I’ll apologize up front for what will be a long post. The subject is a microcosm of the kind of flim-flam we experience in a lot of so-called social issues. I’ve been reluctant to get into it because it’s about smoking, I am a smoker, and I don’t like to court bad luck. So in some ways this post is tempting fate even more than my review of the Koran.
Sometimes I listen to talk radio in Philadelphia. There’s a conservative host named Dom Giordano who goes after big topics and small, often in the same show. This week he’s spent parts of the show on multiple days discussing a new ordinance in a South Jersey Burlington County township banning all smoking in public parks. The mayor, very pleased with himself, crafted the legislation after receiving a letter from (supposedly) a fourth grade girl who found the sight of adults smoking so disgusting that she wanted it banned. The fines are very substantial.
Yeah, put your feet up. This is going to take a while. Dom, to his credit, thought this was a step too far. One of the expressed intentions was to “denormalize” smoking, as if that hasn’t already been accomplished by decades of increasing restrictions, villainization, and even trampling on the freedoms of private enterprises like restaurants and bars. Apparently, for example, Camden County, one of the most violently dangerous places in America, now treats tobacco in public like alcohol — open cartons or packs of cigarettes are regarded the same as open containers of alcohol, subject to immediate arrest and fine. We haven’t gone THAT far yet, said the mayor. Yet?
Pressed by Dom on the advisability of allowing fourth graders to set public policy based on infantile emotions, the mayor perorated on the dangers of secondhand smoke, even in the outdoors, at distances of hundreds of feet. Although he kept returning to his main point that children shouldn’t have to witness such offensive behavior.
Of course, Dom is also a nonsmoker, and he was at pains to point out that it’s a vile and unattractive habit (just so we’re clear here), but he hung his whole argument on the question, “Since when did we start letting kids be decision makers on matters of public policy?”
Whereupon I sent him the following email:
When did we start making kids decision makers? When we decided that it was okay for pubescent girls to get birth control pills, abortions and morning after pills without parental consent. Which they know about because we start teaching them how to have sex in what public school grade? We have an epidemic of STDs among young people, which can be far more catastrophic than smoking. The anti smoking demonization is just a bandaid that enables the morally empty to feel superior. Probably taught by the same teachers that instruct them in the how to’s of sex acts. Amazing hypocrisy.
I could have gone on. If the new measure is what offends our eyes and instilled prejudices, there are plenty of things I don’t like to look at. Things I wouldn’t want any child or grandchild of mine exposed to in public. I am disgusted by the fact that I can’t attend a sporting event or a public gathering of any kind without hearing a constant flow of obscenities and scatologies. I don’t enjoy seeing the grossly obese, who are suddenly everywhere around us. I’m repelled by the way most people dress in public, sweats, pajama bottoms, boxer shorts hanging off the ass, thongs pointing at half exposed asses, the blizzard of tattoos, the violence of facial body piercings, and the slovenly mommies who parade everywhere inside the armor of their ill-mannered mommitude and the brats in their wake. I’ve seen children destroy retail store displays while their mothers blithely lead them away from the wreckage, which is somebody else’s job to clean up. I’ve seen kids barely above toddler age cuss out their parents like drunken sailors. The sheer loutishness of people who occupy the whole path, the whole aisle, loafing along as if there really is nobody on earth but them. People who don’t say thank you or even look at you when you hold the door open for them. Should I insist that all these be made crimes too? Maybe I should. But I’m a smoker. The only lower rung on today’s PC ladder is racist. I must deserve what I get.
But we’re all used to, even comfortable with, this state of affairs, right? In a world with no standards of any kind, smokers are a convenient and even necessary evil to be used as excuses for indignation and humiliation. They violate the last remaining vestige of a moral code, namely, that their open vice is something we can all recognize and collectively condemn. Coke, meth, and heroin users hide in corners. Even drinkers indulge their vice in bars or other private realms. Smokers light up right in front of us. The nerve. The absolutely golden opportunity to tell them to their faces how virtuous people feel…
Call after call. “Well, I’m a nonsmoker, and I can’t stand…” Fill in the blanks as you wish.
I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. But that leads me to the climax of my argument. Most of the opprobrium aimed at smokers is based on exaggeration, disinformation, or outright falsehood. More than a little bit like Global Warming and other politically correct causes.
I’ve got real scientific evidence, but I’ll begin anecdotally. Which is certainly both permitted and prized in today’s relativist universe. My dad died of lung cancer. Good reason for me to stop being such a fool, right? He quit smoking when he was 40, cold turkey, but the dread disease hit him in his late seventies. My mother never quit. She regarded it as weight control. After childbirth, her mother ballooned to 180 pounds and stayed there, eventually incapacitated by the weight. (She was 5’1″.) My mother lived to be 82 and in all that time her weight remained between 100 and 110 pounds. That was a trade she was willing to make. She died of old age.
No, I’m not suggesting that this is a medical argument. Rather that it is consistent with other trends that can be and in fact have been documented. I have three points on these matters. [I’d like to have quoted from the sources I’ll link below, and I mulled doing this at the other site on that account, but I trust you, here, to read.]
We’ve traded smokers for a population of the obese. Who are subject in rapidly increasing numbers to the perils of Diabetes, a disease that frequently ends in blindness, amputations, and premature death. And you look much worse throughout.
National Diabetes Statistics. (The numbers are staggering. Just look through this…)
Blaming lung cancer almost exclusively on smoking is a near criminal act. Why the discrepant experiences of my mom and dad caused me to do some weird research a long time ago. I searched out an almanac dated 1948 for the purpose of finding the incidence of death by diseases of the lung. Back then, almost everyone smoked. You could look it up. It was way down on the list. Lung cancer wasn’t even broken out separately. You see, I’d always suspected my dad’s cancer might have had something to do with inhaling rich mixtures of aircraft fuel in WWII.
Smoking down, lung cancer up. (Hmmm. Are smokers being blamed for a bigger problem they help make invisible? You decide.)
Finally. Secondhand smoke. This is the real nanny state postulate. MY smoking gives YOU cancer. If you can even smell it, it’s killing you. Which gives you the right to tell me how to live my life.
Dubious. If not completely idiotic.
Oh. Almost forgot the graph up top. (Sorry it’s blurry. Best I could do. I’ll get better…) The anatomy of a social engineering propaganda campaign. Scientific malpractice. Two of the variables, male and female smokers, are keyed to the left hand legend, percent of population (UK). The two other variables, lung cancer deaths by sex, are keyed to the right hand legend, deaths per 100,000. The visual message of the graph is that men and women who smoked died of lung cancer because the curves track so closely on the graph. Not so. In 1976, the first year of the lung cancer tracking, the percentage of male smokers who died of lung cancer was 0.0011 per year. Hell. Multiply it by 50. That’s 5.5 percent. But now look at the female curves. As female smoking is declining, their death by lung cancer rates are escalating. Strong correlation between smoking and lung cancer? You tell me.
And what does this tell you about the risks of secondhand smoke? Not that many smokers actually die of lung cancer. Why would nonsmokers be at any statistically significant risk whatever? Because they don’t like the smell.
I don’t like the smell of tarty perfumes, jock colognes, or deodorant tampons (not kidding — I always know and I much prefer nature). But I don’t believe they’re giving me cancer.
And need I point out the mortality statistics of male homosexuals in the 1980s? Or the ominous statistics of STDs that are newly and perhaps invulnerably resistant to antibiotics? There’s a new race on. We need to discover a brand new high tech antibiotic to prevent gonorrhea from becoming a fatal disease in a matter of days. Did conservative Dom know or make any of these points? No. He accepts the immense weight of the propaganda almost without question.
Smokers are the pariahs. Even our defenders can’t think of any arguments beyond our pathetic ghettoization, which doesn’t seem quite right, no matter why. Not even the absurdity of demonizing smokers while the public schools who teach kids to spit at them are happy to teach fellatio via banana exercises and promote gay marriage as if it were the threshold of humanistic paradise.
I’ll stick with this stark reminder of the evils of smoking, thank you.