Friday, March 17, 2006

The Rest of the Story Quoted on Calabasas

The Rest of the Story was quoted in an article appearing in today's New York Sun on the new outdoor smoking ban in effect in Calabasas.

In the article, Action on Smoking and Health is quoted as predicting that near complete outdoor smoking bans such as the one in Calabasas will within a year spread throughout California and will soon spread to New York.

The Mayor of Calabasas also defended the law, stating that "It will also set the right standard for what our kids will see."

I was quoted as questioning whether the science really supports such broad outdoor smoking bans, especially in areas where nonsmokers can easily avoid anything but transient exposure to the smoke:

"At least one anti-smoking activist has questioned the health benefit of bans on outdoor smoking. 'There is little evidence that smoking in open outdoor areas is a serious cause of disease or other adverse health effects,' a physician and behavioral sciences professor at Boston University, Michael Siegel, wrote on his blog. He said he fears calls for outdoor smoking bans could detract from or even derail efforts to ensure that bans on bar, restaurant, and workplace smoking are adopted nationwide."

The Rest of the Story

This business about setting the right standards for what our kids see by banishing smokers from the outdoors is really disturbing.

Apparently, the Mayor of Calabasas find smoking to be not only a health hazard, but as a moral affront to the citizenry, and smokers must be confined to places where kids will not see them.

I would only note that the same reasoning could easily be used to banish fat people from public places so that the town sets the right standard for body weight. And as long as the state is in the business of controlling what kinds of people kids are exposed to in public, the reasoning could also be used to ban gay couples from public places, since there is a large segment of policy makers who view homosexuality as a moral affront.

This is scary and dangerous reasoning, and needs to be quashed immediately and definitively by all anti-smoking groups involved in the clean indoor air movement. I expect it is only a matter of days before these groups begin to issue their public denunciations of the Calabasas mayor's comments.

As far as my own comments go, I'm just glad that there was at least some indication that not everyone in the anti-smoking movement is crusading for laws like this ridiculous policy in Calabasas. And I'm glad that the paper gave some attention to my concern that this is going to harm the credibility of the anti-smoking movement and actually bring a halt to the progress that has been made in protecting workers from secondhand smoke exposure.

I seriously doubt that these policies will spread throughout California within a year, and that they will ever spread to New York, but if I am wrong, then what I am quite sure about is that it will mark the near end of the smoke-free movement. I don't think we can withstand the spread of such laws, because it will expose the perception (true or not?) that this is not about public health protection, but that it is simply a crusade to clear smokers out of public view.

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