Archive for the ‘Tobacco’ Category

An interesting passage in William Saletan’s otherwise ho-hum editorial on the anti-tobacco crusades:

Urine tests are a warning sign that the war on smoking is morphing into a war on nicotine. The latest target is snus, a tobacco product that delivers nicotine without smoke. Despite studies showing it’s far safer than cigarettes, most European countries allow smoking but prohibit snus. In the U.S., sponsors of legislation to regulate tobacco under the FDA are resisting amendments that would let companies tell consumers how much safer snus is. The president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids complains that snus will “increase the number of people who use tobacco,” letting “the big companies win no matter what tobacco products people use.” But the goal shouldn’t be to stamp out tobacco or make companies lose. The goal should be to save lives.

Well, I’d say that the goal “to save lives” goes a little far, as well (at least insofar as it’s done not by preventing nonsmokers’ exposure to smoking but by criminalizing smokers themselves), but whatever. You get Saletan’s drift. The anti-smoking crusade is not just about protecting innocent third parties from the potential dangers of second-hand smoke, or even “protecting” those poor smokers from themselves. It’s about the complete eradication of tobacco use and sale. Not that this observation is anything new, obviously, but it’s just nice when anti-smoking people come right out and say it (much like when anti-choice fundies let it slip that their motives are less about Loving the Embryos!!!!!!! and more about preventing The Sex).

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Sitting in a bar the other night, drinking $3 martinis by myself because I had nothing better to do, I was reading the spring issue of Regulation magazine, because I thought that would be less awkward than reading a book.

There was a great article in which Gio Batta Gori debunks the “science” behind secondhand smoke reports, frequently relied upon to push smoking bans across the country.

The plain truth is that no credible measure of ETS exposure has ever been possible.

The Surgeon General’s latest report on environmental tobacco smoke (a summary of previous studies) assesses the risk of contracting lung cancer after being exposed to ETS is 1.21. “Such a precise assessment of risk,” the article claims, “… must fulfill some careful, analytical requirements.” In other words, one would expect some sort of scientific process to have been put to use, representative sample sizes, accurate measurements, precise data collection, control groups, etc, to be able to report such precise results.

In reality, though, the studies mostly rely on potentially biased self-reporting of elderly men and women, asking them to recall vague instances of ETS exposure throughout their lifetime:

…The studies asked 60-70 year-old self-declared nonsmokers to recall how many cigarettes, cigars, or pipes might have been smoked in their presence during lifetime since early childhood, how thick the smoke might have been in the rooms, were the windows open, and similar vagaries. The resulting answers – usually elicited in a few minutes as part of an interview, a phone survey, or by proxy recalls provided by relatives of deceased persons – are then recorded as precise numerical measures of lifetime exposures, as if the digits recorded were error- and bias-free.

The article goes on to claim issues of publication bias, that only studies supporting increased risk of lung cancer from ETS exposure actually get published. Apparently, though, there are almost as many studies claiming decreased risk of cancer and most studies actually claim no change in risk at all.

The antismoking crusaders avoid all confrontations about the accuracy of their reports, claiming it it is all for the greater good, the “higher goal of abolishing cigarettes and tobacco.”

Even “a leading intellect of the campaign against ETS” could not offer anything to the UK House of Lords.

Sir Richard offered his personal belief that “I think there has got to be some risk” for which he admitted not having any testable evidence.

And so it seems that all of the smoking bans across the country – New York City, the entire state of Ohio, etc – that claim to be based on overwhelming evidence that secondhand smoke causes cancer are really just one more attempt by the paternalist government of the day to dictate what we as citizens do in our personal lives, what business owners can allow in their establishments, all for some “greater good” that may or may not even exist.

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A strange twist in Congress’ attempt to give the FDA regulatory power over tobacco: it must be kept a secret.

Anti-smoking advocate Michael Siegel even thinks this is silly:

In a last hour maneuver, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman – Senator Edward Kennedy – inserted a provision into the bill which would prevent the companies from making any statement to the public, in any communication, that informs people of the fact (the truth) that cigarettes are now regulated by the FDA.

You know that regulation of cigarettes by the FDA is a terrible idea if the supporters of the bill have to insert a clause into it preventing tobacco companies from telling the public that the FDA regulates cigarettes. You know that FDA regulation of cigarettes is a pretty bad idea if we need to hide the truth from the public lest it have the expected adverse consequences for the public’s health.

Apparently, the only way this legislation will work is if we trick people into thinking that the FDA does not regulate cigarettes.

Think about it. What kind of cockamamie regulatory scheme depends upon the public not knowing about that scheme in order to avoid severe public health consequences?

How sensible can a regulatory approach be if we need to hide from the public the very fact that the regulatory scheme is in place?

Kind-of agree. Although I never quite get why anybody is all up in arms about this or that (FDA regulation, labeling cigarette’s “light”) misleading people into thinking cigarettes are safe. How stupid do they think people are? Nobody these days thinks cigarettes are safe. They smoke anyway, but they know it’s not “safe.” (although, when you look at it from the general persepctive of public health fascists who think the government needs to regulate all behavior, you can kind of see how this mindset makes sense; it’s absolutely mind-boggling to them that people sometimes engage in risky behaviors because they’ve weighed the costs and benefits and decided to engage in that behavior anyway; no, it makes much more sense to assume that the public is a bunch of silly, uneducated morons decieved by Big Something — business, tobacco, Planned Parenthood, Pharma — who need the gentle hand of Uncle Sam to prevent them from having decisions to make).

For the record, I don’t really have any particular problem with the FDA being given regulatory power over cigarettes; I was actually kind of surprised to find out they didn’t already have it. The only part of the legislation I really have problems with is the banning of certain flavors of cigarettes in some sort of misguided attempt to “protect the children” (maybe because I give the anti-smoking people too much credit, and think they’re not really idiotic enough to believe the clove-cigarettes-are-extra-desirable-to-kids tripe and are really just trying to slowly chip away at smoking being legal in the first place, much like anti-abortion advocates and the “partial-birth abortion” ban).

Anyway, let’s end with one more quote from Siegel:

If the FDA legislation were, as suggested by its anti-smoking group supporters, going to produce safer cigarettes, then we would not need to go to extreme measures (violating freedom of speech rights) in order to shield the public from finding out that indeed, cigarettes on the market do comply with FDA requirements. In a brilliant way that I only wish I could have thought of, Senator Kennedy has revealed to the nation just how stupid this legislation is. What the bill is now essentially saying is the following: “We previously issued propaganda suggesting that FDA regulation of cigarettes will save millions of lives by reducing cigarette smoking and making the product safer through product standards. However, we now acknowledge our opponents’ arguments that in reality, the legislation will create a perceived stamp of approval for cigarettes, undermining public health messages about the hazards of smoking. In addition, we now acknowledge that the product probably won’t be safer, and that we need to go to great lengths to make sure that the public does not think that cigarettes actually comply with the FDA standards. Given our propaganda, they may think that compliance with FDA safety standards implies a safer product. But the truth is that our proposed safety standards are not actually ‘safety’ standards.”

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The Senate health committee is scheduled to consider a bill tomorrow that would allow the FDA to regulate cigarettes. It is getting stalled, however, because it would keep clove cigarettes legal. This is apparently unacceptable to sponsors of the bill, who are insisting that clove cigarettes, along with all other flavored cigarettes, should be banned. Their logic is that cigarettes flavored like strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla appeal too much to children, and therefore should be illegal. You know who also likes flavored cigarettes? Me. And a large number of other adult smokers. And you know what’s already illegal? Kids smoking in the first place.

This is just another variation on the recently proposed FDA regulations — kids shouldn’t watch violent TV, so we should ban all violent TV. Nevermind that adults might enjoy this TV. Nevermind that adults might enjoy flavored cigarettes. Never mind that adults might enjoy any particular thing — if it is bad for “the children,” it all must go. Entirely. Heaven forbid parents, schools, or anyone else ever have to prevent kids from doing anything themselves.

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From a USA Today article on SCHIP and proposed tobacco tax increases:

“It really does come down to a choice between children and tobacco,” said Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who originally proposed the 61-cent increase.

Except …. not at all? But nice framing there, Gordo. Not at all inflammatory and completely misleading.

(It only comes down to this if you first make the concession that it is the federal government’s duty to fund state-run health insurance programs, and from there leap to the insistance that the only place these funds can come from is increased taxes on an already-heavily taxed product but that it is somehow okay to persistently increase taxes on this product every time you can’t find the money elsewhere because the product is something you disapprove of)

Also, I find this “fact” apocryphal:

A 61-cent increase, said (William Corr of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), would prevent nearly 1.9 million children from smoking and help nearly 1.2 million adults to quit.

*okay, okay, I lied; I could never stomach your “family values” no matter how many taxes you don’t raise

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Via WSJ:

Anti tobacco groups also have been advocating a higher tobacco tax, which also appears to be getting attention in the House. Recently, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids presented to House Democratic aides a survey it funded that showed substantial support – even among smokers — for raising tobacco taxes.

So I was skeptical of this statement, but I looked at the survey and results memo, though and the question seems pretty straightforward.

Would you favor or oppose a 75 cent per pack increase in the federal cigarette tax,
with the revenue dedicated to the program that provides health care coverage to uninsured children?

And apparently 51 percent of “current or occasional smokers” favor the tax increase. I suppose these could all be the “the-government-should-save-me-from-myself” contingent. There could also be some desirability bias at work here, though. Not many people really want to be perceived as saying, “No, I don’t want to help save poor children if it’s going to cost me an extra 75 cents!” (which isn’t exactly the issue, but you know, it can sound that way).

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I think we should start taxing people based on their weight. Weight tax, if you will. Healthy weight? Then you don’t have to get weight taxed. Overweight? Well, then you get taxed. And the taxes increase incrementally for every 5 pounds over healthy weight you are. Maybe if you don’t like it you’ll stop eating so much. In fact, maybe if everyone gets too burdened by the weight tax, fast food and other high-calorie crap will be eradicated all together. McDonalds will go out of business. It’ll be awesome. We can use that money we raise from your love handles to provide health insurance for orphans. What does one have to do with the other? Who cares??? This is America – you make an unhealthy lifestyle choice, the government should have the right to tax you exorbitantly for it.

Oh … wait. What? You think that’s unfair? Yeah, well, I think this is unfair:

Representatives from health advocacy groups Tuesday announced that a poll of 1000 likely voters showing widespread support for increasing the federal tobacco tax to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). According to the survey, 67 percent of voters “strongly support” a 75-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax to fund health care coverage for uninsured children.

(from a CQ.com article that I can’t link to)

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Let’s talk about Paternalism for a moment.  This has been on my mind for a couple of days, triggered by a TV commercial regarding Ohio’s seatbelt law.  Now, most people agree that wearing seatbelts in cars is good and people want to be safe while they are driving, but look at the big picture here.  Why is there a law requiring it?  The government is trying to make all of our decisions for us because obviously we aren’t smart enough to make them for ourselves.

And this is happening everywhere.  With drug laws, laws regarding suicide, smoking, alcohol, pornography, and the reasons are all the same; the government is “trying to keep us safe.”  Safe from what?  From ourselves?  I think most people would agree that we are more capable than the government of making decisions about our personal safety.

I think it’s time for our teenage nation to stand up and fight for the right to decide for ourselves what is safe and what isn’t.  Maybe we’ll get hurt, maybe we’ll make mistakes, but dammit, they’ll be our mistakes!

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A while back, an art dealer in NY tried to sue homeless people for messing with his storefront ambiance. What’s new in the world or atrocious measures to get rid of homeless people news?

As Mayor Tom Bates sees it, the alcoholics, meth addicts and the like who make up a good portion of the homeless population on Shattuck Avenue downtown and Telegraph Avenue on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus “almost always smoke.” And because smoking bans are the hot ticket these days for California cities, why not meld the two as part of a “comprehensive package” for dealing with the street problem that Bates says “has gone over the top”?

Another city councilman added that this would make things “better for the homeless.”

Well, that’s nice. They might be destitute and dying of starvation or violence or disease, but at least they won’t get lung cancer. And at least the people shopping in Berkeley won’t have to look at homeless people OR smokers. Cicero at To the People sums it up:

I’ve argued for years with many of my leftie friends over whether or not smoking bans are fascist. I’ve always thought they were just too stupid to understand the implications of the policies they support. Lately, I’ve been realizing that they understand the implications all too well. They’re fascist and proud.

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“I can only hope this means that the MPAA will strip such films as ‘Casablanca,’ ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ of their G-ratings and re-label them for what they were: insidious works of pro-smoking propaganda that led to millions of uncounted deaths. Bravo.” — Christopher Buckley (author of Thank You For Smoking) in WaPo last week

Ha. Fabulous.

All this business about the MPAA considering cigarette smoking as a factor when issuing movie ratings reminds me of something Raee pointed out while perusing through old celebrity magazines at my house.** We were kind of surprised looking through an awards-party issues from the late 90s at all the celebrities pictured smoking. And these weren’t shots of Britney Spears looking all trashy and smoking while eating a bologna sandwich with one hand and carrying a baby in the other. These weren’t shots of some haggard B-list celeb in a bar with a cigarette dangling from his lips, or Mary Kate Olsen near death in hobo clothes with a cigarette in hand. No, these were shots of A-list stars, dressed up in glamorous, puffing away on cigarettes with smoke billowing around their soft-focus hair, looking gorgeous and sophisticated and sexy. Nineties magazines — apparently insidious works of pro-smoking propaganda as well. Glamorous, sophisticated, sexy pro-smoking propaganda.

(** I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on here yet, but for my thesis I content analyzed celebrity magazines from 1996-2006 to see what social values and social roles they promoted, and whether this remained the same of varied with shifting ideological / political climates.)

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I’m just going to aggregate some of the more obnoxious, civil-liberties infringing, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me laws passed/upheld/introduced this week:

Ocean City, Md. approved a resolution putting a moratorium on “sexually explicit stores,” including adult arcades, adult bookstores, adult video stores, “adult cabarets,” adult motels, adult movie theaters, adult theaters, escort agency’s, “seminude model studios” or sexual encounter centers.

Nevermind the fact that I don’t even know what an “adult arcade” or a “sexual encounter center” are, the law seems ridiculously broad. Adult “cabarets” probably refer to strip clubs, but the fact that they refer to adult “cabarets” and “adult theaters” (separate from movie theaters) means that this probably could probably apply to any sort of theatrical performance deemed too sexually explicit. And semi-nude model studios? Of the variety that are used for art classes? I was a nude art-model in college a time or two, and there is nothing “sexually explicit” about figure-drawing classes (damn hard to stay still for that long, though). Not that the resolution wouldn’t be unjustifiable enough if it was just banning porn palaces and strip joints, but the fact that they’re trying to take it that step farther into the realm of art and theater just makes it especially frightening.

Meanwhile, Abilene, Texas, puts a man in jail on an “outstanding smoking warrant” — smoking cigarettes, that is (via To the People). And, the Missouri legislature is considering a bill that would make baking soda a behind-the-counter commodity because it can be used to make crack cocaine. Radley Balko at Reason brings the snark:

Unlike Pete Guither (hat tip), I actually think drug policy reformers should embrace this bill. In fact, I think they should urge the Missouri legislature to pass it. Better yet, let’s pressure Armand Hammer to stop its shameless crack profiteering, and put out a substitute baking soda that can’t be used by crack pushers. It needn’t be effective as a baking additive. In fact, it can be completely useless. The only important thing is that it can’t be turned into crack.

And commenters keep it going:

Why don’t we make people register whenever they buy a frying pan (which can be used to cook crack)? A stove? How about just logging onto a system to request permission to use the stove?

And, really, people who are making and smoking and selling crack — already an illegal substance — are they really gonna be deterred by having to come up with baking-soda-buying aliases or patsies? Nevermind that the law is paternalistic … it also just doesn’t make any damn sense.

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I’m in class right now, and we’re learning about the Hollywood Anti-Smoking Watchdog group Scene Smoking right now. The group runs the Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! project, which content analyzes smoking in films and is apparently paid for by a government grant:

“Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!” is a project of the American Lung Association of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails that is designed to raise awareness about the impact of tobacco use in the movies on young people. The project is made possible by a grant received from the Tobacco Health Protection Act of 1988, Proposition 99.

Here’s Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down’s analysis of some of this week’s top ten movies:

No smoke went up in these sewers. Cowabunga!

300 – R
The Spartans of Frank Miller’s 300 are too busy protecting their country to light up any form of tobacco.

Shooter – R
Although guns were a clear killer in this film, the tobacco use by Danny Glover with a celebration and power message, certainly could contribute to the death rate.

Wild Hogs – PG-13
A lot can happen on the road to nowhere; but if you continue to stay away from tobacco, that road will be a good one.

Meet the Robinsons – PG
The future is trying to tell us something…and it’s saying DON’T SMOKE!!”

Reign Over Me – R
Adam Sandler shows that the power to overcome grief comes from the support and love from those around a person- not from a a cigarette – however a few extras didn’t feel this way and earned the movie a light grey lung.

Pride – PG
There is no pride in smoking a cigarette to make yourself look cool.

Dead Silence – R
Due to the fact that most of the characters in this movie were dolls, there wasn’t much smoking.

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Via To the People, a piece on Philly.com about “smoke-easies.”

Now “smoke-easies” are nothing new. When my former hometown of Columbus, OH, banned smoking last year, my favorite bars generally didn’t pay heed. One of my favorite neighborhood watering holes got rid of their tell-tale signs of being a smoking establishment, ashtrays, and replaced them with altoid tins. It was a marvelous system. If you were “in the know,” and you wanted to smoke, you went up to the bar and asked for an altoid tin. I think it was all somehow operating under the dubious theory that if that powers-that-be entered the bar, everybody could quickly put out their cigarettes and close up the tins and the authorities would simply think the place was a mysteriously smoky pub full of altoid fiends.

I don’t think anyone seriously thought this would work, but it lent the whole thing an air of being a member of some sort of secret hipster smokers club with its own secret symbols, which everyone generally seemed to appreciate. Then, one day, the local alternative weekly, The Other Paper, published a big, front-page feature on the “smoke-easies” showcasing a large altoid tin on the cover. Upon first glancing at the cover, my friends and I were outraged. Our favorite bar had been outed! How could an alt-paper betray us all like that?

As it turns out, our special-secret-altoid-tin-using bar wasn’t even mentioned in the story, nor did it even fall in the top-ten smoking-ban offenders. Apparently, altoid tins as ashtrays was pretty common throughout the cities bars, not some special province of our bar down the street. It was very disappointing, in that same blow to hipster-hubris way as hearing “I Think I Need a New Heart” being used in that dog-food commercial.

The above story has nothing to do with anything, in fact. Sorry. I just got caught up in a moment of Columbus nostalgia.

What I wanted to point out was the greatness of the opening lines to the philly article:

I’M SIPPING A Blue Moon ale in a Philadelphia bar, Janis Joplin is wailing about Bobby McGee and I’m thinking a smoke would go great about now.

I take out one of Baby Cakes’ Parliament Lights and fire it up.

I’m smoking in a bar in Philadelphia and nobody says, “Boo!”

It’s one of those leads that makes you go, man, I know it’s only 10:17 in the morning, but why aren’t I sitting in a bar in Philadelphia sipping a blue moon and listening to Janis Joplin right now? because, my god, that sounds fabulous…. (then the writer mentions beer pennants and the NCAA, and the aura is blown, alas!).

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Via Michael Siegel at The Rest of the Story, an op-ed in The Australian by Simon Chapman, a professor of public health, about the ethics of public health policy, and tobacco policy in particular.

Apparently, Australia has enacted some pretty intense smoking bans lately: ban on smoking in cars with children, ban on smoking in parks, and a potential ban on smoking in all outdoor restaurants.

Chapman suggests that “children exposed to smoking in private cars first tested the public-private policy boundaries on smoking.” This is one of those issues that tends to really aggravate me, because you’ll get a lot of anti-smoking advocates all “Oh, so you think parents should smoke in cars with small children around?” (more…)

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Camel introduces girly cigarettes. Marty Kaplan at the Norman Lear Center blog thinks the marketing campaign is sort of silly:

What’s surprising, or at least worth a second look, is the degree to which the tobacco company believes that marketing and packaging — the dark arts of attention-getting — are smart investments. Again according to the Times, they’re going to spend up to $50 million to promote hot-pink and teal packaging, “ads adorned with flowers,” and slogans like “light and luscious.” The No. 9 part of the name is supposed to trigger associations in women’s brains like “cloud nine,” “dressed to the nines,” “Love Potion No. 9,” and the perfume Chanel No. 19.

In other words, women who know full well that smoking can kill them, many of whom have struggled to quit, will nevertheless find this appeal to their hard-wiring to be irresistible. A color scheme can overrule the human will. A picture is worth a thousand New Year’s resolutions. A sensory promise and a word-association are easily as powerful as a promise to oneself, and an association between product use and death.

Then, confusingly, turns right around and says, yeah, this’ll probably work:

Cigarette advertising directed at kids is (at least in principle) regulated, because kids are assumed to have inadequate defenses against equations between smoking and coolness. But why do we think adults are insusceptible? Any industry that spends $50 million betting that our limbic systems easily overrule our cortical neurons is probably on to something scary about our species.

My initial reaction was along the lines of ‘what a bunch of crap.’ But I don’t know, the more I look at that hot pink and black box …. Edward Bernays campaign to make green the in-fashion color in 1930-something so women would smoke Lucky’s (which came in a green box) to match their outfits suddenly makes sense to me! I have an unfulfilled desire. I want my cigarette boxes to be pretty!

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Via To The People, according to DC Council Member Jim Graham’s unofficial Web site poll, 85 percent of people reported being less likely to go out to bars now that the DC smoking ban is in effect:

Smoke-free bars in the District: are you more or less likely to go out now?
Less likely.
352 85%
More likely.
52 12.6%
Doesn’t matter.
10 2.4%

Meanwhile, the Virginia Senate has introduced its own smoking ban bill. Eek. We’ve already lost Paris. That was the beginning of the end. Virginia is really the final nail in the coffin.

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Yesterday, the House of Representatives smoking ban within the Speaker’s Lobby outside the House floor entrance took effect. According to the WaPo article,

Smoking is still permitted in lawmakers’ offices, in two designated smoking rooms in the House office buildings and in a small, concrete room in the Capitol’s basement.

The article goes on to describe the scene in the concrete basement smoking room, which sounds dreadful:

Yesterday afternoon, two Senate staffers and two Capitol Police officers puffed away inside their basement hideaway, a cramped, room stuck amid maintenance closets and stacks of bottled water. A ceiling-mounted ventilation box drew up their fumes as they ate lunch, smoked Marlboros and worked Sudoku puzzles.

However …

Paul Billings of the American Lung Association said that smoking room and others ought to be eliminated, too. “This is a first step, we want to extend smoke-free to all workplaces in the congressional complex,” said Billings, whose organization has collected 9,000 signatures on a petition asking Congress to ban all smoking on Capitol Hill.

Now who the hell are a group of workers in a ventilated concrete room in the basement going to hurt? No one has to enter that room except the smokers. What would it harm to leave these Sudoku-playing-Marlboro-smoking capital-police-officers a concrete basement storage room where they can have a cigarette with lunch?

At least its refreshing when statements like Billings’ above don’t conceal the fact that for a lot of anti-smoking advocates, the crusade isn’t exclusively concerned with the dangers of second-hand smoke, and in fact wants to prevent all smoking, everywhere, because we find it distasteful and we don’t like it and we don’t like the tobacco companies and anyway it’s bad for you dammit don’t you know its bad for you and that we’re in a better position to decide whether you should do it than you are you poor misguided souls?

Relatedly, William Saletan at Slate reports today that Bangor, Maine is now banning smoking in cars where those under 18 are present, following in the heels of similar bans in parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. Says Saletan:

Ban supporters’ arguments: 1) Passive smoke poisons kids. 2) They can’t protect themselves. 3) Their illnesses raise health-care costs for everyone. 4) If we pass this, other cities will copy us. Opponents’ arguments: 1) Smokers are decent enough not to smoke around kids. 2) This is anti-smoking jihadism dressed up as child protection. 3) Government has no business meddling in our cars. 4) Kids get more passive smoke at home than in cars. Human Nature’s prediction: Next, a ban on smoking at home when kids are present.

When I lived in Ohio, a city nearby was considering a similar car-smoking ban, and I was outraged. Now it just seems inevitable (although I’d like to see how these places really plan to enforce it).

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The New York Times has an interesting piece today on obesity report cards.

The practice of reporting students’ body mass scores to parents originated a few years ago as just one tactic in a war on childhood obesity that would be fought with fresh, low-fat cafeteria offerings and expanded physical education. Now, inspired by impressive results in a few well-financed programs, states including Delaware, South Carolina and Tennessee have jumped on the B.M.I. bandwagon, turning the reports — in casual parlance, obesity report cards — into a new rite of childhood.

The article provides anecdotes about a 6-year old who is now loathe to eat because she was at the top of the normal-weight-percentile and thinks her teachers will be mad at her if she goes above that; an 8-year old who has begun daily weigh-ins and boasting about her low-weight status like one would boast about an A on a regular report card; and the size-20 homecoming queen who the author uses as a symbol of Pennsylvania’s apparently different-from-the-rest-of-the-US weight standards (oh yeah, tell me this teenage girl really doesn’t care at all that she’s a size 20).

The thing about the obesity report card is it’s operating under that age-old patronizing assumption that fat people (or in this case, fat kids or the parents of fat kids) don’t realize that they’re fat and need to have it pointed out to them at every opportunity, without really addressing causes or solutions.

Here, in the rural Southern Tioga School District, the schools distribute the state-mandated reports even as they continue to serve funnel cakes and pizza for breakfast.

Which, to be fair, I imagine it’s pretty likely the school doesn’t just offer pizza and funnel cakes for breakfast. It would be silly to imagine it doesn’t also offer things like apples and cereal and granola bars. It’s not the school’s job to see that kids reach for these options instead of a pepperoni slice. It’s also not the school’s job to tell children and their parents that they are fat, as if they’ve just failed to notice, or as if they’re aren’t doctors to handle that task.

I have such conflicting views on the so-called “obesity epidemic” in the US. On the one hand, yes, rising obesity rates are, well, bad. No one can argue against that. But it seems that every solution that anyone ever proposes to combat this does nothing but increase our collective societal schizophrenia about weight.

Part of me wants to say that American’s fatness speaks to a general state of over-consumption and parental refusal to set limits for their children and disgraceful national shift away from physical past-times to sedentary ones, and I take this very negative viewpoint towards it. Then I remember that I was raised on gushers and potato chips and pizza lunchables, that I do not exercise, I spent most of my childhood sitting and reading and most of my adult life in front of a computer, and the only reason I myself remain thin, I think, is through a blessing of good genes and metabolism.

Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in those think-about-your-health arguments for why people should lose weight. Other times I get disgusted by the perceived moral superiority of thin-ness and using health as a ruse for moral projections. If people damn well don’t want to lose weight, then why should they? There’s no inherent moral obligation to be healthy. I smoke a pack-a-day of cigarettes, which is probably a hell of a lot worse for me than an extra 20 pounds would be. And I have no desire to quit, because I like smoking, and … and somehow, I’ve gotten far, far off topic … reasons for smoking is another blog post entirely ….

Pandagon had a really awesome post and discussion about weight/morality way back in the day….

… our society treats being overweight as a sign of immorality. The only other privilege even remotely like thinness in this sense is wealth, in the assumption that the wealthy/thin have earned their privilege through hard work. The problem is that it’s horse shit, utter horse shit. Most thin people will tell you straight up, if we’re honest, that we don’t “work” at it. High metabolism is a genetic trait, and to a degree it might just be a habit of sorts …

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When we said we’d have a hardship clause in the smoking ban for businesses who’ve lost 5 percent of their revenue, we really meant we’d wait and see exactly how bad it’s going to be for businesses and then raise the threshold just above that

Currently, there is a proposed exemption for businesses that show a 5 percent drop in sales due to the ban. The threshold could be raised to as much as 15 percent, Fenty says. “That’s been the number that’s been thrown out the most often, but we haven’t finished deciding that,” Fenty says

From To the People:

But I thought the ban was supposed to be good for business. Could it be that ban proponents who claimed that all along were… lying?

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the real nick naylor

“On the dance floor, results of over-indulgence are quickly revealed — causing embarrassment not only to one’s dancing partner but also to other dancers by encroaching on more than a fair share of space on a crowded or, as is often the case, on a dance floor of limited proportions. Dancers today, when tempted to overindulge at the punch bowl or the buffet, reach for a cigarette instead.” — Arthur Murray, June 30, 1930

The man responsible for eliciting the above quote from the famous dance instructor was one Edward Bernays. In the early 1930s, American Tobacco Company, maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, wanted to double its market share by increasing the number of women smokers. The head of the company believed the quickest way to drive up the number of women smokers was to emphasize the weight-loss-or-maintenence benefits of cigarettes. The company’s slogan: “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” The company’s PR man: Bernays. (more…)

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