C . A . G . E .
Citizens Against Government Encroachment -- Citoyens Anti Gouvernement Envahissant
 

 

 

 

"In this secular age, focusing upon one's diet and other lifestyle choices has become an alternative to prayer and righteous living in providing a means of making sense of life and death. 'Healthiness' has replaced 'Godliness' as a yardstick of accomplishment and proper living. Public health and health promotion, then, may be viewed as contributing to the moral regulation of society, focusing as they do upon ethical and moral practices of the self."        Australian academic Deborah Lupton. In her book The Imperative of Health.

 

Communications

If you stand for something and want to influence a change in the world, you need to act and to speak out. This very website is one of our actions. You’ll find more direct actions in our "events" page. As for speaking out, each one of these pages carries our voice as far as people wish to hear. This section in particular consists of letters sent by CAGE, or by CAGE members and directors. Some are letters to politicians, some to authors, some to editors. Some were published, some were not. Some elicited positive reactions, some most certainly did not. And as will always be the case when you champion minority rights or an unpopular cause, many will simply be ignored. But that is O.K., because all of the most interesting ones find a second life here.


 

 

Based on the second hand smoke manufactured health menace, the city of Belmont in California is drafting one of the most stringent local anti-smoking laws in the United States.  If this proposed law passes, smoking will be prohibited anywhere indoors and outdoors, including someone’s own backyard, except in single-family detached homes. 

Following is a letter C.A.G.E. sent to the Belmont city council, urging the councillors to think very carefully before approving such a stringent and discriminatory ordinance. 

We encourage everyone to write and express how they feel about their proposed ordinance at:  CityCouncil@belmont.gov

 

December 8, 2006

To the members of the Belmont city council : 

It is with great astonishment and dismay that we have been reading about your city’s plans to implement a smoking ban that is one step away from total prohibition. 

As a grassroots civil rights organization that has become increasingly involved in trying to bring some fairness  to a segment of the population that enjoys a highly taxed legal product, we feel compelled to write to you, in an effort to have you consider very cautiously what you’re about to decide for the future of not only your town, but your state, country, and even the whole world for which you risk to set a very dangerous precedent. 

Forbidding smoking anywhere except in a single detached home, is in fact blatant discrimination against the less fortunate segment of the population that cannot afford such highly priced homes.  You may as well tell your voters straight out, that only those that can afford a single detached dwelling, are allowed to be masters of their own destiny in their own home.  All others will have to abide by your rules based on artificially created hysteria about second hand smoke. You may as well tell the world, that smokers are not welcome in Belmont, not because they present a threat to public health, but because their site alone is repugnant.  You may as well tell the world that it is alright to hate smokers, to ridicule them and harass them, because willingly or not, this is exactly where an ordinance such as the one you're contemplating will inevitably lead.    

Before approving this discriminatory ordinance, we respectfully ask the members of the council to carefully examine all sides of the issue.  Second hand smoke has not been conclusively proven to be a health menace.   The so called ‘’concensus’’ presented as ‘’proof’’ that second hand smoke is a serious health hazard, has been manufactured to meet a political agenda.  We offer you at the end of this letter the documented proof of what we’re denouncing and urge you to have a close look at the links before you make a decision that could be fatal to civil harmony and democracy itself. 

May wisdom and measure guide you in your reflections. 

Yours Truly,

Iro Cyr

Vice-President,  C.A.G.E. 

 

References : 

Professor R. Nilsson http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=Ab

Dr. Enstrom http://www.scientificintegrityinstitute.org/defense.html

Dr. Whelan http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.215/news_detail.asp

Dr. Arnett Jr. http://fredericksburg.com//News/FLS/2006/102006/10082006/227373?rss=local

The Fraser Institute http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/shared/readmore.asp?sNav=nr&id=386

Judge Osteen  http://www.tobacco.org/Documents/980717osteen.html

 

Ms. Coralin Feierbach, mayor of Belmont, returned a very courteous reply :

Hello Iro,

Can you answer one puzzling question: Why are we receiving emails from Canada since we are in a different country?

I must say your letter was very courteous and respectful.  You are one of the unique ones that have written to us in opposition to our stance.

Our ordinance will not be much different than ones already incorporated in other communities in CA and in fact in other states.  (see Dublin, CA, Santa Rosa CA etc)

In Arkansas and Louisiana, there is no smoking allowed in cars with little children. 

Smoking bans are being enacted everywhere, Italy, France and Ireland. 

In a way, I feel sorry for smokers since it is a strong habit - it is very hard to stop.  I tried to make my dad stop when I was young but to no avail, he died of lung cancer 10 years later.  He would not believe me on the statistics provided long ago.  His dying words were, "I wish I had stopped but now it is too late". 

However that is not the reason why I started this endeavor - it was because of the smoke that was traveling through common ventilation systems in HUD housing in our community.  I wanted to give some of the elderly people the opportunity to present their case so that the adjacent smokers would at least have the courtesy to stop or go outside. 

Again, thank you for your very nice letter - even if we disagree in some parts, your letter was very easy to read and very presentable. 

Is there a smoking ban controversy going on in Canada because we are getting a few emails from Canada?. 

Take care,

Coralin

 

To whom we replied:

Dear Ms. Feierbach,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply.  With the quantity of letters you must be getting, it is an honor that you have taken the time to address our letter on a personal level.  

The reason you’re getting letters from Canada and perhaps from other countries, is because smoking bans are becoming the trend du jour and many countries and cities are implementing them at more or less severe levels.  Belmont however, is proposing the most stringent legislation we have witnessed to-date.  The extremes the anti-smoking industry has reached, is motivating more and more people to look deeply into the issue and quite frankly they’re alarmed at what they’re discovering.  The exaggerations and immoral tactics of the anti-smoking industry, supported and largely financed by the opportunistic pharmaceutical industry, have even surpassed the tobacco industry unethical tactics.  Ordinary law abiding citizens being taken as hostages in this war, are very angry and especially alarmed and thus are using every means available to them to alert politicians and key players to see through the smoke screen that the anti-smoking dogma has created.  Under financed citizens such as the ones C.A.G.E. is representing, have no other way to express themselves than to write letters hoping that fair politicians will seriously consider their fears and concerns.  What we are witnessing is a travesty of science to serve political and financial interests and when this happens, the menace, both to health and civil liberties, takes dangerous levels. 

Ms. Feierbach, it is indeed a tragedy that you lost your father to lung cancer, and although you stated that this is not what motivated you to start this endeavour,  please allow us to point out that some  politicians are in fact motivated by emotions, and this is exactly why they risk to make unfair laws that subtract citizens from the sovereignity  of their own body.  Nobody accepts to lose a loved one and it is appeasing to find a culprit.  But disease and death happen and we can’t unmistakably predict and prevent when and why.  There is more than one lifestyle habit that could lead to premature death and we simply can’t legislate any and every individual choice that may be risky to one's health.  We would be prisoners of life itself if we did, and what good is a long life when freedom to make our own decisions for the only meaningful thing that belongs to us, our body, is subtracted from us.  Second hand smoke is not a serious health menace and legislating smoking in the great outdoors, or even in one’s own home, is clearly a legislation on people’s behaviours, not for everyone else's health, but for their own.  We at C.A.G.E. believe that elected governments at all levels should focus on what they were elected for – building and maintaining common infrastructure (roads, electricity, water supply) public security (policing our streets against those who would harm others, mainly), protecting the natural environment (something that belongs to all of society), promoting education and an informed citizenry, and fostering a social context in which commerce and productive employment can thrive.

We wish to offer you one more point on which to ponder.  You presented in your letter examples of states that have legislated car smoking with small children.  If you are sincerely convinced  that exposure to second hand smoke harms children, please reflect on how you feel an outdoor ban will help children in Belmont, whereby their parents, not allowed to smoke outdoors,  will do it right in the home in the presence of the very children you’re aiming to protect.  The same logic applies to another segment of the population you care about:  the senior citizens.  How will your legislation protect the elderly living with their caregiving adult children?  This notion appears somewhat contradictory to us. 

Ms. Feierbach, the keys of the city belong to you.  What you do with them is entirely your and your council's responsibility and please forgive us for the intrusion, however we strongly felt that you should consider some important elements before you let emotion and hot topic bias set precedents that humanity might later regret. 

Sincerely,

Iro Cyr - Vice-President, C.A.G.E.

Mr. Warren Lieberman, Vice Mayor, also acknowledged receipt of our letter:

Thank you for your email.

Please be aware that the Belmont City Council has not recently proposed any law that regulates smoking or second hand smoke.  Nor has any ordinance on this issue been placed before the City Council for its review.  The information being distributed by the media is of varying accuracy.

The Belmont City Council is, however, in the midst of discussions with regards to the issue of second hand smoke.  Consequently, your email is both timely and helpful.  We have been accepting public testimony on this topic and will continue to do so at a future meeting as we consider whether and if so, how, we might want to modify the City's current ordinances dealing with smoking and second hand smoke. 

Sincerely,

Warren Lieberman

Belmont City Councilmember

 

To whom we replied:

Sir,

Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge our concerns.  We are appeased to see that you are in fact taking this issue very seriously.   If we can be of any further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned at your convenience. 

Yours Very Truly,

Iro Cyr

Vice-President, C.A.G.E.

 


 

For the Elections, January 23, 2006:  Please find herein a letter sent by C.A.G.E. to all of the party leaders. 

For the addresses of the party leaders and a sample letter written by a C.A.G.E. member, please vist our "Events" page.

 

2006-01-05

Dear Party Leaders,

C.A.G.E. (Citizens Against Government Encroachment -- Citoyens Anti Gouvernement Envahissant) has 120 active members and many thousands who have expressed agreement to our principals and mission statements as they appear in our website www.C.A.G.E.canada.ca . Through our own mailing list and those of our affiliate organizations, we reach 150,000 concerned readers on a weekly basis. While not anti-government in any way, our organization’s mission is to fight for limits to government encroachment into people’s private lives and lifestyle choices. In this sense, we argue for a return to legitimate governing priorities and a reduction of government forays into "social engineering." We are including a 2-page position statement on state intervention and health care at the end of this letter, and we also invite you to visit our Web site if you would like to know more about C.A.G.E..

For the coming election, our members would like to know your party’s position on issues of importance to us, in order that they may vote accordingly. "Because these issues have not come up for debate in the campaign or the media, we hope you could answer some questions for us, which we will immediately pass on to all those who have asked us".

  1. An increasing amount of public funds is being dedicated to the promotion of "healthy living." Unfortunately, many of the government agencies and publicly-funded non-government organizations involved in this issue have begun advocating an increasingly diverse array of coercive approaches to health promotion – from increased ‘sin taxes’ to bans on everything from smoking (even in private clubs), free drink promotions in bars, mandatory helmet laws for cyclists, and even a new tax on ‘junk food.’ Do you believe that government’s role should be to promote informed choices of its citizens, or to protect them from themselves by coercive means?
  2. Would you be willing to eliminate funding of the branches of government agencies and non-governmental organizations that advocate coercive approaches to health promotion (rather than yesterday’s ‘carrot’ of information and exhortation)?
  3. As part of a "de-normalization of smoking" campaign, Health Canada asserts that "Ventilation systems, air purifiers and designated smoking areas are not enough to provide protection from second-hand smoke" (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/second/do-faire/ribbon-ruban/threat-menace_e.html). They also have on their Web site subject headings such as "What is second-hand smoke and why is it so dangerous?" Our question is: do you support the use of public funds in "de-normalization" campaigns and the exaggeration of health threats as an acceptable means of health promotion? (The corollary to this question is: "Do you believe that although we can sufficiently ventilate underground mines, parking garages, and factories containing all kinds of pollutants, it is impossible to sufficiently ventilate any indoor place where someone may smoke?").
  4. Does your party have any concrete plans to reduce, or at least limit the problem of "mission creep" and the ever-expanding role of government in the private lives of our citizens?
  5. Does your party acknowledge the problems of an overly large government and the resultant loss of efficiency and unfairly large tax burden on our private individuals and businesses, and does your party have any plans to address this problem?
  6. In enforcing the all important separation of church and state, is your party prepared to take steps to insure that church doctrine does not become "government doctrine," whereby the religious views of one part of our population would be once again unfairly imposed on all parts of our population?

We would greatly appreciate your thoughts on these issues, as well as your responses to our questions. Please feel free to write us in either English or French.

We wish you the best of luck in the coming elections.

Sincerely,

 

Daniel Romano BCL, LLB, MA

President, C.A.G.E.

David Romano BA, MA, Ph.D

Vice-President, C.A.G.E.

 

 

Appendix

STATE INTERVENTION: LIMITS AND JUSTIFICATIONS

When the founders of our various Western political systems designed our constitutions and democratic frameworks, they incorporated various checks and balances to prevent authoritarianism or the consolidation of too much power in the government. Things such as an independent judiciary, institutionalized roles for opposition parties, a free media, and various forms of oversight on government activities protect the system from abuse. In the American case, the explicit logic of these checks and balances was to keep the system democratic, even if the government were run "by devils."

But no founder of any democratic system ever foresaw, or even dreamed of, a well-intentioned state that increasingly intervenes in the lifestyle choices of its population in order to maximize public health. There exist very few institutional constraints on government health offices using all kinds of legal regulatory mechanisms to ban or endlessly harass people who do anything from smoke to drink to overeat to pursue "dangerous" sports to not raise their children in the approved manner ("approved manners" continually shift, of course, meaning that today many jurisdictions make spanking misbehaving children a crime). Public health professionals receive no education in political ethics or theories of liberty, and view their task of promoting health above all others, to the point that they see health and happiness as synonymous. The notion of a healthy slave never seems to even occur to them.

Because each state intervention is justified in terms of the public good, and backed up with reams of manipulated statistics (you have heard the expression: "lies, damn lies, and statistics"), average people generally fail to mobilize against such increasing interventionism. The "health nannies" also utilize the media to convince people that the government needs to make choices on people’s behalf, for the public good. The strategy of the health nannies provides them with more power than some of the most authoritarian governments of our time – just mentioning the need to protect children makes people accept state encroachments that the Nazis would have only dreamed of. The state’s flock of sheep must be kept healthy and working hard at all costs…

Only in some cases where powerful business interests are threatened, or vocal but well organized citizen opposition arises, have some state interventions been slowed down or prevented. For instance, helmets are still not required at ski centers, although they often are on bicycles, and some groups in the United States mobilized to repeal motorcycle helmet laws (the wisdom of not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle is a completely different matter from the right to not do so….). In general, however, the "mission creep" and growing invasiveness of state health departments continues to steam roll its way across the industrialized world, distracting the public and state finances from more serious problems such as poverty, industrial pollution, over-reliance on automobiles, and urban sprawl.

Only if people become aware of and convinced of the higher principals at stake will they mobilize to constrain the encroachments of public health militants into their lives. This will mean, of necessity, defending the right to choose unhealthy lifestyles without suffering harassment from the state, just as the right to free speech entails defending someone else’s right to say something objectionable. In time, a mobilized and vocal movement within the population may succeed in putting in place constitutional guarantees permitting individuals to choose their own lifestyle in peace. Just as the civil liberties gained in the 1960s required sustained and principled efforts, this struggle must wrest victory from a paternalistic state – people’s right to live as they choose, like other rights, will not be simply given to them in today’s world.

Dr. Dave Romano, PhD Political Science

 

The "Economic Cost of Unhealthy Lifestyles" Argument

C.A.G.E. does not have a position regarding the desirability of maintaining Canada’s current welfare state and universal health coverage. Some of our members highly value these things, while others revile them.

C.A.G.E. does have a very strong position regarding certain common arguments used to justify coercive legislation aimed at people’s lifestyle, however. These arguments typically revolve around the following logic: A person who [insert one of the following: "smokes," "does not wear a helmet," "is sedentary," "eats unhealthy food," etc…] imposes a cost on the health system which others must bear. We must therefore look to government to either forbid such behaviour, or make it as difficult as possible to engage in this kind of lifestyle [e.g. harass people].

Since the 1980s this kind of thinking has led to a very worrying new focus on "prevention" and "fostering healthy, correct lifestyles." An army of health policy researchers, bureaucrats, special interest groups and politicians has launched a coordinated assault on personal liberty and choice, with the intent of protecting us from ourselves and forcing us to make the so-called "right choices."

They justify ever-higher budgets for their particular projects and bureaucracies, and increasingly invasive and expensive government interventions, through the production of costly study after study -- studies that show alarming levels of "preventable deaths" and the costs of things like smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption to the health system. The health policy crowd also jets around from glitzy conference to conference, to share and discuss an ever-increasing array of social engineering strategies to make people adopt the approved life-style choices.

No wonder we don’t have enough funds left for treatment, and that many of us must wait more than 1 year for hip replacement or other kinds of surgery. We need to support the good doctors and nurses of this country who actually practice medicine, rather than the health policy nannies who practice harassment.

We should remember two things – the health system is already under heavy financial strain from caring for an aging population that lives longer than any of its predecessors, and ultimately, no death is preventable – that’s just the fact of mortality, or as they say, "death and taxes." Or in this case, "death after a hell of a lot of taxes to support people claiming to be able to save us from death."

Do we really want to continue down a blind alley of petty judgements and endless societal bickering about who costs society more, a rotten path unworthy of our great heritage and society? "Public health" should never mean forcing or harassing people to conform to standards and norms according to the whims of bureaucrats, health professionals, politicians, and crusading lobby groups. Rather, it should mean what it originally meant: standards for clean drinking water, vaccinations, inspecting food for contaminants, pollution controls, and similar issues outside the realm of individual choice.

Every one of us, including the state health clergy, makes daily choices that reduce our health and impose costs on "the system." Driving to work rather than cycling, buying a car that is less fuel efficient, watching television on the couch instead of exercising, taking the escalator, eating badly, engaging in risky sports, smoking, drinking, not stretching before exercising – the list goes on and on. A society that focuses on calculating the cost of each of these behaviours, assigning blame, and imposing coercive legislation, has in fact embarked upon the road to hell – whether they did so with good intentions or not. So far in Canada this road has led us to mandatory cycling helmet laws, forbidding bars from offering free drink specials, smoking bans that even extend into private clubs and Legion Halls, and excessive "sin taxes" on alcohol, tobacco, and in the near future, high calorie foods. What a coercive, patronizing and wasteful distraction from more pressing priorities.

We at C.A.G.E. would rather spend our limited time on this earth happy, making our own choices, and living with a health system that gives us treatment when we need it instead of spending our tax dollars on health nannies lecturing, harassing, and coercing us every day, as if by making the so-called "right" choices we will never get sick. We need to return to a focus on treatment and strictly limit the extent to which we use government to promote healthy lifestyles. Specifically, government may inform and encourage us to lead healthier lives, but should never coerce us with the "stick" of bans, harassment, and mandatory health edicts. We do not wish to become healthy slaves. The more macabre economists amongst us might also point out that someone who lives to the age of 90 ends up costing the system much more than someone who passes on at the current average of 79.7.

We also need to return to yesterday’s culture of tolerance and civility, accepting other people’s choices whether we approve of them or not. Some people’s behaviour will invariably cost the health system more than others’ – and we must either 1) accept this; or 2) dismantle our current health system; or 3) throw out our values regarding individual liberty. C.A.G.E. and its supporters find the third option unacceptable.

Dr. David Romano

Ph.D. University of Toronto (Political Science)