Kritiek op rookverboden in Washington Post

In de ‘Think Tank’ afdeling van de beroemde krant de Washington Post laat een Professor in de Rechten geen spaan heel van de argumenten die gebruikt worden ter rechtvaardiging van rookverboden in de horeca. De drie belangrijkste argumenten die door voorstanders gebruikt worden, schade voor de buitenwereld (‘externalities’), beïnvloeden van het rookgedrag en de risico’s voor omstanders, worden stuk voor stuk in een prominent artikel onderuit gehaald.


Bedrijven in de horeca moeten zélf maar bepalen wat hun rookbeleid is, zegt de professor. Zij zijn het immers ook die de schade van dergelijke maatregelen ondervinden.


Kritische artikelen als dit verschijnen steeds meer in Amerikaanse kranten. Krijgt Dr. Michael Siegel toch gelijk als hij zegt dat de anti’s aan hun eigen ondergang werken door steeds onwaarschijnlijker argumenten de wereld in te sturen en daardoor aan geloofwaardigheid te verliezen?


PREFERENCE-SHAPING Ban proponents’ “preference-shaping” argument contends that smoking bans are justified as means of changing individuals’ preferences away from smoking. The idea is that smoking bans stigmatize smoking, making the behavior “costlier” and thereby reducing its incidence.


This argument rests, of course, on an extraordinarily slippery slope: Is it appropriate for the government to limit individuals’ rights in order to “shape preferences” regarding, say, fat consumption? Moreover, the strategy may backfire.


A large percentage of smokers acquire the habit at a young age, and they frequently do so because smoking is “cool.” Smoking is cool, of course, because it’s rebellious. The harder anti-smoking forces work to coerce people into stopping smoking, and the more they engage the government and other establishment institutions in their efforts, the more rebellious — and thus the cooler — smoking becomes. Smoking bans may therefore have the perverse effect of enticing young people to smoke.


RISK Finally, ban proponents seek to justify sweeping smoking bans, regardless of whether externalities are present, simply as a means of reducing the risks associated with ETS inhalation. Citing a recent report from the U.S. surgeon general, ban advocates maintain that ETS exposure poses significant risks that justify intrusive regulations. Examined closely, though, the surgeon general’s “scientific” report cannot support imposition of sweeping smoking bans.


In releasing his ETS study this past June, Surgeon General Richard Carmona proclaimed that “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke” and that “even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer.”


The problem is, that’s not what his study actually concluded. The report was a “meta-analysis” that combined the results of a number of previous studies, and those studies considered only chronic, long-term ETS exposure. The raw data covered in the report thus doesn’t address the risk of short-term exposure that is the subject of Carmona’s hyperbolic statements — statements that conflict with the toxicology conventional wisdom that “the dose makes the poison.”


Moreover, the report itself, which covered only studies published through 2002, ignored perhaps the largest ETS study ever conducted — a 2003 study that followed, from 1959 to 1998, the health histories of more than 35,000 never-smoking Californians who were married to smokers. The authors found no “causal relationship between exposure to (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality,” though they acknowledged that “a small effect” cannot be ruled out.


But even if the surgeon general’s report is accepted on its face, it still does not provide sufficient support for government-mandated smoking bans. The report purports to find a 20 to 30 percent increase in cancer and heart disease risks for nonsmokers after chronic ETS exposure. While those numbers sound large, nonsmokers’ risks of cancer and heart disease are quite small to begin with, and even with a 20 or 30 percent increase, those risks remain quite small. They hardly justify preempting people’s right to choose to accept those risks and patronize a smoking-allowed establishment.


Against Restaurant Smoking Bans


Overigens ontdekte Dr. Michael Siegel vandaag dat de samenvatting van het door het artikel genoemde rapport van de Surgeon General de bevindingen van het 727-pagina lange rapport totaal verkeerd weergeven. Volgens Siegel is de man er van uitgegaan dat niemand zich door zo’n lijvig rapport heen zou worstelen, zodat in de conclusie beweerd kon worden wat men wilde. En wát men wilde was duidelijk: propaganda vóór rookverboden.


Surgeon General Misrepresented Conclusions of His Report Even in Summary of Report Conclusions

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  • "Es ist schwieriger, eine vorgefaßte Meinung zu zertrümmern als ein Atom."
    (Het is moeilijker een vooroordeel aan flarden te schieten dan een atoom.)
    Albert Einstein

  • "Als je alles zou laten dat slecht is voor je gezondheid, dan ging je kapot"
    Anonieme arts

  • "The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."
    Sir Richard Doll, 2001

  • "Een leugen wordt de waarheid als hij maar vaak genoeg wordt herhaald"
    Joseph Goebbels, Minister van Propaganda, Nazi Duitsland


  • "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • "There''s no such thing as perfect air. If there was, God wouldn''t have put bristles in our noses"
    Coun. Bill Clement

  • "Better a smoking freedom than a non-smoking tyranny"
    Antonio Martino, Italiaanse Minister van Defensie

  • "If smoking cigars is not permitted in heaven, I won't go."
    Mark Twain

  • I've alllllllways said that asking smokers "do you want to quit?" and reporting the results of that question, as is, is horribly misleading. It's a TWO part question. After asking if one wants to quit it must be followed up with "Why?" Ask why and the majority of the answers will be "because I'm supposed to" (victims of guilt and propaganda), not "because I want to."
    Audrey Silk, NYCCLASH