Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 Anti-Smoking Agenda Revealed: Ban Smoking in Private Homes

It's now official. The days of disguising or hiding the ultimate objective of the anti-smoking agenda are now gone. The goal, which has now been acknowledged by a prominent national anti-smoking group, is to ban all public smoking and all private smoking in the presence of nonsmokers, even in private homes.

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, the national anti-smoking groups ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) now publicly supports banning smoking in the private home when children are present.

According to the article: "Attorney John Banzhaf, director of Action on Smoking and Health, one of the nation's leading anti-smoking law groups, said California should and probably will prohibit parents in coming years from smoking in homes when kids are present. ... 'Smoking, like other activities, should be confined to consenting adults in private,' Banzhaf said."

In the article, California state Senator Jenny Oropeza - the sponsor of legislation which went into effect on January 1 which bans smoking in cars with children - contested ASH's suggestion that smoking should also be banned in homes when children are present: "'This is America, for goodness sake,' she said. 'I'm not into prohibition.'"

The Rest of the Story

The anti-smoking movement really is going too far. This story confirms that my sentiment about the increasingly fanatical agenda of anti-smoking groups - which I have expressed in the pages of the Rest of the Story over the past months - was not exaggerated or overblown. Action on Smoking and Health appears to actually believe that the government should intervene in the private home and should prohibit parents from smoking in their own homes if children are present.

It also appears that ASH is supportive of banning all public smoking, regardless of whether or not there is substantial secondhand smoke exposure which would pose a significant public health risk. Like public nudity or public drinking, public smoking should also be banned. Not because it represents a serious health threat in all cases, but because - apparently - it is, like public nudity and public drinking, a violation of public morals and public decency.

Smoking is now something that should only be done in private among consenting adults.

So much for my ability to continue to argue that the smoke-free agenda is justified based on the seriousness of the public health threat posed and by an appropriate balancing of the need to protect the public and the rights of individuals to control their own behavior in their own homes and to make their own decisions regarding risks to which they expose their own children.

The anti-smoking movement is proving its critics to be correct all along. Workplace smoking bans were apparently simply a prelude to the ultimate goal of banning all smoking in public. The workplace apparently was simply a prelude to the ultimate goal of banning smoking in private homes.

The movement has now given tobacco control critics the ability to say: "I told you so."

Before anyone criticizes me for exaggerating the importance of this story based on the fact that it is only one organization that is making this statement, let me make two important points.

First, ASH is not just some fly-by-night operation. It is truly a very prominent national organization that has been at the forefront of the tobacco control movement for decades. The fact that ASH has publicly taken this position is extremely important and cannot be overemphasized.

Second, even if ASH's views do not represent the views of most anti-smoking groups, that doesn't matter at all if those other groups do not come out and publicly reject ASH's agenda. Since ASH has now spoken, its agenda has become the de-facto national anti-smoking agenda. It will remain so until and unless other anti-smoking groups come out and publicly reject it.

I doubt that will happen because, as I have learned, the anti-smoking movement is a McCarthyistic movement where groupthink dominates, dissent is not allowed, and no groups have the courage to publicly challenge other groups and risk being viewed as "traitors" to the cause.

It is all black and white in this movement. If you oppose a tobacco control policy, you will be painted as anti-anti-tobacco. You will be framed as being an enemy of tobacco control. You might as well apply for a job at a tobacco company. You'll be accused of working for the industry anyway. Why not at least reap some financial benefit from it?

Before closing, it is interesting to note that Senator Oropeza vehemently argues against government intervention into the private home to protect kids from secondhand smoke exposure, yet she is perfectly comfortable intervening into private cars to protect kids from a far less important source of tobacco smoke exposure.

This position is blatantly inconsistent. I just don't see the difference between intervening in a private car and in a private home. If the legislature is justified in telling parents that they cannot expose their kids to a small increase in health risk in their own cars, then why can't the legislature tell those same parents that they can't expose their kids to an even greater increase in health risk in their homes? It just doesn't follow. It just doesn't make sense.

As Jacob Sullum suggests, the real issue here appears to be that the supporters of car smoking bans are not ultimately concerned about the health effects of secondhand smoke exposure. What they are really troubled by is the thought of seeing parents smoking in a car with children present. As long as the parents restrict their smoking to the home, and out of the sight of car smoking ban proponents, then there is no problem. Even though the health effects of that behavior are far more serious a public health threat than those of smoking in a car.

For a detailed listing of commentaries related to the anti-smoking movement going too far, please see this web page at the web site of the Center for Public Accountability in Tobacco Control.

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