Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Anti-Smoking Fascists Continue Progressive Assault On Liberty In Utah; SB43 To Outlaw Smoking In Cars With Kids

Anti-smoking fascists continue their progressive assault on liberty in the Beehive State. It should be obvious by now, even to a Forrest Gump, that the real objective of the professional anti-smoking lobby and its gullible sockpuppets is not protection, but outright PROHIBITION. However, they are skillfully manipulating the campaign line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, until we wake up and find ourselves with a fait accompli. If they had spent more time studying history and less time studying diversity in school, they would know that alcohol prohibition not only failed, but transformed the Mafia into a Fortune 500 company.

One of the latest shots was fired by the Salt Lake City Council. The Deseret Morning News reports that on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007, members of the Salt Lake City Council, in their additional capacity as the board of directors for the city's Redevelopment Agency, unanimously passed a resolution to extend the citywide smoking policy to the outdoor Gallivan Plaza on the corner of 200 South and Main Street. The new policy still allows designated smoking areas within the plaza, but not within 25 feet of bus stops or within 50 feet of gatherings of 100 or more people. Violators will be subject to a $25 fine.

Back in November 2006, the Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning smoking in city parks, trails, public spaces and mass gatherings. However, that policy wasn't extended to the Gallivan Center at that time because it's owned by the Redevelopment Agency, not the city.

Leading the charge to restrict smoking in the Gallivan Center was radical District 4 Councilwoman Nancy Saxton, who actually favored a more restrictive policy of imposing a total ban on smoking throughout the entire Center, forcing patrons to completely step out of the plaza and on to city streets to smoke. Saxton is up for re-election on November 6th; District 4 voters may want to contact her opponent, Luke Garrott, to find out if he would be willing to stop the war against smokers if elected.

However, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that today, the Utah State Legislature is readying an even bigger shot in the war against smokers. Senate Bill 43, a law which would ban smoking in private vehicles where children five years of age or younger are present, spearheaded by gay State Senator Scott McCoy (D-Salt Lake City), has just passed muster in a joint House-Senate Committee. The Health & Human Services Interim Committee hearings were necessitated to reconcile differences between the two bodies; while the bill passed 20-7 in the Senate earlier this year, the House, traditionally more reluctant to place restrictions upon smoking, declined to take it up.

The only saving grace in the proposed law is the provision for secondary enforcement rather than primary enforcement. Secondary enforcement means a cop cannot stop someone merely for smoking; he must observe a primary violation of some other law first. The penalty would be a fine up to $45, which would be waived if violators could prove to a court they're enrolled in a course to help them quit smoking. However, since many tobacco cessation courses cost more than $45, violators may decide it's cheaper to pay the fine. This would effectively transform this law into a supplemental indirect tobacco tax. More revenue enhancment for a revenue-hungry public sector.

The bill earned support from Senate and House members in the joint committee even though many signaled they have grave concerns that this bill could lead to a gradual erosion of individual liberties. "I don't know where this goes over time," said Sen. Jon Greiner (R-Ogden). "This is really getting on the fringe of invading people's rights". However, Greiner, perhaps pyschologically intimidated by the Chicken Little health arguments proffered by extremist groups like the American Lung Association, voted in favor of the bill. Only Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R-Orem) opposed the bill. "I quite frankly don't think this comes close to the line - I think this crosses the line on invading personal liberty. What a slippery slope we are starting down when we start mandating behavior in private places," Sandstrom said.

Winning the approval of a committee months ahead of the general session that begins in January 2008 means that the smoking ban will be considered early in the 45-day legislative session. Numerous bills fail to become law each year because legislators don't have enough time to pass them before the session ends, giving bills with an early hearing a greater chance of becoming law.

I also find it personally hypocritical for Senator McCoy to be leading the charge. As a gay man, Senator McCoy has undoubtedly been treated like an outcast and a pariah from time to time. Yet, despite this, he would use his power as a lawmaker to transform smokers into another group of outcasts or pariahs. Go figure.

Arkansas passed a similar smoking law last year, banning smoking in automobiles when a child who weighs no more than 60 pounds or is 6 years old or younger is present. This shows how ridiculous the anti-smoking has become; are Arkansas cops going to carry scales in their police vehicles to weigh kids? It's also useful to note that Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Presidential candidate, is himself an anti-smoking extremist; earlier this year, he stated that if elected President, he would consider a nationwide ban on smoking in all public places.

Commentary: The issue here isn't whether or not smoking is harmful; it clearly can make one more susceptible to various illness. Likewise, sustained exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke can also increase one's susceptiblity to various illnesses. But, with the exception of asthma and certain allergies, the threat to life or health is NOT immediate; it is long term. It is not possible to state conclusively that anyone has ever died of tobacco smoke, although they may have died from other factors progressively induced by tobacco usage. Thus the threat, in most cases, is NOT immediate.

So this opens up the question: Should government be allowed to intervene in personal conduct that does NOT have immediate deleterious consequences? Allowing government such intervention clearly crosses the line separating democracy from tyranny. Many borderline abuses of the Constitution have been legislated in the name of "child protection". Does that justify the infringement upon liberty? And why do we single out smokers? Many people are killed each year because of "driving while intoxicated"? How many people are killed because of "driving while smoking"? Again, the focus shifts back to immediacy; DWI immediately impairs the judgment and skills of the driver and creates an immediate threat to public safety; "DWS" poses NO such immediate threat.

We should also examine the conduct of the anti-smoking lobbies. Groups like the American Lung Association (see their 2006 Report Card for Utah HERE) and the American Cancer Society have a vested financial interest in overstating the problem. The more they can scare people, the more donations they receive. The chief executives of these lobbies do not work for free; often they get six-figure salaries. If contributions to their organizations dried up, they might have to go out and get real jobs, at a lower wage. Because of this institutional bias, it is worthwhile to expose one's self to contrasting information in order to develop a balanced perspective. This is in keeping with the abstract principle of "thesis meets antithesis, which creates synthesis...".

But where to find the contrasting information? It's censored by the establishment. Fortunately, the blogosphere contains a wealth of useful information to balance one's perspective on this issue. The website contains a collection of useful information and references; particularly helpful is a page listing good arguments one can use opposing these progressive anti-smoking measures.

However, an even better resource is offered by Dr. Michael Siegel. In his Tobacco Analysis blog, Dr. Siegel exposes the duplicity of the professional anti-smoking lobbies. In an April 2006 post, Dr. Siegel details how "anti-smoking experts" give exaggerated and even outright false testimony at public hearings. And in a January 2007 post, Dr. Siegel chronicles how anti-smoking lobbies falsely claim that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than direct inhalation, although second-hand smoke is highly diluted. And Dr. Siegel is no counterculture quack or tobacco industry flak; he is a physician who once specialized in preventive medicine and public health, and is now a professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Boston University School of Public Health. He also has 20 years of experience in tobacco control, primarily as a researcher.

And lying in wait behind the tobacco police...the food police. Today, cigarettes. Tomorrow, Big Macs. When will YOU take action to stop them.

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