Media Coverage of Smoking Bans – Some Stories Don’t Have “Two” Sides

January 3rd, 2010

This New Years saw yet another revival of the ‘personal liberties’ debate about exposure to second-hand smoke in this NY Times article,
Blowing Smoke at a Ban” by Douglas Quenqua. Once again we have an article showcasing the derision of the public for these bans in the absence of citations of data regarding why these bans haven’t been repealed after years of study. Reporters striving for objectivity in reporting are wrongly presenting ‘sides’ which don’t actually exist.

Public perception of today’s societal burdens is largely the product of media presentation. Objective reporting goes out the window when the tactic of appealing to the ‘human interest’ readership portrays abusive viewpoints as legitimate (e.g. blowing poisonous fumes into communal airspace). Would you expect reporters to present a ‘side’ by a serial killer about why his victims ‘made him do it’? Does it honestly matter that smokers don’t like leaving a nice warm bar to smoke outside before returning to their fun when non-smoking patrons and bar employees will live to enjoy a new dawn because of such bans? My comment at that site contains links to mainstream research which should help the hapless victims of drifting tobacco smoke to explain the urgency with which the non-smoking public requires protective legislation.

Enforcing it would be nice, too.

117. B.R.
January 2nd, 2010
4:40 pm

The media is contributing to the continuing confusion on the part of the public about the crucial nature of anti-smoking legislation. It wasn’t intended to reduce the number of people who are addicted to smoking but to first protect citizens from bearing the costs of smoking-related illnesses and to prevent the unnecessary disability and death that smoking causes in millions of non-smokers. Stories of this nature require simple citations of why the laws were even put on the books.

The data as summarized by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institute of Medicine indicates that over 125 million non-smokers are enjoying unprecedented relief since this legislation was implemented in so many communities without incurring financial losses to businesses. University of California (San Francisco) researchers pooling data found that in just three years, cardiac events were reduced by a third in participating communities. That translates into huge societal benefits. The debate presented in these articles should be about how to accommodate the needs of smokers since the practice is legal and quitting is an impossibility for so many. However, their addictions don’t’ warrant a death sentence – or death tax via medical costs – being assigned to non-participants in the practice.

The data on asthma indicates it is the fourth largest cause of lost work productivity (and largest cause of missed school days in children). With over twenty million asthmatics in the country, how would any employer find it financially rewarding to allow smoking in their facilities?

The dramatics of wealthy bar patrons agonizing about being deprived of nicotine while indoors is simply not news but a sad commentary on a society disinterested in human suffering. The real drama of bar employees having to choose between their jobs and their health is news – not that they are free to complain if they want to retain their jobs.

Lest the smokers continue to feel put upon in this matter, recall the 2001 attempt by Phillip Morris to lobby against legislation of smoking restrictions in the Republic of Czechoslovakia. Government officials were told of the fiscal benefits they might enjoy by permitting smoking to continue. Their statistics showed that the premature deaths of smokers reduced government expenditures in retiree pensions and health care.

NY Times, some stories really don’t have ‘two’ sides.

Update: New study indicates there is no safe level of second hand smoke exposure:

Categories: NY Times, Published

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