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InsiderOnline Blog: July 2004

Let's Talk About ETS, Baby.

That's Environmental Tobacco Smoke -- secondhand smoke to most of us. My old college town, Athens, Ga., approved a measure this week that will ban smoking indoors in bars and restaurants during the day, but allow it from 11 p.m. on.

Now, I'm amazed that the county commission exercised this much restraint (and I use the term loosely) by avoiding the total ban. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, in all its wisdom, has already tut-tutted the council for not going far enough and assures us:

Fortunately, advocates for a total ban on smoking in Athens say they won't give up the fight.

Whew, I'm sure that makes us all breathe easier, except for those of us to whom the expansion of government control is far more annoying than a couple wisps of secondhand smoke. Traci Lawrence, quoted in the Athens paper, is with the AJC on this:

"We were exceedingly disappointed that the Athens-Clarke County Commission failed to protect the health of the community,'' said Traci Lawrence, tobacco use prevention coordinator for the Northeast Health District, which includes Athens. ''A total ban is the only way to protect the health of the community.''

Clearly Lawrence has never tried other methods of protection -- moving to the non-smoking section, patronizing non-smoking establishments, eating outside. And she's not at all concerned about protecting the community's personal liberties from government and the anti-smoking brigade, but luckily some think tankers are.

Michael Fumento, a Hudson Institute scholar, tells why Second-Hand Smoke is Harmful to Science, citing several studies that buck conventional ETS wisdom, like this one:

Research professor James Enstrom of UCLA and professor Geoffrey Kabat... reported in the British Medical Journal that their thirty-nine-year study of 35,561 Californians who had never smoked showed no "causal relationship between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality," adding, however "a small effect" can't be ruled out.

Steven Milloy's Web site is also great for debunking the latest public health crusades. Milloy is an adjunt scholar at the Cato Institute and author of Junk Science Judo.

Anecdotally, I have yet to know directly or indirectly anyone who died of disease caused by second-hand smoke inhalation, which wouldn't be remarkable except that my grandfather was a tobacco farmer, my mother actually picked the leaves and hung them in the barn, and I grew up in a little place known as Tobacco Road, four blocks from a Liggett & Meyers factory that puffed the sweet smell of tobacco leaves into my bedroom window every summer while I played with Legos. I'm still young, so I guess that could change, but it won't change the fact that the Athens government and many others don't mind a bit taking away civil liberties to protect us from a dubious health threat.

Posted on 07/09/04 02:42 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

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