Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloomberg's smoking ban and his lies of omission

New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city health officials are proposing a smoking ban in city parks and other outdoor areas. A Globe and Mail article, announcing the proposed ban notes: “Officials cited a May, 2007, Stanford University study that found a person sitting within three feet of a smoker outdoors can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to indoor levels.”

The Stanford study has been identified by WeHo, a West Hollywood news organization, as the first peer reviewed, scientific study on detecting outdoor secondhand smoke levels in exposed persons. Outdoor Tobacco Smoke, or OTS, is a phrase apparently coined by the authors of the Stanford study to refer to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment.

The study noted that there was a “lack of empirical data on outdoor tobacco smoke (OTS) levels” which impeded OTS exposure and risk assessments. Simply put, there was no scientific evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment represents any significant health hazard. Without accurate data, there can be no reliable assessment of the health risks posed by exposure to OTS. The ridiculous claim that there is no safe level of exposure to SHS has no credibility.

Still, despite the lack of data, the study concluded: “Based on our results, it is possible for OTS to present a nuisance or hazard under certain conditions of wind and smoker proximity.

But, those “certain” conditions were never mentioned by the mayor, or city councilwoman, Gale Brewer, the sponsor of the proposed ban. And, those conditions strongly suggest that there's no need, from a public health standpoint, to ban smoking outdoors. The study notes:

“The overall average OTS respirable particle concentration for the surveys of public places during smoking was approximately 30 g/m3. OTS exhibited sharp spikes in particle mass concentration during smoking that sometimes exceeded 1000 g/m3 at distances within 0.5 m of the source. Some average concentrations over the duration of a cigarette and within 0.5 m exceeded 200 g/m3, with some average downwind levels exceeding 500 g/m3.”

Distances within a half metre (0.5m) of the source? That means a non-smoker would have to be within 20 inches of a smoker to be exposed to the highest amounts of particle mass concentration, or the average concentrations noted in the study. How many people would feel comfortable allowing a stranger in such close proximity in a park setting, whether that stranger was smoking or not?

Why would a non-smoker remain in such close proximity to a smoker long enough to increase risk? And, remember, the alleged risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure are based on prolonged daily exposure over several decades.

And, it has to be noted that those spikes in particulate matter were not only confined to a space within 20 inches of the source, but they existed only when downwind of the smoker. For, the study also notes that: “OTS levels in a constant upwind direction from an active cigarette source were nearly zero.”

In other words, if a non-smoker was within kissing distance of a smoker, and the prevailing wind was blowing in his/her direction and the smoker was exhaling smoke directly in his/her face, they might be exposed to volumes of secondhand smoke similar to those found indoors.

In addition, the Stanford study actually points to the means by which a non-smoker could avoid any exposure to secondhand smoke. “OTS levels also approached zero at distances greater than approximately 2 m from a single cigarette.” Uh-huh.

Two metres is roughly six and a half feet. To avoid any exposure to the particulate matter in secondhand smoke, all a non-smoker would have to do is take a few paces in the opposite direction. That's right. The non-smoker could simply walk away.

So, although the study concluded that, “During periods of active smoking, peak and average OTS levels near smokers rivaled indoor tobacco smoke concentrations,” it's clear those levels could be reached only if the non-smoker is in extremely close proximity to, and downwind from, a smoker.

And, even then, there is little or no data to suggest that the amount of exposure would be sufficient to actually cause harm. A similar study, published by University of Georgia Athens (UGA) researchers in November, 2009 found “increased levels of SHS in the study subjects, but not levels considered to be risky”.

So, the New York City health department's claim that “57 per cent of nonsmoking New Yorkers have elevated levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, in their blood” means absolutely nothing. Elevated levels can only determine that a non smoker was exposed to secondhand smoke at some time during the past two to three days; not that the levels of exposure are prolonged or sufficient to demonstrate a legitimate health concern.

It's clear that the evidence does not support the contention that exposure to secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment represents any kind of health hazard to non-smokers. Which means the proposed ban in New York City parks, and those in other jurisdictions which have already imposed similar bans, have absolutely nothing to do with public health.

But, that's not really surprising.

The WeHo news article referenced above, notes: ”Half a dozen LA County municipalities have banned smoking near their outdoor dining facilities, with a few banning it from publicly-owned property - sidewalks, medians etc. - across their city entire. All did so citing public health concerns, but none did so based on scientific evidence that secondhand smoke (SHS) near an outdoor area poses a health risk.”

The Stanford study used to support New York's proposed outdoor ban provides very flimsy evidence on which to base such an intrusion on personal liberties. It does not support the theory that secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment is a health hazard, except possibly under the most extreme scenarios. And, even then the potential risk is negligible.

But, smoking bans in parks and on beaches have been passed, and are being promoted, in jurisdictions across the US and Canada despite the lack of any relevant scientific evidence.

Instead, they're based on the same bullshit and bafflegab employed by anti-smoker fanatics for decades. Propaganda by any other name . . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are non-smokers too dumb to avoid secondhand smoke?

New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is proposing a smoking ban for the city's 29,000 acres of parks and 14 miles of beaches. Apparently, the mayor thinks that non-smokers are simply too dumb to avoid secondhand smoke on their own, even in the wide open spaces of Central Park. At least, that's the inference to be drawn from claims made by “officials” announcing the proposed ban.

According to a Globe and Mail article, “Officials claim they are basing the proposed law on claims that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can pose health risks”.

But, what, exactly, do they mean by “brief exposure” and what possible “health risks” might result from this brief exposure?

Since the unnamed officials gave no definition of “brief”, we shall assume that they mean a period of time which is short or fleeting in duration. But, we'll have to use our imagination to determine exactly what they mean by “health risks”. Will “brief” exposure cause non-smokers to break out in a rash? Lose their lunch? Die of fright?

And, who is likely to be susceptible to the health risks posed by this brief exposure? Is a twenty year old jogger likely to die of a heart attack while jogging past a smoker? How about a sixty year old jogger?


OK, maybe an 80 year old jogger suffering from emphysema, lugging an oxygen tank and jogging very, very slowly? Well, maybe. But, then, what the fuck is an 80 year old, suffering from emphysema and dragging an oxygen tank, doing jogging in Central Park?

The Globe and Mail article also notes: “Officials cited a May, 2007, Stanford University study that found a person sitting within three feet of a smoker outdoors can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to indoor levels.” Huh? Does the person have to be sitting before keeling over from the effects of secondhand smoke? Are they safe if they're standing?

Is Central Park usually that crowded that users are sitting within three feet of one another? That really would be one crowded park. Just how in hell would an 80 year old jogger, suffering from emphysema and dragging an oxygen tank, manage to weave his way through all that pedestrian traffic?

Now, I must confess that I've never been to New York City. The closest I've ever come is visiting the in-laws in Jamestown, NY and Boston, Mass. So, obviously, I've never visited Central Park.

But, I saw the original “Death Wish” with Charles Bronson, and Central Park was painted as a pretty scary place; full of muggers, rapists . . . and, apparently, smokers. So I have a few questions.

If a twenty year old jogger encountered a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a knife in Central Park, wouldn't his/her first impulse be to run, preferably in the other direction, to avoid being mugged or raped?

Let's face it, that mugger is probably an alcoholic crackhead and likely a smoker to boot. It should be easy to outrun him. So, running away would seem to be the prudent course of action, in most cases. Of course, the 80 year old dragging his damn oxygen tank would be just plain fucked, but life has it's little ups and downs.

The point is that Central Park covers an expanse of 843 acres; roughly 2.5 miles long and a half mile wide. That translates to 1.31 square miles; over 36 million square feet. Why would a non-smoker have to be within three feet of a smoker if they didn't want to be? Why couldn't he/she just walk (or run) away?

And, if non-smokers can just walk away and avoid the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke, there's no need for a smoking ban. Unless . . . non-smokers are just too fucking dumb to stay away from smokers and avoid the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke.

No other inference can be drawn.

And, Mayor Bloomberg and his “officials” seem to be reading from different pages of the anti-smoker manual. Says the mayor: “The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, whether you're indoors or out, hurts your health.”

Actually, the science is not as clear about the effects of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke as the mayor suggests. As a matter of fact, it's still a highly controversial topic. And, at any rate “officials” say the proposed legislation is intended to protect non-smokers from brief exposure to secondhand smoke, not prolonged exposure.

But, if there's no compelling reason for a non-smoker to be sitting, standing or hanging upside down from a tree, within three feet of a smoker and exposing themselves to the alleged hazards of brief exposure, there's no need to be exposed for prolonged periods. Not in a park the size of Central Park.

The mayor's proposed legislation is obviously not about any threat to public health. The mayor, like most followers of the anti-smoker cult, simply doesn't want smokers seen in public places. Someone might get the impression that smoking is a normal behaviour.

The mayor should drop his proposal to ban smoking in the parks and on the beaches. He would probably save more lives if he banned 80 year old joggers suffering from emphysema and dragging oxygen tanks from the damn park.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FDA moves to protect pharmaceutical profits

Over the past several decades, a long list of anti-smoker laws has been enacted to curtail smoking. Draconian smoking bans and punitive levels of tobacco taxation have been implemented, with but one objective: to force smokers to quit their “vile, self-destructive” habit.

In North America, Public health groups (tax exempt, anti-smoker lobby groups) in the US, including Tobacco Free Kids, Action on Smoking and Health, the American Cancer Society, etc., and their Canadian counter-parts, have pursued that objective with a single-minded fanaticism. The public is subjected to a constant barrage of anti-smoker propaganda claiming that each new anti-smoker initiative will result in thousands, or tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of lives saved.

In Canada, banning smoking in public places, we were told, would save lives; graphic warnings on cigarette packs would save lives; punitive levels of government approved extortion (jokingly called taxation) would save lives. And, more recently, smoking bans outdoors, in parks and on beaches and golf courses, we're told, will save lives.

Yet, despite all these life-saving, anti-smoker initiatives, the number of smoking related deaths inexplicably continues to grow.

Recently, the CMA (Canadian Medical Association) recommended that provincial governments fund nicotine replacement therapy to encourage more Canadians to quit smoking and presumably, save lives.

But, if nicotine replacement therapies offered by the pharmaceutical industry will save lives, won't similar products available from alternative sources do the same thing? And, if a product was introduced to the marketplace, with the potential to greatly reduce tobacco consumption; one which was much more acceptable to smokers as a nicotine delivery system, then why would anti-smoker zealots seek to curtail its use? Is that not counter-productive?

The electronic cigarettes or e-cig has become popular among smokers wanting to reduce consumption of traditional tobacco cigarettes, with many users claiming the device has helped them to quit smoking entirely.

Yet, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently sent warning letters to some companies selling electronic cigarettes, and a manufacturer of the liquid nicotine used in the devices, claiming they made unproven health claims and threatening to shut them down if they didn't stop claiming that the e-cig was effective at reducing consumption or in some cases quitting outright.

But, why should it matter?

In a letter to the Electronic Cigarette Association, the FDA said the actions against the companies were not meant to be seen as a larger effort to ban the electronic devices. However, FDA actions to date belie the truth of that claim. The FDA has intercepted shipments of the device at customs and released a highly biased and dishonest study claiming the devices contain dangerous carcinogens.

FDA compliance lawyer Michael Levy noted there are several FDA-approved smoking cessation aids available on the market and the agency is working with several manufacturers for approval as a drug-delivery device. Said Levy, "We are interested in finding out whether e-cigarettes can be proven safe and effective."

The “approved” smoking cessation aids to which Levy refers are those offered by the pharmaceutical industry; the patch, nicotine gum and lozenges and the nicotine inhaler. And, of course, the controversial Chantix. And, proving that the electronic cigarette is safe and effective to the satisfaction of the FDA and the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), with their strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry, may take a very long time.

And, while clinical trials take place, drug companies will maintain their monopoly on alternate nicotine delivery systems. Anti-smoker zealots can, and will, continue their efforts to demonize electronic cigarettes with the same propaganda methods used to demonize smokers. Some states in the US have already included the e-cig in their anti-smoker legislation, banning use of the device anywhere smoking is prohibited.

Health Canada has already taken similar action and banned the e-cig.

The zealots are dependent on massive amounts of funding from the pharmaceutical industry to sustain their war on smokers. Perhaps that's why they seem determined to suppress any challenge to the monopoly enjoyed by the drug companies in providing alternate nicotine delivery systems. Any threat to drug company profits also threatens funding to the anti-smoker crowd.

Clearly, the anti-smoker fanatics are promoting the interests of the pharmaceutical industry to the detriment of the smokers they claim to be helping. And, in the process, they're showing once again, that, as often as not, it's not about public health; it's about the money.

Yeah. I know what you're thinking. So what else is new?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Smoking . . . always about the money

It seems everybody wants to make money off smokers these days, especially cash strapped governments. State governments in the US, provincial governments in Canada, and federal governments around the globe are turning to smokers to generate additional tax revenue in these trying economic times.

In North America, Great Britain and Europe, governments tell the public that usurious sin taxes are for a smoker's own good. This government sponsored extortion, the politicians tell us, is an act of kindness meant to “encourage” smokers to quit the evil, injurious habit. Uh-huh.

Of course, regressive sin taxes, more often than not, are counter-productive. Contraband tobacco has become a serious issue in Canada (and around the western world), for example. It's estimated that in Ontario, over half the cigarettes sold are contraband. In Quebec, contraband is estimated at 40% of the cigarette market.

Readily available contraband means retail outlets suffer from declining legal sales, putting jobs at risk. It makes cheap tobacco products available to minors who would be unable to purchase cigarettes from legal sources. And, it means governments can rely on only a fraction of the tax revenues their usurious tax policies were expected to generate. As law enforcement budgets escalate, tax revenue declines and ordinary Canadians become outlaws as they seek respite from confiscatory tax policy.

Politicians take refuge from any criticism of their discriminatory tax policy by citing public health concerns.

The truth is that governments spend millions on anti-tobacco campaigns, but that's a mere pittance compared to the billions they extort in tobacco tax revenues. In fact, the anti-smoker group Physicians for a Smokefree Canada estimated Canadian governments at all levels took in over seven billion dollars in tobacco taxes in the fiscal year 2007/2008.

That's a lot of money. And, it's money the government can't afford to lose. Assuming 5 million smokers in Canada, that's an average of roughly $1,400 annually extorted from every Canadian smoker. And, if that tax revenue were lost, it would have to be made up from other sources.

Distributing that tax burden across a Canadian population of 33 million would mean a tax increase of roughly $210 for every man woman and child in the country. A family of four would be paying somewhere around $840 per year in additional taxes. And, those believing that a reduction in health care costs would offset the need for those taxes are dreaming in technicolor.

And, it's the massive amount of tax revenue purloined from smokers that's behind government's refusal to prohibit sales of tobacco rather than ban smokers from all manner of social interaction, although politicians will deny it. And, it's why the anti-smoker fanatics aren't screaming for a prohibition on tobacco.

A clear demonstration of this hypocritical bullshit and bafflegab was seen in the North Dakota legislature back in January, 2003. That legislative body voted, 88 to 4, against a bill proposing to ban tobacco sales in the state. Anti-tobacco groups testifying against the tobacco ban included the North Dakota Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, North Dakota Public Health Association and North Dakota Nurses Association. Uh-huh.

The North Dakota episode should cause everyone to question whether the war on smokers is really about public heath. And, evidence that smoking is not the public health issue the anti-smoker fanatics claim, was available as far back as 1975.

The 3rd World Conference on Smoking and Health, held in New York in June, 1975, recommended: “That it be recognized by all organizations and associations concerned with smoking and health that the campaign against smoking is political and economic in character and requires decisions based on political and economic factors.”

And, as the hypocritical stance of the North Dakota legislature and their anti-smoker minions demonstrated in 2003, prohibition of tobacco is simply not politically or economically expedient. Government would lose massive amounts of tax revenue and the anti-smoker zealots would lose their livelihood. So, the government and their taxpayer funded mercenaries in the anti-smoker brigade continue their charade, denouncing smokers while raking in the cash.

But, there are some politicians who appreciate the contribution of smokers to the national economy. The Russians, for example, are calling on citizens in that country, where 65% of men smoke and the average Russian consumes 18 litres of alcohol annually, to smoke and drink more because the government needs the tax dollars.

Russia's finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, explained recently that higher consumption would raise tax revenues so that more could be spent on social services. Says Kudrin: “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates.” Huh?

The Russian government has announced pending increases in sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. But, at least they're being honest about the purpose of the increases. They want the money.

Unlike Canadian politicians, and others in the western world, they're not hiding behind a “public health” scam to pick the pockets of smokers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Smokers “personna non grata” in Vancouver

The city of Vancouver, British Columbia has effectively become a “no smoking” zone. As of September 1, 2010, smoking is prohibited in every park and on every beach in Vancouver. Anyone caught smoking in the city's 224 parks or 18 kilometres of beaches is subject to a minimum fine of $250, up to a maximum of $2,000.

The provincial Tobacco Control Act already bans smoking in indoor public places, work places, private places, near public and private doorways, open windows, and air intakes. Sounds like a fun place . . . as long as you're not a smoker. Of course, if you're a smoker who enjoys being treated like a social leper, you may feel right at home.

According to an article by Mark Hasiuk in the Vancouver Courier, “This new bylaw, which outlaws a legal activity in a city of 570,000, was crafted and enacted solely by the seven-member park board - an entity few Vancouverites know anything about.”

And, that's not as unbelievable as it sounds.

The Vancouver parks board is, in fact, the only one of its kind in Canada, with a measure of autonomy which exceeds any other in the country. It oversees the Vancouver park and recreation system which includes more than 224 parks (roughly 3,200 acres) featuring community centres, swimming pools, skating rinks, fitness centres, racquet courts, golf courses, pitch & putt courses, food concessions, marinas, miniature railway, children's farmyard, and street trees.

Hasiuk's article quotes comments from Aaron Jasper, a board commissioner, who claims the board heard from health care professionals that secondhand smoke, even on a breezy beach, represents a health hazard. Jasper also noted the environmental impact from discarded cigarette butts, and claimed that: "Forest fires are a grave concern." Huh? Forest fires in Vancouver. Can you spell bullshit? How about bafflegab?

On April 19, 2010, the Vancouver Parks Board passed a resolution to the effect: “That the [parks] Board instruct the General Manager to consult with the Director of Legal Services to seek amendments to the City of Vancouver Health Bylaw and Parks Control Bylaw to prohibit smoking in all parks and beaches”.

The motion was approved after the presentation of a staff report which stated: “With acceptance that no level of exposure to second-hand smoke can be considered safe, reducing such exposure remains a key component of health promotion by the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and VCH (Vancouver Coastal Health)”.

The report also pointed out the relatively low smoking prevalence rates in BC, noting : “The experience of many other jurisdictions is that smoking regulations are less challenging to implement and enforce in areas where non-smokers are represented by a large percentage of population, as in the Lower Mainland”.

In other words, smokers in BC represent such a small percentage of the population (less than 15%) that their concerns could be ignored with impunity and little political fallout. Or, as Mark Hasiuk noted in his article, “Persecuting smokers, today's unclean among us, requires no courage. They make easy targets.”

As usual when passing anti-smoker legislation of this kind, public consultation was kept to a minimum.

Park board staff collected public feedback through an online survey conducted in the fall of 2009. The objective of the survey was to gauge the level of support for a new policy on smoking in city parks. The survey focused on asking readers if they supported establishing "no-smoking" areas in beaches, playgrounds, playing fields, trails, and other “undesignated” park spaces.

A total of 608 responses were received in the city of roughly 570,000; roughly one tenth of 1% of the population. But that was more than enough to determine that 90% of the population favoured a comprehensive smoking ban. Uh-huh.

Of course, several anti-smoker delegations made presentations at the meeting; the Clean Air Coalition of BC, the Canadian Cancer Society (BC/Yukon), Vancouver Coastal Health, some outfit called Air Space Action on Smoking and Health, the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up and half a dozen individuals whose affiliation was not given.

In the face of this overwhelming support for a smoking ban, the resolution was approved unanimously by the seven members of the parks board.

And, on June 22, 2010, Vancouver city council passed the required amendments which authorized the Board of Parks and Recreation to enact by-laws to regulate smoking in parks “for the care, promotion and health of people in parks.”

Establishing no smoking areas in parks might be considered reasonable in some circumstances; around children's play areas, or petting zoos, for example. But, designating an entire park system a no smoking zone goes far beyond what is required to protect the public from the alleged, and grossly exaggerated, hazards of secondhand smoke.

There will be no designated smoking areas anywhere in the park system. Not a single acre of the 3,200 acres of parkland will be set aside for smokers. Not even a few measly square yards of the 15.5 million square yards in the park system will be made available to accommodate smokers. They're simply not welcome.

But then, as noted in the minutes of the board meeting where the by-law was approved: “Just in case there are caveats about this policy, it is well established that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke.”

A large portion of the park boards revenue (60 million dollars worth) apparently comes from municipal taxes. Some of those tax dollars come from smokers. But smokers are told they are unwelcome. And, no, tax rebates for smoking taxpayers were not mentioned in the anti-smoker legislation.

In reality, the by-law is designed to punish smokers, not protect public health. The intent is to demean and denigrate those who choose to engage in a perfectly legal activity; to turn them into social outcasts in the hope that a few of them will quit.

Said Aaron Jasper of the parks board: "Our job is to make sure that everyone can have enjoyment of our parks and public spaces." Uh-huh.

Everyone, apparently, but smokers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Smoking imagery in movies causes kids to smoke

A recent press release from Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSY) claims that 44% of Canadian teenagers 15 to 19 years of age who smoke, do so because of exposure to smoking in the movies. Uh-huh. Just seeing Bruce Willis or Sigourney Weaver light up on screen is “causing” tens of thousands of Canadian teenagers to become depraved nicotine addicts; destined for death . . . eventually.

The made for media report, released August 19, estimates that 130,000 teenage Canadians who currently smoke were “recruited” by their exposure to smoking in the movies, and that 43,000 will die prematurely from smoking. The study offered no prognostication for the remaining 87,000, but I think we can safely assume that they too will die . . . eventually.

The report, commissioned by PSY, is titled: “Tobacco Vector: How American movies, Canadian film subsidies and provincial rating practices will kill 43,000 Canadian teens alive today — and what Canadian governments can do about it.”

The anti-smoker cult claims seeing actors smoke in movies sends the message that smoking is normal and even commonplace. This, in turn, encourages young people to have a more positive view of smoking and smokers. And, that is simply unacceptable. Kids must be taught that smokers are filthy, foul smelling degenerates.

The report makes the incredible assertion that: “If young people were not exposed to smoking in movies, there would be about 130,000 fewer Canadian teenagers smoking.” And, of course, 43,000 deaths could be prevented over the next 70 years or so. Uh-huh.

Statistics, properly used, can be a wonderful tool. But . . .

Unfortunately, statistics can also be manipulated to mangle the facts and obscure the truth. Used by the unscrupulous, they can be a deliberately deceptive propaganda tool.

For example, Table 1 (page 1) in the PSY study notes that 13.8% (304,000) of teenagers between 15 and 19 are current smokers. Of that number, 44% (134,000) are caused by exposure to smoking imagery in the movies according to study author Jonathan Polansky.

Both the table and the study itself focus on the 44%, suggesting that a very large percentage of teenage movie goers are corrupted by on screen smoking. But, that's not the case. The data suggests that only 6% of teens will become “established” smokers because they've been “exposed” to smoking imagery in the movies. And even that number is highly speculative.

Think about it! Use a little common sense and don't be buffaloed by the bullshit and bafflegab. Only 13.8% of the teenage population are current smokers and less than half that number (roughly 6% of the total teenage population in that age group) are susceptible to the threat allegedly posed by on screen smoking.

But, that means only 1 in 16 teens exposed to on screen smoking adopted the habit. Does that really suggest the problem is kids seeing someone light up in the movies? Why weren't the other 15 influenced by watching those same movies? Are they somehow immune to smoking imagery? If 1 in 16 drivers who drove red cars ended up in an accident, would it be hailed as proof that red cars caused accidents?

Or, are we expected to believe that the 87% who didn't become smokers, or the 7% who were motivated to experiment with cigarettes for other reasons, were never exposed to smoking in the movies? On television? Were the 6% who took up smoking after seeing actors light up on screen exposed to smoking only in the movies? Did they never see adults or their peers smoking in the real world? Were they never offered a cigarette by friends or relatives?

As is usual with anti-smoker studies of this kind, a careful reading results in more questions than answers.

The Canadian study is not, in fact, a new study. To come up with their estimates, they simply applied the data from studies conducted in the US to the Canadian population. Those studies counted the number of “tobacco incidents” (the appearance of tobacco use, a tobacco product or a brand trademark) in a motion picture. By conducting a survey of what movies teens had seen, they were able to establish a correlation between the number of tobacco incidents and the teens who became “established” smokers. An established smoker is defined as anyone who smoked more than 100 cigarettes in his/her lifetime.

So, we have a study which suggests that 1 in 16 (roughly 6%) teenagers will become established smokers solely through exposure to on screen smoking imagery. The other 94% are apparently unaffected by seeing people smoke in films. There can be no comparison done to to determine how many teenagers who have not been exposed to smoking in the movies or on television will become established smokers, because no such animal exists.

In fact, we have a bunch of anti-smoker fanatics demanding censorship of film based on little more than idle speculation.

Seeing actors smoke on screen may cause kids to view smoking as normal or even common place. But, then again, the reality is that roughly 20% of the population smoke. And, removing smoking scenes from movies denies that reality.

But, I wonder . . .

If smoking imagery in the movies can entice kids to smoke, how many slasher movies would a teenage boy have to see before donning a mask and chasing girls with a butcher knife a la Michael Meyers? Or go berserk with a chain saw?