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Clearing the Air

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Clearing the Air: Another View

In the debate over government mandated smoking bans in Philadelphia there is a side of the argument that has not been given proper hearing and has even been consciously suppressed. Antismokers know that arguing the murky "science" surrounding the risks of secondary smoke in public places is difficult. Emotional sound bites do not stand up well to detailed scrutiny so such debate is diligently avoided.

Citizens questioning the scientific bases of the Antismoking side at this summer's City Council hearings were relegated to slots of two minutes each at the day's end after having sat through hours of Antismoking testimony, largely from paid lobbyists. Those testifying against a ban were sloughed off as simply being "mouthpieces for the tobacco industry"!

This tactic has become the standard response of the Antismoking lobby whenever anyone dares question their arguments. Even The Inquirer fell into this trap of ad hominum argument in its editorial "Clearing the Air": The Hospitality Alliance was characterized as a "murky group" that had a "meeting" with someone from a tobacco company last May.

Despite my two-minute limitation, I offered well-supported testimony criticizing the Council Committee's Antismoking position. However follow-up letters, emails, and phone calls to Council and the Health Department were almost universally ignored: my sort of input was not wanted. The committee formed a task force of six Antismoking advocates and five restaurateurs to ensure the "right" decision would be reached. No voice critical of the science of the Antismoking position was allowed: the task force stipulated that the "threat" of tobacco smoke in non-smoking sections was an absolute given. The only question allowed was how best to eliminate that "threat".

On November 1st the preordained conclusion was handed down: the six Antismoking advocates voted for a nearly universal, government mandated ban while the five restaurateurs totally opposed such a ban.

Thus the pressure from the powerful, well-financed Antismoking advocacy groups may well prevail. The tactic of parading gas-masked toddlers and ex-smokers with cancer in front of TV cameras is effective: City Council members will fear appearing as poisoners of innocent children and puppets of "the industry of death." They'll likely vote for a smoking ban that may well destroy the livelihoods of many Philadelphians while providing questionable benefit.

How can the benefit be called questionable? If one actually examines the secondary smoke studies it becomes clear that their results are by NO means "universal and incontrovertible". In reality, only a few studies have shown consistent significant relations between even long-term daily exposures to high levels of secondary smoke and diseases such as lung cancer. Some have even indicated opposite findings altogether! No studies to date show ANY long-term threat from the low levels of exposure prevalent in standard non-smoking sections.

Why then the push for total smoking bans? The answer is simple: Antismokers see such bans as essential in the war against smoking. Using the tools of social engineering to make smoking socially unacceptable is believed fully defensible in battling the Evil Empire of the tobacco industry. The casualties along the way, the smokers segregated outside in the cold, the massive increase in teen heroin users who've been told repeatedly that heroin is safer than tobacco, the fires caused when smokers unsafely resort to sneaking smokes, the plane crashes due to unnecessary "forced landings" simply because someone smokes, and the misdirection of health research money to billboards portraying smokers as dirty, criminal, impotent child abusers are all justified in achieving the "greater good" of a smoke-free world.

The ultimate casualty, our freedom not just to smoke, but also to do many things in our lives that others disapprove of or claim to be socially harmful, is unfortunately not far behind. Modern visual and computer media lend themselves to mass behavior control in ways far beyond the dreams of Orwell or Stalin. And make no mistake: it's the little actions, such things as votes by City Councils, which will pave the way for such a world.

(The author is a writer and social activist living in West Philadelphia)

Michael J. McFadden
4424 Ludlow St.
Philadelphia PA 19104


Councilman Nutter & The Inquirer Are LYING To You !

1) They say the EPA concluded that levels of secondary smoke such as might normally be found in non-smoking sections cause cancer. The reality is that the EPA never even LOOKED at such low levels of exposure, and even their meta-analysis looking at far higher levels of decades of steady exposures was thrown out over two years ago by the same judge who ruled AGAINST tobacco companies in the FDA case!

2) They say studies show the ban won't hurt business. The reality is that those studies were designed specifically to give such results: they ignore such things as large degrees of noncompliance in the areas sampled.

3) They say that "tornado like winds" would be needed to blow smoke away from non-smoking sections. The reality is that the velocity of burning molecules of smoke leaving the end of a cigarette is almost immediately diffused by collisions with other molecules within millionths of an inch and even a mild movement of air moves it toward exhaust vents.

4) They say that "10 years after California enacted its groundbreaking antismoking laws, state lung cancer rates dropped 14 percent." The reality is that the actual "groundbreaking antismoking laws", the laws banning smoking in bars and adding 50 cents a pack punishment tax on smokers, only happened in the last three years… having NOTHING to do with lung cancer rates that have a 20 - 30 year time lag. The REAL cause of the decrease is a combination of 1970s air pollution/emission laws and the changing population due to Mexican immigration.

5) They say there's "a strong societal consensus in favor of" bans like this one. The reality is that such "strong societal consensus" is simply in favor of providing decently ventilated normal non-smoking areas. There is NO consensus for government mandates forcing ALL private businesses to ban smoking or install biohazard style airlock chambers.

6) They say "Restaurants could, for instance, have a separate bar where people could smoke . . . so long as a floor-to-ceiling wall separated it from dining areas." The reality is that the ban mandates extreme exhaust/ventilation requirements that would cost businesses tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement. The real goal, in practical terms, is simply to see smoking banned in bar/restaurants for now, and in ALL bars several years from now (In NY they are calling this "closing the loopholes")

7) They say that nonsmokers are being "poisoned" by smokers in restaurants. The reality is that the chemical levels of ANY normal element of tobacco smoke in standard nonsmoking areas never even APPROACH levels that the EPA or OSHA have defined as even beginning to be unsafe.