Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloomberg's smoking ban and his lies of omission

New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city health officials are proposing a smoking ban in city parks and other outdoor areas. A Globe and Mail article, announcing the proposed ban notes: “Officials cited a May, 2007, Stanford University study that found a person sitting within three feet of a smoker outdoors can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to indoor levels.”

The Stanford study has been identified by WeHo, a West Hollywood news organization, as the first peer reviewed, scientific study on detecting outdoor secondhand smoke levels in exposed persons. Outdoor Tobacco Smoke, or OTS, is a phrase apparently coined by the authors of the Stanford study to refer to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment.

The study noted that there was a “lack of empirical data on outdoor tobacco smoke (OTS) levels” which impeded OTS exposure and risk assessments. Simply put, there was no scientific evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment represents any significant health hazard. Without accurate data, there can be no reliable assessment of the health risks posed by exposure to OTS. The ridiculous claim that there is no safe level of exposure to SHS has no credibility.

Still, despite the lack of data, the study concluded: “Based on our results, it is possible for OTS to present a nuisance or hazard under certain conditions of wind and smoker proximity.

But, those “certain” conditions were never mentioned by the mayor, or city councilwoman, Gale Brewer, the sponsor of the proposed ban. And, those conditions strongly suggest that there's no need, from a public health standpoint, to ban smoking outdoors. The study notes:

“The overall average OTS respirable particle concentration for the surveys of public places during smoking was approximately 30 g/m3. OTS exhibited sharp spikes in particle mass concentration during smoking that sometimes exceeded 1000 g/m3 at distances within 0.5 m of the source. Some average concentrations over the duration of a cigarette and within 0.5 m exceeded 200 g/m3, with some average downwind levels exceeding 500 g/m3.”

Distances within a half metre (0.5m) of the source? That means a non-smoker would have to be within 20 inches of a smoker to be exposed to the highest amounts of particle mass concentration, or the average concentrations noted in the study. How many people would feel comfortable allowing a stranger in such close proximity in a park setting, whether that stranger was smoking or not?

Why would a non-smoker remain in such close proximity to a smoker long enough to increase risk? And, remember, the alleged risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure are based on prolonged daily exposure over several decades.

And, it has to be noted that those spikes in particulate matter were not only confined to a space within 20 inches of the source, but they existed only when downwind of the smoker. For, the study also notes that: “OTS levels in a constant upwind direction from an active cigarette source were nearly zero.”

In other words, if a non-smoker was within kissing distance of a smoker, and the prevailing wind was blowing in his/her direction and the smoker was exhaling smoke directly in his/her face, they might be exposed to volumes of secondhand smoke similar to those found indoors.

In addition, the Stanford study actually points to the means by which a non-smoker could avoid any exposure to secondhand smoke. “OTS levels also approached zero at distances greater than approximately 2 m from a single cigarette.” Uh-huh.

Two metres is roughly six and a half feet. To avoid any exposure to the particulate matter in secondhand smoke, all a non-smoker would have to do is take a few paces in the opposite direction. That's right. The non-smoker could simply walk away.

So, although the study concluded that, “During periods of active smoking, peak and average OTS levels near smokers rivaled indoor tobacco smoke concentrations,” it's clear those levels could be reached only if the non-smoker is in extremely close proximity to, and downwind from, a smoker.

And, even then, there is little or no data to suggest that the amount of exposure would be sufficient to actually cause harm. A similar study, published by University of Georgia Athens (UGA) researchers in November, 2009 found “increased levels of SHS in the study subjects, but not levels considered to be risky”.

So, the New York City health department's claim that “57 per cent of nonsmoking New Yorkers have elevated levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, in their blood” means absolutely nothing. Elevated levels can only determine that a non smoker was exposed to secondhand smoke at some time during the past two to three days; not that the levels of exposure are prolonged or sufficient to demonstrate a legitimate health concern.

It's clear that the evidence does not support the contention that exposure to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment represents any kind of health hazard to non-smokers. Which means the proposed ban in New York City parks, and those in other jurisdictions which have already imposed similar bans, have absolutely nothing to do with public health.

But, that's not really surprising.

The WeHo news article referenced above, notes: ”Half a dozen LA County municipalities have banned smoking near their outdoor dining facilities, with a few banning it from publicly-owned property - sidewalks, medians etc. - across their city entire. All did so citing public health concerns, but none did so based on scientific evidence that secondhand smoke (SHS) near an outdoor area poses a health risk.”

The Stanford study used to support New York's proposed outdoor ban provides very flimsy evidence on which to base such an intrusion on personal liberties. It does not support the theory that secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment is a health hazard, except possibly under the most extreme scenarios. And, even then the potential risk is negligible.

But, smoking bans in parks and on beaches have been passed, and are being promoted, in jurisdictions across the US and Canada despite the lack of any relevant scientific evidence.

Instead, they're based on the same bullshit and bafflegab employed by anti-smoker fanatics for decades. Propaganda by any other name . . .


bannedsmoker said...


They got "OTS" now?


How many more "TS"es can they possibly invent?

It's really starting to get quite cliché all this abbreviation stuff. I suppose, that is how the "experts" (self-proclaimed, of course) talk. Gotta have teh lingo!

How dumbed down have people become and how long can they actually continue believing this "TS" crap?

TSO = Tobacco Smoke Odor

SOTS = Smell Of Tobacco Smoke

ITS = Imagined Tobacco smoke

DUTS = Dreamt UP Tobacco Smoke

TOTSANIADOMG = Thought Of Tobacco Smoke and Now I Am Dying Oh My God

I am sure the ANTI-smoker league will dream up plenty more clever abbreviations for us, above and beyond this recent gem. They MUST be working on it.

OTS now... *sigh*

Funny, but not...

They have always used their pretty little abbreviations while laying down their dictate.

It's nothing new. That will not change until people in general have finally had enough of it and wake up.

Whoever it is the particular nanny group is attacking because they think they know better, those being attacked best watch out when the nanny fascists start throwing abbreviations around.

Should it be smokers, "fat" people, unilingual people, or anyone.

There is no room in any civil society for self-righteous, holier-than-thou fascists.

Are we losing our civility?

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Michael J. McFadden said...

Banned, I *LOVE* your "initials" creativity! That's a keeper! :>

Rambler, I *think* the Stanford study may be the one I satirized a couple of years ago. Was it done by Klepeis? I think you'll enjoy the satire: it's not all that far off from the real thing. See:

Michael J. McFadden,
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

The Old Rambler said...


Yes, it was the Neil E. Klepeis study. The same study is being bandied about here in Ontario regarding outdoor bans.