“The ‘Freedom to Breathe Act” is a bad law based on bad science and secondhand – smoke will never be as dangerous as second hand – freedom.”
Remembering when smokers weren’t demonized
Columnist Matthew Hennessey remembers when you could be a smoker and still be a good person.
By MATTHEW HENNESSEY
We are out of matches, and I need to light the grill. Rummaging around the back of the junk drawer, my fingers find an old Bic lighter, a relic from my smoking days. I hold it up to check the butane tank, and my 6-year-old son asks, “What’s that?” His ignorance stirs something.
Smoking culture, its hardware and miscellany, tactile and once so familiar, is on the verge of extinction. To my son, the mechanical masterpiece I hold, with its depressible release valve and rough-edged spark wheel, is a relic. It might as well be Amenhotep’s scarab.
My mother was a smoker. She smelled of nicotine most of the time. When she wiggled a loose tooth of mine, her finger tasted like tobacco, sweet and earthy, as she was. I had my first cigarette at 11, but before I ever tried my mother’s Now 100s, I tried her lighter. She had a high shelf for cookies, but she wasn’t particularly careful about where she left her lighter. I was fascinated by the tiny lick of flame it made, once you mastered the fine-motor skill of flicking your Bic.
My fascination ended the summer I nearly burned down the house. In an experimental mood, I’d touched the lighter to the kitchen curtain. Within seconds, it was a conflagration, bright orange flames crawling all over the blue-patterned cotton. I tried to put it out with a cup from the sink, but it had no effect. I called up the stairs. “Mom? You’d better come down. The house is on fire … but I didn’t do it.”
“I SAID, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE … BUT I DIDN’T DO IT.”
She was down in a flash. Heading straight to the sink, she yanked the metal hand sprayer. The measly arcing streams were useless. In a coolheaded and heroic act, my mother used the hose like a whip to knock the blazing curtains down from their metal rod and away from the ceiling. She aimed the spray handle with one hand while reaching back to fill a large water glass with the other. Keeping her eyes on the fire, she looked like a police officer holding a perp at bay with her gun while reaching through the windows of his getaway car to grab the keys out of the ignition.
When she gained the upper hand, smoke trailed up from the wet remains of the curtains to a black smudge on the ceiling. My mom slumped to rest against the sink, and we locked eyes. She plucked the Bic lighter from the countertop.
“What happened here? Did you do this?” My mother was not a yeller. She wanted me to confess. She felt that if I didn’t come clean, the guilt would haunt me. “Did you do it? It’s OK if you did. I just want you to tell me the truth.” I couldn’t speak.
The atmosphere was thick the rest of the day. There was cleaning to do. My mother took down some Entenmann’s doughnuts from her high shelf and put them on plates for me and my siblings. This was unusual, but it had been an unusual day. As I ate, I could feel their eyes. “I did it,” I whispered. My mother put her arm around my shoulder and drew me to her. “It’s OK,” she said. She smelled like smoke. I loved it. She was just as forgiving when my older sister and I picked up the smoking habit as teens. She wasn’t pleased — far from it — but her own guilt kept her from coming down too hard on us.
My kids get panicky when they see someone smoking. “Daddy!” they gasp, pointing, as if they’ve seen someone naked. “He’s smoking. Doesn’t he know it’s bad?” Of course he does. My mom knew, and my sister knew. I knew. You could be a smoker then and still be a good person. I gave it up when the invulnerability of youth faded and the impulse to live both long and well reared up. The only smoke I inhale now comes when the wind shifts and I’m standing on the wrong side of my charcoal grill, if I can get it lit.
Matthew Hennessey is an associate editor of Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter at @matthennessey.
A Smoker Speaks Up
November 13th, 2007
By Linda McFarland
I am a cigarette smoker. I have smoked and used legal tobacco products for thirty-seven years. Smoking is addictive. In the book Smoking the Artificial Passion, nicotine addiction is considered biphasic in nature. (34) Nicotine works as a stimulant in smaller doses, and sedates in larger doses. When a smoker experiences withdrawal two areas of the brain are screaming for nicotine, the area that responds to stimulants, and the one that responds to sedatives. During withdrawal anxiety, frustration and aggression can run high. It is impossible for a smoker experiencing these symptoms to give full attention to the task at hand. This does not create a level playing field for smokers to function and compete on when they are being forced to endure these symptoms.?
Anti- smoking advocates and many non- smokers would like to see smoking abolished. For many reasons which I do not wish to address here, those people have been unsuccessful in having nicotine declared an illegal drug. Some of the policies these people have put into motion and fought for are being adopted by local, state, and federal governments, as well as hospitals around the nation. Anti-smoking advocates and some non-smokers have raised issues such as secondhand smoke exposure in their roles as customers and employees. They have raised the issue of propriety in regards to hospitals allowing smoking on their campuses. Smoking bans have been instituted without the wishes of the voting public being taken into account. The most misused weapon anti-smoking advocates use in their fight against nicotine is the tobacco taxes.
I am going to take this opportunity to briefly address these concerns that are subcategories contained within the larger issue that smoking has become. I will show some of the unfair treatment smokers are expected to tolerate. I will also show some of the faulty thinking and blatant lies that are behind many of the changes that are taking place nationwide.
In an article by the National Cancer Institute, the following is reported: The U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the NPT, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, have classified secondhand-smoke as a human carcinogen. (Secondhand – smoke: Questions and Answers) Alcoholic beverages, wood dust, mineral oils and salted fish are also considered human carcinogens. (List of IARC Group 1 carcinogens) I do not see special interest groups spending billions of dollars trying to buy bans on these carcinogens like they do for tobacco products. Even though this contradiction is well known by smokers, we do not dispute that there is a probable increased risk of cancer for the person who smokes. Most of us do not dispute there might be adverse effects to non-smokers when they undergo prolonged exposure to heavy smoking.
Let’s start by examining the issue of smoke in the workplace, excluding bars and restaurants. Smokers were long ago exiled to enclosed structures with their own ventilation systems or as is most common, to unsheltered areas by trash dumpsters. Smokers have never liked smoking in the rain, heat, and freezing temperatures but we endured. Under these enforced guidelines non-smoking employees are never exposed to secondhand smoke. For anti-smoking advocates to raise the issue of secondhand- smoke in the workplace under these conditions is beyond absurd.
Next, let’s examine the issue of smoking being allowed in bars and restaurants. Some non-smokers have stated that they feel they should not be forced to breathe secondhand- smoke either as an employee or as a customer when they go to bars and restaurants. Judy Keller, executive director of the American Lung Association of Kansas, ignorantly compares secondhand- smoke to asbestos or food safety. (LJWorld.com Numbers)? Sue Jeffers, ex- gubernatorial candidate for the state of Minnesota and powerful proponent for smoking ban revision and repeal, had this to say in her testimony to the Senate Health committee.? “If carried to the extreme, everything could be considered a public health hazard. Public health is defined as government intervention when people are exposed to risks to which they have not consented and which pose dangers to the community at large from which individuals cannot realistically protect themselves.” She goes on to say, “Individuals can be “protected” from this broad definition of public health with a sign on the door.”??
In our country, OSHA is responsible for the health and safety of the American worker. They have established PELS (Permissible Exposure Levels) for all measurable chemicals. Sue Jeffers quotes OSHAS stated findings about secondhand-smoke in her testimony.? “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS). It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking as to exceed any individual PEL.” (Testimony) That finding certainly does not support the assertion by anti-smoking advocates, that second –hand smoke in the workplace should be classified as a public health hazard warranting government intervention.
Judy Keller and people of like mind are trying to tell business owners how they are going to run their businesses. It is not a matter of survival to be able to go into a bar or restaurant. These establishments are offered as places for entertainment and relaxation. If restaurateurs or club owners wish to allow smoking in their establishments they have the right to do so. All an individual has to do to avoid the smoke is not go in. These non-smokers are certainly not being forced to breathe someone else’s smoke. If these people feel there are not enough non-smoking places for them to be entertained, it has always been the American way to allow them to create non-smoking environments. That is the proper way to address this issue, rather than trying to infringe on someone else’s rights and freedoms.?
The same thing goes for people who want to work in restaurants and bars but don’t want the exposure to smoke. All they have to do is find employment in non-smoking establishments. If there are not enough establishments to meet their needs, perhaps these anti-smoking advocates should use some of those billions of dollars they are spending to buy smoking bans, and create some businesses and opportunities where smoking is not allowed.
I have a little piece of history for those people who favor smoking bans. “The first nation wide modern smoking ban was instituted in Nazi Germany, under the auspices of Karel Astel’s Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research, created in 1941 under direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself.” (Smoking ban- Wikipedia. History) Smoking bans have become the result of the misinformation, wrong thinking and hysteria that the U.S. public is being fed. Outdoor smoking bans have been instituted in over twenty towns in California. When you consider what OSHA had to say about secondhand smoke in enclosed places, the very idea that anyone could be so gullible or stupid as to believe that a few people smoking cigarettes in a park or at the beach will give them cancer, is unimaginable. These people want to ban others that may be clear across the park or beach from them from enjoying an occasional relaxing smoke. Then they get in their cars and drive away. The fumes expelled by their vehicles are a great deal more toxic than someone smoking.
All over the country smoking bans have cost businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. Jobs have been lost by the thousands, and local economies in the areas of bans have been adversely affected, due to the lost wages that used to go back into the community. According to FreeChicago.org, over 1,000 bars and restaurants in California that serve alcohol have permanently closed their doors in the first year of the smoking ban. (American Beverage Institute) Allen Campbell, Sr. Vice President of Colorado Coalition for Civil Rights reported these statistics. “As of the first quarter 2007 the Colorado smoking ban has imposed at least $16.8 million in economic damages on bars and taverns in the state, 6.4 percent of previous revenues, and many of our members are experiencing profit declines in the range of fifteen to forty percent.” (RSS) Sue Jeffers offers the following statistics about the end results of smoking bans to the Senate Health Committee for consideration. “NY, lost $77 million in revenues, $50 million in wages, and 3000 jobs…” (Testimony.) In another part of Sue Jeffers” testimony to the Senate Health Committee, she quotes a former business owner named Judy Thomas, from Minnesota. This quote is verbatim.
(Testimony) “I was the owner of 21st Delight. I had 32 years of food service experience.? The restaurant flourished and my bills were paid on time.? Then some group came around that thought they knew better than I, how to run my business. How wrong they were.? After losing an extreme [sic] amount of income for two months due to the smoking ban, I was granted a “permanent” exemption. My business immediately returned to normal. But two weeks later several amendments were added to the smoking ban, and again my business dropped considerably. Because I refused to give up, and because I had savings, my life insurance policy, annuities and CDs to cash in, I kept my doors open. I also quit cashing my own pay checks, and worked longer shifts as waitress, cook and dishwasher. But weeks after my “permanent”?? exemption expired, I was forced to close my doors for good.? The smoking ban has cost me $200,000.00, and I was left with nothing…(End Testimony)
The facts and statistics keep showing the same outcome over and over again through out the nation. Anti-smoking advocates and government officials are still doggedly holding to the position that there have been no adverse effects on business owners.
In Lawrence Kansas, when they disallowed smoking in all public buildings, the issue was never brought before the public for a vote. According to the Laurence City Commissioner David Schauner, due to a technicality in Kansas state law the commission is prohibited from putting the smoking issue on the ballot. Instead, it must be put there by a petition of 3,764 signatures. (L.J.World.com) I do not know if the number of signatures required is set by the number of registered voters or not. I do know that while I am waiting around for signatures on a petition, and I wait for the issue to make it to ballot, I wait for the vote, and then wait for the outcome of that vote, my rights are not being protected, and my local economy runs the risk of being decimated. This has been the case in most of the smoking bans I have examined nation wide. Government entities are arbitrarily passing laws that effect the lives and incomes of millions of people in the United States without ever allowing the voting public to have a say as to whether they want these laws. In this instance we certainly are not, “ruled by the people, for the people.”
In Wichita, Kansas, Vice Mayor Sharon Fearey voiced her concern over not being “cutting edge”. Wichita had not yet passed a smoking ban, so they could not fit in with Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, an advocacy group based in Berkeley California. (Wichita Eagle 11-12-07) This woman showed no concern for her constituents or what was right. All she showed concern over was the perception of some advocacy group out in California. This illustrates how ridiculous some of the motives are behind the decisions that are being made for us by these government entities.
Next we come to the issue of hospital campuses going smoke free. In the research I have done, it has been the general consensus that hospitals wish to be examples to the community by practicing preventative medicine and promoting healthy life styles. According to a statement posted by Wesley Hospital, in Wichita, Kansas, they are concerned about being on the “cutting edge.”? The statement acknowledges that hospitals often present people with stressful situations and their employees with long hours. (Kansas.com) They say nothing about people that have no other choice than to subject themselves to the hospital environment. Smokers long ago were banned to outdoor smoking areas at hospitals. Even the patients have had to take their smoking outside. Non-smokers rights were protected and the rights of smokers were some what respected. At least we could smoke if weren’t too incapacitated to drag ourselves outdoors. Now hospitals can hold you hostage so to speak, for days on end without allowing you to smoke.
It seems hospital boards are more concerned with appearing to be on the “cutting edge” of things rather than the humane treatment of their patients, visitors, and employees. It seems like this desire to be perceived as being on the “cutting edge” is really getting out of hand. Smokers are not even given a choice to go to a hospital that allows smoking. All the hospitals have gone smoke-free. Recently I had a disagreement with a hospital security guard that thought he had the right to do an illegal search of my purse and confiscate my cigarettes.? When I related the incident to a Wichita police officer, he told me he would have manufactured the false suspicion that I was carrying a weapon, searched my purse, and taken my cigarettes. It seems that government and law enforcement are becoming more fascist all the time. We as citizens are allowing it to happen because we are becoming less able to think for ourselves. It seems that as long as we get what we want, we don’t much care what rights we have to give up in order to get it. We are becoming more, and more short sited.
This brings me to the final issue. I am going to address the draconian taxes that are being levied on tobacco products, and the use those tax dollars are being put to. Non-smokers have put forth, countless times on the public record, that if they continue to raise taxes on cigarettes, they will force smokers to quit. By what legal definition do these people feel they have a right to force me to quit any legal activity I choose to participate in through unfair taxation? Anti-smoking advocates claim they are concerned about the health of smokers. Judy Keller, executive director of the American Lung Association of Kansas, is one of these people. When referring to the smoking issue she says economics don’t matter. According to her it is all about health. (World.com) Patrick Reynolds, executive director of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free America, said the following. “I say increase [the tobacco tax] as high as it needs to go until we have a lot less smoking…”? (CNSNEWS.COM, The Nation)
According to the figures that were supplied to me by Burgardts Liquor and Smoke Shop, 3027 E. Pawnee in Wichita, Kansas ( 316-682-2522) I pay $553.00 per year, plus city and county fees all in tobacco taxes. I then am forced to pay 7.3% sales tax on top of that. I smoke the cheapest cigarettes on the market. Can you imagine what a person must pay in taxes when they smoke a name brand cigarette?? Smokers pay a great deal more in taxes, than their non-smoking counterparts in the same tax brackets. The federal cap on the cigarette tax was 34 cents per pack. They have now proposed a $1.00 increase per pack on the federal level. We are expecting to actually pay a 55 cent increase within the next couple of months however, it could be higher. Cigarettes are not the only tobacco product being taxed at an unfair rate. Cigars will have a 6,000 % increase at the same time cigarette taxes are raised. According to Matt Purple, a CNSNEWS.com correspondent, Corona Cigars had this to say: “Unless everyone does not mind paying 53% more for their cigars, the cigar industry is facing total collapse.” (The Nation)The federal tobacco tax is being used to fund a program called S-CHIP. It is being put before the American people as government funded health insurance for children in order to gain sympathetic support. The fact of the matter is, S-Chip also serves 670,000 adults. A great majority of the adult smokers funding this program cannot afford health insurance for themselves.? Why is it their duty to take care of those 670,000 adults using S-Chip? According to CNSNEWS .com staff writer Nathan Burchfiel, Bill Phelps of Phillip Morris USA, said the following: “It is unfair to adult smokers as well as tobacco retailers, to burden the smoking population with funding S-CHIP.(Nation) When examining the proposed method of funding S-Chip, everything begins to fall apart. Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University for Public Health, said this: “It doesn’t make sense to me to permanently tie financial solvency of children’s health insurance, to the need to continually increase the number smokers.” (CNSNEWS.com The Nation)
Please note carefully what Dr. Siegel said. He said the program relies on the increase in smokers. We have been told repeatedly, the taxes are being raised in order to decrease the amount of smokers in the US. There was a study released in July of 2007, by the Heritage Foundation, which stated the following: “In just five years, Congress will need nine million new smokers to fund S- CHIP. Reauthorizing the program for 2013 to 2017 would require almost 22.4 million new smokers. (CNSNEWS.com The Nation) People who say the reason for raising the taxes on tobacco products is because of their concern for the health of smokers, are blatant liars.? I quoted Patrick Reynolds earlier using an incomplete quote. Here is what he had to say in its entirety.? “I say increase [the tobacco tax] as high as it needs to go until we have a lot less smoking and the kid’s health insurance is paid for.”(CNSNEWS.COM,The Nation) People like Reynolds are so proud of the fact that smoking has decreased due to the massive increases in the tobacco taxes, yet they are still able to squeeze the same amount of money out of the smokers that are left to fund their pet projects. Not only is this line of reasoning immoral, it is illogical. If taxes continue to climb on tobacco products people will eventually have no other choice but quit using them. The programs that rely on these taxes for their funding will collapse.
Now, I will move on to the State tobacco tax. It is being raised by 65 cents per pack. Again, we are told, we are being taxed for our own good. The higher the tax goes, the more people will quit. According to Kansas Nurse: Kansas Health Care Coalition, “The cigarette tax increases both reduced smoking levels and increases state revenues because the increased price per pack brings in more new revenue than is lost from the decrease in the amounts of packs sold.” (Kansas: Nurse) Again we see a group of people that seem to think it is moral to use unfair taxation to force other adults to do what they want them to do.? According to Kansas Nurse, the sixty- five cent increase in state tax on cigarettes would bring in $111 million dollars in state revenue. They project that the tax increase will? force 16,300 adult smokers to quit.? I do not know where the state tobacco tax money is going, but as with the federal tax, I suspect it is not going where it should go.
The smoking population in the state of Kansas has certainly not been consulted as to how much they can be taxed, or where those tax dollars are going to go. Here is something else to consider. The poor tend to take up smoking more often than people who bringing in higher incomes. According to a study released in July of 2007 by the National Center for Policy Analysis, it is suggested that behavior-related excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, are regressive-they disproportionately affect the poor, because they are simply narrowly focused consumption taxes. They drain a larger share of lower earners income, than that of higher earners.” (CNSNEWS.COM The Nation) Federal, state and local governments do not seem to care about the lives they are effecting, and the consequences they will have to face further down the road, when they get the decrease in smokers they have been clamoring for. They all have their greedy little hands out for our tax dollars, and morality, and consequences be damned. If the real issue was the health of the people who smoke, as they say it is, tax dollars gathered at a fair rate could be put to much more appropriate uses. We could fund cessation programs for smokers. We could make stop–smoking aides affordable, or free. Maybe we could fund health care for some smoke related illnesses. Perhaps, we could even build enclosed, ventilated shelters for people who do smoke, so that they could get out of the weather.
I will leave you with this thought. No matter where you fall within the smoking dispute, the following is true. When any persons or group’s rights are bypassed or denied, for any reason, it sets a precedent. Somewhere, at sometime, for some reason, you could be next. If you do not understand this concept, perhaps you will understand it the way Sue Jeffers phrased it:
(Testimony) “The ‘Freedom to Breathe Act’ is a bad law based on bad science and secondhand – smoke will never be as dangerous as second hand – freedom.”
?“Kansas Health Care coalition to benefit from cigarette tax increase,” Kansas Nurse.
“Secondhand Smoke: Questions and Answers”. USA 2007.”
National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. 26 Oct. 2007.