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Give Loony Columnists a Night in Jail
More kids get sick despite second hand delusions

By the Cynic
cynic@politicalusa.com

5/25/2001

 

As if I needed more fuel for my last column's fire (Neuter the Ignorant), Orlando Sentinel columnist, Mike Thomas, decided to serve us an extra splash of lighter fluid.

In his most recent column (Give parents who smoke night in jail) Mr. Thomas suggests that parents who smoke in the presence of their children be arrested. It seems that Mike got his nits in a twist over finding a couple of cigarette butts in the sand at the beach. Then, after witnessing a smoker enjoying his habit on the beach -- with his child lying beside him--he came to the only "logical" conclusion he could: Let's jail them nasty smokers!

Maybe Mr. Thomas was absent that day in fourth grade when his teacher explained the properties of heat and how smoke rises above cooler air. Maybe he wasn't paying attention all 382 times that his parents told him that he should mind his own business. It's obvious that some people just don't like smokers (don't worry Mike, you are in good company...Hitler, Mussolini, Hillary Clinton...they all hated us).

But wait, he finds some studies (oooh...studies) to prove that smoking parents are purposely killing their kids. He states:

"Young lungs are tender and pink. They can't take cigarette smoke, even     when it's diluted...Smoke causes 50,000 to 300,000 lower-respiratory-tract infections each year in infants and toddlers...Children of parents who smoke are at nearly double the risk of hospitalization for a respiratory illness...This is medical fact. "

Putting aside that reading his assessment of children's lungs made me yearn for a Porterhouse, one with even a rudimentary grasp on medical studies would be quick to tell you that any number presented in a range (50,000 to 300,000) is an estimation, not a "medical fact." Those with a firmer understanding, would tell you that any risk lower than "double" falls into the statistically insignificant range. Although he didn't list any sources (sources, Mike...list your sources), I am familiar with these statistics and they came from the same 1993 EPA report on secondhand smoke that was vacated by a federal judge on the grounds of statistical bias. The EPA fiddled with the numbers to reach a predetermined conclusion.  

Since the numbers are basically invalidated, let's apply a little horse-sense to what Mike is saying.

Your average nonsmoker probably believes that if smoking can kill you, then so must be the case for second hand smoke. It's just not so. Anything can be poisonous if the dose is high enough. Vitamin A is good for you, however take too much vitamin A and you die. Too much of any one substance is unhealthy. The exposure or dosage determines the effects. Considering that smoking reduces life expectancy by about only 7 years for smokers (while inhaling first and second hand smoke) and long term effects take close to 20 years to become evident, how could one assume that second hand smoke (diluted 1000 times over) could have a quantifiable impact on the life span or life quality of a nonsmoker?

Children, in all their pink and tenderness, have been growing up in smoking households for centuries. During the 1950s, it is estimated that 70% of men and 40% of women were smokers. Since the Surgeon General's 1964 report on the hazards of smoking (to smokers), active smoking rates have dropped down to the 25% range. With Draconian smoking ordinances and fewer numbers of smokers, children are exposed to less and less second hand smoke.

So there are more healthy kids, right?

Wrong. According to the Center for Disease Control (see, I list sources), asthma rates are up, the number of kids with allergies are skyrocketing and occurrences of respiratory infections are also increasing. If second hand smoke is the culprit, how can you square your "medical facts" with the reduced exposure, Mike? 

Maybe Mr. Thomas is on to something. Perhaps, if just given the proper soapbox, I can have people arrested for the things that I don't like. I could propose to outlaw fat people who wear tight clothing. Or large haired brunettes who use too much perfume. Or better yet, imprison columnists with silly agendas who use alarmist and vacated statistics to con readers into impugning those with habits they disagree with.

Don't worry, Mike, I'm not all mean.

I'd give you a carton of smokes for your stay, as I hear they make good currency there.

Have a smoke with the Cynic

See also: Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Trent Lott Has Got To Go

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