Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hypocrisy in the Anti-Smoking Movement

In response published last Thursday to a Los Angeles Times editorial which questioned whether the Calabasas outdoors smoking ban was going too far, Action on Smoking and Health, a D.C.-based anti-smoking group, stated: "You ... ignore evidence showing that an asthmatic attack can be triggered by even a tiny amount of smoke, and the long-standing policy of protecting citizens from any unnecessary involuntary exposure to cancer-causing substances."

According to ASH: "even the small amounts of tobacco smoke hovering over a sidewalk CAN be enough to trigger an asthmatic attack in those who are particularly susceptible -– and almost 100 million Americans have chronic medical conditions which make them particularly susceptible to tobacco smoke."

Also according to ASH: "no person should be involuntarily and unnecessarily exposed to any level, however low, of known cancer-causing substances which is why the public is shielded from inhaling even minute amounts of asbestos dust as they walk by a building being renovated."

And, according to - again - ASH: "breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes (less than the time one might be exposed outdoors on a beach, sitting on a park bench, listening to a concert in a park, etc.) can raise a nonsmoker'’s risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker."

In addition, ASH has warned cities that: "In cases where drifting tobacco smoke was present and a nonsmoker suffered a heart attack, asthmatic attack, or other similar problems, the municipality which owns and operates the beach, park, playground, etc. could be liable since it was on notice of the known health dangers but failed to take the '“reasonable'” step of banning smoking as taken by many other outdoor areas."

And, to make sure there is no misunderstanding about this, ASH also emphasizes that "people have a right not to be involuntarily exposed to known carcinogenic substances, even if only to small amounts and for brief periods."

Moreover, if the health effects of even minute amounts of secondhand smoke were not enough: "Discarded cigarette butts may also be harmful to birds and other wildlife which nibble on or even swallow them, especially on a beach or park, but also even on a public sidewalk."

And, for those who aren't particularly concerned about the health damages suffered by pigeons: "prohibiting smoking in outdoor places frequented by the public -– like parks, playgrounds, beaches, etc. - shields young children from seeing smoking as a common adult behavior to be emulated, even if some may observe smoking by the parents and other adults in private homes."

The Rest of the Story

Despite all of these admonitions about the extreme dangers to humans - adults and especially children - and pigeons of even tiny levels of exposure to secondhand smoke and despite ASH's contention that no person should be unnecessarily exposed to ANY amount of secondhand smoke for ANY amount of time, ASH supported and has boasted about the great sense of a smoking law that....

.... allows smoking in outdoors designated smoking areas at crowded shopping malls, with tons of youths running around.

Not only did ASH support the Calabasas ordinance, which did just that, but it also ignored or dismissed the existence of this "loophole" in the law, which is most certainly going to result in more than minute levels of exposure to secondhand smoke among visitors to the Calabasas Commons - which is itself an open-air shopping complex - and other Calabasas shopping malls.

According to ASH's own arguments, we can now expect people to be dropping dead of heart attacks at the Calabasas Commons, since the smoke emanating from the smoking outposts at this mall, heavily frequented by young people, is apparently going to increase the risk of heart attacks among its visitors to that of smokers.

In fact, it would probably be wise for the city to build an emergency medical facility right next to the smoking outpost, since according to ASH, we can expect there to be numerous asthma attacks and heart attacks triggered by exposure to the secondhand smoke in this crowded place, with swarms of nonsmokers all over the place.

If we believe ASH's rhetoric, people are going to be dropping like flies at the Calabasas Commons. If I were a opportunistic mortician, I might see if there is any available space for lease right at the Commons. Wouldn't it be nice for the families of the affected heart attack victims to be able to do "one-stop shopping?"

This level of hypocrisy is just too much to take. So I decided that I'm not going to take it any more. Instead, I'm going to reward it!

Each month, I will offer my anti-smoking hypocrisy awards of the month. You can check out the first series of awards here. Unfortunately, there is heavy competition out there, and I'm going to have to make some very difficult choices. But I'll save you some suspense: ASH is right at the top of the list.

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