Saturday, February 19, 2011

Helping smokers to an early grave with Champix

A recent article in the Toronto Star claims the province is considering placing smoking cessation drug Champix (and possibly Zyban), on the list of drugs covered under OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Program).

Diane McArthur, who runs the Ontario Public Drugs Programs Division of the Ontario Ministry of Health, confirms that an “expert advisory committee” has given the green light to the anti-smoking drug Champix and a study of Zyban, another smoking cessation drug, is already underway. The Drug Programs Division is responsible for making decisions on what drugs will be covered under the provincial health plan.

It's estimated that covering the smoking cessation drugs under OHIP will cost Ontario taxpayers $20 million annually.

NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products such as the patch, nicotine gum and lozenges, are not being considered for coverage under the health plan, but the Ministry of Health Propagan . . . er, Promotion announced recently that free nicotine replacement therapy would be available through family health teams to “help” up to 20,000 smokers over the next two years.

At any rate, both Champix and Zyban are reported to have serious side effects, including depression and suicidal ideation.

In June, 2008, Health Canada warned that Champix had caused “unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behavior or impulsive or disturbing thoughts, such as ideas of self-harm or of harming others, in some users.”

It should be noted that, among the thousands of lawsuits pending against the manufacturers of these drugs are hundreds of cases alleging actual suicides from the use of both Zyban and Champix.

And, in addition to warnings from Health Canada, and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned pilots and air traffic controllers from using Chantix, as Champix is known in the US. It has also been banned for use by commercial drivers.

Of course, according to the anti-smoker cartel, which likes to depict smokers as social misfits with no redeeming qualities, the risk that a smoker might leap off a tall building or throw themselves in front of a fast moving train is perfectly acceptable. But then, to the anti-smoker zealots, any risk is apparently preferable to engaging in some vile, anti-social habit like smoking.

God save us from those who want to save us from the evils of tobacco, even when faced with the possibility that they may be saving some of us right into an early grave.

The Star article by Tanya Talaga was surprisingly even-handed; not at all what I'm used to from the main stream media, especially from the somewhat liberal-minded Toronto Star. There was no editorializing about the inflated body counts the zealots attribute to smoking. And, even the exaggerated health care costs associated with smoking were attributed to an unidentifiable “they”, as if the author wanted to disassociate herself from the highly suspect claim. “Smoking costs the provincial health system $1.6 billion a year, they say.”

But, what really surprised me was a column by Rosie DiManno the day following Talaga's article. “The argument that smokers put undue strain on our health system has no traction with me, not until universal medical care is denied to piehole-stuffing fat people, the promiscuous, the bareback riders, the booze-hounds, the drug addicts and anyone else whose lifestyle choices put them at risk.” Huh?

What the fuck? This woman comes across like an unrepentant smoker. How did she get a pro-smoking column past the Star's cens . . . er, editors.

Says Rosie: “I’ll pass on the prescription meds, thanks — already have a drug cabinet full of those. But smokes are a one-size-fits-all antidote for what ails you: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obesity, mania, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and deadline freak-out-itis.”

Shit. No doubt about it, the woman's got bal . . . er, backbone. And she seems even more pissed off at the extremists than I am. She's just more articulate than I am at expressing her displeasure. But then, that's why she gets paid the big bucks.

The anti-smoker crowd will likely be calling for her head for some of her remarks.

“Lacking the gumption to make tobacco products utterly illegal yet ever greedy for the impost they collect off the top — which is why sensible people buy their darts from guys who come into the bar toting inventory from the Indian reservation free market — bureaucratic nico-Nazis, adjusting their halos of righteousness, have perfected the practice of suck-and-blow: Smoking bad, smokers’ money good.

They know full well that we, the hounded constituency of tobacco-lovers, will continue to buy cigarettes, regardless of price. Thus, they can simultaneously take the high road — spending oodles on anti-smoking campaigns that have had negligible impact — and the low road, which is to exploit smokers as cash cow.

It’s an endless circle that . . . (ooh, perfect smoke ring I’ve just exhaled here) . . . gives the illusion of efficacy, which, boosted (or not) by the tsunami of junk science smoking studies, justifies spending more money and constantly expanding the hobnailed anti-smoking brigades: $33.8 million lavished on cessation programs and research since 2005.”

Wow. You go, girl. You can read Rosie's column here. Smokers and pro-choice advocates will enjoy it.

As for adherents of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker . . . well, who really gives a fuck?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Expanding the “No Smokers Need Apply” policies

In my last post, I asked what additional deterrents [to curtail the smoking habit] would be considered acceptable by anti-smoker fanatics. And, the answer appears to be that there are no limits to the malicious mistreatment of the smoking community at which the zealots will balk.

In his latest blog entry, Dr Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health, reports the latest outrage perpetrated against the smoking community. Siegel, a strong anti-smoking activist, says: “. . . this policy has nothing to do with health. It is, instead, a policy based purely on ideology.”

He's talking about an article which appeared in the Saturday edition of the Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune bearing the headline : “Franciscan: Health system will no longer hire tobacco users.” According to the author, John Gillie, "Tacoma’s Franciscan Health System is adding a qualification for prospective employees beginning next month: They must be tobacco-free.”

But, both the headline and the opening remarks are deceptive and misleading.

As it turns out, it is not just smokers who are to be barred from employment, but anyone who tests positive for cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, in a compulsory urine test. And, the source of the nicotine exposure doesn't matter to the anti-smoker health freaks at Franciscan.

Since cotinine can be detected in even very small trace amounts, the draconian policy to be implemented on March 1, will bar employment even to those using NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products such as the patch or nicotine gum. The exposure can also result from use of smokeless tobacco products such as snus, or the electronic cigarette.

But, even more incredibly, cotinine may also be present due to secondhand smoke exposure. So, if a job applicant lives with a smoker, or perhaps associates with smokers on a regular basis, he/she will find their application rejected.

This is neither a misinterpretation, nor an exaggeration of the policy; it is a fact openly acknowledged on the Franciscan Health System website: “A positive test for nicotine, regardless of the source, will eliminate a job candidate from employment consideration.”

The anti-smoker fanatics have gone from banning smoking on the job, to denying employment to smokers who smoke at home, and now they're prepared to dictate to smokers who may be trying to quit, and even non-smokers, with whom they may associate.

Are non-smokers married to smokers expected to throw their spouses (or significant others) into the street before applying for employment with Franciscan? Should they tell lifelong friends who smoke to stay to fuck away, because they don't want to jeopardize their job prospects in the health care field?

Do these perverted lunatics really intend to ban from employment, not just smokers, but anyone who condones smoking by associating with them?

It's fucking outrageous.

And, it's all perfectly legal. The News Tribune article, quoting an employment attorney, notes: “Washington isn’t one of the 29 states that have passed legislation banning tobacco use as a hiring criteria. And it’s unlikely that a person rejected for employment because of tobacco use could successfully sue.”

But, legal does not equate with moral. Unless, of course, you're an adherent of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker. As noted by Dr Siegel in his blog entry: “Clearly, the policy is motivated instead by an ideology which demonizes nicotine, regardless of its source. This is a religious-like policy that has absolutely no public health basis.”

Imagine. Even staunch anti-smoking advocates like Dr. Siegel can see past the dogmatic intolerance of these bigoted bastards at Franciscan.

Lewis Maltby, author (Can They Do That) and president of the National Workrights Institute, citing the slippery slope argument, told the New York Times: “There is nothing unique about smoking. The number of things that we all do privately that have negative impact on our health is endless. If it’s not smoking, it’s beer. If it’s not beer, it’s cheeseburgers. And what about your sex life?”

Franciscan spokesman Gale Robinette said Franciscan has no plans to go beyond tobacco use. But, if such is the case, one has to ask, “Why not?”

If the Franciscan Health System really wants “to encourage healthful living, to set a good example in the communities it serves, to improve employees’ health and to save money,” how can they ignore job applicants with other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors or conditions such as obesity, the consumption of alcohol, unsafe sex, and lack of physical exercise?

Why are these oppressive tactics directed exclusively at smokers?

And, the only reason that similar tactics have not been directed at other groups is that the public has not been fully programmed to fear, and in turn, to hate other groups to the same degree as smokers. The denormalization of smokers is almost complete. The campaigns against the overweight and obese and drinkers are still in their infancy.

May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their fucking armpits.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Smokers need not apply

Last Thursday, the New York Times published an article which questioned the practice of refusing to hire smokers, even when they engaged in their habit off the job. The article, “Hospitals Shift Smoking Bans to Smoker Ban” by AG Sulzburger, points out that many employers, especially those in the medical profession, are adopting policies which exclude smokers from employment.

But the “No Smokers Need Apply” policies are not restricted to new hires. In some instances, employers are demanding that smokers quit their habit or face the prospect of unemployment. In some cases, employers are demanding urine tests, intended to detect traces of nicotine, a perfectly legal substance, from those seeking employment and, in some cases, from those who may already be employed who want to keep their job.

These employers, which include the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and a growing number of hospital and health care facilities, believe they have a right to dictate what activities employees may indulge in their free time.

The anti-smoker zealots justify these gross intrusions into the personal lives of potential employees (and existing employees) by pointing out the need to “increase worker productivity, reduce health care costs and encourage healthier living.”

The Times article insinuates that the shift from smoke-free workplaces to smoker free workplaces is a new phenomena. “The policies reflect a frustration that softer efforts — like banning smoking on company grounds, offering cessation programs and increasing health care premiums for smokers — have not been powerful-enough incentives to quit.”

But, in fact, the uncompromising vindictiveness of the zealots has been characteristic of the euphemistically named “tobacco control” movement from the very beginning. They have carefully crafted a propaganda campaign which portrays smokers as social misfits - addicts, aggressively spreading their contagion to a non-smoking population and jeopardizing the lives of children.

And, despite the fact that their war on smokers is built on a foundation of lies and scientific deception, their message of bigotry and intolerance seems to have taken root. The discriminatory tactics used to harass a significant smoking community (20% to 25% of the adult population), now appear acceptable in the larger community of non-smokers, judging from some of the comments to the Times article.

For example, “I'd LOSE IT if I found out that a smoker came anywhere near my newborn. I don't care if he or she washed hands. I don't even care if he or she was wearing a coat and then removed it. I don't want third-hand smoke near my infant's lungs. I'd love to give birth at a hospital with a no-smokers-employed-here policy.”

Only someone suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder could write such drivel? An irrational fear of third hand smoke, no less.

Another comment notes: “As a physician, I have concluded that many people who continue to smoke – or start smoking – in spite of ostensibly knowing the risk, do so because they don’t have a tangible deterrent that is significant enough to motivate them otherwise. These new policies are significant – I hope they work!”

Yes. That's all smokers need, a deterrent to force them to quit. But, how far are these anti-smoker fanatics willing to go?

If the smoking bans don't work, if depriving smokers of a place to live is not sufficient deterrent, if refusing to provide medical coverage to those who continue to engage in that sinful habit doesn't force them to quit, if usurious levels of tobacco taxation haven't eliminated smoking, then what additional deterrents would be considered acceptable? Anti-smoker goon squads assaulting smokers? Compulsory electroshock therapy? Re-education camps?

Comments agreeing with the “No Smoker” policy ignore, or dismiss outright, the slippery slope argument, claiming that smoking is not like any other lifestyle choice .Secondhand smoke, they claim, represents a health hazard to those exposed. Other lifestyle choices, like obesity, do not.

But, what they fail to grasp, is that these policies are not being implemented to protect the health of other employees. The stated intent is to cut health care costs and increase productivity; to generate additional profit for employers. The "healthier living" angle is just a smokescreen to justify the unwarranted discrimination against smokers.

And, if employers can save money by refusing to hire smokers, they can almost certainly save money by refusing to hire the overweight and obese, social drinkers and alcoholics alike, those engaging in unconventional sexual behaviour, and a host of other activities.

Roughly two years ago, the Cleveland Clinic stopped hiring smokers. Clinic CEO, Dr. Delos Cosgrove told the New York Times that if he could he would choose not to hire obese people. Responding to criticism over his remark, Cosgrove said obesity represents a major social, economic and medical problem that should be given the same priority as efforts to curb tobacco use.

No smoker policies are being promoted by anti-smoker zealots. That this insane experiment in social engineering is being led by health care professionals is nothing short of disgusting.

But, smokers are merely the first target group. And anyone who believes otherwise should take their head out of their ass and give it a shake.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Japan: next target of anti-smoker zealots?

I was bouncing around on the net recently, not knowing where I was going or what I might find when I got there, when a headline in the sidebar of one site caught my eye: Will Japan Ever Have a Smoking Ban Following the link took me to a site called “The Faster Times.”

According to its own promo, “The Faster Times is an independent collective of journalists and writers who are looking to create a new model for the newspaper.” It's an interesting concept.

The author, Daniel Krieger, was praising those jurisdictions which had enacted smoking bans, and waxing eloquent about turning ashtrays into flower pots or some such. Reflecting on the virtues of smoking bans, and the apparent lack of same in Japan, prompted him to pose the question: “So why is it that Japan, a country so advanced in so many ways, still hasn’t gotten its act together when it comes to meaningful tobacco laws?”

By “meaningful tobacco laws”, Krieger obviously means the discriminatory anti-smoker laws, common in North America and Europe, which force smokers into social isolation, deny them employment, housing and would even deny appropriate health care. He appears to be somewhat chagrined with the more reasonable anti-smoking laws enacted thus far in Japan.

Unlike North America and Europe, smoking is still permitted almost everywhere in Japan. And, although smoking has been restricted in some environments, designated smoking areas are usually available.

And, while the anti-smoker zealots elsewhere are busily dictating how small business owners should run their business, Japan, for the time being, is content to allow them to make their own decisions on whether or not to impose smoking bans.

Some big name global chains, Starbucks, for example, bans smoking in all its stores. McDonald's Japan plans to ban smoking at some of its stores and banned smoking at its 298 restaurants in Kanagawa prefecture in March, 2010. Kentucky Fried Chicken banned smoking at one branch in Shibuya, Tokyo in July, 2010. And, many independent restaurants and bars have opted to go smoke free.

Most of the trains and subway platforms in Japan prohibit smoking, mostly because they are so crowded that it's simply impossible to light up safely. And, at least one prefecture, Chiyoda-ku, banned smoking while walking on crowded, busy streets in November, 2002. And, the last article I read on the subject suggested that less than 25% of hotel rooms were designated as non-smoking.

The purchase and smoking of cigarettes is restricted to persons over the age of twenty, the age of majority in Japan. But there are no bans on the display of cigarettes or other tobacco products in retail outlets. Cigarettes can be bought in tobacco stores, convenience stores and vending machines, although purchase from the latter is only possible with a Taspo (tobacco passport) card which verifies the holder's age.

Just as a curiosity, it was estimated in 2006, that Japan had over 500,000 cigarette vending machines. But, it should be noted that almost anything in Japan can be purchased from a vending machine, including beer and alcohol.

But, comparatively speaking, there are few anti-smoking laws and none as restrictive, or discriminatory, as the anti-smoker laws found in North America and Europe.

So, what's behind Japan's more liberal attitude to smoking and smokers?

The first thing that has to be recognized is that the smoking prevalence rate in Japan, although declining, is still among the highest in the world. In 1966, it was estimated that over 83% of Japanese men smoked, and the latest figures suggest that slightly over 36% of men continue to enjoy the habit. Smoking prevalence among women is quite low, somewhere between 9% and 15%, depending on who's quoting the figures.

In addition, the most recent study I've found on the subject, Ohida et al, 2001, notes that: “The prevalence of cigarette smoking among physicians was 27.1% for men and 6.8% for women.”

The second point that has to be considered is that the anti-smoker crusaders have yet to infiltrate the government to any great extent, perhaps due to the very high smoking rates which, undoubtedly, includes a number of politicians. And, without the full support of the government, financially and otherwise, anti-smoker propaganda campaigns become largely ineffective.

The most commonly cited reason for the failure of anti-smoker crusaders to win the support of government, is the role government (and politicians) play in the industry. Until 1985, the tobacco industry was a government-run monopoly. And, they are still heavily involved in the industry, with the Ministry of Finance controlling just over 50 percent of Japan Tobacco, the world's third largest tobacco company.

However, the anti-smoker group, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, is working hard to change Japan's image as a smoker's haven. Their goal is to “educate” the public about the dangers of smoking, coerce smokers into quitting, and pressure politicians to implement smoking bans to “protect” non-smokers from the (largely non-existent) hazards of secondhand smoke.

Dr. Manabu Sakuta, head honcho of the Japanese anti-smoker group, following typical anti-smoker rhetoric, paints all those opposed to his group's efforts to de-normalize smokers as allies of the tobacco industry: “Japan Tobacco uses their in-pocket famous doctors, Diet members (Japanese legislature), Ministry of Finance bureaucrats, mass media, and even ordinary smokers” to work toward stifling regulation.

Shit. Everybody but Sakuta and his anti-smoker bunch is on the payroll of Japan tobacco. Including the mass media.

Which brings us to the third reason for the more tolerant attitude towards smokers and smoking in Japan. Unlike North America and Europe, the anti-smoker crusaders do not have control of, and are therefore unable to censor, the mass media . . . at least not yet.

Krieger notes in his article: “Although Japan Tobacco insists the solution lies in harmonious separation between smoking and non-smoking areas, Sakuta feels that a strictly enforced ban along the lines of New York or London is the only way to go.” In other words, why use a conciliatory approach to the smoking issue when you can easily resolve the problem by battering smokers upside the head with a sledge hammer?

Sakuta and his Japan Society for Tobacco Control and “its members that number in the thousands” want to dictate public policy on smoking issues to Japan's population of 127 million. They may face an uphill battle, but then again . . .

Did you know that Japanese lawmakers set a maximum allowable waistline size for anyone age 40 and older? And, Japan has one of the world’s lowest rates of obesity - less than 5 percent, compared to nearly 35 percent for the United States.

Shit. Maybe they were just giving their obesity epidemic priority.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SHS: little white lies or scientific fraud

A report prepared by a European group called the Smoke Free Partnership, completed in 2006, examined mortality allegedly due to secondhand smoke exposure in 25 nation states of the European Union. The report, titled “Lifting the smokescreen: 10 reasons for going smokefree”, concluded that “Second-hand smoke exposure kills and harms health”, noting that “Every worker has the right to be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke”.

The conclusions, of course, were not unexpected. The report was intended to convince politicians and policymakers in individual states in the European Union to commit to comprehensive smoking bans and other smoke free policies. And, the EU report was indeed used to justify the smoking bans recently imposed throughout Europe, including the ban implemented in France.

For years, anti-smoker zealots have used the “threat” of secondhand smoke to support the need for smoking bans in the workplace, including restaurants and bars.

Mortality statistics, deaths allegedly due to secondhand smoke, are frequently quoted in anti-smoker propaganda released through the main stream media. As often as not, the news stories appear to be written directly from the press releases issuing forth from the fanatics in the anti-smoker movement. The extravagant, often outrageous, claims made by the zealots are seldom challenged by the media.

Robert Molimard is professor emeritus of physiology and coordinator of the DIU of Tabacologie to the Faculty of Medicine Paris-South in France. A renowned tobacco researcher (tabacologist), Molimard took note of some discrepancies in the report which highlighted the number of deaths in France attributed to passive smoking.

Of particular concern to Professor Molimard were two tables presented in “Lifting the smokescreen”. The first asserted that there was a total of exactly 5,863 deaths allegedly due to secondhand smoke exposure in France in 2002. (identified as Table 6 in the report)

That's the figure most often used by anti-smoker zealots and their allies in the media, often rounded off to 5,000 or 6,000 passive smoking deaths. And, the inference is that these passive smoking deaths are among those who have never smoked.

However, Professor Molimard was quick to see the subterfuge; that the majority of those deaths occurred among smokers. “But what do we see when we revisit this study? We see that these 5,863 deaths include a majority of smokers!” he maintained in one interview. Uh-huh. Smokers are killing themselves with their own secondhand smoke, apparently after first having killed themselves by smoking. Or, perhaps they were killed by smoking after having already being killed by secondhand smoke.

At any rate, it's this frightening distortion of reality which clearly demonstrates the extent of the deceit perpetrated by the extremists.

This grossly inflated statistic points out another deception of the zealots. Looking at the chart we can see that, of those 5,863 deaths, it's apparent that only 314 of the alleged deaths occurred in the workplace, and only 25 in the hospitality sector.

But, there's more to the deception. Table 7 in the report estimates that deaths attributable to passive smoking among non-smokers is only 1,114, of which only 113 are allegedly due to passive smoking in the workplace. And, only six of those are ascribed to the hospitality sector.

But, the deception doesn't stop there. As noted by Professor Molimard: “And since ex-smokers represent approximately 40% of people who don’t smoke -- 48% and 52% [of non-smokers] are never smokers -- we then realize that the number of true non-smokers, who have never smoked, who will have a risk because of passive smoking in bars, hotels, restaurants, discotheques, these places where it is absolutely imperative to stop smoking because of the risks to the staff -- estimated using a scoop as a measuring tool -- is 2. ” Uh-huh.

So, the passive smoking deaths, as estimated in the EU report, included both smokers and former smokers. In addition, the vast majority, 5,574 of the 5,863 deaths allegedly due to secondhand smoke in the workplace, occurred not in the workplace, but from exposure in the home environment. Incredibly, only six were attributed in the hospitality sector. And, rough calculations by Professor Molimard suggest that fewer than half of those were never smokers.

France is a country of roughly 62 million people, with a smoking prevalence rate of between 21% to 27%, depending on who's quoting the figures. Yet, the anti-smoker zealots managed to convince their politicians that extremely restrictive anti-smoker legislation, which focused primarily on bars and restaurants, was needed to protect workers in the hospitality industry from secondhand smoke.

It's difficult to determine who is most at fault, the anti-smoker zealots who manufacture these fraudulent statistics to support their utopian goal of a smoker free society, or the brain dead politicians who blindly accept them without question.

And, the misrepresentation is not limited to France or the European Union.

It is a scenario being played out throughout the developed world. The economic costs, the loss in revenues experienced by restaurants, night clubs, bars, etc., occasioned by smoking bans, is ignored. The loss of jobs in the hospitality industry is ignored. The stigmatization of smokers, their social exclusion, and the blatant discrimination directed at them, is routinely ignored.

In France Professor Molimard, an anti-smoking advocate, is publicly trying to bring the deception to an end. But, as he notes in his interview: “My chances of success are very limited. “

And, he has a point - as long as the lies and deceit of the anti-smoker zealots go unchallenged in the main stream media, whether it's in France, the US, Canada, Great Britain or elsewhere around the world.

The English version of
an interview with Professor Molimard, translated by Iro Cyr, is available on the CAGE (Canadians Against Government Encroachment) website. The charts used in this blog entry came from the CAGE blog.

There's also a a second article by Molimard, discussing the same subject matter, on the CAGE blog.
Beliefs, Manipulation and lies in the Tobacco Issue