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Whether you love or hate smoking, Fiscal Court overreach is on the agenda

Editorial by Chad Hobbs

 Government overreach has been a problem in this country for way too long. Our founders did not set up our Constitution to allow for politicians to play the role of elected kings. All too many leaders today, however, believe it is their destiny to legislate away the common man’s freedoms because they are not intelligent enough to make sound decisions on their own. Only large government bureaucracies can free man from his erroneous ways is the vision these politicians have in mind.  Cigarettes have long been the guinea pig used to test the ways in which to slowly chip away at individual freedoms. No one could argue when government buildings banned smoking. Allowing private businesses to personally choose to ban it really didn’t provide much fodder for argument either. Restaurants were no surprise. Who could disagree with a family being allowed to set and eat free of any kind of smoke? The problem is, though, that once you start taking, it’s just hard to ever stop.  The great lengths tobacco regulations have went to is just not enough for some, and now Judge Gerry Lynn with the help of Melissa Phillips of Smoke Free Meade, seem bent on convincing the Magistrates to join their campaign to stamp out tobacco in Meade County completely even if they violate the rights of private business owners while they are at it.  Phillips spoke last month on her desire for the Court to pass an ordinance making it illegal to smoke indoors anywhere in the county. Since smoking is about as popular as the plague with many these days, many of you will say, “So what?” Well here’s the what of it: one, the facts they are using are bogus at best; two, due to the fact that local bars and taverns are about the only places left that allow smoking, I think our government and sheriff’s office have much bigger fish to fry than legislating and policing this farce; and third, who and what are next?  First let’s look at the facts. Phillips says the CDC says second hand smoke causes death to over 40,000 nonsmokers per year, and that the Surgeon General states that there is no risk free level of exposure to cigarette smoke. She’s not lying, but the CDC and Surgeon General aren’t being honest in the least bit. As Dr. Michael Siegal, a physician and professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who worked on past reports for the Surgeon General, states in Theodore J. King’s book, “War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State,” there are no safe levels of exposure to car pollutants, factory pollutants, or other daily hazards either, and that “by mentioning brief exposure as harmful, the Surgeon General and many in the medical and scientific community have adopted an agenda based on false claims rather than hard scientific evidence.” He also pointed out that in 2005 the CDC estimated 43,000 Americans may have died from second hand smoke while 43,000 people did die on our highways. So why is no one calling for cars to be banned? That year the Non-Smokers Rights Foundation claimed 38,000 people died from second-hand smoke, the American Cancer Society claimed it was 3,000 from lung cancer and possibly another 62,000 from coronary disease while stating on their website it was 38,000 and the California Air Resource Board claimed it was 62,000 with another 500,000 sick. It appears the numbers are all over the place which would be more consistent with biased hogwash versus replicable, hard scientific facts. Dr. Siegal argues that, “While brief exposure to second hand smoke can exacerbate symptoms of respiratory disease (i.e. asthma), it does not cause heart disease and cancer as claimed in the Surgeon Generals press release. First there is no evidence that merely a brief exposure to second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer. All of the evidence upon which the conclusion that second–hand smoke causes lung cancer is based involves subjects with chronic exposure to second hand smoke, usually at very high levels and for many, many years.”  Dr. Brad Rodu, an oral pathologist and the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction at the University of Louisville further challenged the CDC’s estimates in an article he wrote for Regulation, “But how accurate is the underlying CDC estimate of smoking-related deaths? The agency’s yearly estimates are rarely disputed, primarily because the supporting data and computations cannot be accessed by anyone outside the CDC or its collaborator, The American Cancer Society. The specifics of the agency’s work are shrouded in secrecy. In 1992, a Detroit News reporter documented her quest to understand how the CDC arrives at its estimates. Stymied, she offered this summary: “The computer fed raw data employs various complex mathematical formulas to determine how many people in various age groups, locations and heavens knows what other categories are likely to get sick or die from what diseases and how many of these can be assumed to be smoking related.” In short, the estimate is marginally informative and utterly unsatisfactory.”  The book goes on to point out that Rodu’s article also calls into question the fact that the CDC’s number of tobacco-related deaths increase every year despite the fact that the number of smoker’s have steadily declined for decades.  The biggest issue with all of this is why our local government is wasting time and resources having a working session on this, taking time away from the county attorney, and contemplating asking our Sheriff to police an ordinance that is government over reach through and through. The only indoor businesses that still allow smoking are bars and taverns in Meade County. Phillips calls them public indoor spaces, but they are private businesses. It’s not the Court House or Library. These particular businesses have already been hit hard enough by the pandemic. Many of their employees are laid off, and the owners are struggling. The last time I checked, children were not allowed in bars so Phillips claim that these type of ordinances prevent youth initiation into smoking is bogus fluff at best. Our Governor has made it quite clear that such establishments are not deemed essential by any stretch of the means, so why does Phillips or Lynn feel they should have any say in the matter of what a bar owner allows or doesn’t allow in his or her establishment as long as it’s legal. The last time I checked selling and smoking cigarettes is. If our Fiscal Court is so worried about air quality, why did they let a steel mill come to town? They have been convinced that it is going to be the cleanest, most state of the art, filtered mill in the world. Well, cigarettes have filters too.  Why we should all be worried about this, whether you love or loath smoking, is because what comes next? What happens when some other special interest group comes barking to the Court about second hand obesity? Obesity kills more people than cigarettes. If our local government feels like it has to tell a handful of bar owners that they can’t decide whether grown adults can smoke while they drink a beer in their establishments, how long do you think it’s going to be until they follow suit with big cities on the east and west coast that have already began campaigns outlawing and taxing foods deemed unhealthy due to too much sugar or salt? As Tucker Carlson wrote as an intro for King’s book, “Government efforts to fight cigarette smoking over the past 40 years amount to more than a victory for public health. They are also, as Ted King’s new book makes clear, a cautionary tale of how the state can bully, and ultimately crush, members of a momentarily-unfashionable minority group. Just because you don’t smoke doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be afraid.”