Sunday, July 17, 2005

Smoking Ban of Meeker County, Minnesota

On July 12th, Meeker County became the fifth county in Minnesota to enact a prohibition on smoking in bars and restaurants, effective October 1. It’s another example of individual rights being trampled by politicians and highly vocal do-gooders determined to dictate how everyone else should live. Their good intentions are deemed superior to facts, science, reality—and liberty. If it’s necessary to fudge the truth, fake the science, ignore reality and deny individual rights, so be it.

The nation’s first experience with "prohibition" was for alcoholic beverages. The government decided it had to protect people for their own good. Everyone knew that drinking alcohol could result in health problems. It was argued that any amount of alcohol was bad for you and should be prohibited. Medical science has since documented the role of alcohol in heart disease, stroke and several other diseases. But what wasn’t known during the Prohibition Era—but has since been proven by numerous research studies—is that small amounts of alcohol (1 or 2 drinks a day) are actually good for you. They help prevent the very same diseases for which larger amounts of alcohol are implicated.

Now, there is no question smoking can cause lung cancer—I have never been a smoker and don’t recommend it—but secondhand smoke is another matter. It is 100,000 times more dilute than the smoke from which it is derived. And, just as with alcohol, it has been shown that small amounts of this smoke are not only harmless but actually beneficial. They provide a protective effect against the same diseases for which smoking is implicated.

People are surprised to learn that the huge volume of research studies on secondhand smoke (environmental tobacco smoke—ETS) does not support claims that it is a health hazard. Just the opposite. The independent health research firm of Littlewood and Fennell surveyed all available studies and reported to the National Toxicology Program’s Board of Scientific Counselors on Carcinogens that the overwhelming majority (over 75 percent) of these studies showed no association between secondhand smoke and lung cancer and the remainder showed very weak associations and substantial problems with unacceptable methodology, misrepresentation of risk, and other problems. An international symposium on ETS at a Canadian University included 29 epidemiologists from all over the world and concluded that the “weak and inconsistent associations seen in the epidemiological studies of ETS [plus other doubtful factor] all indicate that these data do not support a judgment of a causal relationship between exposure to ETS and lung cancer.” Studies by the World Health Organization came to similar conclusions.

Interestingly, some of the studies vindicating ETS were done by organizations determined to prove it was a health hazard. When the results showed the opposite, the studies were hushed up. This was the case with at least three studies done by the American Cancer Society. Ditto a very important study by the prestigious Dr. Melvin W. First, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science and Engineering at Harvard University, which was sponsored by the Massachusetts Lung Association and it Affiliates. This was a particularly important study because it was done in 1975 when smoking was much more prevalent and there were no non-smoking sections in bars and restaurants. But when it was unable to show any danger from ETS, the Mass. Lung Association “put our report in a drawer” and shut up about it, wrote Prof. First in 2003.

During the Prohibition Era, nobody knew that small amounts of alcohol were harmless or even beneficial. The Meeker County Commissioners cannot have the same excuse regarding secondhand smoke, because my testimony at their public hearing alerted them to scientific information they chose to ignore. (See my complete testimony.) Their decision to enact a smoking ban is one of “willful ignorance”—a refusal to face facts. They hid behind a deliberately deceitful claim of protecting people from a nonexistent “health hazard” in order to trample human liberty and run other people’s lives. The issue of whether to allow smoking in bars and restaurants should be a simple matter of property rights: the individuals owning bars and restaurants should determine whether they wish to allow smoking or not on their property, and individuals should decide for themselves whether to eat or drink there. The government shouldn’t have gotten involved at all—except to defend those individual rights.


Unknown said...

The good folks in Meeker County saw through your pro-smoke sham, Eddie. You're just Phillip Morris in Libertarian clothing.

For another view on Meeker County, please visit our blog:

Bob Moffitt
Communication Director
American Lung Association of Minnesota

Anonymous said...

Now there’s a really intelligent, scientific rebuttal! It contains not one word refuting any of the many research studies or scientific facts cited in my testimony at Meeker County or in my blog. Nor does it cite even a single piece of contrary evidence. Thus your claim that my message is a “sham” is a wild, unsubstantiated and irresponsible statement. And what do you do when you can’t refute the message? You attack the messenger—even resort to name calling (“Phillip Morris”). That shows not only the low level of your tactics and the emptiness of your own case, but also your lack of basic honesty since you know I have no connection with tobacco. I have clearly stated that I have never smoked, do not recommend smoking, and have never received a penny from the tobacco industry or ever owned any stock in a tobacco company. In the absence of even one iota of evidence to the contrary, your attempt to tie me to tobacco is a cheap and totally dishonest smear tactic that no person—or organization—of any integrity would stoop to. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. But perhaps we should expect no better from the American Lung Association. After all, it has made many dishonest statements regarding ETS, because its entire position on ETS rests on falsity. In their 68-page report to the National Toxicology Program’s Board of Scientific Counselor on Carcinogens, the independent health consultants Littlewood & Fennell noted that the campaign against secondhand smoke is largely the result of “avowed anti-smoking advocates determined to somehow prove that ETS is a human carcinogen in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the American Lung Association and its position.

Though it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned, I am allowing your website to remain listed above, at least for now. That way readers can see it contains no additional information on Meeker County and that you are misleading them on this. They can also see that your site is distinctly lacking in research evidence and scientific facts and compare the scientific emptiness of your website to the evidence I’ve set forth in my Meeker County testimony and blog.

Anonymous said...

An unsubstantiated personal attack from the communications director of a lung association. For no better reason than he disagrees but has no argument to prove his point.

Should such a bigot be entitled to talk on behalf of a health organisation?


Anonymous said...

You posted: "It’s another example of individual rights being trampled by politicians and highly vocal do-gooders determined to dictate how everyone else should live. Their good intentions are deemed superior to facts, science, reality—and liberty. If it’s necessary to fudge the truth, fake the science, ignore reality and deny individual rights, so be it".

This also applies to Meeker County's stance that AA/NA must be joined and participated in by anyone who gets a DUI/DWI. The First Amendment's Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause are BOTH being violated because mandatory AA/NA is equivolent to forcing religion on offenders without regard to their beliefs. This has been challenged and EVERY American court that has ruled on the issue of cumpulsory AA/NA attendance has ruled that AA is a religion and engages in "religious activities" as defined in Constitutional law. Every one of the Rehabilitation Treatment facilities Meeker County Court and Probation Services recommends is based on AA's Twelve Step Program. This mandatory provision is unconstitution and forces people who join this group to say and do things that may go against their PERSONAL beliefs. Before you argue, use the search engine and read the FACTS about AA and it's originators. Then decide if you would want you or a loved one to have this forced on them. I do NOT condone drinking and driving nor do I condone any drug use period but I feel just as strongly about forcing religion on someone who makes the mistake of getting caught doing so in Meeker County. This will be challenged in court legally very soon and perhaps that is what it will take to get Meeker County to offer non religious rehabilitation to those who offend the DUI law. The time has come to challenge the unconstitutional power of Meeker County Court and Probation when it comes to mandatory AA/NA which, in my opinion, are nothing less than cults that could proudly stand beside Jim Jones in the book of history.