2011-07-03 Michael McFadden: If “Smokers need not apply” then why not motorists too?

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The following is a submission from Michael J. McFadden, author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains,” who is a frequent commenter on this blog, written from the smoker’s perspective. It is in direct response to the Guest commentary “Smokers need not apply” by Tyler S. Gibb, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 28, 2011 and on this blog the following day.

Mr. McFadden takes direct aim at some of Mr. Tyler’s arguments and goes on to draw an analogy between smoking and driving, using quotes from Mr. Tyler’s article. He prefaced his article with the following comment:


Michael McFadden, author of Dissecting Antismokers' Brains

“I’d like to thank Martin Pion (aka “mogasp”) for allowing me this extended response to Tyler Gibb’s “Smokers Need Not Apply.” Martin is one of the few strongly pro-ban activists and bloggers out there who believes strongly enough in the rightness of his position that he is willing to allow open discussion and criticism to be offered by his opposition. As blog owner he was certainly not under any obligation to publish an “opposing view” as a major article, and yet when I emailed him with the offer and the draft of it he graciously agreed immediately. Martin, I may greatly disagree with your views on the issue, but I respect you as well.”

Michael J. McFadden’s response to “Smokers need not apply”

Tyler Gibb argued that SSM should be allowed to discriminate against smokers and explained why such discrimination should be legal. He started by explaining that such discrimination is not legally discrimination since smoking is neither immutable or non-volitional and stating that the decision of “beginning to use tobacco … was a personal choice.” Antismoking advocates generally claim that about 90% of those making that “personal choice” are children. Some of us might argue that 17 year olds (up to 19 in CA) are not little children, but in the area of smoking choice and laws that is how they are viewed. Despite being old enough to kill people in countries around the world they are not old enough to understand the health warnings they have seen on TV, read in the newspapers, and heard at school.

So Tyler seems to be arguing that it is fine to punish adults for “personal choices” they made as children. Of course if we want to argue that nicotine is relatively non-addictive then then the immutability of this volitional choice becomes questionable, but I believe most antismoking advocates claim that nicotine is actually highly addictive and often outside the control of the addict. Thus SSM is punishing adults for an immutable condition acquired because of a poor “personal choice” they made as little children — bringing Tyler’s base argument into serious question.

He then argues that smokers are not socially disadvantaged. This is something I would agree with, but it’s unusual to find someone on the antismoking side of the aisle arguing this. Nor does he feel they are politically disadvantaged which would imply that smokers have just as strong a chance voting down a tax increase or ban aimed at them as nonsmokers would. I somehow doubt that 50% of cigarette tax increases and smoking bans have been voted down in the last five years. I rather doubt if even 25% or 10% have. So I think his argument that smokers are not politically disadvantaged is false.

Tyler then moves the argument to ethics and claims the discrimination is ethical because it “encourages employees to develop healthful habits.” If we accept this then we would also have to accept that it would be ethical for SSM to ban drivers, since bicycling is obviously far more healthy than driving. Yes, many would find it inconvenient to go without their cars, but bicycles, trains, busses, and taxis should suffice for all except the ambulance drivers. As Tyler points out, such healthful “encouragement” “is a necessary and ethically justifiable position by SSM.” As a necessary position it must therefore be implemented. It will also have a “direct and identifiable relationship to the mission” of SSM as can be seen there daily as their emergency room treats the children whose lives have been mangled or snuffed under the wheels of Detroit’s Death Machines. And, while less visible, there are also the many early deaths in their regular wards from lung conditions caused by automotive air pollution and heart attacks that would not have occurred if the drivers had spent their lives healthily cycling to work and play.

Such prohibition of allowing current drivers into the work force will, in the same way as the smoking ban, be “placing real, tangible, economic consequences on personal choices that negatively impact society at large. There is little public support for outlawing (private automobile usage, although recent legislation…” and regulation in cities like NY have severely restricted their use by reducing their convenience and increasing parking/toll expenses. The ever-increasing taxes on tobacco, currently averaging 300%+ of base product price, could be applied just as successfully to gasoline: at $15 a gallon Americans would rapidly learn to healthfully bicycle like the Dutch.

As Tyler noted with regard to the smoking ban, “Some fear this will lead down a slippery slope of intrusion by employers into the personal lives of employees, but (such a hospital policy would be) narrowly tailored, directly relevant to its role as a health care provider and fiscally prudent.”

Regarding Tyler’s closing paragraph, perhaps government should mandate pictures of mangled bodies on 50% of cars’ visible surfaces as a reminder of their harm and educate/encourage children to avoid picking up and developing a dependency upon the driving habit. Beyond that, government could “warn the public that (driving) could make you unemployable. Perhaps then individual choices will begin to support our society’s fiscal and health goals.”

19 responses to “2011-07-03 Michael McFadden: If “Smokers need not apply” then why not motorists too?

  1. I too applaud Martin on his integrity. I have spoken to him and although I disagree with him and think he is misguided, I find him to be a pleasant and honest in his convictions. The only other anti-smoker I know with similar convictions is Dr Michael Siegel.
    I too have posted a response but out of respect for Mr Pion will not link it here as it is a very harsh criticism of the entire anti-smoking movement and not an attack on Mr Pion.

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp comment: If you provide the link I’ll add it above and consider it a general criticism, not a personal attack.

  2. If smokers are not currently a disadvantaged class, certainly SSM wants to make them one. How can Tyler use lack of social disadvantage to justify that SSM should do what it can to make them a socially disadvantaged class. And how is it that smokers are NOT a minority when only 20% of adults smoke?

  3. David’s point on social disadvantage is a very good one: if employers actually DID make it a general rule not to hire smokers it would be pretty darned hard to redefine the language so that they were not then “socially disadvantaged.”

    Does SSM then think it is OK to take actions that create socially disadvantaged groups purely as a means of coercing them into “proper” or “desired” behavior patterns?


  4. Bill Hannegan

    I think drivers are safe from Tyler’s policies for now. I suspect the obese are next.

  5. Tony Palazzolo

    Well it would make sense that the obese are next. The last internist ( I switched) employed nurses that weighed far more than I did. I had a difficult time taking one of them seriously when she advised me I needed to lose weight. While she was correct I felt down right skinny compared to her. Somebody of that size really doesn’t sell the idea of weight loss.

  6. I think one can make a decent case that SSM does discriminate because thier new hiring policy discriminates against one kind of unhealthy behavior, but not ALL kinds of unhealthy behaviors. This is what I keep finding out about antismokers over and over… they are not idealistic, they are dogmatic. If they were idealistic, they would be fighting to protect workers from all percieved health risks–not just smoke. If they were idealistic, they would ban hiring of all workers with risky health behaviors-not just smokers. If they were idealistic, they would be pushing just as hard to ban barbeques in parks, not just smoking…. and the list goes on and on.

    mogasp comment: This is a totally absurd argument and as a retired scientist I’m surprised you would make it. It’s taken MoGASP 27 years to get anywhere close to our goals and you’re suggesting we take on every unrelated environmental issue under the sun in order to avoid being tarred as frauds. You might as well make the same argument about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the organization that seeks a cure for breast cancer: they’re also frauds, according to your argument, by limiting themselves to just that one goal.

  7. Discrimination of smokers by anti-tobacco is what its been about since the beginning. It opens up tobacco controls true objectives and its akin to Jim Crowe laws only worse.

    Jim Crowe afforded blacks the right to at least have their own businesses and places to congregate together maintaining the right to free association. This would bring us to the ”SEPERATE BUT EQUAL Status ”.

    Now, while jim crowe concerned only people of color, smoking ban laws affect people of all colors and takes away the right to freedom of association with other smokers inside a building of their own!

    Perhaps the Tobacco control folks wouldnt mind legalizing ”SEPERATE BUT EQUAL”again. At least that form of JIM CROWE would give some basic rights back to all people of any smoking color!

    And a place of employment without being discriminated against in the workplace!

    John Erkle aka Harleyrider1978

  8. Susan Komen for the cure does not denigrate any group, in it’s efforts to achieve it’s goals. That foundation has positive goals ( do something to cure cancer regardless of the cause and prevention is not a big issue with them). Why are antismokers not spending money to cure cancer and heart disease? If MOGASP were truly dedicated to environmental issues, you would willingly take on any and all environmental issues that can cause cancer or heart disease. Why is fireworks in parks safer than smoking in parks? A few years back some pyrotechnics experts were killed on a barge up in Alton, when the whole thing blew up out of control. You told me once that your whole mission is to protect the workers because they can’t leave smoking establishments like nonsmoking customers can. I just can’t see why you have such a narrow focus.

    mogasp reply: When I was a lot younger and working at a research lab. in England I became local volunteer coordinator for Friends of the Earth and in that role we tackled a lot of varied environmental issues. Over the years I’ve limited myself to things in which I’m really most interested and feel I can make a difference. Many people who are concerned about social issues similarly restrict themselves to what most motivates them.

  9. OK, so now we’re getting down to why the SHS issue motivates you… all you personally ever had to do is avoid places which allowed smoking, and here, you once told us that you and your wife don’t really go out much anyway. So, why does the shs issue motivate you???? I understand back in the old days, when you had to attend meetings at McDonnell-Douglas while co-workers smoked- there you had a valid point… but that problem disappeared decades ago… so that should have been the end of any justifiable motivation you had concerning the smoke issue. So can you give us any more details on WHY the shs issue motivates you???

    mogasp reply: This isn’t just about me. I know others who are more severely affected, e.g. smoke-sensitive asthmatics. Plus, I believe the data that SHS is a major health issue, and even Dr. Mike Siegel, who is critical of some in the tobacco control community, shares that view.

  10. MoGASP,theres this thing called equal rights. Do you think only asthmatics have those rights or do smokers too! You see this is why ADA needs to be repealed it sets special rights for select groups…..America is about freedom and that freedom to freely associate with others with your same interests….Business is there to meet the needs of all as long as its profitable. Now,why should a bar or a restaraunt have to accomodate asthmatics or any other disability that happens to creep in and have to kick out whatever percentage of their smoking customer base they happen to have…..which is for sure gonna be larger than any asthmatics that happen to float thru their door at any given time! Now would I agree if it was the national asthmatics meeting say in los angeles in a large family eatery! Damn str8 I would agree with you that during their time there they shouldnt allow smoking….I also agree no smoking around flammable substances….but that was back when commonsence prevailed instead of the eugenics driven madness now setting criminal law policy in this country!This is strictly an agenda against smokers and you know it,even with trumpted up shs/ets junk science!

    mogasp reply: The tobacco industry loved to bandy around the word “freedom” to fend off any smoke-free air laws and you’re doing the same.
    “Choice” was another word appropriated by the industry, and actually used as the name of an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. publication to counterattack smoke-free air efforts. For example, the March 1991 edition kicks off with a story “In The Cradle of Liberty, Freedom Is Vanishing” and to what freedom is it referring? The fact that in Marblehead, Mass. smoking sections will be disappearing from local restaurants.
    (994 characters to here)
    There’s a world of difference between the threat to an asthmatic’s health from secondhand smoke exposure, and limits on the use of a legal product to prevent it harming others. Some smokers refuse to acknowledge that obvious difference.
    Note: Your comment is 1,184 characters total, whereas the limit to which others are adhering is 1,000. I’ll allow it this time but please respect the limit in future. That’s generally enough to get your point across.

  11. Hormone replacement therapy is a major cause of our exploding breast cancer rates. Yet the Komen foundation does not go around trying to get local lawmakers to ban HRT. –or failing that, try to get voters to ban HRT,, Komen foundation is more concerned about helping those with breast cancer.. but persecuting those at a high risk of breast cancer. Komen realizes a woman’s CHOICE to use HRT, despite the risk. “Choice” is not just a word thrown around by the Tobacco Industry.. it’s also a word used by those who support abortion rights, gay rights, “choice” is a word which represents our whole social attitude.. ” choice” is what we’ve fought for in this country since it was founded. Saying “choice” is some new term coined by Big tobacco shows MOGASP really does not understand what the USA is all about. all because some meathead asthmatic insists on going into a place which allows smoking when many alternatives exist.

  12. MoGasp, I have to agree with Dave here. Obviously any powerful industry backed by a lot of money, whether it’s one of the big tobacco companies or one of the big antismoking groups, is going to have professional PR staff brainstorming full time for the best emotive words and such to use in their campaigns. Just look at all the little children used in ads about banning smoking primarily in bars. Have children been “branded” by Big Antismoking and therefore should be off-limits for a smaller group like MoGasp to use?

    How about “The Right To Breathe vs. The Right To Smoke.” MoGasp, have you ever used that contraposition? Did you create it? Is there anything wrong with your having “borrowed” the statement from the “big boys” out there? Of course not: neither is there anything wrong with Free Choice folks borrowing phrases or ideas from wherever they would like as well. Just because Big T says the sky is blue doesn’t mean it’s really candy-striped.


    mogasp reply: I find your argument above a bit confusing but let me address this: “The Right To Breathe vs. The Right To Smoke.”
    Breathing is an essential human function that has nothing to do with the latter.
    When you talk about “The Right to Smoke” what is the context? A cigarette is a consumable product like any other and has limitations on its use. Certainly, those limitations should include not harming others to the maximum extent possible.
    You may argue, though, that motor vehicles harm others by virtue of their exhaust fumes. That is a concern society has addressed by requiring pollution control devices and there are ongoing efforts to reduce exhaust fumes further or eliminate them entirely. Any harm to society must be more than balanced by the good.
    Cigarettes are highly addictive and clearly harmful to the user but also importantly, harm exposed non-users. There is no obvious reason to allow the latter. How does society benefit from that?

  13. MoGasp, I wasn’t offering those as actual arguments, but as examples of “sound bites” or arguments that may have been developed by others, maybe even others that you are not actually in much agreement with on some or many points, but which you either develop independently yourself or are inspired to imitate after running across them and realizing that they are strong.

    Simply because they came from another group, even if it’s a group people may not like in general, doesn’t mean those arguments are *wrong*! Hitler said smoking was bad for your health. That doesn’t mean I can turn around to you and say, “Oh, that was a favorite argument of Hitler’s so therefore we can ignore it.”

    I was basically replying to your comment about the use of emphasizing freedom and choice by Big T. Sure they emphasized it: it’s a good argument. But just because THEY used it doesn’t make it any less valid, and pulling the connection to them into the argument would be just like me pulling Hitler in.

    – MJM

  14. There is an obvious reason to allow the later ( smoking in hosp. establishments) that reason???? eliminating it harms business… and the rights of smokers to congregate on private property when the owner invites them in. The biggest failure of all ban suporters is that no rational explanation of why antismokers can’t just avoid smoking establishments has never been given. The biggest lie is claiming bans don’t harm business. MOGASP, about 5 years ago, Stan Cowen of the Missouri Health Dept emailed me an advance copy of the Hahn lexington ban study. That advance copy contained data clearly showing Lexington bar closings increased 50% post ban. I pointed that out to Stan, and when the finalized version appeared in Tobacco Control, they had left the bar closing data out.

    mogasp reply: It may be possible to have comments on studies posted to the Tobacco Control website. If so, I suggest it would have been appropriate to point out that omission there. There may be other routes too, e.g. writing the editors of Tobacco Control.

  15. I was in Lexington after the ban on a saturday nite!

    Looked like the GREAT DEPRESSION hit it!

    Thats right I live in kentucky until I go visit my grand mother in Washington MO.

  16. Antismokers often claim, “Now that there’s a ban I was just in CityX’s bars on a Friday night they were doing GREAT!”

    1) What they consider “GREAT!” may very well only be 70 or 80% of the pre-ban jammed biz. They didn’t go there enough back then to be able to see the hit, but the owner’s bottom line certainly feels it.

    2) A very big part of the bar biz ban hit occurs with the loss of the daytime lunchers from smoke-banned workplaces and retired folks and alkies having a few smokes over beers. The Antis don’t realize that.

    3) When you get 3+ years post ban in NY or LA bars LOOK fine, but that’s because 10-20% will have closed — bleeding patrons to the survivors. Whatever # of bars a city can support will generally be the # existing. With no ban there might be 1,000 happy bars. With ban only 800. Meanwhile thousands will become unemployed, they & their families suffer, and a certain extra # die (DK has stats on economic loss and death rate: MUCH worse than ETS estimates!)

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: If DK has reliable data that will withstand scrutiny he should submit it to a respected peer-reviewed international journal like Tobacco Control for publication.

  17. As I’ve already said, and sent links ( the review article in BMJ) to you,, there are hundreds of studies already proving income loss leads to life expectancy loss. (BTW,, most articles in the journal Tobacco Control would not survive scrutiny anywhere else. )

  18. Heh, when DK and I submitted our 1,000x larger than Helena post-ban heart attack study to TC, they gave it to three reviewers who refused to identify themselves and attacked it profusely while the substance of their comments generally made fairly clear that they hadn’t really read it with any thought at all. The public had to wait an extra five years for the NBER/RAND/Stanford study to be published and corroborate our findings.

    However, DK was not referring to a study HE had done in that posting, but was referring to a study that WAS peer-reviewed and published and showed clearly how estimated deaths due to the sort of economic dislocation caused by bans would far and away dwarf the deaths estimated from the reduced ETS exposure. I don’t have access to the URL at this point but I’m sure Dave does.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: If there’s a now-published study which Dave Kuneman can independently corroborate with HIS work, then it should be easy to get it published in Tobacco Control, as long as it adds something new.

  19. MoGasp, TC already turned it down. I’d be quite happy to share the study in the original BMJ version AND in the revised version submitted to TC AND the “anonymous” peer-reviewer responses from TC with you. Whether it adds something “new” at this point would be hard to say. The BMJ rejected it on the primary grounds that it added nothing “new” despite the fact that it flatly contradicted every study that had been published to that date including their original Helena study.

    Now that NBER, RAND, and Stanford have corroborated our work, our work would actually NOT be new: it would simply be sort of a retroactive supportive confirmation: sort of like the dozen or so studies Repace and Travers have done showing that there’s less smoke in the air of a bar where no one is smoking than there is in the air of a bar full of active smokers. … except without the $50,000 price tag!

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