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Smoking Ban, Junk Science and Downright Stupidity

July 6, 2011

I was engaged in a heated Facebook debate with a group of statists who fanatically support a new law that bans or criminalizes cigarette smoking in public places designated by the powerful Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. This authoritarian government instrumentality created by Republic Act 7924 has the power to “perform planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process, exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters.”

As expected my anti-smoking ban remark on a Facebook group called Anti-Pinoy Crowd drew flak from a number of statists who support the new non-objective regulation. By statists I mean the highly misguided people who support government regulations, economic intervention, as well as the provision of government welfare to the people.

I posted the following remark:

Now there’s this smoking ban perpetrated by our “caring” politicians who want to protect us from ourselves. Before they passed a law that would make it criminal to eat dog meat. Some so stupid people call it “immoral” to eat dog meat simply because it’s illegal. These idiotic poops don’t even know the concept of morality.

What’s next? Ban the use of transfat in eateries, food chains and restaurant?

We’re becoming a police/fascist state with your consent and approval.

I received the following comments from those who support the smoking ban:

Chino Fernandez:  “I’m for the ban, I don’t want my face blown with smoke from someone’s bad-breathed mouth. I’m not a smoker, I just tolerate colleagues smoking, but banning in public places is certainly reasonable. That’s Ayn Rand selfishness, isn’t it? hehe. Also, this ban was successfully enforced years ago. It just got lax and soon smoking in public was rampant again. Besides, this is in *public* places, which are not privately owned. To say when something gets banned, it will become like prohibition in the 1920s, certainly is a slippery slope. So since murder is banned, it will become more rampant; better legalize murder in order to reduce it, eh? My exaggeration, hehe. For me, it really depends on the object that is banned.”

Manuel Malabanan: “I didn’t mean about the welfare of the individual thats smoking. Ang point ko, second-hand smoking kills too, walang karapatan yung naninigarilyong patayin ako o ibang tao sa cancer. Yung mga talking points mo parating “ako, pano karapatan ko”. Pano karapatan ng ibang tao? Kaya nga kin- quote ko sinabi mo na “That’s why it’s called “your rights end when other’s begin.” Mahina ka sa reading comprehension tol. More often than not you take talking points out of context.”

Gi Gie Antonio: “Can Froilan rebutt these articles and the other artices floating around the internet with articles that debunk the relation between cancer and second-hand smoking? It will be interesting since Froilans argument revolves is somehow partly based on the argument that second hand smoking is not proven to cause cancer…”

Jose Jeremy Seastres: “@ froilan : if you still wont believe the ill effects of second hand smoke then you are an idiot of the first order. Do you know what SIDS is and acute respiratory infections that are further aggreviatd by second hand smoke? DO you know how its effects on asthma??DO you even know what is emphysema?? And lastly do you know that children are the most vulnerable to its harmful effects especially toddlers??..favor before you spread your bullshit on the net. If you still wont believe what science has proven otherwise then i suggest you got to an area for smoking and stay there for 24 hours,lets see if you dont get any respiratory problems you asshole. And dont lecture me about smoking you asshole because i smoke as well you dimwit.”

Richell Jalipa: “People can smoke as much as they want as long as they are not infringing other’s right to breathe a very fresh air. Therefore, I support this anti-smoking policy in public places. We love fresh air, don’t you?”

Now here are the comments from those who are against this regulation:

Carl Justin Cuartero: “actually parang useless din yang smoking ban eh kasi wala ngang maninigarilyo pero yung mga private and public vehicles naman eh sobra naman sa smoke bleaching.”

Jan Emil Langomez: “I do not agree with this law, it will just encourage people to smoke even more thus, failing its suppose initiative. It’s reminiscent of the Prohibition Era that happened in the US during the 1930’s; it became a total failure.”

Warlito Nobleza Vicente: “ang bagsak nyan parang alcohol prohibition – people will do whatever…”

Personally, I believe that smoking is a personal choice. Every individual has the right to do with his/her own body. My body is my own responsibility; your body is your own responsibility. You have all the right control your body so long as you don’t use it to kill or injure innocent people in a desperate, evil act of suicide bombing. I usually tell my friends not to smoke in front of me, and they respect that. How about when people smoke in public? Well, you have the right to avoid people who smoke. It’s that simple. How about in private places or establishments that allow people to smoke? That’s none of your damn business because only the property owner can set the rules within the premises of his property. Like I said, what’s next?

It’s the criminalization of smoking in public that’s so outrageous and fascistic. I’ve seen on TV how the anti-cigar Nazis from the MMDA and DOH (?) arrested the “cigar-criminals”. It’s disgusting. Like I said, preventive law is the hallmark of a dictatorship, and the smoke ban is one good example of preventive law.

A pro-smoking ban named Manuel Malabanan told me that there’s a established correlation between smoking and cancer so he concluded that every individual has the right to live. It’s man’s natural right, he said.

My reply is as follows: “Anybody has the right to smoke, thus it follows that you have the right to unwittingly destroy your body so long as you don’t violate the rights of others. How many people die of lifestyle-related diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and even cancer? For most people, their own killer/murderer is what they eat. In this case, it’s what you smoke. Plus the fact that there’s no established correlation between second-hand smoke and cancer. It’s all about the use of government powers in order to limit individual freedom.”

I don’t buy the alleged link between passive smoke and lung cancer. I call it a product of junk science, myth and downright stupidity. Those who rely on this correlation have to know and understand whether there are established medical studies to support their claim.

Questions that medical experts and the proponents of smoke ban need to answer are as follows:

  1. The alleged link between cancer and second-hand smoke;
  2. The degree of exposure to second-hand smoke that could cause cancer, etc.
  3. Specific cases that prove the link between second-hand smoke and cancer.

According to this report, a medical and scientific study proves that passive smoking does not cause cancer. Here’s an excerpt of this report:

The world’s leading health organisation has withheld from publication a study which shows that not only might there be no link between passive smoking and lung cancer but that it could even have a protective effect. The astounding results are set to throw wide open the debate on passive smoking health risks.

The World Health Organisation, which commissioned the 12-centre, seven-country European study has failed to make the findings public, and has instead produced only a summary of the results in an internal report. Despite repeated approaches, nobody at the WHO headquarters in Geneva would comment on the findings last week.

The findings are certain to be an embarrassment to the WHO, which has spent years and vast sums on anti-smoking and anti-tobacco campaigns. The study is one of the largest ever to look at the link between passive smoking – inhaling other people’s smoke – and lung cancer, and had been eagerly awaited by medical experts and campaigning groups. Yet the scientists have found that there was no statistical evidence that passive smoking caused lung cancer.

The research compared 650 lung cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people. It looked at people who were married to smokers, worked with smokers, both worked and were married to smokers, and those who grew up with smokers. The results are consistent with there being no additional risk for a person living or working with a smoker and could be consistent with passive smoke having a protective effect against lung cancer.

The summary, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, also states: “There was no association between lung cancer risk and ETS exposure during childhood.” A spokesman for Action on Smoking and Health said the findings “seem rather surprising given the evidence from other major reviews on the subject which have shown a clear association between passive smoking and a number of diseases.”

A study conducted by a number of researchers published in the prestigious Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that there is “no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk.”

The study states:

In conclusion, our study provides the most precise available estimate of the effect of ETS on lung cancer risk in western
European populations. We found no increased risk for childhood exposure, a result consistent with most of the available data. The risk from ever exposure to spousal ETS was consistent with the combined available evidence from European studies, but it was lower than some previous estimates—a result that could be explained by the large number of subjects whose exposure to ETS ended several years earlier. The lack of reported results on the effect of cessation of ETS exposure in previous European studies does not enable us to explore this explanation. There was also a nonsignificant dose–response relationship with duration of exposure. We also found an association of similar strength with workplace exposure. Dose–response relationships were more consistent and risks were higher, although in most cases they were not statistically significant, with combined indicators of spousal and workplace ETS exposure.

Another study conducted by Enstrom and Kabat found that there is “no causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and
tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”

The conclusion of Enstrom’s and Kabat’s study states:

The results of the California CPS I cohort do not support a causal relation between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. Given the limitations of the underlying data in this and the other studies of environmental tobacco smoke and the small size of the risk, it seems premature to conclude that environmental tobacco smoke causes death from coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

To support its smoking ban, the MMDA came up with a new term: “smoke-free environment”, which it defines as “an environment where everyone is protected from the hazards of secondhand smoke, in all enclosed workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.” This definition implies two things: 1) that secondhand smoke is dangerous, and 2) that everyone must be protected from in all “enclosed workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues”. This means that the MMDA is not merely authorized or empowered to impose smoking ban in public places, but also in private establishments owned and/or operated by private individuals.

MMDA’s website enumerates the many effects of secondhand smoke, which are as follows:

  • Non-smoking adults who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work have a 25% to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Babies of non-smoking women who are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy are at risk of experiencing a small reduction in birth weight.
  • Maternal milk production is less in smokers compared with non-smokers, and the production decreases as the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases.
  • In infants and children, second-hand smoke exposure causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slowed lung growth.

Take note that MMDA did not even bother to cite their sources, or to show whether their sources are reliable.

I did further research and found out that the MMDA’s source for this statement- “Non-smoking adults who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work have a 25% to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer”- is none other than a report released by the Surgeon General in the United States. The report is entitled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. ” The citation is as follows:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006. 

However, an American surgeon, Dr. Terry Simpson, described the surgeon general’s claim as a “myth”, saying he was “incorrect”. Dr. Simpson further stated that “Second hand smoke may be an irritant and an annoyance, but it’s not a cause of death.” (Click here for the full blog article)

Smoking, like eating, taking medicinal supplements, etc.,  is a personal choice. Every individual has and must have the right to make personal choices. My body or your body is not a government property. It’s not subject to government regulation or interference unless it is proved that one is intent to use it to injure or harm his/her neighbor. The government has the right or is authorized to use its police powers to isolate certain individuals who carry highly contagious diseases in order to protect the healthy individuals and communities.

This smoking ban reminds me of government-initiated banning of the pesticide DDT in 1972 in the United States. Those who supported the banning of DDT relied on junk science. They claimed that it was carcinogenic. Like DDT, governments the world over banned public smoking largely because ETS was was to be carcinogenic. Pro-DDT ban studies allegedly found that DDT caused liver tumors in mice. However, it was found out that the pesticide could only cause liver tumor in mice at doses 100,000 times higher than what a person would absorb by ingesting DDT through residues in food.

Like I said to the Facebook idiots who favor the smoking ban, those who implemented this new regulation, along with their supporters, pathetically believe that all smokers are irresponsible and should be JAILED (should they violate a fascistic law).

Since the Malacañang palace is a state property, in the name of fairness and equity this smoking ban should also be strictly implemented in  the president’s turf.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. GabbyD permalink
    July 7, 2011 3:38

    it would be a good idea to look at more recent studies. here is a document listing down several studies on the different effects on health of second hand smoke. needless to say, more than 3 (the number you cite here) studies have been done.

    the enstrom and kabat paper has had some criticism leveled against it.

  2. July 7, 2011 3:38

    It’s very easy for the WHO and other big health organizations to level criticisms against an independent study that debunks a established “junk science”. The best way to critique and/or debunk their study is for WHO and other pro-smoke ban organizations to conduct a parallel study. Until now they did nothing but puerile claims backed by junk science.

    • GabbyD permalink
      July 7, 2011 3:38

      there are such studies. there are more studies that find an effect than those that dont. i tried to link the studies, but i was filtered out.

      • July 7, 2011 3:38

        Then link them…

      • GabbyD permalink
        July 7, 2011 3:38

        i tried. its in the filter.

      • July 7, 2011 3:38

        You may check my latest blog on this issue: MMDA Based its Passive Smoking “Facts” on Junk Science

  3. July 8, 2011 3:38

    @ GabbyD, I saw the study you’re talking about. It’s in my spam folder.

    Here it is: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/environmental_tobacco/pdf/app3partb2005.pdf

    This study is entitled “Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant” and it was approved by the Scientific Review Panel on June 24, 2005. Take note that Dr. Simpson published his article in April 2010.

    The study was endorsed by Environmental Protection California Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. No wonder about that.

    This alleged study concluded: “These estimates may be high as they are based on any ETS exposure and exposure intensities were not determined. On the other hand they exclude other ETS exposures outside of work or home, such as in vehicles and in other environments, and they exclude outdoor workers.”

    Here we’re talking of smoking in public places or outdoor smoking. That’s the target of the smoke-ban regulation. The study talks about exposure at home and at work.

    Simpson, on the other hand, states that the Congressional Research Service (CRS) spent two years examining reports and came up with the following conclusions regarding second hand smoke and lung cancer:

    (a) The statistical evidence does not appear to support a conclusion that there are substantial health effects of passive smoking.
    (b) It is possible that very few or even no deaths can be attributed to second hand smoke.
    (c) If there are any lung cancer deaths from second hand smoke, they are likely to be concentrated among those subjected to the highest exposure levels (e.g., spouses).
    (d) The absolute risk, even to those with the greatest exposure levels, is uncertain.

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  1. MMDA Based its Passive Smoking “Facts” on Junk Science « THE VINCENTON POST

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