Smoking Outside: GA Cobb County

Georgia Cobb County Update…

Cobb park smoking ban would infringe on rights

February 28, 2012
By Pete Borden

“Do you know to boil a frog?” A fellow actor asked that of me a few months ago. I admitted that I had not given the matter a lot of thought. He said, “Well, you obviously can’t just drop him into a pan of hot water. He would recognize the danger and hop out. So, you put him in a pan of room-temperature water. He will find it nice and comfortable. Then you, very slowly, so the change is almost imperceptible, keep increasing the heat under the pan. By the time he realizes what has happened, it is too late He is boiled.”

Then he said, very matter-of-factly, “That is exactly the tactic the government is using to take away our rights and freedoms. A little at a time is taken and by the time we wake up, to what is happening, it will be too late. ‘1984’ will be here and Big Brother will be watching.”

The move to ban smoking in Cobb County parks is a move toward reducing the rights of a segment of our population. It is demagoguery short and sweet, using scientific evidence of one kind and redirecting it to another arena.

I am an ex-smoker, very strongly opposed to smoking and a vocal advocate of quitting. I know, first hand, the health costs of living with the “devil weed,” having smoked for the better part of 50 years, beginning in my early teens and quitting 13 years ago next month.

On the other hand, I am also a strong opponent of big government. When acting to restrict our freedoms, or deny us a right, government has a responsibility to show just cause. Instead, in this case, they are relying on propaganda induced prejudice and public gullibility.

The adverse effects of second-hand smoke in closed quarters on a continual basis cannot be denied. Yet little credible research has been done to prove that random, short-term exposure in an uncontrolled outdoor environment is substantially harmful. After reading half a dozen research documents, it became evident that the research has been confined to environs such as sidewalk cafes, sporting events and outdoor concerts, where people are in close proximity to each other. Such research is irrelevant to the subject at hand.

I could find no critical examination of areas such as parks, hiking trails, picnic areas, etc. In fact, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston School of Public Health, and an outspoken critic of second hand smoke, stated “There is no evidence that fleeting second-hand exposure in an open space is significantly harmful.”

The best conclusion in the documents I read was that standing within two feet of a smoker for an hour, while he smokes two cigarettes you will inhale a significant amount of harmful air. However, once you increase the distance between you, or the duration of exposure, the severity diminishes.

Automobile emission is known to be a dangerous pollutant, the sustained and prolonged breathing of which can cause serious respiratory damage. So, at the same time we ban cigarette smoking in our public parks, should we not, also, ban automobiles?

A 2003 study by scientists from Rice University found that microscopic bits of polyunsaturated fatty acids released into the atmosphere from cooking meat on backyard barbecues were helping to pollute the air. The smoke from burning charcoal or wood can irritate and increase respiratory problems. Canada considers charcoal a hazardous substance, and charcoal bags must carry a warning label, similar to that the U. S. requires on cigarette packages. Maybe then, we should ban fires in Cobb County parks, along with smoking and automobiles.

Much of the support I have seen for this ban is based, not so much on the health factor, as the personal prejudice factor. Many people consider smoking a filthy, disgusting practice while others find smokers socially irritating.

If the decision to ban smoking is based, in any way, on the “irritant” factor, then there are any number of other things we should consider banning. A partial list might include uncontrolled children, dogs, music devices, strong perfumes, abbreviated clothing, loud talking, etc.

If this sounds ridiculous, it is no more so than the idea of legislating a sector of the people out of a right, based on flimsy, poorly researched science. If you want support, show us the science to justify it.

Cobb County has a lot of problems which need to be addressed. We do not need to waste any more time on this non-issue.

Pete Borden is a masonry contractor in east Cobb.

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