Friday, April 4, 2014

Disagreement with Tobacco Control Now Punishable By Law

What century or what country are we living in?

In the 17th century Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” for holding beliefs that contradicted the church, forced to recant and sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life.

These days in Russia, you can be fined for exposing children to homosexuality because it promotes social acceptability in defiance of the government’s position.

Surely not the American way, right? 

Yet when the issue is tied to smoking, New York City emulates both in time and place.

Leaning heavily on one of the soviet-style anti-smoker tenets that even the sight of smoking or appearance thereof sends a message that undermines their attempt to relegate it to a “socially unacceptable” and “deviant” behavior, Ex-Mayor Bloomberg, the city council and his health commissioner demonstrated that the truth is only what they say it is when it came to banning the use (vaping) of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) wherever traditional smoking is banned.

On the local level, government determination of what the truth will be to advance its legislative agenda is bad enough. But when at the same time a U.S. District Court judge, by court order, makes that established truth mandatory of others – dissent punishable by law -- at the urging of the U.S. Department of Justice, the breath of the Inquisition is on our national necks.

In regard to NYC, when former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona writes a formal letter to all council members urging them to reject the proposal to ban e-cigs because there was no valid social or scientific reason to do so, he’s dismissed and suddenly a disagreeing city health commissioner is more the expert than he is.  

Dr. Carmona served as the SG between 2002 and 2006.  It was he who spun gold for the rejoicing anti-smoker movement with the release of his 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke,” from which emerged two press conference bullets intended to be the coup de grace to the head of all dissent:  “The debate is over,” and “no safe level.”  He was worshiped. To this day, those (his) words are considered unassailable by many.  

Today Carmona serves on the board of directors for NJOY Inc., a large electronic cigarette company.  

At first blush, it’s understandable that the council could find Carmona’s motive suspect – that he was serving the interests of the company for which he now works. But that suspicion can only be raised if one also entertains the idea that he is a man of questionable character who will say what benefits him at the moment. 

People can change jobs but a person’s nature is innate and achieved intellect fixed.  Carmona’s views can’t, at one’s pleasure, be scholarly gospel, and the next moment unreliable or dishonest. 

No matter.  Whether his press conference words in 2006 were, as many have charged, nothing but political because no support for them can be found in the actual Report or he’s dead right about e-cigs falling short of “unsafe,” he’s a man who was once revered for delivering the goods but who wasn’t even given the time of day now. (Perhaps a victim of his own doing – “no safe level” no matter what -- coming back to bite him in the ass?)  Buck the state dogma and it’s “Carmona who?”

On the federal level, in a racketeering (RICO) case brought against the tobacco industry by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in 2006 that the industry had lied and ordered “corrective statements” as part of the punishment.  But it took until now for an agreement to be reached on the content and placement (top newspapers and on major TV networks).

No issue is taken with the prescribed statements about primary smoking.  That ship has sailed.  What’s at stake here are the ordered statements about secondhand smoke. 

They begin with the major tobacco companies having to state that they “deliberately deceived the public about the health effects of secondhand smoke,” followed by a “The truth is…” list of effects that end with Carmona Who?’s words, “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”   

That the tobacco companies have filed an appeal over the wording is irrelevant at the moment. Two branches of government acting in concert have just directed that not only will they not hear of disagreement but that one must be forced to speak the government line.  No less than a state religion has been established right under your “smoke-free” noses.  The gospel is only what the government’s Anti-Smoker Church says it is and you have no choice but to adhere to it.

What’s remarkable is the anti-smoker crusaders’ triumphant wave of this decision -- rendered single-handedly -- as the absolute “truth” (the tobacco companies had lied) when seven years later a jury of one’s peers in Charleston, W. Va., decided that five major tobacco companies, in a case brought against them by hundreds of smokers, “didn't intentionally conceal evidence regarding the dangers of smoking.”

Arguing who might be right or wrong is beside the point.  The point is that a bonafide difference of opinion does exist. Though the scales of justice could easily tip further in favor of a diverse collection of eight regular folk versus one possibly biased judge (more on that later).  

Nevertheless, in the world of Judge Kessler and her champions, how soon until these eight people will be ordered to retract their verdict and replace it with a government mandated corrective statement?

Despite the stranglehold our modern day Prohibitionists’ have on the flow of information, effectively blacking or drowning out opposing views in the news, claims of effects on health by so-called secondhand smoke remains controversial. The science is not settled.  In fact, the “undeniable” has crystal clearly been denied.

For instance, it was only a few months ago that an article on a soon-to-be published study was printed. Headlined “No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer” in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the available abstract says, "A large prospective cohort study of more than 76,000 women... found no link between [lung cancer] and secondhand smoke."  

Buy the full paper and there you’ll find Dr. Gerard Silvestri adding, "We've gotten smoking out of bars and restaurants on the basis of the fact that you don't want to die. The reality is, we probably won't."

So how is holding a position that is apparently supported by contrary material a lie? If anyone is deliberately deceived it’s we the people from whom this latest study was kept.  Find it reported by mainstream news.  I dare you.

There’s more.

In 2003 Drs. James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat had their study on secondhand smoke published in the British Medical Journal that concluded there was “no significant relationship between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and tobacco-related mortality.”  

Just this past July Dr. Ronald Bayer from NYC’s Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health emerged with his analysis about smoking bans in outdoor spaces like beaches and parks. “Far from definitive and in some cases weak” was what he concluded in response to claims that it causes harm to health, extraordinary litter, and influences young minds (promotes acceptability).

In an extensive NPR interview Dr. Bayer emphasized, “The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent.”

Criticism of these papers doesn't absolve any who force a confession of sin from a defendant who can provide tangible reason for honestly believing differently. 

That’s not to say they haven’t tried to essentially airbrush the counter evidence out of existence (the same way the anti-smokers have airbrushed cigarettes out of photos) to create a synthetic “no alibi” environment.

Kessler, in agreement with a DOJ argument as part of the RICO case, goes as far as indicting the Enstrom and Kabat paper as a lie itself.  That tacitly implicates all such studies as fabrications simply for its guilt-by-association subject matter.

Their work and reputations dragged into this case, these researchers’ honesty and integrity were put on co-trial without any representation.  Their part was what the behind-the-scenes leaders in the anti-smoker movement told the DOJ it was and cemented by the testimony of one.

Having already gone to great lengths to defend his paper when it was first released from a vicious attack by those with an “ideological and political agenda,” Dr. Enstrom’s response to this further injustice was to write, “The Judge repeated in her opinion a number of the misleading and inaccurate statements about my study[…] However, the Judge identified no specific errors in the study and identified no scientific misconduct by me. At no time was I ever given an opportunity to challenge or refute the statements made about me and my research in the USDOJ Findings of Fact, in the trial itself, or in the Kessler opinion.” 

The previous charge of bias in and by this court doesn’t appear so far-fetched.

Deliberately deceived”?  

Considering that the aforementioned evidence to the contrary regarding secondhand smoke is but the tip of the iceberg, that’s as grotesque a charge as if a court ruled (as if it was its place to even do so) believers of human evolution are willful liars rather than leaving them alone to lean on a scientifically based difference of opinion no matter how hotly contested by others.  Would we not be aghast at the very idea that the debate was a matter of permission by a court at the urging of a government agency?

But in light of NYC’s behavior and especially the actions of Judge Kessler and the DOJ  how soon until Silvestri, Enstrom, Kabat, Bayer and the many other researchers who have reached similar conclusions or any one individual will be hauled into court and tried for the act of entertaining unacceptable thoughts, punishable by law?  If the crime is going against government doctrine why stop at industry?

Unless they want to admit persecution (“Big Tobacco is evil”) as the grounds for prosecution, the court is clear; it’s ultimately what was said, not who said it.  Galileo went down for asserting the earth revolved around the sun, not because he was Galileo. 

Let it also be clear none of this is to defend the tobacco companies that are but a red flag exhibit, but to denounce the elimination of dissent.

Despising the tobacco industry is no refuge for what the secondhand smoke portion of those “correctives” portend for everyone’s freedom to dissent when one is refused their honest belief, based on multitudes of material, that something remains genuinely open to debate.