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Controlling air quality is the route to reforming smoking bans

by Belinda Cunnison

A DAY DOES NOT PASS when we are not asked to believe that a substance that most people were breathing since the beginning of time – smoke from ordinary plant materials – cannot be dealt with using modern air cleaning technology. For all the literature produced about it, there have been no medical cases where causation of medical conditions has been categorically proven to be due to low levels of exposure to tobacco smoke – a fact that has made many people question the need for any smoking ban, never mind one as comprehensive as the one found in Scotland.

Recently I proposed, on behalf of Freedom to Choose (Scotland)1, Scottish Parliament petition 01451 (Review of smoking ban) in order to challenge the assumptions of the health lobby, whose underlying motivation is to discourage smoking, that smoke is a toxin that no air cleaning technology can now or will ever be able to deal with safely, that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke, and, most definitely, that ventilation doesn't work.

Declaring that never will technology be able to clear the emissions from smoking seems to be the product of a mindset that does not want to enable smokers to be catered for either in the workplace or in recreational venues. The position of Freedom to Choose (Scotland) is that society's interests should be met rather than resisted. A blanket prohibition on smoking makes it harder for people to get together socially, and this affects people more in districts where concentrations of smokers are higher, aggravating inequalities in many ways.

It is generally true that in workplaces there is a principle that exposure to toxins is best avoided if at all possible, however it has also always been recognised that different workplaces involve different sorts of exposures to different levels of risks from different sources that are difficult to avoid without fundamentally challenging the nature of that workplace.

Asking schoolteachers and children to put up with classrooms that had tanning lamps installed and running in the ceilings would be unacceptable, yet we allow restaurants to install patio dining and drinking facilities where their workers are "forced" to expose themselves on a daily basis to the risk of malignant melanoma from solar radiation. Just as with any Class A carcinogen, there is, theoretically, no safe level of exposure to sunlight, yet we do not ban patio dining: we accept that workers can reduce the risk through partial protection provided by clothing, awnings, and sunscreen use.

We tolerate workers being exposed to levels of carbon monoxide and diesel exhaust products in indoor garages that would never be acceptable in a day-care centre: we do not simply ban indoor garages, however we accept the partial protection afforded by modern ventilation and air filtration technology.

Freedom to Choose (Scotland) is urging that the same sort of thought be applied to allowing pubs freedom of choice in deciding their own smoking policies based upon the wishes of their owners, workers, and clientele.

The ambient air, into which tobacco smoke is released, is not clean in the first place, making it well nigh impossible to isolate secondary smoke as the cause of sickness because pollutants contained in smoke are not limited to smoke. So not only is smoke not avoidable, but removing it still leaves air containing viruses, bacteria, spores, pollen, and plain old smells.

If the advocates of smoking bans are interested in clean air, their method of extracting one specific source of so-called ‘toxins’ (tobacco smoke) and leaving us with record-breaking pollutant levels in the general atmosphere lacks all logic. Their purpose is clearly and simply to discourage tobacco use by pinning all kinds of respiratory, heart and lung conditions on to smoking (or secondary smoke), in spite of the exposures to other toxins or adverse environmental conditions in the workplace, on the battlefield, or even in the home.

There are specific, measurable standards of occupational exposure to airborne contaminants, and permissible exposures vary between different jurisdictions. In saying that there is ‘no safe level’, the enemies of tobacco smoke declare that there is no point in measuring tobacco smoke which, because it is so lethal, one cannot be exposed to at all. In fact it is a mix of particles and gases, each constituent of which can be said to have a permissible safe level expressed in parts per million or billion. If people are smoking in a given air space and these permissible levels are not exceeded (for whatever reason: the room is large with a high ceiling, the window is open) there cannot be said to be a danger. When the level of smoking approaches impermissible levels, air-cleaning equipment can be used. Permissible standards are the guide regardless of whether or not a facility allows smoking.

Equipment that cleans air employs various technologies: extraction and filtration, ionising technology, and others: sometimes combined within a single unit. Any equipment that cleans air has to be maintained and serviced to ensure efficient running.

Any venue that wishes to permit smoking needs to ensure that its air-flow can cope with it. The industry should carry an audit of recommended equipment for all sizes of venue and price ranges but with specific air quality requirements in mind. Establishments that wish to allow smoking can then obtain the equipment, and once in place, patrons can be invited to smoke.

The result should be that ambient air, even with the addition of smoking, treated with air cleaning equipment, gives a cleaner result than ambient air in a non-smoking establishment where no treatment of air has taken place.

Of course upholding such standards would be an ongoing concern of the industry, with the assistance of environmental officers. But using local environmental officers to uphold and maintain air quality standards rather than simply hand out tickets to smokers is a far better use of local resources. This is about priorities.

Freedom to Choose (Scotland) believes that smoking bans damage people, increasing their isolation; and damage businesses, when they are helpless to alleviate a problem because of overzealous regulation. Taken to extremes, both isolation and business failure are measurably detrimental to health. With the rapidly increasing air pollution rates and increasing numbers of lung cancers found in non-smokers (Glasgow is one of the most polluted cities in the UK), sending people outside on to the street to smoke is worse than fiddling while Rome burns.

The power of the health lobby is a significant obstacle. We should be able to allow the hospitality industry (together with the appropriate government agency) to set standards for air quality, to give the air-cleaning industry the specifications it needs for improving ambient air, and in doing so create spaces with improved air quality where smoking can take place with the minimum of inconvenience to anyone else.
  
1 Freedom to Choose (Scotland) includes both smokers and non-smokers and receives no support from any industry.

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Article from Tuesday 9, October, 2012

User Comments

Suicide verdict on bullied factory worker, Hazards news, 11 February 2006 A father of four killed himself after being bullied by his managers for two years, an inquest has heard. Anthony McDermott, 50, left a letter explaining his factory floor ordeal before hanging himself. He worked for the same firm for 14 years but the hearing was told that at the end he found a bullying campaign “soul destroying and demeaning”. The final straw came when a colleague took a photo of him having a cigarette outside the factory, which operates a no-smoking policy. The father of four was said to have been ridiculed after the picture was circulated on the firm's computer network. He complained to his manager but was issued with the firm's first warning for breaching the no-smoking policy. Coroner John Pollard read a short extract from the handwritten note found in Mr McDermott's shirt pocket following his death. It said: “The reason for this is for the last two years I've been bullied at work by management and this includes a photo of myself being taken.” Mr Pollard recorded a verdict that Mr McDermott took his own life, but said he did not wish to comment on what had been worrying him. No-one from the company - metal detector maker Mettler-Toledo Safeline Ltd of Salford - gave evidence at the Stockport inquest. Mr McDermott's daughter Victoria, 25, said: “I would like to see the people who bullied my father brought to justice.”

Posted on 16/10/2012 by maurice sutton
Professor Davies makes an excellent point: "Bad science in a good cause is bad science." Any science that wants to tell people that even the smallest microscopic exposures to "toxins" is dangerous is truly bad science. Every time you enter a room where another person is breathing, you are forced to inhale all sorts of deadly toxins that their body is getting rid of with every exhalation. But people who worry about that kind of thing and avoid being in rooms with other human beings are called "crazy people," not "scientists." Anyone who agrees with me and wants to amend the Scottish ban should most definitely just take 30 seconds to go over to: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/reviewofsmokingban and add your signature to the list!

Posted on 11/10/2012 by Bill Gibson
Great article! But misses the whole point. Big pHARMaceutical has spent (worldwide) hundreds of billions of dollars over at least 40 years on junk 'science', and propaganda in an attempt to get rid of a NATURAL HERB, because they can not patent it. They hope to coerce people into giving up their herb, and buy more chemicals (often from Chinese factories) instead. So, it is about stamping out tobacco.... period. Unfortunately for them, tens of millions of people in the USA alone are NOT GOING TO QUIT SMOKING - BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT to. And, personally, I DO NOT pay for hospitality I DO NOT get. I am perfectly capable of feeding myself, my husband, my 6 kids AND 8 grandkids. We don't NEED no 'stinkin' restaurants. I pay for a restaurant because I want to sit on my duff, relax, and be waited on. That does NOT include being forced to quit smoking against my will, NOR being forced to get up and go hike outside - whether or not it's raining, snowing, or 100 degrees. Guess where my family does NOT eat??? Anyplace where MOM ISN'T HAPPY.

Posted on 10/10/2012 by Lynda Farley
The petition mentioned will be a very difficult one for MSPs to handle. If they allow the petitioners the opportunity to present the full evidence held they could be in the position of having to admit they were wrong in supporting the smoking ban as it currently exists. The integrity of the Scottish Parliament and it's members is at stake and justice must be seen to be done in the handling of the petition. The so called "experts" in Tobacco Control, their supporting "Charities" and NGOs may regret some of the claims they have made when called to do so under oath in the Law Courts.

Posted on 10/10/2012 by Eddie Douthwaite
'Aw, bless. You STILL think there's one chance in a billion of the smoking ban being rescinded. That's adorable.'Felix Ituss Probably not with a weak and politically corrupt leadership. But Belinda merely states it as it is - there is no good reason not to allow smoking in enclosed spaces if proven modern technology can remove ETS. But smoking bans are part of the denormalisation process (they're even admitting it now). If you're happy with that, you have no respect for scientific integrity, preferring to rely on and support a fraudulent agenda. Just don't start complaining when your rights and freedoms are eroded by legislation based on junk science.

Posted on 10/10/2012 by david
This article rightly and cogently points out the primary issue, i.e. Air quality. A study into Deep Vein Thrombosis concluded that the rise in DVT was due not to prolonged periods of sitting still but to the air quality on long haul flights. Since smoking was banned on aircraft the air is changed far less often, hence the air quality is poorer than it was when people were smoking. It's surely no coincidence that flight DVT only became a problem in the wake of the smoking ban on aeroplanes.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Michael Davidson
John B. Davies Semi-retired Professor of Psychology at the University of Strathclyde and Director of the Centre for Applied Social Psychology. Member of Health Scotland's Qualitative Bar Study on Smokefree Legislation - "In my opinion the current social marketing campaigns [about the risk of passive smoking] are deliberately designed to deceive people to make them change behaviour. How far do we take this? At what point does it become unacceptable to deliberately present information in a deceptive way to make people change their behaviour? You have to make a decision, and I have made mine: Bad science in a good cause is bad science."

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Dave Copeland
The only reason we have smoking bans is because the drug companies want to sell their smoking cessation devices. One should alway follow the money.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Sue Terenzi
Aw, bless. You STILL think there's one chance in a billion of the smoking ban being rescinded. That's adorable.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Felix Ituss
It takes at least 20 years (if ever) for a heavy smoker to develop any disease suspected to have been caused by smoking and don't forget that he also inhales his own second hand smoke and often everyone else's since he doesn't find it necessary to avoid smoke laden places. How can anyone with even limited intelligence be afraid of the smell of hundreds of times diluted environmental tobacco smoke? Add to this some decent ventilation or a few open windows and one has as much risk of getting harmed by second hand smoke as getting struck by lightening.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Iro
A good article Belinda C, the tobacco control industry has become zealous in its persecution of people who smoke and instigated the dreconion smoking ban, through fraudulent scaremongering that second hand smoke is significantly harmful, when even the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could not produce epidemiological evidence that this was the case, this was because the evidence of all the epidemiological studies show there is no significant harm. Ventilation was always the way ahead. I do hope that people will see sense and stop this apartheid of smokers and non smokers brought about by the previous totalitarian government (on this issue) and enforced further by this one.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Greg Burrows
An excellent analysis of the duplicitous actions of politicians not just in Scotland but right across the UK and the world. Legislate against something that doesn't exist, and blame health concerns whilst completely re-writing the Law of Particle Science. However still taking the billions in tax revenues from smokers. As a life long never smoker I would urge others to desist and newbies not to start, nevertheless until tobacco products themselves are made illegal this is the very worse kind of hypocrisy shown by multiple Governments.

Posted on 09/10/2012 by Robert FealMartinez