RFT 09/27/2010: “Clandestine Air-Quality Test Upsets Bar Owner, Smoking Ban Opponents”

This is what happens when you take Bill Hannegan at his word and conduct an investigation in a smoking-allowed public facility he holds up as a model, but you don’t involve him in the testing. He gets miffed and starts threatening to sic lawyers on you.

I’m deeply disappointed in Bill, I must say.

But in the RFT blog below it’s nice to be compared to (now Sir) Sean Connery in his role as James Bond – 007, even if I think it’s the furthest thing from the truth imaginable!

Oh, of course, it’s because I have a British accent: that’s what Sean and I have in common, although he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I was born in London, England. In other words, almost in the same place!

Below is a 500 word excerpt of RFT reporter Chad Garrison’s blog on the web:

Smoking Bans
Clandestine Air-Quality Test Upsets Bar Owner, Smoking Ban Opponents
By Chad Garrison, Mon., Sep. 27 2010 @ 4:55PM Comments (2)
Categories: News, Smoking Bans

That mysterious British agent with a drink in his hand? It's not 007.

For anyone puzzled by the silver-haired gentleman with the English accent observed acting suspiciously at Double D’s Lounge on Saturday night, here’s an explanation:  

His name is Martin Pion and he was there collecting air quality measurements that he plans to test for nicotine and other pollutants.

“It was a clandestine operation,” the 70-something Pion tells Daily RFT.

Still, Pion — who in 1984 founded Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution (Mo-GASP) after arriving in the states from his native England — managed to make the most of his hour at Double D’s.

It was only when Pion started taking photos that he aroused suspicion.

“An employee questioned what I was doing taking pictures,” says Pion.

Yesterday Pion emailed Bill Hannegan — a vocal opponent of smoking bans — to ask him if he knew the bar’s measurements, which he needs to round-out his study.

It was Hannegan, after all, who prompted Pion to study the air inside Double D’s after Washington University recently released a study suggesting that smoke-eaters make air quality worse. Hannegan disputed the study and challenged Wash. U. to check out Double D’s, which uses five commercial-grade air filters.

Martin Pion

Pion says the email now has him “locked in a nasty situation” with Hannegan, who took offense to the way Pion went about conducting his research and has since exchanged several emails with the Mo-GASP founder. 

“I told him I think it opens him up to liability, especially if he goes and publishes a report saying that the air inside Double D’s is dangerous,” says Hannegan. “The fact of the matter is, we don’t know how or where he took his test that night and under what conditions. Was the machine sitting right in front of a burning cigarette? If I were going to test the air at Double D’s, I’d invite Martin and others to watch the process — just to control the credibility issue.”

Reached for comment, Donna Wideman, owner of the Brentwood-based Double D’s, says she was unaware of Pion’s covert operation Saturday. “Frankly, I see what he did as an invasion on our business.”

Pion says he should get his results back from the lab this week. First he’d like to see if he could get his findings published in a scientific journal. He adds that the air inside Double D’s seemed cleaner than other bars, though he did have a somewhat sore throat after the hour he spent in the bar drinking a non-alcoholic beverage and pretending to enjoy himself.

As for the methodology behind his survey, Pion offers no apologies. He was acting on behalf of the public and suffered in the process.

“I had to endure second-hand smoke and rather deafening karaoke,” he says.  

P.S. Stay tuned tomorrow as Pion argues smoking-ban opponent Tony Palazzolo in Daily RFT’s Tuesday Tussle.

6 responses to “RFT 09/27/2010: “Clandestine Air-Quality Test Upsets Bar Owner, Smoking Ban Opponents”

  1. Whenever I asked my dad (a lawyer) if I or someone else could sue, he always answered that “anyone can sue.” The only exception is that you need permission from the city to sue them (he was able to get that once in Chicago when a city bus ran over the husband of a woman who worked for us.) Unfortunately, as well, a trial becomes a match of wits… who has the best lawyer (that’s me talking, not my dad (who never lost a case in his life)). It will be interesting to see your results.

  2. “As for the methodology behind his survey, Pion offers no apologies. He was acting on behalf of the public and suffered in the process. ”

    Really? Such martyrdom, killing himself off in service to the cause he loves so dearly”?

    Kind if illuminating of his true beliefs, if second hand smoke were half as toxic as he contends it is, self preservation would seem to be his first concern.

    Second hand smoke particulate measured in this manner is meaningless and Pion should understand that as well as anyone. This was about it’s emotional stunt value, beyond anything related to legitimate Public health initiatives. Shame on you Martin, you decrease the credibility of real science, with your constant attraction to the cameras, in use of any irresponsible method that gets you there.

    • Kevin, Just to respond to your sarcastic and unfounded comments:

      I don’t enjoy going anywhere that I suspect will expose me to SHS, which produces both throat irritation and discomfort typically lasting for many hours afterwards. And I won’t go into this venue again, even if we do repeat tests there, while they continue to allow smoking.
      You provide absolutely no scientific evidence to support your dismissive claim about the tests that were performed, for which there’s plenty of support in the literature, e.g. the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on SHS, plus the many peer-reviewed papers of James Repace who’s a leading expert in the field of SHS.

  3. Martin – Good for you. When these bars want your business, they claim they’re public and Bill Hannegan praises them for their filtration system. When you’re trying to protect the public and do some research, they are all of a sudden crying “invasion”. What Bill Hannegan hasn’t answered….because I suppose he can’t…what happens to the exhaust from that cigarette from the point it leaves the cigarette until it reaches that air filtration system 10 – 15 – 20 feet away?

    • I can answer the last question – what happens to the smoke from the cigarette on its way to the ceiling mounted smoke-eater – from my own experience on Saturday night. Some of that smoke is detectable by one’s nose. And even if it isn’t, I had a sore throat afterwards which is a sure sign that I was exposed to SHS in that bar.

  4. Jason Vander Weele

    I think Bill Hannegan owes you an apology. It is easy to see that he and his posse are not really interested in the truth – they are interested only in pushing their own agenda. Sure, they might accuse the smoke-free movement of the same, but if that is the case why waste time entertaining their side by doing research and presenting facts?

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