicaemia (1,489), Nephritis (3,437), Parkinson’s disease (1,664), Alzheimer’s disease (5,515) and any number of other, non-tobacco related diseases.

Health Canada puts estimated deaths from secondhand smoker exposure at 831, based on those same 2002 mortality tables from Statcan. And, those are statistical deaths, estimated by Health Canada. Clearly, secondhand smoke is not the third leading cause of death in Canada. In fact, there is no conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke kills anyone.

But, maybe they mean that secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of “preventable” death in Canada.

According to the Industrial Accident and Prevention Association (IAPA), accidents don’t just happen, they’re caused. Therefore, one must assume that all accidents are preventable.

And, once again referring to Statcan mortality tables, Transport accidents (including motor vehicle accidents) accounted for 3,165 deaths in 2002, non-transport accidents accounted for 5,585 deaths (including 1, 016 from accidental poisoning) in the same year.

Whether or not suicide is preventable is debatable, but certainly some form of intervention might have reduced the number of suicides (3,650) in Canada in 2002.

Another claim on the site states: “The poisoner (the smoker) regularly serves this noxious cocktail (secondhand smoke) to between 55 per cent and 70 per cent of non-smokers.”

Such highly inflammatory language encourages young people to think of smokers as murderers and worse; to see smokers as somehow less than human and undeserving of either consideration or compassion.

The question is whether this is the kind of message we want to send to our young people; that people whose behaviour does not conform to their own may be de-normalized, denigrated and demeaned.

Do we want our kids to grow up believing that it’s all right to pervert the truth if they believe the cause is just and the outcome desirable? Do we want the state, and their proxies (mercenaries) in tobacco control, preaching that hatred and intolerance are acceptable behaviour?

The site notes that the Oxygen Commandos are funded by the Tobacco Control Program, Health Canada and the Nicorette and Nicoderm Donation Campaign in partnership with the Canadian Council on Tobacco Control.

But, the really strange thing is the disclaimer at the bottom of the page. “The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official policies of Health Canada.”

I wonder why Health Canada felt the web site warranted a disclaimer?
Incidentally, Butt Ugly didn't respond to my e-mail suggesting their claims were a little exaggerated.

1 comment:

Mrs. Pelican said...

I'm also concerned about the antismoking propaganda - as a smoker, I've experienced first-hand the misinformation and prejudice being promoted in order to enrich the pharmaceutical companies and those who feed at their trough. Unfortunately, the hate campaign against smokers is just a symptom of the bigger problem of the erosion of our personal freedoms, because "health" is now a big business and there is money to be made at all levels. The Nanny State is here in our schools, pushing its own agenda, and to hell with what parents want. The "state" does not belong in our schools - once they have brainwashed our kids, it will be too late. We have to make a point of knowing what they are teaching, and PROTESTING LOUDLY if we don't agree with it. Personally, I'm an advocate of home schooling - the kids come out ahead academically and are not just clones spouting the latest "approved" opinions.