Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smoker's health care costs

One of the most common arguments made by tobacco prohibitionists is that smokers represent a greater cost to the health care system than non-smokers. At every opportunity, the anti-smoker brigade loudly proclaims that smokers are costing Canadian “taxpayers” billions of dollars each and every year.

But, is it true?

Among those promoting a back door policy to prohibition is the “Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada”. The figures used in the chart above were taken from a fact sheet on their web site. They purport to show the costs associated with providing health care to Canadians who choose to smoke.

How accurate those figures may be is a matter for debate. Just how were these figures calculated? Did they simply take the information from the part of the admission form that asks if you smoke and how much? If you fell off your ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) and broke your arm, was it considered a smoking related incident, because you identified yourself as a smoker?

I suspect the methodology used to determine smoker’s health care costs would be an interesting read. But, let’s ignore the legitimacy of the figures for the purposes of this post and assume them to be correct.

According to the figures provided on their web site, Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada estimates that the total cost of medical treatment for smokers was $4.36 billion in 2006.

That’s a healthy chunk of money. (Forgive the pun.)

What the fact sheet fails to mention is that smokers are taxpayers too. They contribute just as much to their health care costs as any other Canadian. In fact, they pay considerably more than most other Canadians.

For the 2005/2006 fiscal year, combined revenue for the two senior levels of government was $7.09 billion from taxes on tobacco products, not including sales taxes. Health care for smokers cost the “taxpayer” nothing. Through punitive taxation on tobacco, primarily cigarettes, smokers contribute $2.73 billion dollars more than they receive. In fact, not only do smokers pay for their own health care, they contribute roughly $83 annually towards the health care costs of every man, woman and child in the country.

To be candid, however, it should be noted that all the money collected from tobacco taxes does not go towards the health care of either the smoker or the general public. Tens of millions of dollars are siphoned off for the anti-smoker brigade to continue their campaign to de-normalize smokers.

Those who frequent sites such as this one are already aware of these facts. The general public is not. And, no one involved in the tobacco control movement, including the press and politicians, is about to tell them.

Why let the truth get in the way of their efforts to categorize smokers as abnormal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cigarette hide & seek

When the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty passed the Smoke Free Ontario Act two years ago, they also banned “power walls”, the displays of cigarettes usually located behind the cash register in convenience stores. The ban takes effect May 31, and the Ontario Ministry of Health Propaganda anticipates voluntary compliance by 90 per cent of retailers by the deadline.

Not only will convenience store owners be forced to cover their tobacco displays, but clerks won’t be able to sell a pack of smokes unless customers tell them the exact brand they want.

The initiative is aimed at limiting children's exposure to the deadly tobacco products, says the Minister of Health Promotion, Margaret Best.

"It's not what you should see, it's what you shouldn't see, and you shouldn't be seeing cigarettes," the Minister said during an interview with CTV. Ms. Best is concerned that the mere sight of a pack of smokes will corrupt our kids; turning them into instant nicotine fiends.

I wonder if anyone has pointed out to the Minister the recent claims by Health Canada that more teenagers use marijuana on a regular basis than smoke cigarettes. And, there are no “power walls” of marijuana to entice kids into experimenting with that particular illegal product. If displays of legal tobacco products offend her tender sensibilities, she’d probably go into cardiac arrest if she were forced to sit through a screening of that thirties classic, “Reefer Madness”.

I stopped by the local convenience store a few days ago; the one I’ve been patronizing for the past fifteen years or so. I used to visit the store on a daily basis. These days, I stop by once a week or so.

I buy my smokes elsewhere. I can buy an entire carton for a few more dollars than I spend on a single pack of legal smokes. I figure if the government isn’t concerned about turning me into a criminal, then I won’t lose any sleep over it.

Convenience stores earn up to 60 per cent of their revenue from tobacco sales. Losing part of that revenue will have serious consequences on their bottom line. And, revenue lost to sales of contraband tobacco is just part of the problem. They also lose out on payments from the industry generated by the brand identification advertising which the tobacco displays represented.

There are also substantial losses incurred through less frequent visits by smokers in need of their daily nicotine fix. With reduced traffic from smokers, sales of impulse items such as confectionaries, soft drinks, breath mints, etc. are also lost.

The owner told me he had been quoted a price of $1200 to have new shelving installed to comply with the new government regulation; money he doesn’t have. He won’t be in compliance by the May 31 deadline. But he will try to hide his tobacco display.

Health Propaganda Minister says retailers have had several years to prepare for new rules. Public health inspectors will be out at the end of the month looking for offenders. Non-compliance could mean fines of up to $5,000. Corporations (chain stores) will face stiffer penalties.

One point should be made concerning this little bit of lunacy. By making tobacco taboo, it will encourage rebellious teens to take up smoking and defeat the intention of the ban.

And, the punitive levels of taxation imposed by senior levels of government have already made cheap contraband more readily available than it would otherwise have been.

A naughty adventure to entice younger teens, rebelious defiance by older teens and cheaper smokes within the teen budget.
The law of unintended consequences at work.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Smoking, drugs & hypocrisy

It should not come as any surprise that the biggest beneficiary, monetarily speaking, of the war being waged against smokers is the pharmaceutical industry. The more smokers who can be “encouraged” (or forced) to quit, the greater the sales of smoking cessation products like bupropion SR, nicotine gum, nicotine inhalers, nicotine lozenges, nicotine nasal spray, nicotine patches, and varenicline.

This represents a serious problem of which the public is largely unaware.

The public has been told that “big tobacco” is not to be trusted; that their only objective is to increase revenues from the sale of tobacco products. Tobacco control “experts” foster the belief that any organization or individual accepting funding from the tobacco industry is tainted by their association with big tobacco and should be dismissed out of hand.

Dr. Michael Siegel, himself an anti-smoking advocate, makes the point succinctly in an April 29, 2008 to his blog, The Rest of the Story: Right From the Anti-Smoking Playbook: When You Don't Like Something Someone Says, Accuse Them of Being a Big Tobacco Shill.

The question which has to be answered is whether scientific studies conducted, directly or indirectly, with funding from the pharmaceutical industry are any more reputable or reliable than those conducted with funding from big tobacco. Both aspire to generate income from increased sales of their respective products.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), total expenditures on prescribed and non-prescribed drugs in Canada reached $21.8 billion in 2004.
Obviously, there’s a lot of money to be made from the manufacture, distribution and sale of both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including smoking cessation drugs.

And, the anti-smoker brigade, to a greater and greater degree, is being funded by big pharmaceutical interests. They have a vested interest in imposing restrictions on smoking, via bans and punitive taxation on tobacco products. The more smokers forced to quit, the greater the profits of the drug companies.

And financial support from pharmaceutical interests may well be influencing the decisions of those receiving the funding. This was illustrated in another post by Dr. Siegel: “Press Release on Smoking Cessation Guidelines Fails to Disclose Financial Conflict of Interest of Expert Panelists”, published on May 8, 2008.

Dr. Siegel notes in his post: “A press release issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) to publicize the findings of a review by an expert panel of the role of clinicians in smoking cessation fails to disclose the significant financial conflicts of interests of the panelists.”

Dr. Siegel remarks that the press release lists drugs approved by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as smoking cessation treatments that “dramatically increase the success of quitting”, including those NRT drugs listed above. He also points out that, “The press release fails to also mention that other research indicates that the overwhelming majority of smokers who quit successfully for the long-term do so via a cold turkey and not a medication-based approach”.

But, the most troubling acknowledgement in the post is that: “Nowhere, however, does the press release mention that 9 of the members of the expert panel, including its chair, have financial conflicts of interest by virtue of having received money from Big Pharma. Most of the companies from which funding was received are precisely those which manufacture or distribute smoking cessation medications and which therefore stand to gain financially from the panel's recommendations”.

He goes on: “While allowing conflicted individuals to serve on the panel is itself questionable, the failure to disclose the conflict in reports of the findings of the panelists is indefensible”.

The hypocrisy of the situation is undeniable. The science and statistics of studies funded by the tobacco industry can be summarily dismissed because they are motivated by profit and personal gain. Studies by organizations and individuals funded by the pharmaceutical industry are accepted without question, despite being motivated by profit and personal gain.

Of course, the drug companies are acting in our best interests, aren’t they? Uh-huh.

And if you buy into that little bit of wisdom, a friend of a friend of mine has some prime ocean front property available on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. I’d be happy to put in a good word for you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prohibitionist pipedream: End of rant

While reading through some background material at Forces International, I came across an article that referred to a news item which appeared in the Ventura County Star on March 17, 2003.

Thousand Oaks Councilwoman, Claudia Bill-de la Pena, was asking her colleagues to investigate whether the city could require the local housing authority to declare Oak Creek, a senior’s apartment complex, a smoke-free environment. Earlier in the month, representatives from a member of the anti-smoker brigade, Smokefree Air For Everyone, asked the council to prohibit smoking at the Oak Creek complex.

"This policy does not discriminate against smokers," said Councilwoman Bill-de la Pena, in response to criticism that such action could be interpreted as discrimination against smokers. "They will be allowed to smoke, just not in their apartments."

It’s a specious argument at best; just part of the anti-smoker brigade’s march to the outright prohibition of tobacco.

To get the full impact of what the councilwoman was saying, just replace the word apartments with any of the locations where smoking has been prohibited, or where efforts are currently being made to have smoking prohibited.

This policy does not discriminate against smokers. They will be allowed to smoke, just not in their apartments (bars, restaurants, public buildings, public sidewalks, cars, public parks, beaches, etc.).

This piecemeal imposition of prohibition has already seen the number of places a smoker can legally light up dwindle to almost nothing. In some cases, even smoking in your own home has been restricted; although these restrictions have been imposed through indirect means.

Refusing smokers the privilege of adopting or fostering children, using a spouse’s smoking status in child custody cases and denying employment to smokers who light up in the privacy of their own homes are discriminatory practices, designed and implemented with only one goal; to force smokers to quit.

To deny the ultimate objective of the anti-smoker brigade is fool-hardy. To deny the parallel of their crusade against smokers with the propaganda campaigns used by the Nazi’s in the Germany of the 1930’s is just as unwise.

Politicians, of all political persuasions, have climbed aboard the anti-smoker bandwagon to score a few cheap brownie points with their constituents. They mimic the mantra of the anti-smoker brigade, “for the good of the children”, at every press conference dealing with smoking related issues. They dismiss out-of-hand all objective, scientific evidence not approved by the health nuts in the anti-smoker cartel.

And, having accepted their arguments, they will have a difficult time refusing demands for outright prohibition which are sure to be forthcoming from the new goose-stepping smoke police.

Politicians must remove the blinders and begin a legitimate reassessment of the fraudulent science and suspect statistics surrounding the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke. They must reconsider, and discontinue, the policy of de-normalization that has created a climate of fear and loathing and led to unconcealed discrimination of smokers.

They are, to their detriment and the detriment of society, ignoring the lessons learned from the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s. The adverse socio-economic consequences are already beginning to manifest themselves.

A responsible government with any foresight would put an end to this insane experiment in piecemeal prohibition and denial of personal freedom, sooner rather than later.

I wonder where we might find one.

End of rant.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Prohibitionist pipedream: Part 2

If it weren’t so serious, it would be laughable; Canada’s Minister of Public Safety reprimanding smokers as if they were misbehaving children.

A recent article in the National Post says Stockwell Day was appealing to Canadians to “please, please drive past smoke shacks selling 200 cigarettes in clear, plastic resealable bags for as little as $6 and instead fork over $75-$90 for legal cartons”.

Yes, Minister. I understand, Minister. I’ll be a good little Canadian. Yes, Minister, Nanny knows best. Should I lower my trousers and bend over for the caning? Thank you so much, Minister.

The Post article then goes on to put the blame on Native Americans: “90% of the contraband seized thus far in Canada originated from factories on the U. S. side of the Akwesasne reserve”. The Reserve, divided by the St. Lawrence River, straddles the US/Canada border.

But, it’s not the natives who have created the problem. The problem was created by governments who chose to shake down smokers through punitive levels of taxation on a perfectly legal product. It is not the natives who are demanding $75 to $90 for a product that can be grown, processed and distributed for under $10. Sin taxes are one thing; government sponsored extortion is quite another. Don’t blame the aboriginal population for a problem created by misguided politicians who choose to ignore the lessons learned from the prohibition of alcohol three quarters of a century ago.

Remember that quote from John D. Rockefeller in my last post: “a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened.”

The prohibition of alcohol in the twenties and early thirties created that “vast army of lawbreakers”. And, that vast army of lawbreakers, in turn, created the climate that led to prohibition being repealed. And, that vast army is mobilizing once again; this time to fight the piecemeal prohibition of tobacco.

And, if respect for the law has lessened, it’s because smokers had no input into the draconian, discriminatory laws being passed by their governments. Only one side has been permitted to speak in the debate on the health hazards of secondhand smoke. Therefore only one conclusion can be reached by a public which remains largely ignorant of the junk science and suspect statistics permeating the tobacco control movement.

The governments of Canada and its provinces have excluded smokers from the debate. How can they now expect smokers to have any respect for those discriminatory, prohibitionist laws?

I have my own appeal to make to Canadians, especially the over 5 million who continue to smoke: Don’t docilely pay the extortion demanded by your governments, part of which will be distributed to the anti smoker brigade to vilify smokers; to relegate them to the status of secondhand citizens. Refuse to accept the burden of guilt they wish to lay on your shoulders; you don’t deserve it.

You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve done nothing for which you should be ashamed. Quit when, and if, you choose to, not because they force you to bend to their will. No man or woman deserves to spend his or her life on their knees.

Don’t let them brand you a criminal because you make a sound economic decision to acquire and consume “contraband” tobacco. Extortion is also a criminal activity and your governments have been engaging in outright extortion for decades.

I smoke because I choose to; I smoke contraband because my governments have left me no economically viable option.

Unless there is a large scale public backlash, the anti-smoker brigade will continue their march to outright prohibition.

To be continued

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A smoke free Canada; prohibitionist pipedream

National prohibition was introduced in the US through the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Passed in 1919 and effective in 1920, prohibition made the manufacture, transportation, import, and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal in the U.S.

Criminal activity, including theft, murder, and racketeering, grew directly from the imposition of alcohol prohibition. A very lucrative, often violent, black market for illegal alcohol was created. Enforcing prohibition became a costly nightmare with the loss of tax revenues on alcohol adversely impacting government coffers.

But, there was much more involved than the loss of tax revenue on alcoholic beverages; distilleries, wineries and breweries were closed, throwing tens of thousands of people out of work. Little consideration was given to the full economic impact of the legislation.

Prohibition became increasingly unpopular and was repealed late in 1933; a thirteen year exercise in futility, with even its most fervent supporters admitting failure.

One such supporter, industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., when it became apparent that prohibition would be repealed, wrote: “When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.”

Politicians and prohibitionists today are no less naïve.

"I'm asking individuals to consider that they are contributing to a dangerous pipeline of criminal activity. This is not a victimless crime or a benign activity," Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day, remarked at a press conference recently. He was talking about the growing trade in contraband cigarettes which deprive governments of tax revenue with losses estimated at 1.6 billion dollars.

In addition to the loss of tax revenue, the government is spending more and more tax dollars on policing the distribution and sale of contraband smokes.

Canadian governments have chosen to ignore the socio-economic impact of their march to tobacco prohibition.

Canadian tobacco farmers have been all but wiped out. Jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector. Bars, casinos and other adult entertainment venues have felt the adverse economic impact of smoking bans. Convenience stores are losing much needed revenue from the tobacco industry, due to the banning of “power walls”.

Studies on the economic impact of the bans are accepted only from the anti-smoker brigade. Many have been conducted with funding from the pharmaceutical industry despite the fact that the drug companies have a huge financial stake in the outcome of government efforts to impose piecemeal prohibition on tobacco.

On the other hand, legitimate studies which show the bans are having an adverse impact on the Canadian economy are dismissed and discredited with claims that they are tainted by some real or perceived association with “big tobacco”.

A stakeholder is defined as a “person, group, or organization that has a direct or indirect stake in an organization because it can affect or be affected by the organization's actions, objectives, and policies”. The stakeholders represented in forming smoking policy include anti-smoker groups like the Non-Smokers Rights Organization, the pharmaceutical industry, government public health agencies like Ontario’s Ministry of Health Propaganda and a host of others.

But, smokers, the biggest stakeholders in prohibitionist policy, have never been invited to the table. Five million Canadians denied representation in policy decisions which impact their social life, their right to adopt children and their right to rental accommodation, employment and medical care.

History tells us that prohibition doesn’t work. It also tells us that “taxation without representation” has been enough to start revolutions.

To be continued . . .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SHS kills . . . how many?

On their web page, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) makes 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”.

That’s a pretty wild statement. So, I did my own little study to see if the claims made by ASH have any correlation with known Canadian data. Are Canadians more likely to be “killed” by their neighbour’s tobacco smoke than his car, his gun or his aids virus?

The total number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, homicides and HIV were obtained from Statistics Canada’s “Mortality, Summary List of Causes” for 2002. The actual figures from StatsCan were then compared to the number of deaths attributable to secondhand smoke exposure as estimated by Health Canada.

The total number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, homicide and HIV combined was 3,825. Health Canada “estimates” that SHS kills 1,000 Canadians annually. I believe this is a fairly recent estimate that wasn’t being made a few years back.

The results of my little study lead me to the conclusion that they must make a significantly stronger brand of secondhand smoke in the US than they do in Canada; the claim from ASH is simply not supported by Canadian “data”. Canadians are roughly three times more likely to die in car accidents alone than they are to die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Even more troubling are the Canadian figures for suicides. Although not included in the claim by ASH, the figures jumped off the page at me. According to StatsCan, 792 Canadians committed suicide before the age of thirty; 3,650 Canadians, in total, took their own lives in 2002. This means that Canadians are 3.7 times more likely to die by their own hand than they are to die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

It would appear that suicide is a greater health risk to this country’s young people than the alleged risks attributed to SHS. The age adjusted mortality rate for suicide for teens between 15 and 19 is 10.1 per 100,000. The 1,000 estimated deaths from second hand smoke among a total population of roughly 33 million works out to a mortality rate of approximately three per hundred thousand.

But, billions of dollars are being spent on a fear-based campaign to dehumanize smokers on the basis that SHS represents a serious health hazard to Canadians, especially our young people. There is growing discrimination against smokers in the area of housing, employment and medical treatment; all based on the mantra that “secondhand smoke kills”.

I’m neither an epidemiologist nor a statistician. But I’m getting too damned old to be convinced that two plus two equals five.

Oh. One other conclusion I’ve reached, based on the results of my little “study”. Health Canada will increase their estimates by 500% to 1,000% during the next year or so. That 1,000 figure simply isn’t scary enough, so they’ll pluck another number from somebody’s posterior to inflate their estimate.

And, yes, I’m taking wagers.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Canadian study on SHS

Lung cancer has been identified by public health officials as the leading cause of cancer mortality for both sexes in Canada.

Most of the smoking bans implemented across Canada have been predicated on the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke (SHS), also called Environmental Tobacco Smoke or ETS, primarily as it relates to lung cancer and heart disease.

The anti-smoker brigade would have us believe that SHS is such a significant health hazard to non-smokers that it requires draconian measures, in the form of bans, to control it. Some openly encourage discrimination against smokers in the areas of housing, employment and medical care based on the alleged risks of exposure to SHS.

They base their campaign of fear and intolerance on epidemiological studies which they claim show an increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease from exposure to SHS. The evidence they claim is conclusive; but is it? One organization, Freedom2Choose, based in the UK, estimates that for every study showing that SHS is harmful; there are six which find the opposite.

One such study, “Risk factors for lung cancer among Canadian women who have never smoked”, was conducted by The Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group in 2002. A copy of the study is available Here .

The authors note in the results of their study: “For the reported never-smoker women, 71 cases and 293 controls, who reported their residential passive smoking history for at least 90% of their lifetimes, were chosen in the analysis. An increased risk was observed with increasing total of residential plus occupational years, but this was not statistically significant. Compared with those never exposed to either passive or active smoking, the adjusted ORs were: 0.7 (95% CI = 0.2 – 2.3), 1.2 (95% CI = 0.4 – 3.2), 1.5 (95% CI = 0.5 – 4.0), 1.5 (95% CI = 0.6 – 4.1), for 1 to 16, 17 to 30, 31 to 47, and 48 or more years of combined residential and/or occupational ETS exposure, respectively (test for trend, P = 0.16)".

Among their conclusions, the authors suggested that “passive exposure to ETS at home (or at work) may be associated with lung cancer risk”.

The key word here is “may”. Exposure to SHS may or may not be associated with lung cancer. And, please remember that association is not the same as cause. Nowhere does the study suggest that SHS is the cause of lung cancer.

It should also be pointed out that the press regularly reports the findings of these studies as a percentage, which provides an inaccurate representation of the facts.

For example, the OR (Odds Ratio) or relative risk for non-smokers exposed to SHS for 17 to 30 years, is given as 1.2 (95% CI = 0.4 – 3.2). Since studies assign an OR of 1.0 as a control reference, and the OR for 17 to 30 years of exposure is 1.2, the press would say there is a twenty per cent increase in the risk of lung cancer.

But that’s not entirely honest. The more accurate interpretation of the OR is that the relative risk for that amount of exposure would fall, 95 % of the time, between 0.4 and 3.2 (the confidence interval, or CI). Since the lower of the numbers (0.4) in the confidence interval is less than 1.0 (the reference), it suggests that for some of the controls in the study, exposure to SHS acted as a deterrent to the development of lung cancer.

When this happens, the association in not considered to be statistically significant. As noted in the study, “An increased risk was observed with increasing total of residential plus occupational years, but this was not statistically significant”.

But, this information is never provided by the press or those organizations who want the public to believe exposure to ETS is deadly. The majority of epidemiological studies show otherwise.

Why did I choose this study to make my point? Because Health Canada “estimates” that SHS kills 1000 Canadians a year. And, four of the five authors involved in the study were associated with Health Canada.

I wonder if they're making it up?

Recommended Reading: Freedom2Choose

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The hoax of secondhand smoke

The secondhand smoke scare is perhaps the biggest hoax in the history of the civilized world. The public is being conned into believing that SHS has been conclusively proven to cause cancer, heart disease, depression and a whole host of other diseases.

The often outrageous claims of the anti-smoker brigade are charged with emotionalism designed to justify bans on smoking. No claim is too egregious. Common sense has been discarded in favour of scientific fraud and political expediency.

Smoking bans are not designed to protect anyone from the unproven health hazards posed by secondhand smoke; they are designed to penalize and denigrate smokers.

Check out the following items from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and Ontario’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

“The ban on smoking in an enclosed workplace is in effect at all times, even during off-hours when people are not working”. If there is no one working, who is there to protect? If a cleaner is mopping the floors in a building at two in the morning, with no one else around, and stops for a smoke break, who is he hurting other than maybe himself?

“An employer may choose to accommodate employees who smoke by providing a smoking shelter outdoors. An employer who provides an outdoor smoking shelter must ensure that the structure consists of no more than two walls and a roof”. Elsewhere in the Act, a wall is defined as “a physical barrier of any size, capable of excluding rain or capable of impeding airflow, or both”.

If the smoking area is being provided for the benefit of smokers, why does the Act insist that they be exposed to the elements on two sides of the structure? Wouldn’t non-smokers be better protected by an enclosed smoking shelter? Why is it necessary that smokers be exposed to rain and the elements?

“Smoking is prohibited if an outdoor patio has a roof, even where the roof partially covers the patio. A roof includes an awning, tarp, canvas sheeting or other permanent or temporary covering that is capable of excluding rain or impeding airflow, or both”.

Why does the Act specifically require that smokers not be protected from the rain or snow?

If patios are considered safe for non-smoking staff, provided they are not equipped with a roof, why are there attempts being made to ban smoking in other outdoor areas such as sidewalks, parks and beaches?

The answer to all of these questions is easy. These articles in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act are not designed to protect non-smokers; they are designed to persecute smokers; to make them as uncomfortable as possible. They are part of a well orchestrated vendetta being waged against smokers to force them to quit against their will; to deny them the privilege of choosing for themselves whether to smoke or not.

And, the public is buying into the propaganda. Even many smokers are prepared to shoulder a false feeling of guilt and surrender to the health scare professionals who demand the right to decide what is best for them.

Fact or Fiction 4

1000 Canadians die annually from exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS).

Actually, there has never been a death recorded anywhere in the world from passive smoking. The Health Canada web site says quite clearly that the 1000 deaths figure for Canada is “estimated”. Stats Canada does not list either smoking or exposure to SHS as a cause of death for any of the roughly 230,000 deaths reported annually in Canada.

The truth is that it is simply not possible for medical science to investigate every death, determine the lifetime level of exposure to other suspected carcinogens (including diet and occupational exposure) and attribute the cause of death specifically to SHS exposure.

In fact, the specific cause of any cancer is impossible to determine and therefore science has to rely on risk factors to infer a cause. In the case of exposure to SHS, this science has been deliberately exaggerated and distorted by the anti-smoker cartel.

Recommended Reading: The causes of cancer

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?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Irish drinking crowd

I’ve mentioned in several posts on these pages that the many smoking bans being introduced across the country were part of a journey down a slippery slope. I’ve also pointed out that the bans, if unopposed, would lead to further erosion of personal liberty that would not be restricted to smokers; that the success of the anti-smoker brigade would encourage other anti-anything-I-don’t-like groups to demand further government incursions into the area of behaviour modification.

The question was which group would be targeted for the next wave of punitive taxation and draconian laws designed to coerce the population into conforming to state sanctioned conduct.

I noted in a March 19 post titled “Liverpool Lunacy” that Liverpool (England) City Council's Childhood Obesity Scrutiny Group was proposing a by-law forbidding the sale of fast food accompanied by toys (MacDonald’s Happy Meals). A spokesperson for the group pointed out the success of the anti-smoker brigade and noted: “There's no reason why we can't achieve a similar feat." For the good of the kids, mind you. Uh-huh.

Now the anti-everything crowd is opening a new front. This time, the target, in their march to the perfect society, is drinkers. And their opening salvo will be fired in Ireland.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern’s government has proposed a draft bill designed to curb excessive and binge drinking by reforming liquor licensing and public order laws. The measures were introduced in the draft legislation entitled the “Intoxicating Liquor/Public Order Bill 2008,” in parliament in Dublin.

The strategies being considered for garnering public support for the legislation come directly from the anti-smoker brigade’s “little red book”.

The Daily Mail quotes a report in New Scientist which says: “The World Health Organization's global strategy will aim to match the success of campaigns which have made smokers feel guilty about the harm second-hand smoke does to others”.

Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians is quoted as saying: “The tipping point for banning smoking in public places was third party damage. Third-party damage from alcohol is much greater, in terms of violence and the damage to unborn children, the first sexual experience and the percentage of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases". Gilmore is also president of the Alcohol Health Alliance.

The Morning Advertiser advises that, “A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that taxes should be raised on alcohol to stop the harm caused to others by drinkers. It cites examples such as domestic abuse and drink-drivers and said that passive drinking should be examined in the same light as passive smoking”. Uh-huh.

And, since any successful campaign must include an appeal to protect the kids, “Many of the harms caused by alcohol are borne by people other than the drinker responsible. This includes 60,000 underweight births, as well as 16 per cent of child abuse and neglect, and five to nine million children in families adversely affected by alcohol”.

In 1975, Sir George Goober advised the WHO of the means by which smokers could be coerced into quitting: “foster an atmosphere where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them, especially their family and any infants or young children who would be exposed involuntarily” to secondhand smoke.

The anti-smoker brigade started the ball rolling. The anti-drinker crowd will add momentum.

And the public had better take the blinders off. The madness won’t stop with smoking, drinking or the overweight. 1984 is fast approaching.