Monday, March 29, 2010

Anti-smoker fanatics - a deceitful bunch

A recent commenter to one of my posts claimed that: “smoking is now considered a mental illness and is listed as such in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” He concluded his diatribe against smokers with the observation that, “ Smokers also obviously don't care about their own health so why should they concern themselves with the health of others. Defending second hand smoke borders on sociopathic behavior if you ask me.”

Shit. Exercising my right to free speech and expression makes me a borderline sociopath?

Of course, I've never really defended secondhand smoke. I do, however, take issue with the “science” which alleges that secondhand tobacco smoke kills people. And, I have, on more than one occasion, inferred that anti-smokers are a deceitful bunch of bastards when it comes to secondhand smoke. OK, OK. They're a deceitful bunch of bastards; period!

At any rate, anti-smoker fanatics claim that there is a 20% increased risk of lung cancer for non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Of course, the scientific evidence supporting their argument is tenuous at best, with less than one in six studies demonstrating a statistical link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer or heart disease. And, they've never been able to prove that SHS actually causes either of those diseases.

A 20% increase in relative risk may sound pretty ominous – to the timid; to the brain-washed and the brain dead. But, if they'd just take the time to really think about it and apply a little common sense, they might come to the same conclusion that I have; that the alleged increase in risk is just so much bullshit and bafflegab.

That 20% increase in risk means that, if 1 in 10,000 non-smokers never exposed to SHS die from lung cancer, then for every 10,000 non-smokers who are exposed, 1.2 will be expected to die from that disease.

Of course, it's absurd to claim that only 20% of any individual is likely to die due to exposure to secondhand smoke (or any other reason for that matter). So, the anti-smokers simply add up all those fractions and claim an additional two bodies per 100,000. And, if you extrapolate that data to a population of 33 million, well . . .

Did I mention that anti-smokers are a deceitful bunch of bastards?

Using this kind of statistical chicanery, Health Canada estimates that hundreds of Canadians (252 to be exact) die from SHS induced lung cancer every year. Another 579, they claim, will die from IHD (Ischemic Heart Disease) caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. But, those deaths are also grounded in the the same statistical shenanigans.

Of course, these data clearly expose another lie postulated by the anti-smoker crowd: “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke.” Because if we accept their numbers of two excess lung cancer deaths per 100,000 non-smokers exposed, that means 99,998 of every 100,000 non-smokers exposed to SHS will not die from lung cancer. At least, not anytime soon.

In fact, for only one-tenth of those 100,000 to die of secondhand smoke induced lung cancer would take almost 500 years. I'm giving 100 to 1 odds that most of them won't make it.

Like I said, they're a deceitful bunch of bastards.

Health Canada reports that there were 831 deaths (252 from lung cancer; 579 from heart disease) attributed to “passive smoking” (secondhand smoke) in Canada in 2002. That may seem like a lot of deaths until you realize they're computer generated numbers based on a statistical illusion.

And, the numbers don't really look that frightening when you compare them to some other common causes of death. For example, suicide (3,650), car accidents (2,953), accidental falls (1,769) or accidental poisoning (1,018). And, those are real, verifiable deaths, not computer generated estimates.

But, just how do the computer generated deaths attributed to secondhand smoke stack up against other computer generated deaths? Air pollution, for example.

Extrapolating national data to Ontario we can estimate 313 deaths in the province of Ontario allegedly due to passive smoking.

But, a 2007 report from the Toronto Board of Health, acknowledges there are 440 premature deaths annually from air pollution caused by traffic. That means deaths attributed to automobile exhaust in the city of Toronto exceed the deaths attributed to secondhand smoke in the whole province by 40%.

A 2004 report from the same Board of Health estimates that the total mortality from air pollution from all sources is approximately 1,700 annually in the city of Toronto. So, statistically, there are over twice as many deaths (1,700) attributed to air pollution in the city of Toronto alone than there are deaths attributed to secondhand smoke (831) in the whole damn country.

The same 2004 report notes that recent “studies link air pollution with lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure”. Lung cancer and heart attacks are also linked to secondhand smoke.

Which brings us to the question of the day.

Who in hell taught the computer how to tell the difference between lung cancer and heart attack deaths caused by air pollution and those caused by secondhand smoke?

The deceitful bunch of bastards.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Does conflict of interest jeopardize public health

Generally, a conflict of interest can be characterized as any situation in which an individual could exploit his/her official position in some way for personal gain. Conflicts of interest do not not necessarily have to be monetary. They can be personal, political, academic, religious, or any combination of these factors.

The mere existence of a conflict of interest is not considered evidence of wrong doing or unethical behaviour. Rather, it is the way in which an individual or organization deals with the conflict that usually creates the problem.

For example, the board of directors of a housing co-op meets to discuss the awarding of a contract for remedial work on the boiler system. One of the quotes is from a company owned by the brother-in-law of one of the directors. That director has a definite and definitive conflict of interest. He has a fiduciary responsibility as a director of the co-op. But, he also has a vested interest in the financial well-being of his brother-in-law, and his decision may be biased to the detriment of the co-op.

If the brother-in-law's company is awarded the contract, there is justifiable cause for his competitors to claim bias.

Even if the board is satisfied that the director could make an objective, unbiased decision, it may not be enough to simply disclose the conflict. There would still be a perceived conflict. A reasonably prudent individual could justifiably argue that the board was unduly influenced by the conflicted director should he be permitted to debate or vote on the issue.

In such a situation, the board may deem it advisable to have the director refrain from participating in the discussion or voting on the issue, or perhaps even absent himself from the boardroom during debate on the issue.

So, at a minimum, there should be full disclosure of any conflict of interest as part of the public record to avoid any appearance of impropriety. And, in some cases , additional action may be necessary to alleviate concerns regarding bias in the decision making process.

The potential for conflict of interest exists in many, if not most, professions. However, in some lines of work, it is much more complicated than in typical business situations. And, the implications can be more far reaching.

One such field is medical research, especially studies dealing with smoking. Research requires funding. And, over the past two decades, more and more research funding has been coming from the pharmaceutical industry.

Not surprisingly, this has introduced an element of bias into the medical research. A 2009 article by Dr. Ben Goldacre (published in the BMJ) notes that: “A systematic review found 30 studies investigating whether [drug] industry funding is associated with outcomes that favour the funder: studies sponsored by drug companies were more than four times as likely to have outcomes favouring the funder, compared with studies with other sponsors.”

And, unfortunately, it has also raised serious questions regarding conflict of interest.

In May, 2008, an NIH (National Institute of Health) expert panel released an update of the Clinical Practice Guideline regarding the treatment of tobacco use and dependence. The project was funded by RWJF (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the philanthropic arm of drug manufacturer Johnson and Johnson.

The expert panel recommended use of buproprion (Zyban); nicotine gum; nicotine patch; nicotine nasal spray; nicotine lozenge; nicotine inhaler; and Chantix (or a combination of those drugs) to treat tobacco dependence. But, the efficacy of NRT is questionable. And, both Chantix and Zyban have been associated with serious side effects, including suicidal ideation (including actual suicides).

Since these clinical guidelines are referred to by the vast majority of doctors across the US, it is extremely important that they represent as unbiased an opinion as possible and that they be free from the taint of conflict of interest.

But, in a May, 2008 post on his blog, anti-smoking activist Dr. Michael Siegel notes that: “the guideline is a heavily biased analysis that is plagued by the presence of severe financial conflicts of interest among the panel's chair (Dr. Michael Fiore), and at least 8 of its other members.”

Siegel was referring to the fact that some members of the expert panel had been financially compensated as consultants or lecturers by one or more drug companies, including those who manufactured or distributed smoking cessation products.

This does not make those panel members guilty of any crime. But, it does raise questions about their objectivity. Were their recommendations based on an honest evaluation of the evidence? Or, were they concerned that a recommendation not supportive of drug treatment might jeopardize future research funding, or income from consultant and lecture fees?

The pharmaceutical industry is in direct competition with the tobacco industry. They both sell nicotine delivery systems; the tobacco companies in the form of cigarettes and other tobacco products and the drug companies in the form of nicotine replacement therapy.

Recently, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) announced four new members to their Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. The committee will advise the FDA on tobacco related issues. But, all four of these new appointees have received money from the pharmaceutical industry.

Siegel notes in a March 2, 2010 blog entry: “There is no way this panel can objectively consider tobacco product regulation and policy - based purely on the science - in the midst of such a potpourri of pharmaceutical financial interests and conflicts of interest.”

Anti-smoker activists have been critical of all research funded by the tobacco industry. Studies conducted with research grants from the tobacco companies are dismissed out of hand as prone to bias simply because of the source of funding. Highly qualified, objective researchers accepting tobacco funding have been vilified as stooges of the industry when their research does not reinforce anti-smoker theory.

But, are studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry any more reliable? Are the researchers any less prone to bias in favour of those providing the funding?

Should such examples of blatant conflict of interest and the resulting bias be ignored by the scientific community or the government

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SHS, multi-unit dwellings & anti-smoker deceit

I'm retired. But, for the last sixteen years I've been involved with a volunteer board of directors charged with the administrative and financial oversight of the housing co-op in which I live. For 13 years of those years, I've been president of the board. No big deal.

I go into the office two or three times a week to see if there's anything which requires my attention or the attention of the board. Sometimes I even go into the boardroom to check my mail. Important stuff, from our auditors, the government, etc. comes directly to my home. So, mostly what finds its way into my mail slot is flyers and newsletters from an assortment of housing organizations and salespeople.

Like the flyer announcing the “2010 Winter Education Event” sponsored by CHFT (The Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto). The front page invited members to “Join us for an exciting and informative day of workshops and networking opportunities.”

The flyer listed a number of workshops on such issues as: Dealing with Conflict, Financial Checklist for Boards, Preventing Fraud, etc. Through the years I'd attended similar workshops on most of the topics and I saw no need for a refresher on any of them. But, there was one that looked interesting. It was called “Smoke-Free Buildings”. Uh-huh.

According to the flyer, the workshop was to include information on the health effects of secondhand smoke, relevant Ontario legislation, how to adopt a non-smoking policy, etc. The facilitator was not named, merely identified as someone from the Non-Smokers Rights Association. Registration for the one-day event was only $75.00 for two workshops of your choice (plus lunch). I decided to attend.

Damn.I really should check my office mail on a more frequent basis. I'd missed the registration date. I missed a perfect opportunity to learn first-hand how this anti-smoker organization cons people into believing that “many [non-smokers] are unwillingly exposed [to secondhand smoke] in their own homes.”

It would be interesting to know how many is “many”? And, to just how much secondhand smoke are the “many” exposed? Can secondhand smoke really penetrate solid walls? Go through standing water? Travel against the wind? Do they really expect to prove that there is “no safe level” of exposure to secondhand smoke in a court of law?

The anti-smoker element would have the public believe that secondhand smoke is a major health hazard in multi-unit dwellings; that non-smokers are dropping like flies after being subjected to a whiff of secondhand smoke from smoking neighbours. They would have the public believe that there is a huge public outcry against smoking in multi-unit buildings.

And, they rely on the irrational fears of some non-smokers to perpetuate the myth. Fear generated by their own anti-smoker campaigns of deceit and deception. They offer no evidence that secondhand smoke represents a serious health hazard in MUDS (Multi-Unit Dwellings). They ignore any and all potential solutions except smoking bans.

So, just how great is the demand for smoke-free housing?

A survey commissioned by Health Canada in 2007, and conducted by Decima Research, notes that “When it comes to smoke actually seeping or drifting into personal living spaces, almost two-thirds (64%) indicate they have never experienced this, and 15% say it rarely happens. Residents of condos are the most likely to say they never experience seeping or drifting smoke (85%).” Residents of basement apartments are most likely to experience smoke seeping into their unit (12%).

That's right. Four in five residents of MURBS (multiple unit residential buildings) have rarely or never experienced smoke drifting or seeping into their unit.

Of course, nobody wants to live in a building where people are allowed to smoke in their unit. Right?

Well, no! According to the Decima survey, “Only about one in twenty indicate they’d prefer to live in a building that did not allow smoking in any residential units (6%); in some residential units (6%); or in outdoor common areas (5%.) Finally, a fraction of respondents (roughly 2%) said they’d prefer to live in a building where smoking is not allowed on balconies or patios.”

In fact, “Almost three quarters of Canadians agree that people who smoke tobacco products should have the right to do so in their own home. Close to one half (44%) of Canadians indicate they completely agree that smokers have the right to smoke in their own home, and a further 30% mostly agree.”

It appears the Non-Smokers Rights Association is not responding to a problem; they are actively engaged in creating a problem, or more appropriately, creating the perception of a problem.

And, they're being ably assisted by Health Canada in their propaganda activities.

A brief article on the CAGE (Canadians Against Government Encroachment) website notes that the Non-Smokers Rights Association recently received $656,666.00 in funding from Health Canada for, among other things, “hosting smoke-free multi-unit dwellings (MUDS) workshops and consultations with housing providers and tenants; developing a Quebec specific smoke-free MUDS website; researching municipal by-laws and provincial legislation on second-hand smoke; and, developing fact sheets for outreach with the public.”

So, Health Canada is actually using taxpayer dollars (including my tax dollars) to support a campaign of discrimination against 20% (including me) of Canada's population.

$656,666.00 in public funding. With little or no public accountability.

Note: For other articles on this issue, see:
Secondhand smoke goes thru walls
Secondhand smoke and MUDS

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The smoking epidemic: the role of government

Canada's Federal Government wants off the hook as a third party defendant in the law suit brought by the province of British Columbia against Canada's tobacco companies. In February, 2010, the feds asked the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a ruling by the BC Court of Appeals that could force it to share financial responsibility for damages allegedly caused by tobacco use.

The feds claim third party liability “would place an indeterminate strain on available public resources and would effectively create an insurance scheme for tobacco manufacturers at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.”

But, reviewing the Statement of Claim presented by Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITCAN) in the BC case, it is easy to understand why the BC Appeals Court ruled to include the feds as third party defendants. At the heart of the matter is the fact that government officials (including Health Canada and various Ministers of Health) were aware of the growing concern over the link between smoking and lung cancer for decades.

According to Imperial's Statement of Claim, it was the government's duty to take whatever action was required to protect the health and well being of Canadian consumers. “The federal government was, at all material times, responsible for protecting the health of Canadians, including consumers , and was responsible for providing them with accurate and reliable health information.”

That's a justifiable claim. The Canadian government is the only party with the authority to make tobacco illegal; to outlaw the growing, manufacture and sale of tobacco and tobacco products. And, if tobacco was/is responsible for all the damage they claim, including tens of thousands of deaths annually, then that is the very action they should have taken.

Imperial points out that, up until 1960, the causal association between smoking and lung cancer was still in dispute. “In 1958, The national Cancer Institute of Canada stated that “while it has not been established that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer”, studies show smokers have a greater risk. In 1960, Dr. Layton, the Principal Medical Officer, Research Development Health Canada, expressed the view that “most experts” had reservations about the causal link between smoking and lung cancer.”

But, the Canadian government can't claim that they remained ignorant of evidence suggesting cigarettes are associated with an ever expanding number of health problems.

In June, 1963, Judy LaMarsh, then Minister of National Health and Welfare, made public a conclusion that “there is scientific evidence that smoking is a contributory cause of lung cancer and that it may also be associated with chronic bronchitis and coronary heart disease.”

By 1964, the government began developing plans to control tobacco use. An intergovernmental committee was established “to review current approaches to education about smoking, to review components of an effective program to inform and/or remind smokers and non-smokers of the risks of cigarette smoking, to dissuade young people from acquiring the habit of smoking, and to identify the role of different agencies in implementing the program. The committee's agenda included such matters as cigarette advertising and promotion packages, warnings, labelling of cigarette packages and smoking on television.”

So, the government was aware of the possible consequences of smoking as far back as the early sixties. And, in subsequent years, they initiated a number of controls ostensibly intended to curtail tobacco use. Included are interventions such as graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, eliminating cigarette advertising in the mass media, smoking bans, usurious levels of tobacco taxation and media campaigns to encourage smoking cessation.

These interventions, and many more, were justified by governments at all levels by pointing out the potential health consequences associated with smoking. And, the tobacco companies complied with the advice and direction of the government. Or, as claimed by Imperial, “The Federal Government, at times material to the allegations in the Statement of Claim, has undertaken an active role in the support and direction of cigarette manufacturers in Canada and has set the standard of care that cigarette manufacturers, acting reasonably, met at material times.”

And if, in the considered opinion of the government, those interventions were sufficient to address concerns about the safety of smoking, how then can only the tobacco companies be held accountable for the consequences? And, if they weren't . . . then government failed in their duty to Canadian consumers. If smoking is as dangerous as claimed by the government, how could the government allow their continued sale and distribution to the consumer?

As noted in Imperial's statement of Claim: “At all material times, Officials were fully aware, as particularized herein, of the properties of cigarettes and the health risks associated with their use. Officials authorized, licensed and promoted the development, manufacture and distribution of cigarettes, and the federal government derived substantial tax revenue from the sale of cigarettes and took no steps to prohibit the manufacture and distribution of cigarettes.”

The Federal government has confiscated billions of dollars in revenue from Canada's tobacco consumers. Their provincial counterparts have also profited. Over the decades, they have made more money from the sale and distribution of tobacco products than the tobacco companies.

The case Imperial brought before the BC Court, of course, tells only one side of the story. But, it was sufficient to convince the BC Court of Appeals that the feds should be held accountable as third party defendants.

We'll wait and see what the Supreme Court has to say.

Note: The original lawsuit was filed by the provincial government of British Columbia in 1996. It is not scheduled to begin until next year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The nicotine patch; new study finds limited value

According to anti-smoking advocate, Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health, “a generally accepted value for long-term one-year abstinence with unaided quitting is somewhere around 3% or 5%.”

In other words, for every 100 smokers who try to quit cold turkey, only 3 to 5 will go without a cigarette for a year or more. Of course, that doesn't mean they won't relapse and go back to smoking at some point beyond the year. So, while I don't subscribe to the theory that nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin, there's no disputing that smoking is a habit that's hard for many people to shake.

Presumably, that's why the anti-smoker crowd, including doctors, are so keen on pushing NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy). The nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges, etc, ostensibly offer a greater chance of success in smoking cessation than going cold turkey. Or, at least, that's what they'd have you believe.

Every anti-smoker group in Canada (and around the world, it seems) touts the benefit of NRT for smoking cessation. The Non-Smokers Rights Association, Physicians for a Smokefree Canada, The Canadian Lung Association, they all push NRT products as if they were not only the best way to quit smoking, but the only way.

Even government agencies like Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health Propaganda are acting like pitchmen for the pharmaceutical industry. But, is it true? Does NRT offer a better chance of success to those who want to quit? Or, are the high priests of the anti-smoker cult foisting off yet another lie on an unsuspecting public?

In a recent post on his blog, Tobacco Analysis, Dr. Siegel claims: “New study shows that even extended Nicotine Replacement Therapy is extremely ineffective; unaided quitting rates are far better.” In fact, his analysis of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concludes that: “even with continuous use of the nicotine patch for six months, very few smokers were able to stay off cigarettes long-term.”

So, just how many of the 568 subjects in the study of nicotine patch therapy were able to achieve continuous one-year abstinence? Only five; a dismal 0.8%. Less than one in a hundred were able to go without a cigarette for a full year using the patch.

The success rate of NRT, or lack of it, has been a matter of debate for many years. That's why the new ads for the patch recommend that it be used in combination with nicotine gum, or some other NRT product, to increase the chances of success.

And, in the past, the patch has usually been recommended for an eight week course of therapy. But, since the success rate has been so disappointing, the drug companies are looking to extend that period to six months. Of course, they'd need a “scientific” study to demonstrate that prolonged drug therapy would actually deliver on their promise of greater efficacy.

And, not surprisingly, their latest study does just that. “Transdermal nicotine for 24 weeks increased biochemically confirmed point-prevalence abstinence and continuous abstinence at week 24, reduced the risk for smoking lapses, and increased the likelihood of recovery to abstinence after a lapse compared with 8 weeks of transdermal nicotine therapy.” Huh?

What that means, after wading through the bullshit and bafflegab, is that 24 weeks of NRT was more effective than eight weeks in keeping subjects smoke free over 24 weeks. Ignored was the fact that less than one per cent of the study subjects were able to remain smoke free for a year or more and that NRT is far less effective than quitting cold turkey.

As a matter of fact, Dr. Siegel notes in his analysis that the research shows that NRT is “terribly ineffective” in achieving smoking cessation ”and is probably a waste of time and money on a population basis.”

So, not only is the patch less effective in bringing about smoking cessation than quitting on your own, it can be a damn sight more expensive.

Consider this. A package of 14 Nicoderm patches sells for roughly $50. Over 24 weeks, that comes out to about $600 per quit attempt. And, there are 5 million smokers in Canada. If all the smokers in Canada developed a sudden urge to quit, using the patch, the total cost would be in the neighbourhood of 3 billion dollars. But, only 40 thousand of those smokers would manage to give up the habit for a year or more. The remaining 4.96 million become repeat customers for the patch and other NRT products. Of course, you won't see those statistics in drug company ads.

But, if the patch and other NRT products are so inefficient in inducing smoking cessation, why is the anti-smoker crowd, including government agencies, so intent on foisting these relatively useless products off on the public? Do they want smokers to quit? Or simply to switch their nicotine habituation from cigarettes to the patch, gum and lozenges?

There's no denying that using the patch over an extended period of time will enhance the already substantial profits of the drug companies from the sales of NRT. And, the pharmaceutical industry provides a great deal of funding for the anti-smoker cult, including doctors and researchers.

And, Siegel also points out on his blog that: “The senior author of the study has a severe financial conflict of interest as she has served as a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline, one company that manufactures the nicotine patch. She has also served as a consultant or has received research funding from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Novartis.”

Maybe the anti-smoker crowd has grown dependent on pharmaceutical funding. Just like the lead author of this latest propaganda effort masquerading as science.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ex-landlord jailed over smoking ban

Nick Hogan was no rabble-rousing weirdo,
Just a businessman, as any fool could see
Until one day a trial judge lost his patience
And sent Hogan off to jail, no longer free

'Cause the law is for protection of the people
Rules are rules and anyone can see
We don't need no freedom-loving mavericks
Corrupting decent folk like you and me . . . no siree
(With apologies to Kris Kristofferson)

Many people believe that the law should be respected. Rules are rules, they say; and the law is the law. Break the law and you must suffer the consequences.

But what should happen when the law is used as a weapon to control the personal behaviour of citizens? What happens when the law encourages the blatant discrimination of a minority group? When the law, in fact, becomes an ass? And, no, I'm not talking about grievous illegal behaviour such as assault, theft or other activities of a criminal nature.

I'm talking about the use of a legally sold and highly taxed consumer good: tobacco. It's sold legally, in convenience stores, gas stations and a host of other locations. But, it may be legally consumed only in a rapidly diminishing number of places. There are laws, you see.

Nick Hogan is a Brit. A year or two back, he owned a couple of pubs in Bolton, England. And, when England brought in their smoking ban in 2007, Hogan, a non-smoker, protested. Believing he was a citizen of a free country, he took exception to laws which declared his private business establishment public property.

He objected to laws which dictated the personal behaviour of his clientele on his premises. He believed that it was his right to set the rules of conduct in his pub. He objected to being pressed into service as an unpaid policeman; to enforcing laws with which he disagreed; because they violated his private property rights.

So, he obliged the government and conformed to all material aspects of the law. He dutifully posted “No Smoking” signs in his pubs. He removed the ashtrays from the tables, and he placed notices, advising customers that the law did not permit them to smoke inside, on the tables in his pub.

But, he refused to act as an enforcement officer as required by law. According to the law, bar owners and landlords are obliged to enforce the ban or face fines of up to £2,500 if they fail to do so.

And, that got Hogan in deep shit with the powers that be. He was cited by the Smoke Police and slapped with thousands of dollars in fines. He incurred additional costs in legal fees for his many court appearances. He was hit with a bill for the court costs incurred by the government to prosecute him.

Hogan no longer owns his pubs. Some accounts say he went bankrupt. His wife claims that, following the conviction for allowing people to smoke in his pubs, he lost his job and was unable to keep up with the £125-a-week fine payments, presumably arranged by the court.

And, when he wouldn't or couldn't pay the £10,000 in fines and court costs, they threw him in jail. Six months for allowing people to smoke in his pub. Uh-huh. The law's the law.

But, the real question is whether the law is reasonable or just. What is really expected of a bar owner? Are they expected to physically remove anyone who lights up? Call the police? Should they hire private security to enforce the smoking ban?

A recent US court decision, handed down Feb. 19 in Ohio, found that by fining bar owners $5,000 each time the state caught an individual smoking, the state was unfairly enforcing the law.

Said Judge David Cain, “Placing the (onus) of enforcing the Smoke-Free (Workplace) Act against individuals completely on property owners is ludicrous and defies basic notions of fairness. Property owners . . . have no control over whether someone rips out a cigarette and lights up.”

Is this English law reasonable or just? Should the State mandate that bar owners become law enforcement officers? If smoking bans are legislated by the State, then is it not the responsibility of the State to enforce them?

If the Smoke Police witnessed Hogan “allowing” people to smoke in his pub, then they also witnessed people smoking. Why then, did they not approach the transgressors and demand that they butt out? Why was Hogan the only one charged with a violation? Selective enforcement?

Hogan was among several landlords who were public in their strong opposition to the smoking ban. And, by all appearances, he was singled out. A target for the anti-smoker crowd who wanted to “make an example” of him.

The ways and means of protecting non-smokers from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke exist. Compromises were/are available. The smoking ban was/is unnecessary. And, like punitive levels of tobacco taxation, it is turning otherwise decent, law-abiding citizens into criminals.

Edmund Burke said, "When the law becomes the enemy of man, then man becomes the enemy of the law". I would add only that right-thinking men (and women) should oppose unjust, discriminatory laws.

Six months in prison for "allowing" people to smoke? Do these laws really warrant the public's respect?