June 29-July 5, 2006
SlantPuff, Puff, Bash
The smoking ban is based on an agenda of lies.
Psst! Hey kid! Come over here and jump off this bridge! All the cool kids've done it 'n you're the only one left! It won't hurt, it'll be fun. Anyhow, if ya don't do it, I'm gonna come back 'n bugya, 'n bugya, 'n bugya forever till ya do.
Don't worry though, they'll come back to clean up those scraps once the rest of the rowdies have been pacified and you're all alone. Meanwhile, just shut up and don't make waves!
If the smoking ban was actually based upon a concern for the health of the workers, if the studies supporting it were actually carried out and cited honestly, I would not complain. I might be unhappy, but I wouldn't complain.
So why do I complain? Simply because the above conditions don't hold true. Most of the studies cited at the City Council hearings were paid for by anti-smoking-earmarked funds: studies guaranteed to turn out results that ensure the researchers' future grant streams. In those rare cases where a study's results did not support the predetermined agenda, they were simply reinterpreted and massaged so it would appear they did support a ban.
Am I exaggerating? Not at all.
One of the flagship studies used to promote the smoking ban involved Helena, Mont. "The Great Helena Heart Miracle" made headlines and newscasts around the world trumpeting the news that protecting nonsmokers from smoke brought about an immediate drastic decrease in heart attacks and that removing that protection resulted in an immediate "bounce back" to the old higher rates of coronary episodes. In reality, the study itself made no analysis of nonsmokers, and the main "bounce back" actually occurred during, not after, the ban. Unfortunately, these observations received virtually no media coverage; they are known only to those who bother digging through the dusty cyberpages of the online British Medical Journal. The "miracle" was more fraudulent than miraculous, but it's universally used as proof of the urgent need for smoking bans.
Of course, Helena is just one study, and they've got thousands that support the need for smoking bans, don't they? No. Helena and a few others are their best and their brightest but are all similarly and deeply flawed. And they are all repeatedly paraded before legislators who rarely have the knowledge, conviction or inclination to question them.
Would you raise the question if you were in their place? Would you do so knowing you'd be accused of being a "Big Tobacco Mouthpiece" and realizing you'd be standing alone in mean-spirited opposition to the phalanx of innocent and pink-lunged children with whom Councilman Michael Nutter packed the balcony? And would you do so aware that you'd be sharing the TV screen with dozens of fresh-faced idealistic little girls wearing signs proclaiming the dread diseases you're condemning them to? What politician in their right mind would have the courage to stand up for truth when confronted with such opposition? Unfortunately, very few.
Last week, Lady Elaine Murphy of the British House of Lords chided me in an e-mail, saying that I had "completely missed the point" about the English smoking ban in talking to her about the science. She wrote that "the aim is to reduce the public acceptability of smoking and the culture which surrounds it." Now, that's quite different than the public posturings about "saving the health of the workers" and the images of oppressed teenaged waitresses being slaughtered by deadly toxins as they work their way through school. And, it's quite different than the cheap shows of pleading children in front of City Council's TV cameras.
The smoking ban is based on lies, even if they are lies that are often truly believed by those supporting it.
Philadelphians value freedom. Philadelphia is known as the birthplace of liberty. For Philadelphia to blithely trade away pieces of that individual freedom to heavily funded lobbying groups pursuing social-engineering goals based on lies is nothing short of a crimea crime that we can only hope will be stopped by Mayor Street.
Michael J. McFadden is the author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains (Aethna Press) and the Mid-Atlantic director of The Smokers Club, Inc.