Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harrassment of Smokers: Kimball Physics Will Not Allow a Smoker to Enter the Facility if They Fail the Sniff Test

Employees and visitors to Kimball Physics in Wilton, New Hampshire are greeted by a receptionist who administers the "sniff test." He or she smells you and if he or she can detect the smell of tobacco smoke - indicating that you have either smoked or been exposed to secondhand, thirdhand, or fourth-hand smoke, you are not allowed to enter the facility.

The official tobacco policy at Kimball Physics reads as follows: "Please note that Kimball Physics has some unusually strict tobacco policies. The policies were voted into existence by employee co-workers; and they apply to everyone."

"First: No tobacco use is allowed inside any Kimball Physics building or motor vehicle at any time. Further, no tobacco product is to be brought into any Kimball Physics building or motor vehicle at any time."

"Second: No tobacco use is allowed anywhere outside on Kimball Physics grounds (including entry areas, parking lots, picnic areas, grassed areas, fields, and hundreds of acres of woods). No tobacco use is allowed inside any motor vehicle, irrespective of ownership, while located on Kimball Physics grounds."

"Third: No tobacco-residuals emitting person, article of clothing, or other object is allowed inside any Kimball Physics building. This restriction also applies to anyone or anything emitting characteristic tobacco odors. Anyone who has used a tobacco product within the previous two hours is automatically to be turned away, unless measures have been taken such that residuals-sensitive persons are not exposed. The determining factor, regarding allowable residuals levels and/or exposure durations, is whether anyone is either significantly bothered, or even worse, made ill."

"Fourth: The policies apply to all. Policies are enforced by co-workers -- at the discretion of each individual co-worker. However, it is the responsibility of the controlling co-worker to minimize the exposure of residuals-sensitive persons. Tobacco policies are not enforced during emergency or crisis situations."

"BACKGROUND: What are tobacco residuals? Why do they matter? Tobacco combustion products do not suddenly disappear when a cigarette goes out. The chemical vapors and microscopic airborne particulates slowly dissipate, mostly by being blown away. However, fractions of these materials are trapped in a smoker's clothing, hair, lungs, etc., as well as on furniture, auto upholstery, and similar surfaces. Some of the vapors and particulates are then re-emitted over a period of hours (sometimes much longer). These re-emitted materials, plus any remaining not-yet-dissipated original smoke, are called tobacco residuals. The chemical composition of tobacco residuals is related to that of the original tobacco smoke, but at an intensity which is considerably reduced. Unfortunately, when a smoker (no longer smoking) moves to a new location, the tobacco residuals he emits are often of sufficient intensity to cause both health problems and annoyance to individuals at the new location. Conversely (as is widely accepted), if an individual enters an area formerly occupied by a smoker, a contaminated automobile for example, the same effects occur. This sensitivity, of course, explains the need for non-smoking hotel rooms, non-smoking rental cars, tobacco-free taxis, and the like. A surprisingly large fraction of the population is sensitive to tobacco residuals. Minor (and not so minor) illnesses which are caused by tobacco residuals include: headaches, stinging eyes, burning or constricting throats, chest congestion, hoarseness, coughing, nose bleeds, sinus problems, stomach pains, ear aches, asthma attacks, etc. The widely publicized tobacco-related major diseases like lung cancer presumably also occur at low exposure levels. However, they typically take decades to develop, affect only a minority of exposed persons, and have a causality which is hard to prove. The Kimball Physics policies are focused on lesser maladies, which occur in real time, where the cause-and-effect relationship is brutally clear, and where tobacco residuals are obviously the cause. Even if major illnesses were never encountered, it is simply not permissible to knowingly or carelessly make others sick, even mildly sick."

The Rest of the Story

This is getting ridiculous. It shows the kind of crazy policies that result from the anti-smoking movement's exaggeration of the science, especially with regard to the effects of what I am now calling fourth-hand smoke: the residuals that remain on the clothes, skin, and hair of a smoker.

While there are occasional individuals who are exquisitely sensitive and may experience a reaction to trace levels of certain chemicals - including tobacco smoke, perfume, or other chemicals - these can be easily dealt with on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are protected. There is no need for such a blanket policy for the entire workplace.

Interestingly, this policy does not apply to perfume, which a small number of people are also sensitive to. In fact, the policy probably encourages smokers to use great quantities of perfume or other odor-hiding chemicals to make sure that they will be allowed entrance to the facility. Ironically, that could actually pose a risk to some very sensitive workers.

But the fact that perfume is not included should tell you that the real driving force behind this policy is not health protection, it is hatred of smokers.

Interestingly, a closer examination of the situation reveals that the policy was instituted by Dr. Charles Crawford, who was recognized for his efforts with the awarding of the 2007 American Lung Association/C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Award. Dr. Crawford not only banned smoking inside the workplace, but anywhere on the grounds, including in the many acres of secluded woods on the property.

Apparently, that was to the liking of the American Lung Association; however, I fail to see how banning smoking in the many acres of secluded woods is necessary to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.

While I agree with Dr. Crawford's offering of financial incentives to smokers to quit smoking and with his creation of a smoke-free indoor workplace, I think the rest of his policies go too far.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that Dr. Crawford serves on the Board of Trustees of Action on Smoking and Health. So there is a direct connection between these draconian policies and the hysterical so-called "scientific" propaganda that is being spewed forth by ASH.

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