Opinion

Don’t believe the lies about secondhand smoke

Recently, Alan, a friend on my Facebook fan page for my book, The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State, asked me: “…what’s your take on the report from the surgeon general, Thursday, that only one cigarette kills millions of people and causes global warming and makes kittens cry?” Well, my take on that is this: what the new, portly surgeon general, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, reported, if not as Alan described it, is also absurd, and she thinks people will believe it because she is, after all, a doctor and a government official. Her absurd report is this: even only brief exposure to secondhand smoke causes really bad health problems.

I should explain why I refer to the new surgeon general as portly, i.e. somewhat stout. I do so because she is. I could, I suppose, just say she is fat. The point is that her rotund size is significant because she is the chief of the health police. Why should we pay attention to her pronouncements on health when she is fat? Unlike the Labor Department secretary during the Clinton years who was ridiculed because he was of short stature and couldn’t grow taller, the S.G. can do something about her weight, i.e. lose some of it, not only for the sake of her health but also for her credibility when pontificating on a purported health issue.

I criticize her report that only brief exposure to secondhand smoke causes really bad health problems. Her report is absurd, but you needn’t take my word for it. Instead, read the recent words quoted below, written by Dr. Michael Siegel. Dr. Siegel is a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health. He has spent 25 years in the field of tobacco control and spent two years working in the Office of Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control, where he conducted research on secondhand smoke and cigarette advertising:

Fortunately, it is simply not true that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease. Luckily, it takes many years of exposure before the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can occur. If brief tobacco smoke exposure could cause heart disease, we would sadly see many young people in their twenties and thirties walking around with cardiovascular disease, and many dying from it at those ages. Even active smoking does not generally lead to heart disease unless you smoke for many years. Thus, it is simply untrue to assert that brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease. [Emphasis mine.]

This is a man who has published nearly 70 papers related to tobacco. He testified in the landmark Engle lawsuit against the tobacco companies, which resulted in an unprecedented $145 billion verdict against the tobacco industry. He is definitely not a fan of tobacco. He is a thin man of science, not a portly political appointee.

In Oklahoma, where I live, the State Department of Health advertises ad nauseam on television and radio the phony evils of secondhand smoke by proclaiming: “Secondhand smoke — no one should have to breathe it.” Although this slogan is partly true because no one should have to breathe it, even though breathing it isn’t harmful unless it is breathed for “many years” (Dr. Siegel’s words), the slogan is mostly, basically, and essentially false because it implies that a nonsmoker may have to breathe secondhand smoke. It is false, a lie, because in Oklahoma and in virtually every other state, NO ONE HAS TO BREATHE SECONDHAND SMOKE BECAUSE SMOKING IS BANNED EVERYWHERE except in stand-alone bars and separately-ventilated rooms in restaurants where nonsmokers don’t go anyway. So, because smokers are not permitted by state law to smoke in the presence of nonsmokers, there is no secondhand smoke for them to breathe. There is not even the brief exposure that the portly S.G. has condemned. Oklahoma smokers may smoke only in their aforementioned ghettoes — and in their homes, at least until the nanny staters invade homes with smoking bans.

The myths about secondhand smoke are lies and the product of the mass hysteria the nanny state has wrought that has overcome reason. The hidden and sly purpose of the attack on secondhand smoke is to convince everyone, even rational, smart people, that smoking is not only unhealthy but evil and that all tobacco should be banished from the earth.

Theodore J. King is the author of the book The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million. He has been a columnist for the conservative quarterly The Oklahoma Constitution newspaper since 2000.