Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hot dogs kill . . . ?

In March, Liverpool (England) Councilor Paul Twigger proposed a by-law meant to end the distribution of free toys 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”, said Mr. Twigger, before going on to say, "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”.

Councilor Twigger, it appears, was encouraging the use of the same tactics used by anti-smoker groups to target tobacco users in their war on smokers in an upcoming war on obesity. Unfortunately, those tactics include fear mongering to promote behaviour modification and save children from hazards which may or may not exist.

A new TV commercial which began airing last month in several U.S. cities, uses children in a scare mongering campaign launched by a group called the Cancer Project.

Three young children appear in the thirty second ad, speaking as adults. The first, a young boy, tells us: “I thought I’d live forever. I was dumbfounded when the doctor told me . . . I have late stage colon cancer”. Another, a young girl, says: “It’s been really tough on my husband, my kids and me. Cancer affects the whole family”.

Throughout the commercial, there are scenes of youngsters wolfing down hot dogs and pizza, while a voice over at the end tells us: “Cancer risks start early. Even small amounts of processed meats can lead to adult cancers”. At the same time, an on-screen message exhorts people to: “Help get processed meats out of our schools”.

It’s an emotional message with no redeeming educational value; fear mongering at its emotional best; propaganda, pure and simple. In short, it’s a thirty second clip designed to create a distorted reality and instill an irrational fear that hot dogs and pizza represent a serious health hazard to children.

The public should be educated about potential health hazards, whatever they may be. But the growing trend in the health scare industry is not to educate or advise. More and more we are seeing well orchestrated campaigns, not to identify or resolve health issues, but to influence (and often inflame) public opinion.

And, children are being used to relay these messages of fear and intolerance.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the war on smokers. The tactics of fear have been honed to a fine edge by anti-smoker fanatics. The health risks to children and adults alike have been exaggerated beyond all reasonable proportion. Non-smokers have been complacent about, and even supportive of, the war on smokers. But, tobacco and smokers were only the first targets.

The reality is that the tactics of fear used by anti-smoker activists are being incorporated by similar activist groups in campaigns to eliminate other behaviours deemed unacceptable.

Who will be next? What’s your vice?

There’s an excellent article, ”Does Hot Dog Cancer Ad Go Too Far?” by Lindsey Tanner on AOL News where you can also view the commercial.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No decline in smoker prevalence

Michael Platt of the Calgary Sun has an interesting take on the recent survey from Health Canada which indicates that cigarette use across Canada has not shown any decline over the past three years, but rather, has remained stagnant.

One-in-five Canadians smoked in 2005 and one-in-five Canadians smoke now”, says Platt, before continuing, “All indications suggest there will be one-in-five Canadians smoking three years from now, too -- the survey shows the number of teens who smoke regularly isn't dropping, either”.

According to Platt, smoking was supposed to go the way of eight-track tapes and rotary phones. Uh-huh.

His article notes that “federal and provincial governments have spent millions of tax dollars on a campaign to gradually grind cigarettes into the history books”. The health hazards of cigarettes were to become a thing of the past; a rapidly receding memory of another era. Smoking was to be extinguished as easily as a lit cigarette; all for our own good, of course, and the good of society.

I think Platt has grossly under-estimated the costs of the war on smokers. The true costs are likely in the hundreds of millions. The Canada wide mass media campaign, funded by the federal government until recently, cost in excess of $400 million over five years.

And, let’s not forget the social and economic costs occasioned by smoking bans and the relentless persecution of smokers. Losses in tax revenue due to rapidly growing sales of contraband, job losses in the tobacco and hospitality industries, etc., all costs of the war.

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, blames the usual suspects for the lack of progress in the war on smokers and is proposing the same tired solutions. "The Alberta government should move swiftly to increase tobacco taxes," said Cunningham.

The anti-smoker zealots are also demanding more campaigns to warn smokers of the dangers of smoking, because “higher prices, tougher laws and more education are the key to reducing the number of tobacco users”. And, of course, they have to eliminate the ready availability of cheap contraband.

Naturally, these campaigns will cost taxpayers financially . . . and put additional funding in the anti-smoker war chest. But, government can always extort the required cash from smokers by further increasing the price of smokes.

Platt doesn’t think contraband cigarettes or price is the issue. He says: “The problem is addiction. Adults who are addicted are going to keep smoking despite price, health concerns and hassle from bylaws and the anti-smoking majority”. Uh-huh.

He goes on: “Any grown-up capable of quitting has already done so -- and the money spent trying to convince the rest is a total waste, better invested elsewhere”.

Amen, brother. Although, I’m not yet convinced smoking is an addiction by most definitions, there is a dependency which keeps people puffing. And, then, some of us are just plain stubborn.

By all means, educate our young people about the potential harm of smoking. Make it difficult for them to take up the habit. But, let’s do it with facts, not propaganda. There’s a difference between education and indoctrination. The former is meant to impart knowledge; the latter is meant to control.

When anti-smoker groups present “scientific studies” which prove that a smoker breathing on a child will cause irreparable harm, people, including young people, will question the integrity of the science. When anti-smoker fanatics claim that 340 kids a day are dying in the US from exposure to secondhand smoke, science loses a little more credibility.

And, when they claim a society which can put a man on the moon is incapable of designing an air filtration and ventilation system to clear secondhand smoke from a bar, people will, eventually and justifiably, start to question the science.

Platt asks in his article, “Aren’t smokers already social pariahs, pushed to the gutters by anti-smoking laws”. Amen again, brother. Take it from one who knows.

The process of “de-normalization” implemented by anti-smoker activists was created to coerce smokers into quitting. It was intentionally designed to denigrate and disenfranchise smokers. To accomplish their goal, the anti-smoker brigade distorted science and resorted to a propaganda campaign the likes of which has not been seen in three-quarters of a century.

Canadians could have been protected from the real dangers of secondhand smoke with a little compromise (and at far less cost). Legitimate public policies to dissuade smoking could have succeeded to a significant degree. The anti-smoker crowd chose instead to make life miserable for people simply because they engage in an unpopular, but still legal, habit.

The war on smoking has been turned into an all out war on smokers. We’re vastly outnumbered. We can’t rely on financial support from government as the anti-smokers do to spread their message of fear and hatred. We can no longer depend on our governments to protect us from discrimination in housing, employment or medical care. But, we will survive.

And, if the control freaks in the anti-smoker movement were looking for an easy victory, they are due for disappointment.

Rob Cunningham whines: "We should be seeing a decline (in smoking) and we're not”.

Sorry, Rob. You and your colleagues should have stuck to a campaign against smoking. Your relentless attacks on smokers moved the battle into a different arena. You decided that a human being’s value to society could be determined by whether or not he chose to smoke. It can’t. No more than a man’s worth can be determined by the colour of his skin or the God he chooses to worship.

You made it personal. There will be no surrender.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Smoking bans won't harm the economy . . .

Two Calgary gaming companies are demanding the province close a loophole in the Alberta smoking ban that permits gamblers to light up in First Nations casinos.

The problem, of course, is that the loophole isn’t in the Alberta anti-smoker legislation.

The $40-million Grey Eagle Casino which opened last December is situated on land belonging to the Tsuu T'ina Nation. The $60-million Nakoda Entertainment Resort, which opened this spring, was built on land belonging to the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Both casinos invoked federal bylaw exemptions for Native lands, as is their right.

The Deerfoot Inn and Casino, and the Elbow River Casino, both in Calgary, report that earnings are down between 5% and 25% respectively. The Deerfoot Inn and Casino, claims it made almost a million dollars less in the second quarter of 2008, a loss of more than five per cent compared to last year. Now, Gamehost Income Fund which owns the Deerfoot Inn and Sam Switzer, owner of the Elbow River Casino want the province to “level the playing field”.

"People who smoke like to gamble, and of course they'll go where they are able to smoke if the option is there for them to do it," said Craig Thomas, Gamehost's chief executive.

Harry Chase, Alberta MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), is sympathetic to the plight of the non-native casino owners. "I would love to see a blanket ban," he said. "Being able to play the federal regulations against the provincial regulations is an unfair advantage."

The solution, according to the Calgary casino operators and the politicians, is to find a way to force or otherwise coerce the native casinos to comply with the provincial smoking ban and prohibit smoking in their casinos. Les Hagen, executive director for the anti-smoker group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), is in agreement, saying: "There should be health protection for all hospitality workers".

Alberta’s casinos aren’t the only ones losing money due, at least in part, to the smoking bans being implemented across the country. Casino Windsor workers in Ontario were forced to accept a new three-year contract which included a wage freeze in the first two years with an hourly raise of 30 cents per hour in the third year.

The casino has seen revenues drop in recent years due to the rising value of the Canadian dollar and the Smoke Free Ontario Act. Across the river, in Michigan, casinos may still cater to smokers, giving Michigan an advantage in attracting smoking clientele. Casinos located on native land in Ontario are also exempt from the smoking ban.

But, forcing casinos on native reserves to prohibit smoking isn’t the solution. It may level the playing field as far as the Calgary casino operators are concerned, but it will not bring smokers back to their casinos in any great numbers. It will simply mean that the native casinos will suffer similar losses in revenue as their non-native counterparts.

Smokers still want to smoke. And, if they have to leave the tables or the slot machines to have their cigarettes, they will. That means they’ll spend less time (and money) gambling while they trot outside to have their smoke.

The Great Canadian Gaming Company, which operates casinos in Halifax and Sydney, managed to offset losses by reducing staff and shortening operating hours. Between 100 and 120 jobs were cut in Halifax alone. They have no competition from native casinos. Milton Woensdregt, Great Canadian’s chief financial officer, said that the problems in Nova Scotia included severe weather, the smoking ban and the province’s anti-gaming messaging.

Economic impact studies conducted prior to implementation of the smoking bans warned of economic losses in these areas, but they were ignored. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Health Propaganda, the only studies which suggested any adverse consequences to casinos, or the hospitality industry in general, were those sponsored by tobacco interests or the hospitality industry. So, government relied solely on studies done by the anti-smoker groups and implemented the smoking bans on their assurance that economic losses would be short term and that non-smokers would start flocking to the non-smoking venues.

It hasn’t happened.

Officials with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said they would prefer to see First Nations casinos follow the rest of the province. "The whole idea was to protect all Alberta from second-hand smoke," commission spokeswoman, Christine Wronko, commented on the smoking ban. "The First Nations are working with federal legislation, and we have no say in it at all."

There are, in fact, two problems with the position of the casino operators and the politicians. One is that they have not yet proven that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard, and two, native communities across the country will be wary of any deal in which they are required to surrender treaty rights.

As far as leveling the playing field, the second of these problems is justifiably the bigger of the two.

Maybe they should deal with their first problem first; stop kowtowing to the anti-smoker fanatics, review the science, and ban the bans.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SHS kills, more or less

The threat of secondhand smoke to the health of non-smokers has been distorted to a point of absurdity. For example, a recent “scientific study” from Australia claimed that, not only was secondhand smoke harmful to children, but the very breath of smoking parents represented a serious health hazard. Uh-huh.

Another study claims that a mere 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke is enough to trigger a heart attack in an otherwise healthy adult. Given that literally millions of non-smokers have been exposed to various quantities of secondhand smoke since the fifties, it’s nothing less than a miracle there are any non-smokers left in the country to whine about the sickening smell of tobacco smoke.

But, blinded by the bullshit and bafflegab inherent in these studies and the statistics surrounding them, the politicians are persuaded to impose draconian bans to demean, denigrate and disenfranchise smokers. And, let’s not forget the punitive levels of taxation designed to keep smokers in a perpetual state of poverty.

To see just how ridiculous some of these claims are, let’s look at the figures from the Health Canada website that alleges 1,000 Canadians are killed annually by secondhand smoke.

The fact, of course, is that a computer program, compiled by person or persons unknown, has been fed data on the estimated number of smokers in Canada (estimated in the millions) and the number of non-smokers who may have been infected by their secondhand smoke (also estimated in the millions).

Then they used a risk factor, based on an unnamed epidemiology study, which may or may not have any statistical significance (the vast majority do not), to generate an estimate on the number of cardiovascular, respiratory and cancer deaths which may have resulted from possible exposure to secondhand smoke.

In simpler language, they plucked the figure from their ass.

But, let’s not question the veracity of the Health Canada estimates. Let’s assume that those figures are absolutely correct. And, let’s also assume that the anti-smoker brigade is telling the pure, unadulterated truth when they quote the US Surgeon General and support his contention that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Yes, I know, it will be a major struggle to suspend common sense and accept the logic of the anti-smoker brigade. But, if the politicians and the press can do it with so little effort, so can you.

If every smoker in Canada infects just one non-smoker with his/her life threatening, stomach turning, foul smelling secondhand smoke, then there are at least five million non-smokers in Canada who are about to die from exposure to secondhand smoke. And at the 1,000 per year estimated by Health Canada, since there is no safe level of exposure, all five million will be dead . . . sometime within the next 5,000 years. Uh-huh. 5,000 years.

I can state categorically that, al the very least, 4.9 million will have to find something to die from other than a smoking related disease.

Do you think the anti-smoker brigade is lying when they insist there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke? And, if they’re lying about that, what else might they be lying about? Surely they’re not lying when they claim secondhand smoke kills. Or are they?

Fear not, brave heart, the answers to all the mysteries of the universe will be revealed in time. So, stay tuned. We’ll be back following the smoke break.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SHS does not kill, and neither do seniors

Edna Ruth Martin lives in Westfield Manor Apartments in Belleville, Illinois. Ms. Martin’s plea for help was recently published on Illinois Smokers Rights website.

Ms Martin is talking about the impact of a new Illinois statewide smoking ban on the lives of seniors in the building where she lives. The law is similar to legislation passed in Ontario by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. Even the name is similar: The Smoke Free Illinois Act.

And, the Illinois law was designed and implemented for the same purpose as the Smoke Free Ontario Act; to demean smokers, to shame them and strip them of their dignity in an effort to force them to quit; regardless of age or the contributions they may have made to their community. For their own good, of course.

Ms. Martin and her friends at Westville Manor, smokers and non-smokers alike, don’t believe the law is for their own good. “Senior citizen's health is being compromised by the new Illinois smoking bans. Most of us have smoked 50-70 years, and have no desire to stop. But we are being forced outside in rain, wind, snow, ice and all other conditions to enjoy our cigarette”.

Ms. Martin points out that she and her 15 fellow smokers, many with disabilities not related to smoking, live in low income, subsidized housing, but they are independent living apartments, not assisted living.

“We are talking about seniors, age 65 and older. Most are very unsteady on their feet anyway, depending on canes, walkers and wheel chairs to get around at all . . . even in good weather. There will be an increased danger of falls and pneumonia, and other respiratory problems as a result of this law”.

Ms. Martin also notes that “they discriminate against smokers by making house rules that they can invade our privacy with searches of our apartments any time of the day or night without previous notice, threaten us with eviction . . .”

It’s a peculiar brand of hatred and spitefulness being directed at Ms. Martin and friends; a hatred created by the ad agency hype of the anti-smoker element of society. The hatred, and the resulting discrimination, is encouraged by gutless politicians who have bought into the lies and propaganda of these health scare professionals.

Ms. Martin knows she’s fighting an uphill battle. “We know that the problem is not just local, but a small group of us seniors are trying to fight back. It has also happened in several nursing homes and assisted living centers here locally, as well as in the independent living apartment we are in”.

And, indeed she’s right. And, Canadians should put aside any feelings of smug superiority to our American cousins. The hatred and intolerance is as prevalent in Canada as anywhere in the world.

Forget for a moment, if you can, the more egregious examples of mistreatment, like a patient wandering away from a nursing home to have a smoke and being left to die in the cold. Take a look around you, at the groups of people huddled on the sidewalks in front of bars and restaurants, exposed to the elements by government decree, to engage in a legal activity; to use a perfectly legal product.

Take a look at the local legion hall, where former members of our Armed Forces are forced to stand in the parking lot, demeaned and denied their dignity – de-normalized - because they choose to smoke.

The scientific evidence has not proven anything beyond a minimal association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer, heart disease or COPD. And, even that minimal association is in dispute. These people have never hurt anyone.

Maybe the public, who the anti-smoker brigade claims is in full support of these all-inclusive smoking bans, should remember that some of the people suffering the ill effects might be their parents or grand-parents. Some of these smokers might be the men and women who stood the watch to preserve the freedoms which they enjoy.

Is this the way you want them to be treated? Is it really?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Education . . . or indoctrination?

Are anti-smoker groups exploiting kids to promote their private agenda?

Casa Cubana, a Montreal-based importer of quality cigar products, issued a press release on April 29, 2008 claiming that “anti-tobacco groups in Canada have felt it increasingly necessary to use kids in their attempt to manipulate public perception, create public outrage and force governments to over-regulate tobacco products”.

According to Luc Martial, spokesman for Casa Cubana (formerly with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association and the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, among others) said: "These extremist groups are now tricking "kids" into promoting their self-serving agendas against tobacco".

He continued: "While perhaps well-intended, these kids and their youth-oriented anti-tobacco groups are unfortunately simply regurgitating misrepresentations actively promoted by anti-tobacco extremist groups. These kids, unfortunately, have not learned to question the information being force-fed to them by people and organizations that on the face of it seem trustworthy. And that's the problem."

And, he may have a point.

According to their website, “The Students Commission is a charitable organization dedicated to creating and promoting opportunities for young people to learn and grow in a positive and safe environment” Through their website, Tiny Giant, they distribute SmokeFree Spaces: Activist Toolkit. The toolkit, they tell you “is a great resource that can help youth become engaged in positive activities. The toolkit is a cool, bilingual, easy-to-use CD-ROM for young people and their adult allies to take a stand and create smokefree spaces”.

I believe most parents want their kids educated about the potential hazards of active cigarette smoking. But, there’s a world of difference between education and indoctrination.

The Activist Toolkit apparently feeds these kids the same unsubstantiated propaganda about secondhand smoke as that directed at the adult population. Secondhand smoke kills. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. They’re being told that the evidence is conclusive and unequivocal. And, that’s simply not true.

It’s one thing to feed adults a diet of propaganda and distorted science. It’s quite another to use those tactics on unsuspecting young people and their parents. Educate them about the potential dangers of smoking, by all means; but keep the experiments in social engineering out of the schools.

Earlier this year, on his blog Tobacco Analysis, Dr. Michael Siegel questioned one of the facts contained in the toolkit, produced by Health Canada.

“Health Canada provides the following as an example of a research "fact" that should be used: "A non-smoker in a smoky room, such as a bar, inhales the equivalent of 35 cigarettes an hour".

Dr. Siegel points out that this claim is inaccurate by saying: “It is far from a "fact" that nonsmokers in a smoky bar inhale the equivalent of 35 cigarettes an hour. In fact, it is false”.

He goes on to explain: “In terms of nicotine exposure, a nonsmoker in a smoky bar inhales the equivalent of less than one-thirtieth of a single cigarette in an hour. So clearly, you cannot accurately claim that a nonsmoker in such a situation inhales the equivalent of 35 cigarettes an hour. You are in fact in error - and by a whopping factor of about 1000. You're off by three orders of magnitude!”

He notes that, in terms of some smoke constituents (notably NDMA), nonsmokers in a smoky bar may inhale the equivalent of about 2 cigarettes an hour.

Then, he also asks a very troubling question: “I don't understand why Health Canada needs to use a false piece of information as an example to children. Are they trying to encourage students to exaggerate and distort the facts as anti-smoking groups are known to do?”

If that’s what they were trying to do, it’s unconscionable and reprehensible for a government body.

I don’t know if the Activist Toolkit produced by Health Canada is a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate children. But, I do intend to take a closer look at the matter. I've requested a copy of the CD ROM and the facilitator’s guide. And, I will be reviewing it closely and asking a few questions.

I’ll keep you informed of what I find, if anything.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Air pollution kills

According to CTV, a CMA report claims that 21,000 Canadians will die from air pollution in 2008 with 3,000 of those deaths due to short-term exposure to smog. The study (No Breathing Room: National Illness Costs of Air Pollution), was completed by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), and released on Wednesday.

Those are pretty big numbers. And, it appears they’re going to get worse. The study suggests that between now and 2031 roughly 90,000 Canadians will die from the acute short-term effects of air pollution. And worse, more than 700,000 will die from long term exposure.

Although this is the first large-scale report on the impact of air pollution across Canada, it should come as no surprise that air pollution is a severe health hazard across North America. The problem has been noted in magazines and newspaper articles for years.

In January, 2004, the Ohio Environmental Council noted that “fine particles from fossil fuel power plants were contributing to an estimated 1,900 premature deaths in Ohio each year”. Fine particulate emissions just from off-road diesel engines, such as construction equipment, were thought to have contributed to 340 premature deaths annually.

Ohio is one of Ontario’s southern neighbours, on the other side of Lake Ontario. It has a population roughly one third that of Canada.

The 2004 report from Ohio states that: “Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) penetrates deep into the lungs, making asthma more severe, causing chronic bronchitis, degrading lung function, aggravating cardiovascular disease and potentially triggering heart attacks”.

“Ozone may lead to death and serious illness. Ozone inflames lung passages and makes breathing difficult. It can trigger asthma attacks, and it increases susceptibility to respiratory illness and respiratory-related hospital visits. Repeated exposure to high ozone levels permanently damages the lungs”.

CTV notes that: “The CMA used a model developed by the Ontario Medical Association to come up with its results. The organization took the model and expanded it to a national level, using the "highly predictive" pollutants, particulate matter and ozone, as measuring sticks to judge air quality”.

These are the same pollutants found in the Ohio report. And, there have been other warning signs.

In Canada, medical doctors and scientists have been at a loss to explain the increase in the incidence in asthma across the country. Although exposure to secondhand smoke is often pointed to as the culprit, the increase (doubling since 1980) in asthma cases has been coincidental to a marked decrease in smoking prevalence (and thus a corresponding decrease in exposure to secondhand smoke) over the same period of time.

The annual death toll estimated by the CMA is actually quite staggering; 21,000 Canadians every year with a warning that those figures will likely get worse in the years ahead. And the numbers are interesting from another angle.

Current estimates from Health Canada suggest there are 1,000 deaths due to secondhand smoke in Canada each year. That’s a computer generated estimate, just like the estimates from the CMA report. But, obviously the impact of air pollution is a much greater threat to the health of Canadians than secondhand smoke; twenty-one times greater, in fact.

Successive federal and provincial governments have been devoting vast amounts of time and effort, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars, in a campaign to eliminate the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke.

The association between lung cancer/heart attacks and exposure to secondhand smoke is very weak and a matter of considerable debate in the scientific community. Studies showing no increase in risk due to secondhand smoke exposure outnumber those which do by roughly 5 to 1.

Yet senior levels of government focus on a campaign to dehumanize and discredit smokers, instituting draconian bans and imposing punitive levels of taxation on smokers.

The fact that 21,000 Canadians may die this year due to air pollution is tragic.

The fact that so much money and effort is put into protecting people from a SHS threat which may not even exist, while ignoring the substantially greater threat of air pollution, is outrageous. The CMA report should have people questioning the priorities of their senior levels of government.

Canadians should be demanding answers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Even private is public when it comes to SHS

On March 8, 2007, Mike Kennedy of Smith Falls, Ontario was convicted of offenses under the Smoke Free Ontario Act .

Mr. Kennedy was charged with 5 counts of violations under the Smoke Free Ontario Act. These violations included having ashtrays on the tables, allowing people to smoke and obstructing the smoke police . . . er, health inspectors by refusing to allow them into his establishment.

Mr. Kennedy stipulated to all arguments made by the prosecution, save one. He argued that his establishment was a private member’s club and not a public place, and the general public were neither invited nor permitted into the club.

Justice of the Peace Bartraw, who heard the case in the lower court, noted that: “The only question that is to be determined here today on the evidence is as to whether or not this is a public place or a private club which Mr. Kennedy feels because it is a private members only club that it is exempt from this legislation”.

He went on to speculate that, because members of private clubs were also members of the public, they were to be protected under the Smoke Free Ontario legislation, whether they wanted that protection or not. By this dubious leap in logic, even privately owned businesses were considered, by Bartraw, to be public places.

“It may very well be that you are a member of an organization but that does not stop you from being a member of the public of the Province of Ontario and the legislature’s intent was to protect members of the public of the Province of Ontario from secondhand smoke and smoke and that is why they have made these laws”.

The circular logic of JP Bartraw suggests that, since we’re all members of the public, there is no such thing as private property. Presumably, this means that the only place that is private in Ontario is your home. All other places, whether or not privately owned or used, are now public.

“There are exemptions, in a private dwelling where you are allowed to smoke in your own private dwelling. I don’t know why anyone would, but that is an exemption or any other prescribed place”, said Bartraw. His personal distaste for smoking is clearly evident and would seem to preclude an objective, unbiased opinion in the matter before the court. It is much more than an extraneous comment.

And, even your home may not be considered a private place. Bartraw's determination was based on the fact that private places are not mentioned in the provincial law. Following this insane logic, your home, which is not specifically exempted in the public places section of the Smoke Free Ontario Act, could be invaded at will.

In his written opinion, Bartraw notes that the intent of the legislation was to save lives, claiming: “Court can take judicial notice that smoking and secondhand smoke does, in fact, kill and cause medical issues for a number of people otherwise they wouldn’t be making this law”.

That claim sets a dangerous precedent. There was no evidence provided at trial that secondhand smoke killed or compromised the health of anyone. The JP was clearly expressing a personal opinion in attributing any health hazards to secondhand smoke. And, once again it raised the question of bias and objectivity.

Numerous scientific studies have failed to associate secondhand smoke with any health hazard to any significant degree. Why whould a Justice of the Peace express personal opinions from the bench, on medical matters, as if they were fact? Bias is clearly evident in some of the statements made by Bartraw.

Mr. Kennedy was found in violation of the Smoke Free Ontario Act. He was convicted on all five counts and fined $3,530.00. His subsequent appeal to the Ontario Court of Justice, heard by Justice Stephen March, was dismissed. But, he has been granted leave to appeal.

He notes on his new website, “we need you to fight, not for your freedom to smoke, but your freedom to enjoy private property and socialize with whoever you choose”. You can read all about Mike Kennedy’s run-in with ‘the law’ on his new website. And, yes. He’s accepting donations.

Mike’s website: Smokers Choice.Org

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grass 'yes', tobacco 'no'

Amsterdam's marijuana laws are among the most liberal in the world. Although soft drugs are officially banned in the Netherlands, the policy is that users are allowed to have up to 5 grams of cannabis in their possession. And, coffee shops, where marijuana can be smoked openly in a relaxed, hassle-free environment, have turned into a major tourist attraction.

Dutch grown marijuana is, apparently, very potent sh . . . er, grass. So potent, in fact, that it is often mixed with tobacco to reduce the intoxicating effect. And, there lies the dilemma.

You see, in July, the Dutch banned smoking in restaurants and cafes, including coffee shops. Correct that. They banned smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes, including coffee shops. The clientele of the coffee shops will still be free to kick back, relax and light up . . . providing they light up only pure cannabis.

Establishments will not, in fact, be completely smoke-free. Proprietors will be allowed to set up a separate room or glass partition behind which patrons will be permitted to smoke tobacco, but service will not be provided in these areas to protect staff from exposure to SHS.

Clientele of the coffee shops, I suppose, will be able to take a toke or two of the tobacco/marijuana mixture in the smoking areas, then return to their table for a toke or two of the heavy duty stuff. Patrons will be free to get stoned on the full-flavoured sh . . . er, grass, but smoking tobacco will be banned . . . more or less.

"Employees should not have to work in an environment were they are constantly exposed to the harmful effects of smoking," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said after the cabinet's original decision to impose the ban last year. Presumably, Mr. Balkenende was referring to the smoking of tobacco.

There was no indication in the news report as to whether smoking marijuana is permitted in the Dutch parliament, but given the complexity of their smoking ban, they were likely stoned on something.

So, moms in Amsterdam will be busy telling little Johnny that rolling a joint and getting high is perfectly acceptable social behaviour; just don’t let me catch you lighting up the demon weed.

Meanwhile, in the industrial heartland of the true north strong and reasonably free, although not yet smoke free, Ontario MPP, Joyce Savoline (PC), has taken issue with the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. The Liberals refused to amend the Smoke Free Ontario Act to include smoking marijuana and not just tobacco.

According to the press release issued by her office, “Savoline once again attempted to close a loophole in the McGuinty government’s Amendment to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act by including controlled substances along with tobacco in a Bill that legislates against smoking in cars with children”.

The “once again” statement refers to a proposed amendment made by Savoline in the Ontario Legislature earlier this year. Savoline introduced an amendment to ban marijuana as well as tobacco after a complaint from one of her constituents that some people were smoking the sh . . . er, oh screw it, the shit openly in defiance of the smoking ban under the protection of a medical marijuana certificate.

Canadians with specific health problems and a supportive doctor have been able to obtain a certificate and legally smoke marijuana since July, 2001.

“The reality is that anything that you burn, that is combustible has a high potential to produce carcinogens and that includes marijuana”, said Ms. Savoline. “The Minister should have put the politics of the issue aside and accepted my amendment in the name of protecting our children".

“Anything that you burn, that is combustible has a high potential to produce carcinogens”. Uh-huh. Like gasoline, diesel fuel, pine logs for wood stoves and fireplaces, etc., etc. I suspect coffee shop owners in the Netherlands are grateful their Prime Minister didn’t consult with Ms. Savoline before introducing the Dutch ban.

Maybe the Dutch have it right. Maybe the best way to deal with this anti-smoker nonsense is to get stoned and stay stoned.

Like, hey man, anybody know where can I find some really good shit?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SHS, 'Group A' carcinogen, Class 'A' hoax

A study released by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) on January 7, 1993, declared secondhand smoke a “Group A” carcinogen. The study is still referred to extensively by the anti-smoker cartel to support their argument that secondhand smoke is hazardous to the health of non-smokers and a known human carcinogen.

The EPA study was presented amid a flurry of media coverage by most major newspapers, television news programs and radio stations.

But, just how reliable was the “scientific” evidence provided by the EPA?

On July 21, 1993, Representative Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. testified before the Health and Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The purpose of his testimony was to convey the results of an extensive investigation into the EPA handling of the controversy surrounding secondhand smoke.

“my own investigation suggests that in its consideration of ETS, the Agency has deliberately abused and manipulated the scientific data in order to reach a predetermined, politically motivated result. EPA's risk assessment on ETS released in January of this year (1993) claims that ETS exposure is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer cases per year in the United States. Analysis of the risk assessment reveals, however, that EPA was able to reach that conclusion only by ignoring or discounting major studies and by deviating from generally accepted scientific standards.

EPA's willingness to distort the science in order to justify its classification of ETS as a "Group A" or "known human" carcinogen seems to stem from the Agency's determination early on to advocate smoking bans and restrictions as a socially desirable goal. EPA began promoting such policies in the mid-to late 1980s, ostensibly as part of its efforts to provide information to the public on indoor air quality issues. The Agency then decided to develop the ETS risk assessment to provide a scientific justification for smoking bans. The risk assessment thus was never intended to be a neutral review and analysis of the ETS science. Rather, it was intended from the start to function as a prop for the Agency's predetermined policy”.

Representative Bliley noted that “the process at every turn has been characterized by both scientific and procedural irregularities”.

One would think that a report by a US Congressional subcommittee, claiming the EPA had “deliberately abused and manipulated the scientific data in order to reach a predetermined, politically motivated result”, would have made major headlines in the American press.

It didn’t! Instead, the public was left with the impression that the EPA report was the complete, unabridged and commonly accepted truth.

The EPA conclusion that secondhand smoke was a “Group A” carcinogen wound up in court. After four years of testimony, a federal judge invalidated their conclusion, calling the report an outright "fraud". In his final judgment (1998), Justice William 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."

Once again, the media ignored the event and failed in its duty to inform the public as the judge's decision and condemnation of the study went largely unnoticed.

In fact, the EPA study is still regularly referred to by government agencies like Health Canada and anti-smoker groups like Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada. The anti-smoker movement still insists that it is conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke “kills” non-smokers. Politicians of all stripes continue to acknowledge this corrupt science by imposing draconian bans on smokers. The fictions created by the EPA study are routinely passed off as fact.

And, despite the findings of a US Congressional Committee and the US courts challenging the integrity of the study, this piece of “evidence” has never been questioned to any extent by the main stream media.

The question is “why”? Is investigative journalism really dead? Are reporters simply too damn lazy to question the assertions being made by the anti-smoker brigade? Have the news media become dependent on the advertising revenue generated by the anti-smoker establishment and the pharmaceutical industry which supports it?

Unfortunately, as we wait for the answer to the question of why, the public continues to be misled on the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke. Smokers are still being de-normalized, denigrated and demeaned based on deliberately distorted science.

While a complacent, or perhaps complicit, press remains silent.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

SHS kills 1 in every 50,000 non-smokers . . .

At every press release and news conference, you’ll hear the same messages repeated from the anti-smoker fanatics, with neither comment nor questions from journalists. “Secondhand smoke kills”. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke”.

In a previous article, I noted that scientific studies which found a positive correlation between SHS and lung cancer were outnumbered by roughly 5 to 1 by studies which found no such correlation, making the evidence neither conclusive nor unequivocal. A list of the studies was compiled by Forces International and is available from their website.

But, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the evidence presented by the anti-smoker brigade is not in question. Just how great is the threat of lung cancer posed by exposure to secondhand smoke?

In 1994, the British Department of Health established the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH). In a January, 1998 report, SCOTH members concluded that long term exposure of non-smokers to ETS caused an increased risk of lung cancer which, in those living with smokers, is in the region of 20-30%. According to the report:

“If the risk of lung cancer in non-exposed non-smokers is 10 per 100,000, based on rates in non-smokers in the 35+ age group, a 20-30% increased risk in exposed non-smokers would be a rate of 12-13 per 100,000 per year. Thus we would expect an additional 2-3 lung cancer cases a year per 100,000 non-smokers regularly exposed to ETS. The numbers of people so exposed are not known precisely but an estimate would suggest about several hundred extra lung cancer deaths a year are caused by exposure to passive smoking”.

In other words, a non-smoker who has never been regularly exposed to secondhand smoke has a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying from lung cancer.

For non-smokers who have been regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, there is an increased risk of 20% to 30%, which translates into a 1 in 33,333 (at 30% increased risk) or 1 in 50,000 (at 20% increased risk). If the statistics offered by SCOTH are correct, just what does that do to the contention of the anti-smoker brigade that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke?

If only one in 33,333 non-smokers (to use the highest figure) regularly exposed to secondhand smoke will die of lung cancer then the corollary is also true; which means that 33,332 will not be affected.

But, if there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, how is that possible? How can 33,332 non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke escape the ravages of lung cancer if there is no safe level of exposure?

Such a claim stretches the limits of credibility and defies logic.

Are the anti-smoker fanatics lying when they say that exposure to secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer? Are they lying when they say there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke? Have the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke been exaggerated beyond reason?

Questions . . . questions . . . questions?

The statistics provided by the anti-smoker brigade tell us that 33,332 out of 33,333 non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke will not die of lung cancer.

In this case, I believe them. Although I do have serious reservations about the one who allegedly dies.

As a matter of fact, I have become something of a cynic when it comes to any and all claims made by the anti-smoker brigade.