August 5th, 2004
Commentary to the Minneapolis Star Tribune
As several cities in Minnesota consider smoking bans, there are three certain embarrassing questions that should be asked of those promoting such bans.
First off, ban supporters routinely cast themselves as fighting Big Tobacco and like to insinuate that those fighting the bans are somehow secretly funded by Big Tobacco. Since the Master Settlement Agreement was signed however, Big Tobacco has been forced to open itself to such scrutiny that the number of sheets of toilet paper a company executive uses each year is probably officially recorded somewhere in the archives of overseers.
There is no "secret funding" and Antismokers are left with little to point at other than things like a major writer and political activist receiving a one-time payment of $5,000 for reprint rights to a previously published article. Jacob Sullum, the writer in question, is routinely portrayed as "in the pocket of Big Tobacco" for accepting that payment ten years or so ago. Pretty poor payment for the 20 or more articles he's put out against the Antismokers since then.
The question to be raised to ban supporters then is simply one about their own finances and expenditures. How many of them would continue to receive generous paychecks if they changed their opinion on promoting smoking bans? How many of them are *thoroughly* "in the pocket" of Antismoking funding? And how much additional pro-ban funding is represented by TV ads by groups like Truth.com that portray wisps of smoke as weapons of mass destruction?
The second and third questions both have to do with New York.
Antismokers loudly proclaim that the New York ban has been wildly successful and almost universally popular. If they are telling the truth, why do they fight so hard against any efforts to change or remove the ban? If businesses are REALLY making money hand-over-fist because of the ban do Antismokers really think the owners are stupid enough to allow smoking again and start losing all that extra money? Of course not: they oppose changes in the ban for one reason only... because they know that they are lying through their nicotine-gum stained teeth about how successful and popular it's been. If the ban were dropped it's likely that 95% of the bars and 50% of the restaurants would go back to allowing smoking... and they know it.
The third question comes from the proposal in New York to allow for the possibility of air-cleaning systems that would clean the air so thoroughly that the air inside a smoking bar with such a system would actually be cleaner than the air inside a non-smoking bar without such a system. Antismokers like to claim that their main motivation and justification for promoting these bans is to "protect the workers." If they're telling the truth one would expect that they would SUPPORT such air-cleaning options rather than oppose them. Of course they don't... because they're not telling the truth. Their real motivation is not one of protecting workers but rather one of social engineering: making smoking uncomfortable enough to force smokers to quit.
That sort of tinkering with our lives and our choices does NOT belong in America. Nor do the lies and insinuations surrounding the other two questions. If Minnesota cities should have smoking bans, they should be based on honest information and openness about their purposes. That's how the American political system is designed to work and that's how Americans REALLY want such decisions made.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
(I live in Pennsylvania, a state currently considering a smoking ban that could be influenced by the outcomes in St. Paul and elsewhere. I have NO financial connections of any sort with Big Tobacco, Big Hospitality, Big Pharmacology, or any other player in this arena other than as a customer.)
November 16th, 2004
To The Grand Forks Herald
Response to James Repace's Panel Story(unpublished as of 11/24/04)
In Tu-Uyen Tran's 11/18 article, "Second-hand smoke..." he notes that an "expert" claims that sitting in a smoky bar is worse than standing by a busy highway. He does not explain however that the "expert" has nothing more than a Master's Degree in Physics and bases that claim on the measurement of one or two particular elements in the air that happen to be well produced by low-temperature burning leaf material and poorly produced by modern automobile engines. Any objective scientist would expect such a finding and wouldn't generalize it to an overall evaluation of how comparatively "bad" it is for a person's lungs.
Mr. Repace however has a background in this area that makes such a claim not surprising: he regularly tries to frighten city councils and bar owners with the claim that the cancer "risk" from secondary smoke needs to be reduced to a 1-in-a-million level. That sounds reasonable until you realize that the risk from the arsenic in ordinary tap water is roughly 1,000 times as great.
The "discussion panel" reported on by Mr. Tran is not actually a "discussion panel" at all: it's merely a press event designed to promote misleading information about secondary tobacco smoke in order to scare people and push politicians into voting for smoking bans. I don't know if it's possible to find out how much of our tax money was spent to fly Mr. Repace in for this event, or how much he or the others were given to speak but such misuse of tax money should be investigated and punished.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
April 24, 2004
Firsthand Realities & Secondhand SmokeThe Washington Post’s weekend coverage of the Centers for Disease Control’s news release about the dangers of secondary smoke left out one very important piece of information: the centerpiece of that announcement, the study focusing on Helena, MT, actually made NO specific study of either the effects of secondary smoke on nonsmokers nor looked at any quantitative change in their exposure to smoke.
The choice of this study as the lynchpin of their analysis is informative in one way however. It’s a prime illustration of how little real scientific data is behind the propaganda war being waged in the effort to ban smoking from public view in America.
This strategy, termed Denormalization by such icons as Dileep G. Bal (President of the American Cancer Society) and Reuters Health, is largely dependent upon media-intensive campaigns paid for by tax dollars and designed to whip up unreasonable fear among nonsmokers.
Whatever threat from normal exposures to secondary smoke might actually exist is far too low to merit any limiting legislation based in rationality. Therefore irrational fears must be created and stoked or America’s smokers will, for the most part, continue smoking and enjoying smoking despite the health risks it entails. The media blast accompanying the CDC study and its figurehead Helena study were designed with this purpose in mind.
Unfortunately for the Antismoking lobby, they chose a singularly weak horse on which to place their big bets. To illustrate the fundamental weakness of the CDC’s case it’s only necessary to read the actual published conclusion of the Helena study itself: “Laws to enforce smoke-free workplaces and public places may (OR MAY NOT) be associated with an effect on morbidity from heart disease.”
Please note: the parenthetical phrase in that quote is mine and was not in the original. However, the use of the word “may” in a scientific conclusion necessarily implies “may not” as well, and an honest presentation of such a conclusion would perforce include it. Further reading of the text provides another telling insight: In an obscure paragraph buried near the end the authors admit that only a third of the patients were true nonsmokers and that no attempt was made to either separate them out statistically or to gauge their exposure to secondary smoke. It is even noted that the sample size would have rendered any attempt at examining the effect on nonsmokers utterly meaningless.
Thus, an unknown but probably quite large number of taxpayer dollars went to fund a study that basically generated NO meaningful conclusions at all… but still went on to flood the American media with hundreds and perhaps thousands of news stories trumpeting the “deadliness” of secondary smoke in public places.
This might seem to be about as deliberate a piece of government sponsored social engineering as it’s possible to find, but wait a minute: the story gets even better.
On the weekend of the release, the Helena study was moved from the place it had occupied on bmj.com’s web pages and in the process of that move ALL of the harsh criticisms that had been made of the weaknesses of the study and the fraud surrounding its public presentation were rendered “invisible” to the waves of visitors who went to read it in the wake of the news splash.
The criticisms were still there, hidden at a web address no one would ordinarily be able to find if they had not previously bookmarked it, but they were effectively rendered invisible and nonexistent to anyone attracted to the story by the weekend media blitz. It is possible that the “glitch” is only temporary, but if the BMJ has not corrected it by the time of this article’s publication, the criticisms may be found at http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/bmj.38055.715683.55v1
The truth is not “Out There” in the X-Files sense of the phrase; it is freely accessible and right in front of anyone willing to take the time to locate and read the studies and critiques themselves. Don’t depend upon the simplistic and tailored sound bites of the paid press releases that too often form the basis for stories by reporters who are sometimes either too trusting or simply irresponsible.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”
Competing interest statement: I am a member of several Free Choice organizations, and have written a book titled "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains." I have absolutely no financial connections with Big Tobacco, Big Hospitality, or any other player in this arena other than as a customer.
Editorial References for Denormalization:
(Great American Smoke Out 2003) "What we have been doing can be characterized as the denormalization of smoking as an acceptable behavior," said Dileep G. Bal, M.D., M.S., MPH, national president of the American Cancer Society."
This concept of denormalization is best instituted by laws and local regulations making smoking inaccessible in public places, raising prices, and putting stricter limitations on cigarette advertising.
January 30, 2004
I would like to make three points regarding your Jan. 17 article, "Smoking ban benefits." First, while very few businesses have thus far applied for a waiver, that's more due to the difficulty and expense of preparing a complicated form for an unknown outcome than due to any lack of desire for such waivers.
Second, a drop from 6.6 ngs. to 1 ng. of blood cotinine may seem impressive, but there's absolutely no evidence in any study ever done that the higher level causes any harm. Banning candles in a restaurant would result in a similar decrease in blood levels of candle-specific combustion products, and yet there's no call for banning candles.
And the final point is absurdly simple: If bans were "improving business" as ban advocates claim, then why is a law still needed? If the ban was lifted, would bartenders turn around and say, "Hey, let's return to the old way where we didn't make so much of this nasty smelly money?"
If anti-smokers were telling the truth, there would be no need to enforce the law: Business owners would continue with bans while enjoying more money. The improvement of business is a simple statistical lie, just as many of the bases upon which the ban was passed are also lies.Michael J. McFadden
author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains,"
"Pennsylvania Smokers' Action Network's (PASAN) Michael McFadden is continuing to meet with success in spreading the word of his groundbreaking handbook for smokers' activists, "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains" through his website at http://www.Antibrains.com and has recently received a very positive review from Dr. Seipmann, the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Theoretics at http://www.journaloftheoretics.com/Comments/c6-1.htm
I'd like to express sympathy for the council members voting on the smoking ban bill. I'm from Philadelphia and I've seen the kind of testimony and pressure the anti-smoking lobby brings to bear on politicians in these situations. Using a lot of twisted statistics and skilfully emotional testimony, they create and exaggerate fears about secondary smoke out of all proportion to reality. They try to make politicians who vote against a ban seem to be voting against "clean air and babies." If one actually looks at the studies done, and at the number of inconclusive and contradictory results, it's clear the issue is a lot more complex than the anti-smokers would have us believe.