Thursday, February 26, 2009

Smoking ban "miracles"

Are reporters being duped by publicity hungry researchers in public health, or are they deliberately disseminating misinformation to an unwitting public?

Unfortunately, the facts support the latter proposition; that the press has assumed a role as the propaganda arm of the anti-smoker cult. A preponderance of the evidence points to the complicity of the press and other mainstream media in the distribution of misinformation, calculatingly designed to deceive the public.

George Bush stumbled over the old saw that says: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The press has completely ignored that admonition. And, since they continue to be fooled by the same shoddy science and biased research, one can only assume they are duplicitous in its distribution to the public.

Let’s look at one example.

In April, 2003, researchers issued a press release touting a study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, which claimed that a smoking ban in Helena, Montana had cut the heart attack rate by 60%. The press jumped all over the story. The study was promoted as conslusive evidence that smoke-free policies not only protected people from the dangers of secondhand smoke in the long term, but had an immediate positive effect and reduced heart attacks.

The problem was that the study had never been peer reviewed or published in any reputable medical journal. In other words, no one was given an opportunity to evaluate the data to see if they supported the claims being made by the researchers.

When the study was eventually peer reviewed and published a year later, the flaws became all too apparent. The data and the methodology simply didn’t support the conclusions reached by the authors.

But, the public had already been led to believe that “science” had “proven” that smoking bans could reduce heart attacks in the short term. The press, seemingly, had reported the story directly from the press release, without corroborating the data, totally ignoring the fact that the study had been neither peer reviewed, nor published.

The press had been fooled. Copycat studies began cropping up on a regular basis. Following the same procedure as the Helena study, in a process that has come to be known as “science by press release”, each new study was released to the press prior to peer review or publication. Pueblo, Colorado; Bowling Green, Ohio; Scotland, Ireland and France.

And, by the time the data was made public and found to be a lot less than convincing, the damage had already been done. The initial press coverage ensured the public was left with the erroneous impression that smoking bans were saving lives and therefore worth the intrusion on personal liberties which they represented.

The conclusions presented in the Helena study were incorrect, as were the others. But, with the help of the press, anti-smoker crusaders were free to milk the deficient studies for their propaganda value until the flaws were detected. Studies later found to be flawed are seldom reported in the papers.

The press was fooled not once, not twice, but many times over. Or, perhaps, they were simply reluctant to let the facts get in the way of a good story. In either case, the public was misled.

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University and himself an antismoking activist, has referred to “science by press release” as “the new Tobacco Control approach to disseminating junk science”. (September 11, 2007)

A study in Scotland had drawn the same conclusions as the Helena study. A press release was issued prior to peer review or publication. Just like in Helena, the press covered the story without substantiating the underlying data. And, just like Helena, the study was shown to be sadly lacking.

Author Christopher Snowdon does a thorough analysis of Scotland’s Miracle Study on his web site.

Recently, Dr. Siegel, who is also critical of the study, challenged anti-smoking groups to publicize the two-year follow-up results of trends in heart attacks or acute coronary syndrome in Scotland since the smoking ban went into effect. He is offering the first group to do so a $200 donation to their organization. (December 02, 2008)

He is unconcerned about possibly of paying out the $200 donation. He notes in his December 2 article: “Because as I have learned, these anti-smoking groups aren't truly interested in getting out the facts. They are interested in putting out information which is favorable to their cause. The goal is not scientific accuracy or integrity. It is putting out information to support the agenda.”

Pretty tough words. But, the press appears to be quite willing to act as the unofficial Propaganda Ministry of the anti-smoker cultists. Scientific credibility and integrity have been usurped by bullshit and bafflegab.

That’s not a healthy situation for any true democracy.

Late news:
In a pre-emptive strike against science by press release, Christopher Snowdon (Velvet Glove, Iron Fist) has recently analyzed data from England relating to heart attack admissions following the implementation of their smoking ban in 2007. The smoking ban had
no effect
on England's heart attack rate, casting even more doubt on the already suspect studies from Helena, Pueblo, Scotland, etc.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SHS & fast food joints; health hazards?

Is scientific research losing all credibility? Are we really supposed to take seriously the proliferation of “scientific studies” that seem to crop up on a regular basis? Is the press to blame for a growing skepticism of “the science” behind the seemingly endless array of public health hazards?

A few weeks back, the buzz was about a “study” ostensibly showing that something dubbed third hand smoke was dangerous to kids. The authors of the study were trying to convince people that tobacco smoke residue settling on the floor and furniture was a serious health hazard. Some toddlers apparently lick the floors, eat the furniture and thus consume copious quantities of arsenic and cyanide.

Within days of publication of the study, one “Ask The Doctor” type on the internet was advising parents to have Granny and Grandpa shower and change their clothes after smoking, before allowing them to give their grandchildren a hug.

Newspapers across the country reported on the alleged hazards of the newly invented third hand smoke as if it were the biggest threat to mankind since the bubonic plague. It was one of the most egregious examples of irresponsible, fear-mongering journalism to come down the pike in many years.

Yet, incredibly, there isn’t a single shred of evidence showing that so-called “third hand smoke” is a significant health hazard to children of any age.

The third hand smoke scare generated by biased researchers and a complacent press didn’t last long. Mention the term “third hand smoke” today, less than a month after the public proclamation of its deadly affects, and all but the most zealous anti-smokers will break into a grin. Even the more ardent anti-smoker crusaders eschew the term, referring to it instead as “room aged smoke”.

But, if the third hand smoke study strained credibility, what are we to make of the newest “scientific study” which ABC greeted with the headline: “ Living near fast food ups stroke risk .” Uh-huh. A new study reports that people just living in neighbourhoods where fast food restaurants are plentiful may have a higher risk of stroke than those living in neighbourhoods with fewer fast food joints.

Apparently, the relative risk is 13% greater in areas with 33 fast food restaurants or more. And for each additional fast food joint in the neighborhood, the chance of stroke is increased by 1 percent. The research study was presented at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

But, what exactly does the study prove? Does it show that eating too many burgers increases the risk of stroke?

Well, no. Dr. Lewis Morgenstern, lead author of the study, explains: "I can't tell you that anybody who had a stroke in this study has ever had a burger in their lives. But I can tell you that these neighborhoods on the whole have factors that increase the risk of stroke."

Well, then, does the study show that living near a fast food restaurant is the cause of strokes?

Well, no. Not, exactly. The headline, “Living Near Fast Food Ups Stroke Risk”, turns out to be somewhat, er . . . misleading. (As Gomer Pyle might have said: “Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.”)

The “scientific study” is actually pure speculation by a group of researchers with too much time (and money) on their hands. Their logic runs like this.

E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y knows that eating fast foods can lead to obesity. A profusion of fast food joints in any given neighbourhood might encourage people to make poor dietary choices and eat more fast foods with high-fat, high-salt content which may contribute to obesity. Obesity, in turn, may increase the risk of stroke.

Therefore, living close to a fast food restaurant may increase the risk of stroke. Quad erat demonstratum.

And, if you buy into this bullshit and bafflegab, please get in touch with me before you spend another dime. I still have several oceanfront properties available in the Alberta badlands.

Frankly, I think funding for scientific research could be better spent on solving the more important mysteries of the universe. So, here are some ideas for “scientific studies” by researchers with too much time and money on their hands.

How many square feet of third hand smoke contaminated floor would a toddler have to lick to ingest as much arsenic as can be found in a glass of plain, ordinary tap water?

Is there an association between hugs from a smoking Grandma or Grandpa and childhood deaths from hydrogen cyanide poisoning? Is there a definitive dose/response relationship? Will keeping grandkids at a distance and blowing kisses mitigate any hazards?

Is the relative risk of stroke greater for those living near McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King?

Is Gomer Pyle a real person or is he, like the lung cancer/heart disease risk from secondhand smoke, a figment of someone’s over-active imagination.

Additional reading: Living near fast food joints can kill

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Minor passenger smokes; smoking driver gets fine

Last August, Ontario passed a feel good law to ban smoking in cars carrying passengers under the age of 16. The intent, of course, was to protect children from exposure to secondhand smoke while being transported in the family car.

Some anti-smoker cultist determined that secondhand smoke in a car contained 23 times the toxins found in a private home, if you kept the air vents and windows tightly closed. This, of course, made it imperative that the government step in to protect the kids.

The law became effective in January, 2009 and police have already issued several tickets.

But, on the more humorous side, the Globe and Mail reported recently that a twenty-year old was stopped and issued a ticket for smoking in a car with a minor passenger. While the cop was writing out the ticket, the passenger, a 15 year old girl, got out of the car and lit up a cigarette.

Lou Rinaldi, MLA (Member of the Legislature Assembly) says this may represent a glitch in the law and wants it examined by Ontario’s Ministry of Health Promotion. Rinaldi has suggested changing the age limit on how young the passenger has to be for the smoking ban to kick in.

Showing that he is every bit as adept with statistics as his anti-smoker colleagues, Rinaldi said: “In 99.9 per cent of cases, the legislation is doing the job.”

Since the law only became effective January, 21 of this year, and a mere handful of tickets have been handed out, one must assume he plucked that statistic from his posterior like so many of the statistics we hear from the anti-smoker crowd. OK, OK, I’m being facetious; it was probably just a figure of speech.

But, obviously, there is something of a glitch in the legislation.

What if it had been the 15 year old who had been smoking in the car? Would the driver have still gotten the ticket for failing to protect the girl from her own secondhand smoke?

Meanwhile, down at city hall, Toronto has approved a by-law prohibiting smoking within 9 metres (roughly 30 feet) of a city playground, splash pad or wading pool. The ban is intended “to protect children who may not be able to move away from second-hand smoke.” The by-law will become effective when the province sets the amount of the fine, which the city is hoping will be around $300.

One councilman suggested the $16,000 cost of erecting signs wasn't the best way to spend scarce tax dollars. “We can't fix our playgrounds, but we'll find the money for these signs.” Uh-huh. Gotta get those signs up, never mind the kids coming home with splinters in their ass from playground equipment in a state of disrepair.

And, there may be a few glitches with this particular by-law as well.

Yesterday was a holiday in Canada; the kids weren’t in school. And the small city park across the street was full of young people. Some were playing basketball, some were kicking a soccer ball around and still another group had congregated in the tot lot, perched on the swings and playground equipment and . . . smoking.

The new “No Smoking” signs haven’t gone up yet, so, technically, no one was breaking the law. The question, however, is whether minors found smoking within 30 feet of the playground can be fined under the terms of the new by-law and if the parents could be held responsible and made to pony up the $300 fine? Or, will they be exempted from prosecution under the Young Offenders Act?

But, these are minor glitches and one group is already proposing a solution. The Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) is calling on provincial governments to pass a law banning possession and use of tobacco.

Current laws prohibit the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors. But, it’s quite legal for kids under 19 to possess tobacco and smoke openly.

The CCSA conducted a “study” last year, collecting and examining cigarette butts from schoolyards in Quebec and Ontario. They found that 26% of the butts found in Ontario, and 36% of the butts found in Quebec, were contraband. (Does anyone do any real scientific research these days?)

According to the CCSA: “the fast-growing trade in contraband cigarettes means that young people are getting widespread access to cheap, unregulated and untaxed cigarettes. In 2008 surveys showed nearly 50% of cigarettes in Ontario were illegal.” Who woulda thunk it?

At any rate, they want to make tobacco possession and use illegal for young people.

And, of course, they have a study that shows the combination of tobacco purchase, use and possession laws, combined with existing tobacco control measures can reduce youth smoking. They even have a catchy little acronym for the proposed laws. They’re called purchase, use and possession (PUP) laws.

Says Steve Tennant, CCSA spokesperson: “More and more jurisdictions are turning to bans including Alberta and Nova Scotia and many U.S. states have adopted these kinds of laws including Ohio, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Colorado.”

I wonder if “banning” possession and use by those under 19 is the same as “criminalizing” possession and use.

Naw. It’s probably just my imagination.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SHS studies, science and "denialists"

There are many people, scientists and laymen alike, who believe that tobacco control has become a cult-like movement, driven by ideology rather than science; a faith-based organization unwilling to tolerate dissenting opinion.

In 2003, a study conducted by James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, declared no association could be found between secondhand smoke and lung cancer or chronic heart disease mortality among non-smokers in California, although it did not rule out a small effect. The study was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal.

The findings of the Enstrom/Kabat study were highly controversial because they were not consistent with commonly held views; they contradicted the existing consensus that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer and chronic heart disease (CHD).

In fact, the study was greeted as heresy by anti-smoker crusaders. The rapid response section of the British Medical Journal was flooded with letters from anti-smoker activists criticizing the BMJ for having the impudence to publish a study which was contrary to the prevailing notion that secondhand smoke was the cause of lung cancer and CHD.

Enstrom and Kabat were attacked for accepting funding from a source funded by the tobacco industry. Because they were viewed as traitors to the cause, the avalanche of criticism tended to discredit Enstrom and Kabat on a personal, rather than a scientific, level. The relative merits of the scientific evidence presented by these two reputable and respected researchers were barely discussed.

The criticism was seen by many as an attempt to suppress legitimate science simply because it didn’t fit the “facts” as established by anti-smoker activists in public health. The opposing viewpoint of Enstrom and Kabat had to be subverted or otherwise publicly compromised to maintain the status of existing consensus.

The criticism was so vehement that it prompted two researchers, Sheldon Unger and Dennis Bray, to write a paper entitled “Silencing the Science”. Their paper contends that scientific debate is being stifled for motives (politics, for example) other than the advancement of science.

And, they’re right.

This is especially true in the area of tobacco control. What was once a legitimate public health initiative, to inform and educate the public about the potential health hazards of smoking, has been turned into a search and destroy mission by anti-smoker radicals. Those who choose to smoke are being subjected to increasingly blatant discrimination in employment and housing.

A public “de-normalization” campaign has been launched to demean and denigrate smokers as nicotine addicted misfits, child abusers and worse; to make them the objects of scorn and ridicule.

But, for their campaign to be successful, the anti-smoker fanatics can’t afford to have any dissenting views, most of all scientific views, obstruct their goal of eradicating smokers from the face of the planet.

Honest researchers who dispute the claims of the anti-smokers are dismissed as cranks or tobacco industry shills. Their reputation and integrity are jeopardized; their sources of funding made vulnerable.

Many scientists and researchers are apprehensive about producing results which conflict with existing doctrine; they perceive their careers are at considerable risk should they buck the dogma of the cultists in the anti-smoker movement formerly known as public health.

And, Enstrom and Kabat, among others, are still under fire from the cultists.

Recently, Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee published an article in the European Journal of Public Health. The article accuses those who do not accept the causal relationship between secondhand smoke and lung cancer/heart disease of being “denialists”. It goes on to equate those guilty of such scientific heresy to those who deny the Holocaust.

Dr. Michael Siegel, himself an anti-smoking activist, has been taking issue with much of the exaggerated and fraudulent science emerging from the anti-smoker cultists. His most recent article discusses the article and his response to the Diethelm and McKee article was published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Dr. Siegel is quite familiar with the dangers of opposing the extremist views supported by some of his colleagues in tobacco control. His integrity has also been questioned, his character maligned and his access to some professional services curtailed because he refuses to toe the line and has chosen to speak out against the lies and deception of the cultists.

In his response to Diethelm and McKee, Dr. Siegel notes: “While I personally believe the evidence is sufficient to conclude that secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer, there are a considerable number of reputable scientists who have come to different conclusions. While I believe those scientists are wrong, I would never argue that they are denialists, nor would I ever compare their dissent with Holocaust denial.”

To equate reputable, respected scientists with those who deny the Holocaust is to compare them to Neo-Nazi thugs who would deny one of the greatest affronts to human dignity in the history of mankind. It is a scurrilous, ad hominem attack which contributes nothing to the scientific debate.

It is, in fact, little more than an emotional appeal to dismiss the legitimate hypothesis of people like Enstrom and Kabat based not on science, but on some implied flaw in their character. It tends to stifle scientific debate rather than encourage it.

The anti-smoker zealots are looking to win by default. They’ve chosen to silence the science by silencing the scientists and researchers who create it. If respectable scientists can be cowered into submission, anti-smokers fanatics will be free to foist off such incredible concepts as third hand smoke on an unwitting public with absolutely no opposition.

Dr. Siegel says: “Tobacco control is becoming a religious-like movement which is guided by ideology and not science. Hopefully, this trend will not spread to other areas of public health.”

I feel his admonition may already be too late. The tactics of the anti-smoker radicals are already being used against other “unacceptable” behaviours, such as obesity and alcohol consumption.

To this old rambler, if there are “a considerable number of reputable scientists who have come to different conclusions”, then the debate on the hazards of secondhand smoke is not over; the evidence is, by definition, inconclusive.

But, more scientists, researchers and the mainstream press have to speak out against the dishonesty in the new anti-smoker cult.

Else scientific “integrity” will go the way of tyrannosaurus rex.

For more information on James Enstrom, his controversial study and some insight into some of the unscrupulous attacks on both he and his co-author Geoffrey Kabat, visit his website. Like Dr. Siegel, he is anti-smoking, but has the courage to stand by his convictions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The rights of smokers must also be protected

Linda Fox moved out of her Toronto apartment after allegedly being exposed to secondhand smoke which she claims caused headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath.

But, I suspect it’s something of an exaggeration when Ms. Fox claims: "One of my neighbours said it was like being in a stale bar after people were in there smoking all night.” If she was getting that much smoke from a neighbouring unit, there's obviously something wrong with the building’s ventilation system and it has little to do with a neighbour’s smoking.

Managers of the subsidized housing complex where Fox lived, say they did their best to seal her unit, but Fox was unsatisfied. She is now suing for moving expenses and the cost of furniture she claims was damaged by secondhand smoke.

And, the Toronto Star was there to take a few pictures and record for posterity Fox’s flight from the fearsome secondhand smoke. It was a great opportunity to do a little smoker bashing.

It’s not that I don’t have any sympathy for Ms. Fox, who apparently suffers from scleroderma, an auto-immune disease. And, if she was as uncomfortable with secondhand smoke as she claims, she was right to seek out and move into a smoke-free building.

But she’s being unrealistic when she demands a “guarantee” that she won’t be exposed to the nuisance of secondhand smoke. Says Fox: "It's really hard to find somewhere they can really guarantee it."

Anti-smoking activists, of course, are using her case and similar cases across the country, to pressure governments and landlords into passing no smoking policies in private homes when those homes are part of a multi-unit building.

Apparently, they intend to concentrate on social housing which is subsidized by the province or the municipality, because they perceive that government will be sympathetic to their cause, and willing to blatantly discriminate against smokers. Besides, the threats and intimidation will work best against the more vulnerable members of society who are dependent on this type of housing.

Ontario Housing Minister Jim Watson acknowledges that it is questionable how far landlords can go to stop people smoking in their own home. "I have asked my staff for some clarification on what is allowable under the law."

But, Margarett Best, Minister of Health Promotion, says whatever is done, it will not include a law banning people from smoking in their own homes. The McGuinty Liberals, however, have reneged on similar assurances in the past.

Currently, even in buildings designated as smoke-free there is limited action a landlord can take against tenants who light up in the privacy of their own home. Evicting people for smoking in the privacy of their own home can be a costly proposition.

A simple straight-forward eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent can result in lawyers fees of $1,000 or more. In addition, there are expenses incurred to refurbish the unit, to make it ready for the next tenant. Painting, cleaning or replacing carpet, refinishing floors, etc, all add to the cost. Then, there’s the cost of vacancy loss while the unit is being refurbished and the landlord searches for a suitable tenant.

Evictions adversely impact the bottom line. And, evictions based on nuisance factors can be far more protracted and costly that simple non-payment of rent. If a tenant chooses to fight, there has to be an eviction proceeding. And no matter what the landlord says, the ultimate decision will be made by a judge in a court of law.

A judge will be more likely to demand verifiable evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke is a health hazard. Landlords won’t be able to talk their way around the well-known toxicological principle that the poison is in the dose. “No safe level” just won’t cut it.

A judge will want to know what other efforts the landlord has taken to resolve the alleged problem. Did they try to seal apartments, or modify the ventilation system to equalize air pressure and keep second-hand smoke out?

That’s why the anti-smoker fanatics are pressuring government to amend provincial tenancy law and make it easier to evict tenants who refuse to quit despite the presence of no smoking clauses in the lease.

Current tenants, for example, can’t be forced to comply with a new smoking ban in buildings. Tenants, whether living in a private building or social housing, are not required to sign a new lease or occupancy agreement; they can remain in their unit on a month to month basis under the terms of the old lease, and continue to smoke.

So, to further their agenda of eliminating smokers and advancing their cause, the anti-smoker fanatics need legislation that will enable landlords, both private and public, to openly discriminate against smokers. And, there are a lot of politicians out there who are willing to give it to them.

The last I heard, there were 5 million smokers in Canada. That’s 5 million voters. They’d better start fighting back.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Putting smoker’s housing at risk goes too far

The anti-smokers crowd is pressuring landlords and governments to adopt no smoking policies in multi-unit dwellings. They want to control the smoker’s behaviour even in the privacy of their own home.

The fact is, no smoking policies subject over 5 million Canadians who choose to smoke, 20% of the adult population, to a form of discrimination that would not be tolerated against any other minority.

Anti-smoker crusaders are determined to eradicate smokers from the face of the earth. That’s not a wild exaggeration or a paranoid allegation. The anti-smokers have publicly declared their intention. And, they are prepared to use any form of punitive coercion to further that end. And, that includes threatening the housing of low income wage earners, seniors, and others on fixed incomes if they refuse to quit smoking.

Non-smokers appear quite content to allow this kind of rampant discrimination; after all, it’s for the smoker’s own good, isn’t it? Besides, don’t smokers kill their babies, their spouses and the family pet with their secondhand smoke? Doesn’t the very sight of a smoker corrupt our young people, forcing them into a life of degeneracy and degradation?

The government has approved an anti-smoker campaign to “de-normalize” those who choose to smoke, to paint them as something abnormal and sub-human. In so doing, they have contributed significantly to an escalating, open hostility directed at smokers. They contribute to the active discrimination of smokers in all aspects of life: housing, employment, adoption, etc. And, they appear unwilling to take any action to stop it.

But, there’s another group contributing greatly to the open warfare being waged against those who choose to smoke.

Smokers themselves play a key role in efforts by anti-smoker crusaders to relegate smokers to the role of second-class citizens. Too many guilt-tripping smokers have allowed themselves to be shamed into embracing the bullshit and bafflegab of their persecutors.

They’ve done nothing wrong; they have nothing to feel guilty about. It’s their home; they are free to engage in any legal activity they choose. And, if they choose to smoke in their home, that is their decision, not their neighbour’s.

The intention of no-smoking policies is to deprive smokers of the respect and dignity to which they are entitled as human beings, simply because they smoke. So why do some smokers whimper and whine about the discriminatory policies while bending to the will of those who bully and harass them?

These bigots are judging 20% of the adult population, not by their accomplishments, contributions to community, or character, but by that one factor which separates them from the majority; whether or not they smoke. That’s prejudice. And no one should have to tolerate it.

Secondhand smoke is little more than a controllable nuisance.

But, the fact is, the anti-smoker element in society doesn’t want secondhand smoke controlled; they want smokers controlled. They are offended by the very sight of someone smoking. And, when it comes to multi-unit apartment buildings, they’re offended by the very thought of someone smoking, whether they can be seen or not

No smoking policies designed to dictate what people do in the privacy of their own home have to be self-enforcing. Unless the government is prepared to give police the authority to break down doors with a battering ram and raid private homes on suspicion of smoking, such policies are practically unenforceable.

Their efforts to force smokers to quit can work only if smokers accept these intrusions on their privacy and personal liberties; only if they willingly participate in their own persecution.

I know what you’re thinking; you can’t fight city hall. The anti-smoker fanatics have money and power, and they have government on their side. That’s defeatist bullshit. Free men have been fighting oppression and tyranny since the dawn of time; and winning.

Anti-smoker crusaders, and the misinformed politicians who support them, are conducting an experiment in behavioural control. Their propaganda techniques and tactics of fear are those of other would be dictators throughout history.

Smokers have a right, some might even say, an obligation, to resist.

If you want to quit; do it. If you need help; get it. But make it your choice, not theirs.

I have a few remaining thoughts on this topic and the anti-smoker brigade’s concept of “self-policing” no smoking by-laws in my next post.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Smoking, secondhand smoke & self-righteous bigots

Rose Marie Borutski, of Surrey, BC, claims she’s developed asthma and a smoker’s cough since moving into a housing complex where she was “forced to assimilate with smokers”. So, she and a dozen other tenants in the 257 unit building have filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, alleging discrimination due to secondhand smoke exposure from other tenants.

Says Borutski:
“I now use an inhaler to help me breathe. I need to take it each morning and at night before I sleep. Smoke drifts in from people smoking in the suites below, from people smoking outside, it comes in through the ventilation system. Everywhere we turn there’s smoke.”

Ms. Borutski and her dirty dozen are suing the Kiwanis Club (the owner), the management company (Crescent Housing Society) and BC Housing. The parties named in the suit (including the province, which provides the subsidy), supposedly, want it dismissed.

Borutski has suggested the building be split into two parts, with smokers on one side and non-smokers on the other.

Janet Furcht, manager of the non-profit, says the segregation solution is unworkable. Management can’t force tenants to move against their will and can’t afford the cost of moving tenants even if they agreed to move willingly. And, they can’t afford extensive modifications to the ventilation system.

But, if they can’t afford to move people around, and they can’t afford to install proper ventilation, what possible action could they take to resolve Borutski’s alleged health concerns?

Aye, and there’s the rub. For the only other solution is to demand smokers quit smoking in their home. And, the landlord took the first step in that direction last August, introducing a no-smoking policy that prohibits new tenants from smoking in their suites or on their balconies.

And that’s why I have no sympathy or concern for the bigoted Ms. Borutski and her fellow whiners. I simply don’t believe them. They propose to justify their open hostility to smokers with exaggerated or non-existent health concerns. They’ve bought into the secondhand smoke hysteria propagated by the anti-smoker movement and they’re all too willing to join in the persecution of smokers.

For the last couple of years, anti-smoker fanatics have been holding meetings across the country to discuss ways and means of making multi-unit dwellings smoker free.

Various members of the anti-smoker cult have been lecturing landlords on the high costs of maintenance they claim are associated with smoking tenants. They’ve been spreading fear among non-smokers, encouraging them to “protect” themselves from secondhand smoke by forcing smoking neighbours to quit or be thrown into the streets.

They are not interested in compromise solutions. Nothing less than the complete capitulation of the smoking public will suffice.

But, they’re providing absolutely no evidence that secondhand smoke is anything more than a controllable nuisance in such situations.

The objective, of course, is to force smokers to quit by threatening their housing. They’re looking for legal precedent they can use to pressure government into passing legislation which openly discriminates against smokers.

The intention of Borutski et al is not to protect themselves from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke. They may have lodged the complaint against the landlord; but smokers are the real target.

Borutski moved into the subsidized building eighteen months ago, knowing there were smokers living there. At least, a reasonably prudent person should have known there would be smokers in the building, because 20% of the adult population still smokes. Still, she chose to move into the building, knowing full well she would be “forced to assimilate with smokers.”

One must assume the woman moved into a subsidized apartment for the same reason that most people, including smokers, move into such units; because she couldn’t afford a decent place to live otherwise. Now, she wants the building owners, and those providing the subsidy, to deny those tenants who choose to smoke the same privilege.

The anti-smoker crowd has chosen subsidized housing to further their efforts to establish “smoker free” housing precisely because the residents are primarily low income earners, seniors, etc. They are dependent on the decent, affordable accommodation which social housing provides. And, if confronted with a choice of smoking or being tossed into the street, well . . .

Oh, and just how do I conclude that Ms. Borutski is a bigot?

Well, I could say her reference to being “forced to assimilate” with smokers was my first clue. But then, nobody wants to live next to one of “them”.

Or, I could say that her proposal to segregate smokers provided some insight into her character. Of course, she just wants the building segregated. It’s not as if she wants smokers removed to some remote location in the BC interior, surrounded by barbed wire. At least, not yet.

But, the simple truth is, I used the same scientific methodology used by anti-smoker extremists to establish the hazards of secondhand smoke in the first place.

I made a calculated guess based on inconclusive evidence and baseless assumptions and declared it to be fact. Hell, if the process is good enough for Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health Propaganda, and the hate-mongers in the anti-smoker brigade, it’s good enough for me.

I’ll have more to say on this subject in my next post.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Selling addiction without the smoke?

Has anyone ever wondered why the nicotine patch, or nicotine gum and lozenges, are referred to as "nicotine replacement" therapy? After all, they don’t really replace the nicotine; it’s simply being delivered by alternative methods.

And, if nicotine is addictive, as the anti-smoker brigade claims, then providing nicotine via any method is unlikely to reduce dependence. The addiction to nicotine would remain whether it’s delivered by a Camel Filter, a lozenge or a mint flavoured gum.

The anti-smoker crowd would have you believe that nicotine is every bit as addictive as heroin. But, would anyone recommend using heroin to help wean an addict off that drug? Of course not; they use methadone as a substitute for heroin, to help break the cycle of addiction. Why would anyone believe that providing nicotine to an addict would be any more successful in helping them kick a nicotine habit?

Still, the patch and nicotine gum are being touted by the anti-smoker brigade as a way to reduce or eliminate smoking, despite the highly questionable success rate of these pharmaceutical nicotine products . And, if people get hooked on the gum or the patch, so what? Nicoderm, Nicorettes, etc. are far less hazardous to the consumer than cigarettes. Or at least, that’s what they tell the public.

All anti-smoker groups and charities promote pharmaceutical nicotine. In fact, they’re among the biggest boosters of NRT products. And, that includes Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and a host of other government heath services across this country and in countries around the world.

The patch, gum and lozenges, were introduced as smoking cessation aids; available only with a prescription. Then, thanks to the help of anti-smoker activists, they were made available over the counter.

Now nicotine gum and lozenges, and even the patch, are being marketed as a supplement to cigarettes. Smokers are being told to quit if they can and if they can’t, they can substitute pharmaceutical nicotine in those situations where smoking is not permissible. It all adds up to big bucks in sales for the drug companies.

In Britain, there are suggestions from public health to make NRT products tax free. And, they’re proposing legislation to ensure they remain tax free so that they can better compete with tobacco products. There are proposals to make nicotine gum and lozenges more readily available, in convenience stores and vending machines. And, at the same time, they’re reducing the number of outlets where tobacco is sold; banning sales in pharmacies and vending machines.

The simple truth of the matter is that the drug companies have become direct competitors of the tobacco industry; both selling nicotine products, each vying for market share to enhance their bottom line. And the government has chosen sides; bowing to the demands of anti-smoker zealots and trying to foist overly expensive gum and lozenges on smokers.

This kind of government interference in the marketplace is unheard of in most democratic societies. If governments were serious about eliminating smoking and its alleged hazards, it would bring in prohibition. Instead, they’ve chosen to punish smokers, to reduce them to secondhand citizens while continuing to extort billions in tax dollars. And, they're openly pushing product for the drug companies.

The anti-smoker campaign of de-normalization is being funded in large measure by the pharmaceutical industry. Governments also make a sizable contribution to anti-smoker efforts using money confiscated from smokers via excessive tobacco taxes.

Smoking bans and punitive taxes put pressure put on smokers to quit. The more pressure put on smokers, the greater the profit potential for the drug companies through sales of their own nicotine products. And the more the drug companies profit the more funding there is available for the anti-smoker brigade to continue their assault on smokers.

It’s become a vicious circle; one designed to force more smokers to make use of the nicotine products peddled by the drug companies. And, with the less than acceptable quit rate, they’re assured of a lot of repeat customers.

If smokers are really addicted to nicotine, and they really want to quit as the anti-smoker brigade claims, wouldn’t they be just as happy to get their fix from gum, lozenges, or any number of the other alternate nicotine delivery systems they keep trying to force on us.

Unless . . . people actually enjoy smoking. Do you think?