Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kids addicted to tobacco thru movies

Rio Bravo is one of my favourite John Wayne movies. The “Duke” and his compadres, with guns ablaze, kill off a bunch of bad guys. So what’s the problem? The problem is that, in the movie, John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson all roll their own and light up, sometimes blowing smoke rings as they enjoy their cigarettes and croon about “My Rifle, My Pony and Me”.

And, that has some anti-smoker fanatics concerned. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), for example, claims that:
  • Smoking in movies is "one of the gravest threats to U.S. teens”;
  • On-screen tobacco recruits 390,000 new teen smokers each year in the U.S. and;
  • Movies with tobacco help to recruit one-third to one-half of young smokers in the U.S.
Of course, up here in the rugged, snowbound wilderness called Canada, we know better. When it comes to “recruiting” our kids to a smoking lifestyle, the real problem is “Power Walls” (tobacco displays in convenience stores).

But, back to the movies.

Linda Titus-Ernstoff, a pediatrics professor at Dartmouth Medical School, is the author of a “study” which claims: "Movies seen at the youngest ages had as much influence over later smoking behavior as the movies which children had seen recently,"

"And I'm increasingly convinced that this association between movie-smoking exposure and smoking initiation is real," she added. "That's to say, causal. It is quite improbable that the association we see is due to some other influence, some other characteristic inherent in children or parental behavior. The relationship is clearly between movie-smoking and smoking initiation." is an anti-smoker web site dedicated to the proposition that kids will become instant addicts should they be exposed to the ghastly sight of seeing someone light up a cigarette on screen. They have a little counter at the foot of their site that reads, “(X number of) kids have become addicted from seeing tobacco in movies since you hit this site.” Uh-huh; just watching the movies got them “hooked”.

The group, apparently, has their own board of censors, referred to as “reviewers”. And, of course, they have their banned list. An example from their website: “Here are some movies being released in the coming weeks that you may want to think about before you see. Our reviewers have seen tobacco in the trailers, indicating tobacco use in the film.” Geez, I hope the “reviewers” were all consenting adults.

Their reviews were short and to the point, “Leatherheads – George Clooney directs and stars, Renee Zellweger smokes cigarettes.”

But, if alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence are acceptable in films, as long as they stay within limits, how can smoking be unacceptable. Does no one see the hypocrisy of a zero-tolerance policy for cigarettes, but a very different, much more liberal, policy for alcohol, sex and violence?

    Or, are all those things on the behavioural modification list of the anti-everything extremists?

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    Links . . . and more links

    Forest On Line
    Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.
    A haven for smokers and non-smokers who believe in freedom of choice
    The Hittman Chronicle
    Dave Hitt of the Hittman Chronicle, offers “four sites for the price of one”, including “The Facts” which gives a basic course in reading and understanding epidemiological studies and how the science surrounding them has been distorted by extremists.
    Tobacco Analysis
    The Rest of the Story
    A blog written by Dr. Michael Siegel, a sane anti-tobacco advocate
    Freedom 2 Choose
    The public from all walks of life, professional through to working class, united in a determination to expose the myths that are currently leading to the removal of the freedoms of the people of this nation (Great Britain).
    The Smoker’s Club
    Includes an “encyclopedia” of information on all things related to smoking, who the antis are, and how you can fight them
    Forces International
    FORCES International is an organization in support of human rights and - in particular, but not limited to – the defense of those who expect from life the freedom to smoke, eat, drink and, in general, to enjoy personal lifestyle choices without restrictions and state interference.
    A New York based site dedicated to informing the world about the real goal of the prohibitionists and the case against smoking bans.
    My Choice (Canada)
    A Canadian web site committed to restoring common sense, balance and civility to the way Canada's adult smokers are treated by their federal, provincial and municipal politicians. You’ll need to register to get full access to the site, but it’s well worth the few minutes it takes. Registration is free.

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Twin Towers of Tobacco

    Wow. Talk about subliminal messages.

    If anyone wanted proof positive that there is a deliberate attempt by anti-smoker zealots and tobacco prohibitionists to demonize smokers, then the latest ad campaign by ASH is surely it.

    The fear mongers at ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) know no bounds when it comes to absurd claims regarding the alleged adverse affects of exposure to SHS (secondhand smoke). See post: Drifting tobacco smoke kills

    But, the latest effort in their propaganda war is a new low, even for ASH.

    Not satisfied with blaming SHS exposure for everything from cancer to heart disease to poor school grades, ASH is now trying to convince us that the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel are closet terrorists. The insensitive, and highly offensive, pictures are a not so subtle attempt to associate the tobacco industry with the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in the minds of the public. The anti-smoker fanatics and prohibitionist politicians will eat it up.

    The ASH ads are a calculated attempt to equate smokers with terrorists, to build on the growing intolerance of smokers which ASH, and the organizations with which they are allied, have fostered over the years; simple hate-mongering at it’s brazen best.

    But, having visited the ASH web site, I can’t say I’m surprised. They describe themselves as “a national legal-action antismoking organization entirely supported by tax-deductible contributions.” Strange; they don’t say from whom?

    Among other things, ASH encourages companies to fire or refrain from hiring smokers, to brand smoking parents as child abusers and to deny smokers rental accommodation in multi-unit apartment buildings. They also endorse legal action against doctors who fail to advise their patients of the danger of smoking, and endorse efforts to have smokers banned from being foster parents. Members are counseled to sue tobacco companies for just about anything.

    And, unfortunately, they, and others of their ilk, are having some success in their efforts to convince the populace that smokers are a self-destructive, sub-human species.

    And, if we're not careful, they could also convince us that two plus two equals five. George Orwell’s prognostications (from his novel -1984) weren’t wrong after all; merely delayed a few years in their implementation.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    The Nazi anti-tobacco campaign

    I’ve been reading an interesting article published in the British Medical Journal. The article was written by Robert N. Proctor, Department of History, Pennsylvania State University. It appears to be an even handed exploration of the anti-smoking policies of the German Nazi party in the 1930/40 era. But, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

    According to the professor, “Germany had the world's strongest antismoking movement in the 1930s and early 1940s, encompassing bans on smoking in public spaces, bans on advertising, restrictions on tobacco rations for women, and the world's most refined tobacco epidemiology, linking tobacco use with the already evident epidemic of lung cancer.”

    Professor Proctor goes on, “Many Nazi leaders were vocal opponents of smoking. Anti-tobacco activists pointed out that whereas Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt were all fond of tobacco, the three major fascist leaders of Europe, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, were all non-smokers. Hitler was the most adamant, characterizing tobacco as ‘the wrath of the Red Man against the White Man for having been given hard liquor’."

    And, further, “it is also important to realize that German tobacco companies exercised a great deal of economic and political power, as they do today. German anti-tobacco activists frequently complained that their efforts were no match for the "American style" advertising campaigns waged by the tobacco industry.”

    To-day, there is little doubt that active smoking contributes significantly to the numbers dying from various forms of cancer annually. There is, likewise, little doubt that the tobacco companies have been less than honest in communicating the very real hazards of active smoking to the consumers of tobacco products. And, they have been paying the price in that regard.

    Professor Proctor also notes that, “The tobacco industry also launched several new journals aimed at countering anti-tobacco propaganda. In a pattern that would become familiar in the United States and elsewhere after the second world war, several of these journals tried to dismiss the anti-tobacco movement as fanatic and unscientific."

    But, the Nazis were, unquestionably, fanatics. And, the anti-smoker movement today is both fanatic and unscientific. They doggedly exaggerate and distort the science surrounding the potential hazards of secondhand smoke in their efforts to demonize smokers.

    I would oppose any suggestion that, because Nazi epidemiologists had identified tobacco as a carcinogen over half a century ago, that Nazi style policies and propaganda are permissible tobacco control measures in the twenty-first century.

    The Nazi regime had few qualms about abusing personal liberties, usually with extreme brutality. Many of the “tobacco control” measures being initiated by anti-smoker activists are only slightly less brutal. Efforts to have smokers fired for smoking on their own time, to have smokers denied rental accommodation, to have smoking parents branded as child abusers and even to have smokers denied appropriate medical care, are extreme measures.

    Many of today’s anti-smoker fanatics deserve the label “fascist”. They’ve earned it. The end can never justify the means.

    The full article by Robert Proctor is available in the archives of The British Medical Journal.
    The anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    Drifting tobacco smoke kills

    An organization called Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is responsible for some of the wildest distortions and grossest exaggerations on the web (or anywhere else for that matter), related to the dangers of secondhand smoke. Some of their claims are simply preposterous.

    For example, according to a press release issued by ASH, thousands of children are now dying each year from secondhand smoke. ASH says, "A man's home may be his castle, but that doesn't mean he is free to abuse his children inside it by unnecessarily subjecting them to a substance which is known to cause cancer, and which kills thousands of children every year."

    Dr. Michael Siegel, despite his anti-tobacco philosophy answers back, “to claim that thousands of children die each year from secondhand smoke is ridiculous. There is no evidence at all I am aware of that thousands of children die from secondhand smoke."

    “Given the fact that I am a strong proponent of workplace smoking bans and of educational efforts to protect children from secondhand smoke, my point is obviously not to challenge the evidence that secondhand smoke is a severe health hazard. In fact, quite the opposite. By making ridiculous statements like this, anti-smoking groups are risking undermining of the public's appreciation of the hazards of secondhand smoke. If people find that anti-smoking groups are distorting and exaggerating their claims, people may end up dismissing all anti-smoking claims, even legitimate ones regarding the real health effects of secondhand smoke.”

    On their web page, ASH was also making the claim that “Drifting tobacco smoke already kills more people than motor vehicle accidents, all crimes, AIDS, illegal drugs, etc. In other words, you are statistically more likely to be killed by your neighbor's tobacco smoke than by his car, his gun, or his AIDS virus.” Oh, really.

    As far as I know, “drifting tobacco smoke” has never killed anyone. Many people may find the smell of drifting tobacco smoke offensive, but the smell is not likely to kill a healthy non-smoker.

    Nonetheless, I figured it was a good idea to verify my belief that their claim was inaccurate.

    But, I wanted to use data provided by Canadian sources. So I went to StatsCan, Health Canada and the Non-Smokers Rights Association (NSRA). The stats in Canada should be roughly similar to those in the US, after allowing for the difference in population.

    According to Health Canada, 1000 Canadians are killed annually by secondhand smoke. The NSRA echoes the Health Canada figure of 1000 Canadians killed annually. I have no idea where that figure came from, but StatsCan didn’t list secondhand smoke as the cause of death for any of the 237, 000 plus Canadians who died in 2004.

    StatsCan did note, however, that 2, 871 Canadians died in motor vehicle accidents in that same year. And, although I can’t be sure if suicide is a crime per se, there were 3,564 deaths by suicide listed in the StatsCan mortality tables. So, secondhand smoke, whether it’s drifting or just hanging around, obviously didn’t kill more people than car accidents, all crimes, aids and illegal drugs; at least not in Canada. StatsCan didn’t list “etc.” as a cause of death either, so I couldn’t really make a comparison.

    Do you think, maybe, we make a safer brand of cigarette in Canada? Or, is it just that the NSRA and Health Canada haven’t gotten around to inflating their figures . . . yet?

    ASH, one of the more influential anti-smoker groups in the US, makes these absurd claims on a regular basis. They seem to rely on the simple premise that bullshit baffles brains. And, if anyone takes the time to disprove the integrity of their claims, so what? Who’s going to hear about it?

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Smokers need not apply

    According to the Sheffield (England) City Council web site, they desperately want and need foster parents and emphasize that they take nearly all comers. The web site claims: "The reason we are so open is because what matters most to a child is who you are as a person, your character and capacity to care. So you need to be able to empathise with children who are going through a tough time. Be sympathetic and caring even when a child is being difficult and more importantly have a good sense of humour."

    "People with criminal convictions or cautions can foster, much depends on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago it was, and how you have lived your life since."

    Among the short list of those who will not be permitted to foster children are child molesters, child abusers and smokers. That’s right folks; in Sheffield, England, smokers have been declared unfit parents.

    In a March 19, 2008 interview with the Sheffield Star, Paul Makin, Sheffield Council's acting executive director of children and young people's services, said: "Our first priority is to keep children safe. Therefore, we are not considering foster carer applications for this age group from smokers or those who have given up smoking within the last year."

    The Star article also points out that under proposed new rules being considered by neighbouring Rotherham Council, children under five would not be placed with families who smoke. A report to Rotherham Council states: "Discussions with foster carers of children who continue to smoke have indicated a very responsible approach to the issue – they smoke outside the house and attempt at all times not to smoke in front of the children, so avoiding negative role models.”

    But, they also note: "We could, by placing children in environments where they may be subject to adverse long-term effects on their health as a result of smoking, be making ourselves liable to legal challenge if the health of former looked-after children and young people becomes compromised as a result of placements when in care."

    Dr. Michael Siegel, himself an anti-smoking advocate, says: “Importantly, most smokers who want to adopt or foster children agree not to smoke around their children. Just because an individual smokes doesn't mean that he or she will smoke around the child. To categorically deny foster parenthood to individuals who smoke without even considering whether they will actually expose the children to tobacco smoke or not is not only discriminatory, but it seems hateful.”

    He adds: “The policy will likely result in some children being denied foster home care. It also might result in some parents being allowed to foster who are much higher risks to the children than the excluded smokers would have been. Almost invariably, a categorical exclusion of smokers is going to decrease the quality of the final foster parent pool. Ironically, the policy that is supposed to help protect children may, in the long run, end up doing some harm.”

    In closing, Dr. Siegel asks the question: “With this kind of hateful policy toward smokers, is it any surprise that a large proportion of smokers are becoming increasingly resistant to the idea of quitting?”

    You’re right Doc. This kind of disgusting, indefensible discrimination will only breed defiance. For those who choose to quit; good luck and God bless. For me; “I’ll give up my fags when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.” (With apologies to Charlton Heston and the NRA.)

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Liverpool Lou(nacy)

    Liverpool City Council (England) claims credit for taking the lead in the campaign to ban smoking in public places throughout Great Britain. Now, it appears the anti-smoker fanatics have picked the next target group on whom they wish to impose their will. For the good of the children, of course.

    According to an article in the Daily Mail, Liverpool City Council's Childhood Obesity Scrutiny Group is proposing a by-law that would forbid the sale of fast food accompanied by toys. Councilors claim the promotional toys are used to boost sales through something called "Pester Power" - children pestering parents for Happy Meal toys.

    No, this is not a joke!

    Councilor Paul Twigger said: "The Scrutiny Group is recommending that a by-law be enforced to stop the circulation of free toys associated with junk food promotions. We consider it is high time that cash-hungry vultures like McDonald's are challenged over their marketing policies which are directly aimed at promoting unhealthy eating among children. Childhood obesity is a dire threat to the health in this country and it needs to be nipped in the bud urgently.”

    "Children are directly targeted with junk food and McDonald's use the Happy Meals to exploit Pester Power of children against which many parents give in. In most Happy Meals the toy is sold with a burger containing four or five tablespoons of sugar, along with high-calorie fries and milkshakes. These fattening meals are being shamelessly promoted through free toys and it is clear that it is going to take legislation to combat the practice.”

    The Daily Mail article notes that this has been referred to as the “Fat Generation”, with more children becoming obese at a young age

    Sustain Spokesman Richard Watts said: "We would support every effort to stop toys being sold with junk food. We need to take radical action against the massive junk food-related health problems we have got with child obesity and heart disease."

    In 2004, Liverpool approved a by-law to ban smoking in public places and it is widely acknowledged that it played a significant role in leading to the ban imposed last year. Councilor Twigger believes the new move to ban Happy Meals could begin locally and lead to a similar nationwide ban. He says: "The Liverpool smoke-free team had a great success with their campaign and their ideas played a massive part in the nationwide blanket ban last year. There's no reason why we can't achieve a similar feat."

    And the sad part is that he may be right. The bullshit and bafflegab of the tobacco prohibitionists has turned honest, hard-working people into social misfits because they exercised free choice and chose to smoke. Governments and the public let them get away with it, and even encouraged them in their discrimination against smokers.

    First, it was tobacco and smokers; now, it’s fast food and the obese. What’s your vice? Just remember, friends and neighbours, you might just be the next target of the petty dictators of the world.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    The WHO Study (Part 2)

    Nothing better illustrates the real agenda of the prohibitionists than the way the study, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and commissioned by the World Health Organization, was handled in 1998.

    The British press had to use access to information laws to actually get the study for examination and review. And, when it was pointed out that the relative risk factors identified in their report were statistically insignificant, WHO simply ignored the fact, claiming instead that "It is extremely important to note that the results of this study are consistent with the results of major scientific reviews of this question published during 1997 by the government of Australia, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California.”
    Which, of course, was the whole point. The results of the WHO study were consistent with other studies. Their study indicates that there is no causal relationship between secondhand cigarette smoke and lung cancer; a result which was consistent with other studies conducted on ETS. The WHO study, intended to confirm an association between ETS and lung cancer, instead, showed just the opposite.
    But, even more devastating for WHO, the relative risk of children exposed to second hand smoke was established at 0.78, with a confidence interval between 0.64 and 0.96. which would indicate a net health benefit to children as far as developing lung cancer is concerned.
    One of the most baffling aspects of the WHO study was the reaction of anti-smoking fanatics and the press.
    For instance, there were some who tried to bring the results to public attention. Lorraine Mooney in her article in the European Edition of the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “For the past 15 years the anti-smoking lobby has pushed the view that cigarette smoking is a public health hazard. This was a shrewd tactic. For having failed to persuade committed smokers to save themselves, finding proof that passive smoking harmed non-smoking wives, children or workmates meant smoking could be criminalized. Last week the science fell off the campaign wagon when the definitive study on passive smoking, sponsored by the World Health Organization, reported no cancer risk at all.”
    But, many tried to discredit the story and the results of the study. Some of the comments from the anti-smoking lobby were actually very extreme. For example, Neil Collishaw, a former Health Canada statistician who was working the anti-tobacco desk at WHO in Geneva, suggested that the research didn't exist. "This was certainly nothing done in my office." Then he added: "But if my organization commissioned it, it's strange I haven't heard of it." Unfortunately for Mr. Collishaw, the WHO would issue a press release admitting to the existence of the study.
    The Non-Smokers Rights Association (NSRA) in Ottawa trashed the WHO study as tobacco industry propaganda. David Sweanor, the NSRA's lawyer in Ottawa, said the research "is simply not sound science. The only place we have seen this kind of garbage is from the tobacco industry." Jim Repace of Maryland, an anti-smoking advocate and author of many papers on secondhand smoke described the study as "propaganda, not science."
    Charles Enman of the Ottawa Citizen started his rant with the claim that, “Experts have blasted a study purportedly from the World Health Association that suggests second-hand smoke does not cause lung cancer.”
    Purportedly? The World Health Organization had admitted to having commissioned the study in a press release and had published an abstract of the study. Perhaps Mr. Enman wasn’t aware of that fact when he wrote his article for the Ottawa Citizen.
    So why, now that they have been made aware that the study was conducted by WHO, is it considered the definitive link between second hand smoke and lung cancer? Why is it no longer considered “propaganda, not science?” Does the NSRA still contend that “The only place we have seen this kind of garbage is from the tobacco industry?”
    The scientific community considers a relative risk of 2.0 a weak response, requires a relative risk of 3.0 to be considered a strong response and a relative risk of less than 2.0 is considered statistically insignificant. So why is the WHO study, with a relative risk of only 1.16, given so much weight? And, if the scientific community routinely ignores studies with a relative risk of less than 2.0, why do they make an exception when the studies are related to ETS?
    And the answer, simply put, is that they are prepared to misrepresent the facts, fake the statistics and lie to the public in the pursuit of their objective: an all out prohibition of tobacco.

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    The WHO Study (Part 1)

    A comprehensive study on ETS was designed in 1998 by a WHO subgroup called the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC). It compared 650 lung-cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people in seven European countries. The results were expressed as "risk ratios," where the normal risk for a non-smoker of contracting lung cancer is set at one. Exposure to secondhand smoke in the home raised the risk to 1.16 and in the workplace to 1.17. This supposedly represents a 16% or 17% increase. But the admitted margin of error is so wide (0.93 to 1.44) that the true risk ratio could be less than one, making second-hand smoke a health benefit.”

    To fully appreciate what the study says, think about those polls that keep cropping up from Angus-Reid, Gallop and others. They all include a disclaimer to the effect that, “This poll is correct within a margin of error of plus or minus four basis points in 19 out of 20 cases.”

    In the world of epidemiology, the margin of error becomes a “confidence interval” and is expressed as a range of values. In the case of the WHO study, the confidence interval for spouses exposed to second hand smoke is .93 to 1.44. The confidence level of the study was 95% (which compares to a poll’s 19 out of 20 cases). The WHO study refers to an OR (odds ratio), which is comparable to the relative risk factors used in North American studies.

    This means that the relative risk factor is not set definitively at 1.16, but rather that it will fall somewhere between .93 and 1.44 (the confidence interval), 95% of the time. A relative risk of at least 2.0 is usually required to indicate a cause and effect relationship, and a relative risk of 3.0 is preferred.

    Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine says, “As a general rule of thumb, we are looking for a relative risk of 3.0 or more before accepting a paper for publication." And this from the (US) National Cancer Institute “Relative risks of less than 2.0 are considered small and are usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias, or the effect of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident." Or this from Robert Temple, director of drug evaluation at the (US) Food and Drug Administration "My basic rule is if the relative risk isn't at least 3.0 or 4.0, forget it."

    The abstract from the study speaks for itself:

    • ETS exposure during childhood was not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (odds ratio [OR] for ever exposure = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.64-0 - 96).
    • The OR for ever exposure to spousal ETS was 1.16 (95% CI = 0.93 - 1.44). No clear dose-response relationship could be demonstrated for cumulative spousal ETS exposure.
    • The OR for ever exposure to workplace ETS was 1.17 (95% CI = 0.94 - 1.45), with possible evidence of increasing risk for increasing duration of exposure.
    • No increase in risk was detected in subjects whose exposure to spousal or workplace ETS ended more than 15 years earlier.
    • Ever exposure to ETS from other sources was not associated with lung cancer risk.
    • Risks from combined exposure to spousal and workplace ETS were higher for squamous cell carcinoma and small-cell carcinoma than for adenocarcinoma, but the differences were not statistically significant.

    CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk. We did find weak evidence of a dose-response relationship between risk of lung cancer and exposure to spousal and workplace ETS. There was no detectable risk after cessation of exposure.

    In simpler terms, there was no additional risk detected from lung cancer for children exposed to secondhand smoke and the increased risk for spouses exposed to secondhand smoke was “weak”, meaning it was suggestive of an increased risk, but not conclusive. In fact, the results of the WHO study were “statistically insignificant.”

    For more information on the WHO Study:The Hittman Chronicles

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Ban smoking in cars

    According to a CBC News article, the government of Ontario will introduce legislation that will ban smoking in any car with a child passenger. According to the article: "The Ontario government plans to introduce legislation this spring to ban smoking in cars where young children are present.”

    The new legislation, announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty on Wednesday, will be brought in for the spring session of the legislature scheduled to begin March 17.

    "'We know that this is harmful to children,” McGuinty said. “We need to do everything we can to keep our children safe and healthy." McGuinty is reported to have said that “being exposed to one hour of secondhand smoke in a car is the same for a young child as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes."

    Unfortunately, it appears that Premier McGuinty is using a misleading claim to support his legislation.

    Dr. Michael Siegel, himself an anti-smoking activist and a staunch supporter of efforts to reduce the risks posed by second hand smoke to children, says “This is not accurate. The exposure to toxic substances resulting from one hour of secondhand smoke exposure in a car is not equivalent to that of actively smoking a pack of cigarettes. It may be true for one or two of the constituents of tobacco smoke, but it is certainly not true for all of them. If you had a choice between your kid being exposed to secondhand smoke for an hour or actively smoking a pack of cigarettes, you should definitely choose the secondhand smoke.

    Dr. Siegel is well acquainted with the risks inherent in exposing children to secondhand smoke. He is not saying there is no danger, simply that the statement made by the Premier is inaccurate. Dr. Siegel is opposed to the use of these kinds of inaccurate statements to promote public health policies, even those with which he agrees.

    Dr. Siegel notes that, “I think it serves to discredit the tobacco control and public health movements, and to undermine our scientific reputations. If people find out that we are exaggerating and distorting the truth, we will lose their trust. But their trust is essential if we are to remain effective as public health advocates.”

    Dalton McGinty should leave the wild exaggerations and falsehoods to the anti-smoker fanatics and prohibitionists. Of course, if the gaffe was intentional and the Premier is sharing a bed with the extremists, then . . . Wait a minute, who did I vote for in the last two elections?

    Oh, shit. Wasn’t that pleasant young woman knocking at my door one of McGinty’s bunch?

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Odds and Ends

    Tom & Jerry forced to butt out

    USA Today (August 22, 2006) reported that a British television station had agreed to cut smoking scenes from 50 year old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Boomerang, a children’s channel owned by Turner Broadcasting, “has pledged to view their entire library of classic cartoons and remove all references that could be seen as glamorizing smoking.” said Cecilia Persson, vice president of programming, acquisitions and presentation Turner Broadcasting UK.

    According to a British media regulator, Turner took action because one viewer had complained about two cartoons. In one, "Texas Tom" tries to impress a female cat by rolling and smoking a cigarette with one hand. In another, a character is seen smoking a cigar. Another victory for the forces for good in the community.

    In a similar vein, Lucky Luke, a European cowboy cartoon favourite, was forced to quit some years ago by his artist/creator. Lucky Luke is no longer seen rounding up the bad guys with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. Now, the only smoke you see is from his gun, which is still blazing.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Banning "power walls"

    Stomping on convenience stores Beginning on May 31, 2008, the “power walls” (of tobacco displays) behind the cash register in convenience stores will have to be removed. Convenience store owners will no longer be permitted to display legal tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco in their stores. This is being done to conform to the Smoke Free Ontario Act passed several years ago in the province of Ontario.

    According to the tobacco prohibitionists, these displays are given their prominent position behind the cashier’s counter to entice young people to take up the habit and ensure the future profitability of the tobacco industry. The “fear” of the prohibitionists is that even the sight of a cigarette package could encourage young people to start smoking. And, since the tobacco manufacturers pay convenience stores to “list” (carry) particular brands, they are being accused of targeting young people with “illegal” advertising.

    So the anti-smoking fanatics will get back at the big, bad tobacco industry by laying a little inconvenience on convenience store owners. It’s just one man’s opinion, but has anyone considered any other reason the tobacco display might be behind the cash counter?

    The outrageous prices, created by confiscatory taxes, make cigarettes a prime target for theft. Is there anywhere else the owner of a store could display tobacco products without encouraging “snatch and run” or other type thefts? The reasoning put forth by the prohibitionists, that the tobacco wall encourages young people to start smoking, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Take this little piece from the Ottawa Citizen on Oct. 29, 2003. “A Health Canada survey finds that more 12- to 19-year-old Canadians smoke marijuana regularly than use tobacco, putting use of the drug at the highest level in 25 years.” I’ve never seen a “marijuana power wall” in a convenience store. How about you?

    Sault MPP claims “irresponsible & unethical”

    I read it first in Dr. Michael Siegel’s blog, “Canadian anti-smoking advocates following U.S. counterparts and making false or unsubstantiated secondhand smoke claims to support car smoking bans”. Damn. Learning about what’s happening in my own back yard from an American tobacco control site is not good.

    Apparently, in a press release issued last December, Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti, the sponsor of legislation to ban smoking in cars when children are present, stated: "This bill is important because research shows young people are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of second hand smoke and as a result they are more likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease, asthma and a number of other respiratory problems."

    At the same time, the Canadian Cancer Society stated, in support of the same legislation, that secondhand smoke exposure among children is related to "childhood leukemia, lymphomas, and brain tumours."

    But according to Dr. Siegel, “The claim by Mr. Orazietti is false and that by the Canadian Cancer Society is premature.” He goes on, “In the first case, I find the communication to be unethical and irresponsible, because I don't think it is appropriate to make false statements to the public in order to promote public policies.” Ouch.

    Claims that secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease among children or young people, explains Dr. Siegel, are simply false. He notes that even heavy active smokers don’t generally develop heart disease until their forties, after at least 20 years of exposure. Cases of heart disease among young people due to secondhand smoke exposure are few and far between. So, as he points out, “It is factually inaccurate to state that young people are more likely to suffer from heart disease due to secondhand smoke exposure.

    Hedging his bets, he says the claim by the Canadian Cancer Society is “more of a strategic mistake”, rather than a matter of ethics or responsibility.

    I believe that it is premature and unwarranted because the evidence is not yet sufficient to warrant a causal conclusion. Both the US Surgeon General and the California EPA reviewed the relationship between childhood secondhand smoke exposure and childhood leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. Both concluded that while there is some evidence suggestive of a causal relationship, there is not enough evidence to conclude that a causal relationship exists.”

    If tobacco control groups are too quick to pull the trigger and communicate to the public that there is a causal relationship between secondhand smoke and a particular disease when there is only suggestive evidence, then, it becomes much more difficult for these groups to convince the public that their conclusions are sound.

    Dr. Siegel’s concerns are well founded. Once the Canadian public realizes that scientific fact has been distorted to promote a political agenda, they will be reluctant to believe anything their elected officials have to tell them about the real hazards of secondhand smoke.

    And, just why is the Canadian Cancer Society joining the ranks of the tobacco prohibitionists and making claims that have not been definitively proven by any scientific study?

    Sunday, March 9, 2008

    Faulty science from EPA

    The EPA “Study” on secondhand smoke

    Most dictionaries define hoax as an act intended to deceive or trick; something that has been established or accepted by fraudulent means. The secondhand smoke frenzy is largely a hoax inspired by anti-smoker fanatics and tobacco prohibitionists. Unable to “encourage” sufficient numbers to quit smoking by educating them about the very real dangers of smoking, or to coerce them through steadily escalating and usurious levels of taxation, they devised a new strategy.

    They managed to convince people that smokers were not only hurting themselves, but those around them; their spouses, their co-workers, their children.

    The hoax, in North America at least, has been perpetuated by a press dedicated to the sensational rather than the truth. Wild, and erroneous, accusations about the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke are printed daily, unchallenged, with neither serious investigation nor comment.

    The US Environmental Protection Agency’s 1993 report has been the basis for most of the smoking bans implemented across North America. The EPA study has been used by the Non-Smokers Rights Association (NSRA) and others to generate public hysteria over the dangers of secondhand smoke (aka ETS).

    It's assumed by the public that the EPA report is the unvarnished and universally accepted truth. But that’s an incorrect assumption. There has been a great deal of controversy in the scientific community, the US Congress and the courts, over the EPA report.

    In 1994, a Congressional inquiry into the EPA and its methods, specifically as they related to the EPA study on ETS, concluded: "The process at every turn has been characterized by both scientific and procedural irregularities. Those irregularities include conflicts of interest by both Agency staff involved in the preparation of the risk assessment and members of the Science Advisory Board panel selected to provide a supposedly independent evaluation of the document."

    And, the EPA conclusion that ETS was a Group “A” carcinogen wound up in court. After four years of testimony a federal (anti-tobacco) judge invalidated their conclusion, calling the report an outright "fraud".

    In his final judgment, Justice Osteen said: "The Agency disregarded information and made findings based on selective information... deviated from its own risk assessment guidelines; failed to disclose important (opposing) findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers."

    Among those important (opposing) findings that the EPA failed to disclose was the largest existing study ever done up to that point, funded by the National Cancer Institute.

    But if the United States Congress and a US federal judge found that the study lacked scientific integrity, why is it still being cited by the prohibitionists as the definitive study on secondhand smoke.

    And, why does the media allow the hoax to continue?

    For more facts on the EPA study, visit: The Hittman Chronicles

    Saturday, March 8, 2008

    What's this blog about?

    Stand Fast. Fight back.
    I’m a smoker. I don’t light up in the homes of non-smokers, including the homes of my children who have chosen not to smoke Their house; their rules.

    I’m a smoker. I have three children and seven grand-children. I am not a child abuser.

    I’m a smoker. I do not pay the extortion demanded by my governments in the form of confiscatory taxation. But, I am not a criminal.

    I’m a smoker. And I’m getting awfully tired of listening to the shrill ranting and ravings of anti-smoker activists and tobacco prohibitionists who seek to whip the public into a hysterical frenzy with their bullshit, bafflegab and outright lies. I will not let them turn me into a social pariah; at least, not without a fight.

    The following paragraphs come from a website run by Dr. Michael Siegel. His organization is called The Center for Public Accountability in Tobacco Control. We are on opposite sides of the fence, he and I, for he is a physician with 21 years of experience in tobacco control who is opposed to smoking. Fortunately, he is not a fanatic bent on trampling the rights of smokers underfoot and supports his opposition to smoking with reason and sound science.

    “The tactics being used by many anti-smoking organizations have become questionable, including misleading and deceiving the public, improperly attacking individuals, and improperly using kids to promote a political agenda. The agenda itself has become less and less public health-based; it now includes efforts to deny employment to smokers, treat smoking parents as child abusers, and ignore basic issues of individual privacy and autonomy to coerce smokers into adopting healthier behavior.”

    “In order to restore the movement, the Center for Public Accountability in Tobacco Control hopes to highlight the tactics currently being used, bringing these tactics to public attention in order to hold public health groups accountable to their primary constituency: the public.”

    I support Dr. Siegel’s efforts to hold the extremists accountable, albeit for different reasons. I’m getting a little too old for a real knock down drag-em-out brawl. But, I know how to use a computer and have a basic understanding of the English language. So, I’ll post to this web log on a regular basis, to help expose the lies and distortions of dishonest anti-smoker organizations.

    Statement of Purpose
    This web log is intended neither to promote nor discourage smoking. That is a matter of choice that educated, adult consumers should be free to make without interference or coercion.

    But, anti-smoker fanatics and tobacco prohibitionists are intent on stripping smokers of basic personal freedoms. For our own good, of course. Extensive public smoking bans, campaigns to have smokers fired from their jobs, to brand them as “child abusers” and even to deprive them of a place to live.

    Since truth is a subjective matter, this web log will not confound you with our version of the truth. Instead, we will point you to the facts.

    And, the facts are that the lunatics have been let loose from the asylum. They have launched a campaign of discrimination and intolerance which would not be permitted against any other minority.