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
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
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
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.
with the Cynic
See also: Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Trent
Lott Has Got To Go
Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of
by Jacob Sullum
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Slow Burn: The Great American
Antismoking Scam (And Why It Will Fail)
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M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine
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