Paging Dr. Zealot, paging Dr. Zealot!

You might remember Richard Sargent, MD. He's the Helena doctor who pushed hard for the smoking ban. He's also the Helena doctor who came out with a 'study' in 2003 purportedly showing a decrease in heart attacks after Helena instituted their smoking ban. His study was thoroughly debunked as bad science. (Scroll down to "Smoking Ban Saves Lives in Montana Town, and read the several articles describing his various errors. In Sargent's case, "stat" is not short for "statistics.")

Well, Sargent is back. He had a letter to the editor in yesterday's Great Falls Tribune, commenting on Keila Szpaller's December 4 piece about the smoking ban. In the article, Szpaller discusses some of the ambiguities in the anti-smoking law. She also refers to the owner of a Box Elder business who, faced with a customer who comes in and smokes every day, 'just lets him,' rather than lose his business.

Sargent's letter to the editor is a masterpiece in arrogant self-righteousness. First, with respect to the anti-smoking law's attempts to keep children out of smoking areas, Sargent says "we attempted to make it quite clear: For the next four years children can't where there is smoke, and smoke can't go where there are children." [Emphasis added] Normally, I try to refrain from juvenile name calling, but excuse me, does the good doctor have a turd in his pocket? Who is the "we" he is referring to? Funny, but I thought the legislature passed the law and the DPHHS adopted the rules. God Complex, anyone?

He then discusses the fact that you can tell a smoker has owned a house or a car even long after the smoke is gone. And, according to the good doctor, if you go into the house or car, you will "breathe the toxic leftovers from the last session of smoking." While all of the non-zealots are still debating the level of harm, if any, caused by second-hand smoke, Sargent has moved on...to the smell of old smoke! Well, geez, then, if you've ever been around a smoker you can smell it on their clothes, so I guess they're walking poison bombs, huh? Let's ban them, too!

Remember the business owner in Box Elder? Well, he has advice for her, too. "[M]ost smokers are polite people. If they are asked politely, they will go outside. Designate an area for them downwind from the door." Gosh, thanks, Doctor. But you know what? While it might be easy for you to suggest we just shoo the smokers out, here's a news flash for you, Doc: When they're outside, they're not spending money. They're not customers anymore. Maybe you should buy the land, build the building, risk everything you own to open a business and create some jobs, then you can shoo your customers out.

Dr. Zealo..er..Sargent, felt "validated," too, by Szpaller's sidebar piece about a Pueblo, Colorado study that seems to reach the same result as his earlier, debunked, study. (Speaking of sidebars, did you notice how uncritically Szpaller approached Sargent's spin? So much for the cynical, skeptical press!) The problem, though, is that the Colorado study suffers from the same statistical shortcomings as the Helena study. I mean, come on, it is intuitive. With all of the smoking bans in huge metro areas, if these facts were true you wouldn't need a study to pick up on it. A 40% decrease in heart attacks would stand out!

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't smoke. Smoking is stupid and harmful. But its effects on the non-smoker have been politicized to the point that you really don't know who or what to believe (think global warming). And I don't think you abdicate hundreds of years of private property rights to suit some megalomaniacal doctor in Helena, Montana.

(As an aside, it is fortunate that Sargent is a physician, and therefore no doubt has friends in the field of orthopedic medicine. He must require regular visits to treat the inevitable elbow and shoulder injuries he receives from incessantly patting himself on the back.)


Wulfgar said...

Well said.

a-fire-fly said...

Good points, humorous, a bit scathing, overall nice post.

deepmoat said...

What I don't understand about these "studies" is this? They talk about the smoking ban causing a big drop in health problems in the general population. Yet, isn't it only a relatively small percentage of the population that spends much times in bars and casinos--the places that are affected by smoking bans? How can the few folks affected by these smoking bans be extrapolated to represent the general population? Anyone out there know?

Alton said...

Smokers need to just deal with the "steamroller" that has arrived and will soon crush them and there smokes. As for the busnisses that claim closer due to this law, I dont care. If not allowing smokers into their bussinesses results in the eventual shuttering of their doors, GOOD! Alton in Helena

GeeGuy said...

Wow, Alton, pretty compassionate guy, aren't you? Some gal, high school diploma, makes $10.00 an hour plus tips, to support her three kids. Who gives a crap if she loses her job, right, Alton? As long as we hammer the smokers, right?

I failed to make my point explicitly, so I guess it was lost on the Altons of the world. If you've got a problem with smoking, be up front. Start a movement with your huge, self-righteous majority, and outlaw it. But don't be a weenie and chip away at my property rights because you lack the courage of your convictions.

a-fire-fly said...

I think alot of people fail to see the distinction between the right of a person to smoke and the right of a person to control what happens in their business.
Smokers are not the only ones who can go elsewhere if they do not like the ambience of a particular establishment.

Anonymous said...

I am in total agreement with your statements regarding smoking;I am a smoker. I was just telling one of my co-workers yesterday that these self-righteous do-gooders should just make smoking illegal. Damn it. Just think of the income due to fines for smoking, or increases in the rates of incarceration for smoking that contribute to the economic base (corrections is a growth industry you know). While the do-gooders are at it, make alcohol illegal too. Let's clean up our society in one fell swoop.

Rocky Smith said...

Oh but they don't want to ban smoking. They want to tax the hell out of you. If smoking went away, everyone would have to pay taxes for the kiddie health insurance program. They want your tax dollars. They don't care about your health. The same goes for booze and gambling. Guess how much everyone's tax bill would jump if no sin taxes were available.

david said...

Excellent post, GeeGuy...and I especially appreciate your support (as a dedicated non-smoker) of my rights - - and more important, the rights of the business owners.

Anybody feel like starting a counter-movement of some sort, to try to repeal at least SOME portion of the new law?

Big Sky Husker said...

Hey Alton... sounds like you need a smoke. Lighten.. er... light up.