Thursday, November 18, 2004

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.... 

One of the things that readers of my posts online know that I fiercely fight over campaign finance "reform" (I will be posting a book review of sorts on Bradley A. Smith's book Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform) and I fight fiercely over tobacco taxes and regulation.

In both cases I am a contrarian/libertarian to the core. In both cases the current zeitgeist is in favor of higher taxes and/or regulation. I will talk about my position on CFR some time later, but right now, I want to zero in on an editorial from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The editorial would not have blipped across my radar, but it had two offending sections. First, the paper reiterated its endorsement of a city-wide ban of smoking in "public" places in the city of Cincinnati. Second, the paper merely parroted a statistic about 53,000 "premature" deaths "caused" by second hand smoke from the National Cancer Institute.

If the Enquirer is going to complain about the loss of tax revenue to the city of Cincinnati and to Hamilton County, then the solution that is screaming to me at any rate is that Cincinnati is inhospitable to small business formation and growth. This link from the Tax Foundation shows that Ohio is one of the most hostile states in the country when it comes to business formation (thank you Gov. Taft). Having unfunded mandates on small businesses put forth by local government is NOT the way to increase commerce and jobs in your community. This link questions the supposed benefits of smoking bans imposed in Europe and New York City. Perhaps I'm ignorant or perhaps I'm stuck back in the late 90s where these things actually did impact a city's bottom line, but I cannot fathom how an imperial mandate like what has been imposed in New York, California, Lexington, Columbus and elsewhere can actually be good for business. I think the economic statistics are being fudged, I just can't prove it.

Even more annoying than the editorials wishing and hoping that a culture change in Kentucky (this is probably the real goal of the support for the city-wide ban) is that they would cite the 53,000 "premature" deaths from the American Cancer Society. I hate to bust a group like ACS in the chops, but they are not exactly a disinterested party. If enough people actually stop smoking and the number of people with cancer either doesn't go down or different forms of cancer crop up, then who can they villianize in order to get "research" grants? Who can they kick around? Why should they exist if massive numbers of people quit smoking and starting living healthier lives? I am not buying the 53,000 deaths per year figure at all. First of all, while second-hand smoke may be a "Class-A" carcinogen, this article, demonstrates how the label can be misleading or can be misunderstood. The idea that second hand smoke can, by itself, cause cancer in someone simply doesn't pass the common sense test, especially when it usually takes 20-30 years of regular smoking to cause serious problems. The Enquirer does NO ONE any service when they simply parrot in an editorial a figure that simply defies common sense when the brain is engaged about this issue.

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