Blowing smoke on secondhand smoke

While I frequently read Bill McClellan’s column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and generally find them insightful, on the subject of secondhand smoke I’ve found him to be reliably ill-informed, and showing a Libertarian bias, i.e. small government is better than good government.

Today’s column was no exception, but the title is apt, because it’s Bill who’s blowing smoke on this one.

He makes the same mistake as other opponents of smoke-free air, using the “slippery slope” argument of “where will it all end?”

He notes that the bill has many exemptions and writes:

“Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.
To me, that’s frightening.”

Frightening because he suggests that once we succeed in getting protection from secondhand smoke we’ll go on to prohibit his favorite unhealthy food. Not only is Bill confused but he’s misinformed.

Speaking personally, and I suspect for many others seeking smokefree air, my only goal is protection from secondhand smoke, which has had a major negative impact on both my work life and social life for decades. That is particularly true since I emigrated to the U.S. in early 1977 where workplace smoking has been far more prevalent than in England.

In St. Louis I worked at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. for over 11 years, starting in 1980, most of that time managing a laser diode fabrication lab., and I avoided any meetings I could for much of that time because of pervasive smoking. I also spoke out against workplace smoking. Neither of those things helped my career.

My wife stopped taking me on trips because my attempts to avoid secondhand smoke when I was with her, or complaints about it, were like a ball and chain around her ankle. If we ever go out together now it has to be to a guaranteed smoke-free venue.

These are issues about which Bill McClellan, who is evidently not susceptible to secondhand smoke, is totally unaware and unconcerned. Too bad, because I think he could be influential in a positive way, instead of pouring scorn on those for whom it’s a major issue.

Bill McClellan

Bill McClellan


Blowing smoke on secondhand smoke

Bill McClellan
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
08/21/2009

Although I know I should eat healthy foods, I found myself in front of the vending machine in the newsroom the other day. The animal crackers looked good. Plus, there was a notice on the package — “Only 1.5 grams of fat per serving.” Truth be told, the notice could have said, “Only 30 grams of fat per serving.” I would have been just as impressed.

Who knows about grams of fat? People never used to worry about such things.

My grandmother lived with us when I was small. My mother worked, and so my grandmother was in charge of lunch. She was not much of a cook, so usually I made myself a sandwich. My favorite was mayonnaise and mustard on white bread. Of course, white bread. In those happy times, whole wheat bread was considered something primitive. It is what cave people used to eat. Then society advanced and scientists developed white bread. It tasted better and so it replaced whole wheat bread. The only people who still ate whole wheat bread wore animal skins. If you wore clothes, you ate white bread.

Sometimes my grandmother gave me some change and let me go to the nearby bakery on Halsted Street to get lunch. I always bought the same thing. Two long johns. If there was anything richer than white bread, this was it. Grams of fat per serving? No one would have thought to ask.

This was in the days before pizza. That is not entirely true. There was a pizza joint near the bakery. I remember when it opened. The sign said, “Pizza Pie.” My mother commented on the sign. She thought it spoke well of the Italians that they could laugh at themselves. She thought they were calling their place “Pizza Pie” to mimic the way they spoke. As in, “I’ll have a pizza that cherry pie.”

In fact, my mother went in to the pizza joint one day to get a pie, and was astonished to learn that they didn’t have cherry pies or apple pies, but instead had sausage pies and anchovy pies. It was hard to believe that the people who had given the world such staples as spaghetti and macaroni had suddenly gone exotic. My mother had no interest in buying a sausage or anchovy pie and her feelings had nothing to do with grams of fat.

In addition to being happily oblivious to grams of fat, we didn’t worry about secondhand smoke. In fact, no one had heard of secondhand smoke. It was just plain old smoke, the sort that wafted around in our kitchen when dad smoked at dinner. He smoked the way people used to, which is to say guilt-free. In the kitchen. Or in the living room. Or in the car. Nobody thought anything about it.

I am not a smoker myself, but I sometimes feel a pang of envy when I watch old movies and see the people smoking with no self-consciousness at all. They’re not trying to act cool or rebellious, and they are not mindful about where the smoke goes. Why should they be? It’s just smoke. That is the way people used to feel.

No longer, of course. Those of us who live in St. Louis County are going to have a chance to vote this November on a plan to limit smoking. The plan would ban smoking in many so-called public places. I say so-called because the ban would impact restaurants which are owned by private individuals. I have a hard time thinking of them as public places.

To me, privately owned means privately owned. If the owner wants to cater to non-smokers — and we’re the majority — he or she can ban smoking.

Bear in mind, too, that the ban is not absolute. If food is less than 25 percent of an establishment’s gross income, the establishment can apply for an exemption. Also, casinos are exempt. Also, private clubs are exempt.

These exemptions would seem to put the lie to the notion that we are attempting to do this for the sake of the employees who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Why should the employees of a casino be any less deserving of our protection than the employees of a restaurant? What about employees at private clubs?

Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.

To me, that’s frightening.

Right now, we’re going after second-hand smoke. But what about grams of fat? Admittedly, you are not risking injury if you sit next to somebody eating a high-fat snack, but if we start talking about the overall cost to society of obesity and the Greater Good and all that, well, it’s easy to see where this could lead.

After all, the crusade against cigarettes started with warning labels. I thought about that when I saw the notice on the animal crackers.

By the way, the machine didn’t take my dollar. Not to worry. I went home and had a pizza cherry pie. That’s still legal.

12 responses to “Blowing smoke on secondhand smoke

  1. Bill McClellan is the typical example of why young people dislike Baby Boomers so much. His entire article is full of “me, me, me” solutions. Just because the baby boomer generation was ignorant of the problems with so many of the choices they made (unhealthy food, ecological destruction, smoking) is no excuse for arguing against responsible decisions today.

    When you are long dead from over-eating fat-filled crap, my generation will continue to be cleaning up the messes left by yours. Oh, and we’ll have quite a bit less money to do it with, because your generation didn’t understand the concept of “future generations paying for your ability to get everything you want when you want it”. You’re frightened by this ban being a start – I say that I’m frightened by what my future holds due to your failures to accomplish important measures when it might have actually had an impact on our world that will now take hundreds of years.

    Grow up – your generation is over with. Time to let us start fixing things, and since the first thing to fix is health care, I’d like to start by saying I’m tired of paying for the effects of secondhand smoke, lets ban it everywhere. (When people in your generation have heart attacks, it is often due to secondhand smoke…keep that in mind)

    Mr. Disgusted

  2. This is why the secondhand smoke debate needs to be decided by non-baby boomers:

    http://www.superseventies.com/worstgen.html

  3. Here’s the e-mail that I sent to Bill McClelland regarding this article, using the subject line “the difference – we share the air”:

    Bill,

    Always appreciate your wit and the flow of your writing, even when I disagree with you……as I do today. Yes, I too feel nostalgic about the old days when we didn’t think about transfats or secondhand smoke – and when I believed the U.S. always did the right thing and that liberty and justice for all was an ironclad promise in our nation. But when we learn something that we didn’t know before, we’d be fools not to act on it to create a better tomorrow for ourselves and future generations.

    I definitely fail to face reality about food much of the time. I have a genetic predisposition to obsesity, and I certainly behave like an addict when it comes to food. Too often I believe the lie that a doughnut or cheeseburger will make me feel better, but it never does, and, in fact, the pain I feel in my knees every day now lets me know that indeed all those high fat foods have hurt me, not helped me. The good news for folks around me is that my food addictions hurt my health only, not the health of those who sit next to me in a restaurant. Once in a while, I decide to face reality and I eat healthy foods and get more exercise, and, voila, I lose weight. It works just like science says it will.

    We also know now what science has proven about secondhand smoke since those good old days of guilt-free smoking. Secondhand smoke has more than 200 poisons and almost 70 carciogens in it. Even 30-minutes of exposure makes blood platelets take on a sticky nature that increases the likelihood of a heart attack. Employees in smoking establishments have a higher rate of lung cancer. Children raised around secondhand smoke are more likely to have asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections, and even are more likely to die of SIDS.

    We also know that more than 60% of smokers say they want to quit and that smokefree workplace policies help such persons succeed in their quit attempts. We know too that smokers do not die of walking outside to smoke in the many cities, counties, states, and even nations that now have smokefree workplace policies. Everyone gets over it and learns to cooperate to protect the health of employees and patrons alike. Many smokers already practice such policies in their own homes because they want to protect family members. All it takes is a little consideration and respect for others to protect the air we share.

    Respect for others – —- now that’s a good old American value that I was taught as a child that I feel really nostalgic about these days……

    JMO

    Jeanette Mott Oxford
    State Representative – 59th MO House District

  4. Jeanette Mott Oxford
    State Representative – 59th MO House District

    “Respect for others – —- now that’s a good old American value that I was taught as a child that I feel really nostalgic about these days……”

    It seems that you have abandoned those values. Tobacco is a legal product and as such should have the right to decide whether that product can be used on their property or do you only respect those who agree with you. You can avoid second hand smoke by simply not patronizing places that allow it. If enough people do that the business will ban it on their own or go under. The RBar going under is proof that smoke free bars are not as popular as you people claim.
    http://banthebanwisconsin.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/ativist-learns-the-hard-way/

    As far as your comment “Even 30-minutes of exposure makes blood platelets take on a sticky nature that increases the likelihood of a heart attack. ” What you fail to mention is that eating a big Mac has the same effect. Perhaps you should get corn flakes banned too.
    http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/07/eating-corn-flakes-causes-endothelial.html

    Of course not. In a free society we are free to partake in risky behavior and businesses are free to cater to those behaviors. If you willingly enter an establishment where risky behavior is condoned or even promoted you assume the risk associated with that activity. That is the way it works in a free society.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_risk

    • Marshall, You repeat this tired old saw that “Tobacco is a legal product” and therefore you apparently think its use cannot be regulated, even when it harms others. Frankly, that’s nonsense.
      As an example, pencils are legal products but that doesn’t allow me to poke your eye out with one!

  5. Stabbing someone in the eye is clearly assault not the claim of an assault based on extremely weak statistics. I ask you the same as I ask every smoking ban activist. Can you name one cause of a disease that has been proven with the same relative risks as those claimed by tobacco control? Of course not because there aren’t any yet you guys spout this crap out as fact when it is not. You also fail to address the fact that in a free society we are allowed to partake in risky behavior and businesses are allowed to cater to that behavior. Would you step into a boxing ring and expect not to get punched? If you perceive second hand smoke to be a risk your not willing to take then the answer is simple, don’t frequent places that allow it. They far outnumber the places that don’t.

  6. mogasp said

    “So if someone is sickened as a result of breathing secondhand smoke from your cigarette that’s not assault because you say so?”

    If you step into a boxing ring and you get your nose broken is it an assault? If you enter a business that allows smoking are you not accepting the risk. That is the way it works in a free society.

    I ask you again. Can you name one cause of a disease that has been proven with the same relative risks as those claimed by tobacco control?

  7. These people who line up to support these public smoking bans remind me of nothing so much as Hitler’s little brownshirts back in the 1930’s Germany. Old Adolf banned smoking, too, you know.

    • You should learn a little history before invoking Hitler in your effort to paint smoke-free air advocates as Nazis and the like. It’s a disgusting parallel to even suggest it. Don’t submit any more comments like this. You don’t deserve space here.

  8. Marshall – Partaking in “risky behavior” would certainly be a choice. To compare entering a boxing ring to entering an establishment that allows smoking is ridiculous. Further, you allege that there are many places that are smoke free. I would dispute that. Most bars are not smoke free. Most bowling alleys are not smoke free. A higher percentage of restaurants are smoke free but many simply have a non-smoking area and a smoking area. This is not smoke free. Ask an 18 year old who’s bussing tables at a restaurant how he/she feels about working in the smoking section. Now tell me they can find work elsewhere. Why should ANYONE have to go elsewhere to avoid a known hazard – second hand smoke?

  9. Enlighten Me said, “Marshall – Partaking in “risky behavior” would certainly be a choice. To compare entering a boxing ring to entering an establishment that allows smoking is ridiculous. Further, you allege that there are many places that are smoke free. I would dispute that. Most bars are not smoke free.”

    The point being that in a free society we are free to engage in risky behavior and that businesses are allowed to cater to those risks. I will give you that most bars are not smoke free, have you ever asked why, have you also noticed that the majority of bar workers are smokers. Do you actually think that they demand a smoke free workplace. Have you ever wondered why most smoke free bars fail. You had one right there in your area that opened up with much fanfare that ultimately closed and reopened as a smoking bar. http://banthebanwisconsin.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/ativist-learns-the-hard-way/ If one bar can’t survive off of all those those clamoring for a smoke free bar what makes you think that the demand is truly there.

    As far as your comment “Ask an 18 year old who’s bussing tables at a restaurant how he/she feels about working in the smoking section. Now tell me they can find work elsewhere. Why should ANYONE have to go elsewhere to avoid a known hazard – second hand smoke?”

    There is risk involved with any job and second hand smoke has not been proven as a hazard. What about the risk of working in a mine, crab fishermen,firefighters,etc etc etc When you pick a profession you should be informed of the risks but are not guaranteed a risk free environment. Perhaps you should also look at the studies showing the risks from cooking fumes since they are equal to those claimed by second hand smoke.

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