The article we published recently, Smoking Bans Reduce Heart Attacks: Lying By Omission, was posted for discussion on LinkedIn. Since the discussion and comments are only viewable to members of the Cornell network, we cannot address any issues which are being raised directly on LinkedIn.
A member of the network forwarded some of the comments to us and we will address them here. Please take a moment to register and comment on our site if you would like to join in the discussion. We are willing to answer your questions but we have to know the questions exist in the first place.
Since a few commenters made multiple points and because there is overlap on some of the issues raised, we will first post the comments in full and then address the individual points.
But, just because A is bogus, doesn’t mean B is false. Matter of fact it is easier to get bogus A’s accepted when B is true.
Please be careful about charging fraud in the discussion of the health effects of tobacco ingestion (smoke, chew, etc.) when the obscene fraud practiced by the tobacco companies and their allied state representatives has been well documented.
I don’t even know where to start with this comment, but let me start by saying I live in Texas, a state well known for folks with fundamentalist agenda’s lying to the public about science to get laws passed, albeit in quite a different manner than you might be thinking. That said, Mark makes an excellent point that notwithstanding the possible misinterpretation of allegedly bogus science (where the general scientific consensus is fairly consistent in favor of anti-smoking activists, however), there is still an extremely strong case in favor of indoor smoking bans on just the yuck factor, amongst other reasons.
And it is interesting that the 3 Monkeys also repeat the mantra about the alleged economic catastrophe that would occur with indoor smoking bans, which has repeatedly been show to be bogus (including in several places here in Texas!).
And Steve, firefighters are never in favor of things that actually start fires. I wold rather take my training and sit on my rear in the fire station than make a fire – fires are tragedies in terms of both potential for lives lost AND for the loss of personal history and memories when it is damaged by smoke, water and fire.
Gas stoves are relatively contained flames and there are codes which govern the installation of such objects – only in commercial occupancies are there rules requiring fire suppression systems. These codes are promulgated for fire prevention reasons and supported by the fire service through the NFPA and other organizations.
Re: fires started by cigarettes – the problem with a fire is that you don’t always know what caused the fire before you put it out – often you don’t know what started it. They get put out, then we determine cause. But there would probably be little decrease in the number of firefighters required because staffing and deployment patterns are governed by time and distance more than by actual numbers of events. Plus, most fire departments now are actually EMS delivery system that provide fire suppression as an ancillary service, so decreases in numbers would impact those services more than the fire suppression services.
And no doubt fires caused by cigarettes are acts of stupidity (or drunkenness, actually, but that may be the same thing).
Here is a distillation of the points raised above, and the answers:
- Tobacco smoking is a major cause of house fires and indoor smoking even at home should be banned.
Factually incorrect. According to the CDC and the NFPA, cooking fires are the number one cause (40%) of house fires. However, it is worth noting that although under 12% of fires (4% of fires originate in the living room, family room, or den; 8% in the bedroom) can be attributed to smoking, it is responsible for more (25%) of the fatalities.
It seems likely that many of the people who were involved in fatal fires with smoking as a cause were impaired by alcohol at the time. By logical extension, we should advocate a ban on drinking alcohol at home. We are sure an intrepid researcher can unearth a strong connection between drinking at home and all sorts of preventable physical and property damage.
We pay for the fire department through taxes and we are required by law to have fire insurance. On on unrelated note, health insurance should be like fire insurance – covering catastrophes, not routine medical expenses.
- Big Tobacco lied about the extent of the dangers associated with their products, therefore claiming that there is fraud involved in research supporting indoor smoking bans is probably a lie supported by Big Tobacco.
Even if Big Tobacco were directly funding research showing how data is being manipulated to support indoor smoking bans, it in no way changes the fact that data is being manipulated. Aside from the lack of direct funding from Big Tobacco, those sources arguing for an examination of the underlying research have been proven right by the original research.
The primary justification for curtailing the freedom of businesses to choose to allow their customers to smoke indoors and for customers to choose to support such businesses is based on the health risks posed to the employees by the secondhand smoke. According to the Surgeon General’s report the actual correlation between secondhand smoke (aka ETS, Environmental Tobacco Smoke) and things like cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and arrhythmic heart failure or coronary arrest mortality is low enough to be attributable to statistical noise.
Here’s a bit of perspective: the highest risk ratio is for cardiovascular disease, at 1.25. The risk ratio of dying from a traffic accident (for women) on Friday the 13th is 1.38 according to research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Therefore it is safe to bet that traffic will be light on November 13th, 2009 because all our female readers will have opted to take the bus or train to work instead.
- Many people simply find tobacco “yucky” and therefore it should be banned anywhere it may come into contact with others. Also, smoking is really bad for you.
Smoking tobacco is bad for you and there is no great controversy in saying so. However, it is not the issue we are dealing with here. To reiterate: the issue is that the science shows no ill effects from secondhand smoke, therefore the justification for banning smoking indoors in the name of protecting employees is nonexistent.
The “yucky” argument is flat out childish and sophomoric. Try to defend against it when used as an argument against something you like, which other people abhor.
- People making out on TV is “yucky” and against my religious values, therefore it should be banned from being broadcast.
There is no law forcing anyone to own a television, watch particular shows, or derive spiritual sustenance from it. Turn it off, change the channel, or don’t buy a TV in the first place since broadcasters are providing their audience with what they want. You can affect change by not being part of the audience.
- Small dog breeds are ankle biting terrorists and should be banned. They are a menace to everyone with ankles, and creating something called a “dog” which can get its butt whooped by a 10 lb. house cat is an affront to the basic dignity afforded to every living creature.
No law forces anyone to buy a small dog or hang out at the dog park. In the rare instance you are bitten by one, call the police and file a report.
Now we would like you to imagine that an individual with such a view was in a position of power – say as mayor of Big Major City – and used some shady statistics to justify banning certain breeds of small dogs. Due to the importance of Big Major City, many other cities followed suit and banned those breeds as well. Then a report is issued citing selected cities in which banning those small dogs improved quality of life. In fact, the report is so positive that the mayor of Big Major City and others begin pushing to expand on the success of the original ban by extending it to include all dogs.
All that, because some nutter thinks dogs are “yucky”.
- The reports indicating an economic decline after smoking bans were put into effect are false and misleading.
We came across research which clearly showed an economic decline as a result of indoor smoking bans. To argue otherwise you must show a flaw in the research or provide some other source of data to back up that claim.
Absent a smoking ban, how can someone who finds secondhand smoke “yucky” go about creating change? By choosing with whom you do business. Whether it is a restaurant, bar, or bowling alley, by choosing to direct your business to places with a smoke free environment your actions are causing them to be more successful and thereby encouraging more of that type of business.
The fact that many nightlife places were environments which encouraged smoking shows that the majority of people voted with their hard earned money to keep those places thriving. It means that many of the people who participated in nightlife either liked having a cigarette with their drink or did not mind that others did. To argue that bars and clubs did not suffer economically after smoking bans were put into effect is to ignore the huge support they were receiving from locals and to ignore that people respond to incentives. Furthermore, if only a small percentage of nightlife participants are non-smokers and/or cannot tolerate secondhand smoke, where are all the extra people coming from to replace the smokers who choose to stay at home?
Freedom is what is at stake here. Smoking is dangerous and bad for you, but so are many other things. The indoor smoking bans in effect are the result of the minority imposing their views and beliefs on the majority by lying. The economics show that the majority of the public impacted by ban were against it.
Exit question: If the indoor smoking ban cannot be justified based on science, are supporters of the ban essentially guilty of “we’re just trying to do what’s best for you” paternalism? If that is true, what can citizens do to prevent something like this from happening in the future?