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

 

 

 

The Montreal Mirror

C.A.G.E. wishes to offer a sincere thanks to the Montreal Mirror for continuing to permit an open debate on the issue of smoking bans. The primary role of C.A.G.E. is to inform the population of what is going on behind the laws, the parliamentary debates, and the posturing of tax-subsidized groups. In order to do this, we need the cooperation of the media. It has been our experience that the media in Québec is very cold and unreceptive to any information or opinions that contradict the state-sponsored war on tobacco.

Since we began keeping track in May 2006, and as of this writing (2006-10-01 : a period of 5 months), C.A.G.E. activists have sent our over 113 English language letters to editors on the subject of tobacco. All were well written, concise, and fully supported by facts. Aside from those published in the Mirror, only one of these 113 letters has been published. This is a record of less than 1%. By contrast, the same authors using the same writing style in the same time period have had every one of their letters published on topics such as : Parental rights, harassment of street performers, institutionalized bias against marijuana, and the bulying of homeless by the municipality. The contrast is stark : a 100% success rate vs a less than 1% success rate. Our publication success rate on the issue of tobacco smoke in newspapers outside of Québec during the same time period has been closer to 85%. Our letters were also published with greater success in the French press. We invite you to draw your own conclusions about Québec’s media, and the quality and neutrality of the information you are receiving.

In gratitude and as a tribute toward the Montreal Mirror, C.A.G.E. is hereby posting the entire smoking debate, as we have perceived it in the Mirror’s letters to the editor. If anyone is aware of a missing letter, we encourage you to please bring it to our attention. Meanwhile please enjoy the following exchange. As elsewhere on the site, editorial comments are written in blue.

The following article was submitted to the Mirror, at their invitation. It is a translation and an adaptation of an article by Dr. David Romano originally published in Le Devoir. This is what started it all:

Should Quebec march to Ontario’s beat?

"Nature moves too slowly; I think we need to follow the example of our neighbours in Ontario" he said to me. It was late January, and I was speaking with Health Minister Philippe Couillard about his new anti-tobacco law. I had just asked Mr. Couillard, "Aren’t half the cafes in Quebec already 100% non-smoking? Why do we need a law like the one you’re proposing when things are changing naturally?"

Other statements Couillard has made since I first met him that day in January convince me that he does indeed look to Ontario for his direction. In late May of last year, he even reproduced a completely absurd statement that Ontario’s anti-smoking activists repeat often: "It would take a tornado to adequately ventilate a bar or restaurant where there is tobacco smoke." Really? How is it that we can adequately ventilate mine shafts more than 1 kilometer below the earth, or underground parking garages? Disturbingly, neither the English nor the French language media seems to have questioned the Minister regarding such an absurd statement.

Do we really want Quebec to become more like Ontario? Although Ontarians are quite nice, the government’s role in their lives isn’t. In fact, the Ontario provincial government seems to view Ontarians as sheep who can’t be trusted to think or make choices for themselves. I can’t think of any other way to explain the numerous laws aimed at controlling people’s behaviour over there. For example, I have to break two laws just to engage in one of my favourite past-times in Ontario: cycling to a park with my picnic lunch, a bottle of wine, and a friend. This is illegal, since I don’t cycle with a bike helmet, and having some wine with your picnic is also forbidden there. Even at outdoor concerts, Ontarians are not allowed to have a beer unless they go to a special, segregated "beer garden" far from the stage. No wonder Ontarians like to come to Quebec for New Year’s Eve and other holidays – their own government has made it impossible for them to relax and enjoy themselves!

And now Mr. Couillard wants to copy Ontario’s anti-smoking crusade. Whatever we think about smoking, freedom loving Quebeckers should oppose the Ontario approach to this issue. Once we accept that government should coerce us to protect us from ourselves, there’s no end to it. More restrictions on alcohol, a tax on "junk" food, mandatory helmets for everyone, orders on how to raise our children – all pursued with our own tax money and, obviously, against our will (otherwise, why the need for a "ban" or a law?).

Of course, Mr. Couillard and his health militant allies would have us believe this is a public health issue, never mind the easy ventilation solution. Apparently we should also never mind that they’ve spun the insignificant results of studies on second-hand smoke in order to make us believe it’s a real threat (give me a study with a risk-ratio of 3.0 or above and we’ll talk, Mr. Couillard), or that they claim to know the economic impact this ban will have on businesses better than the business owners themselves.

Before we even know it, Quebec will have become a sterilized, conformist, francophone version of Ottawa and Toronto. Thanks, Mr. Couillard!

Dr. David Romano

Co-Founder, Citizens Against Government Encroachment/Citoyens Anti-Gouvernement Envahissant (CAGE) – www.cagecanada.ca

 

Predictably, such an article inspired a response. Scott Jones, the author of this response, has been very active in writing letters in support of smoking bans, and has studied C.A.G.E. and its officers intensively. Nowhere does he reveal if he is employed by any of the anti tobacco coalitions. Interestingly, the writing style and some of the comments are very similar to portions of a website that was later created for the specific and sole purpose of defaming Dr. Romano (see: http://www.geocities.com/davidromano_4sale_2006 )

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/060106/letters.html

Smoke-free satisfaction

In his letter last week ["Quebec libertarianism up in smoke," May 25], Dr. David Romano attempts to portray Bill 112 as the beginning of a massive crackdown on citizens’ rights and freedoms. Such scare tactics are needed because a direct attack on the smoking ban lacks credibility.

Second-hand smoke has been proven harmful, even deadly. Just ask Heather Crowe—oh wait, you can’t, because she died last week from lung cancer after waitressing in a smoky restaurant for 40 years, though she never smoked a cigarette in her life.

Dr. Romano makes vague mention of "the easy ventilation solution" but doesn’t bother to explain

how it works or how it would solve the problem of bar and restaurant workers getting sick from second-hand smoke. Presumably they would still be in close and frequent contact with smoking patrons.

Anything that harms others can never be considered a right. It’s a bit like me saying the government shouldn’t interfere with my "right" to smack someone over the head if it gives me satisfaction. We have laws to protect people from being harmed by others, and that’s what Bill 112 is for. The smoking ban is long overdue, and it is supported by the overwhelming majority of the population.

And in case you’re wondering what kind of "Dr." David Romano is, he has a PhD in political science. Which sounds about right, because it’s hard to imagine a doctor of medicine taking such an irresponsible position towards public health.

» Scott Jones

Private letter to the editor : The following letter was a private letter to the Editor of the Mirror, written because Dr. Romano was a bit taken aback at the personal attack on his credibility.

Dear Mathew,

Scott Jones's letter in this week's Mirror stuck me as a bit harsh, with his "And in case you’re wondering what kind of "Dr." David Romano is, he has a PhD in political science. Which sounds about right, because it’s hard to imagine a doctor of medicine taking such an irresponsible position towards public health." I had no intention of trying to pass myself off as an M.D. (if you'll recall, the letter I sent you included "Ph.D. Political Science" in my signature, although there must not have been space to include that line in the print form of the Mirror).

So although you've already been extremely kind to publish my first letter, I would like to ask if you could please consider publishing my reply to Mr.Jones? I'm pasting it below.

The Mirror wrote back to Dr. Romano, explaining that omitting the details of the title was merely an attempt to conserve much needed space. This said, we very much appreciate their allocating more space for a response. Published June 2006, we apologize for not having a link to the Mirror archives for this letter.

Smoke-Free scare tactics

Scott Jones ("Smoke-free satisfaction", June 5) accuses me of "scare tactics" because of my warnings about the slippery slope of smoking bans and other "for your own good whether you like it or not" legislation. I would suggest that he is guilty of the scare tactics, along with a good number of anti-smoking activists, when they would have us believe that second-hand smoke is such a significant threat.

Neither Mr. Jones nor anyone else to my knowledge can point to a study on second-hand smoke that shows a risk ratio anywhere near the accepted danger threshold of 3.0. To provide some perspective, the U.S. EPA began this whole second-hand smoke scare with a 1992 study that estimated a risk ratio of 1.19 for second-hand smoke (a ratio of 1.0 means no risk, and

below that means exposure actually improves your health). In the same study, they rated chlorinated tap water as a risk of 1.5 – meaning it was safe enough to continue putting in your drinking water. But because 1.19 is not a zero risk, health militants can go around scaring people about the [absolutely minuscule] dangers of second-hand smoke.

Since many people are genuinely bothered by smoke (I suspect Mr. Jones falls into this category), they are more than happy to swallow this statistical deception and scare tactic. For political scientists like myself (and yes, we generally receive more training in statistics than medical doctors do), however, deception on the part of our leaders and bureaucrats is unacceptable, no matter what the ends.

Mr. Jones adds that "Anything that harms others can never be considered a right." Well, if the absolutely minuscule risk of second-hand smoke allows the likes of Mr. Jones and Phillippe Couillard to ban people from gathering or working in a private establishment of their choice, then I would suggest that they be consistent and demand a ban on cars (or at least SUVs). If you spend 5 minutes in a closed room with a running car engine, you’re dead. Spend 5 weeks in a

closed room with every smoker in Montreal and you’ll still be fine (albeit smelly). That’s what I meant by the "easy ventilation solution"– if we can adequately ventilate underground parking garages, we can adequately ventilate rooms too.

Unfortunately, protecting people from second-hand smoke is not what Bill 112 is for – it’s actually about harassing people for unhealthy lifestyle choices, and making politicians look like they’reactually doing something for public health, while they ignore the smog surrounding entire cities. So don’t expect to see strict fuel efficiency standards for our vehicles any time soon, but do expect new public scare campaigns and coercive legislation on junk food, alcohol, the need for mandatory safety helmets, and even deodorant and perfume use. So although the M.D.s continually remind us what’s bad for us, political scientists like myself must insist that our whole society is based on John Stuart Mill’s maxim: "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."

David Romano, Ph.D. (Political Science)

Co-Founder, www.cagecanada.ca

 

Because this letter was not peer reviewed by the other C.A.G.E. executives, Lucy Brown (then secretary of C.A.G.E.) sent it in under her own name.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/060806/letters.html

Smoking politics

Last week, letter writer Scott Jones ridiculed David Romano’s assertion that the smoking ban signifies a dangerous step down the slope of government intervention in our lifestyle choices ["Smoke-free satisfaction," June 1]. I wonder what Jones thinks of recent proposals to tax junk food or ban perfume and scented deodorants. Completely unrelated?

Furthermore, Jones claims that "second-hand smoke has been proven harmful, even deadly." Why didn’t he step up to the plate and meet Romano’s challenge to find a study that gives second-hand smoke a risk ratio higher than 3.0? Because there are none. (One death, supposedly from second-hand smoke, does not a credible study make.)

Jones also attempts to discredit Romano by questioning his credentials (a PhD in Political Science, rather than medicine) to write on the smoking ban. However, with the issue rapidly appearing more and more political rather than medical, perhaps Romano might indeed be the most adequate expert.

» Lucy Brown, Ste-Marguerite

This letter was published in the same time period as Lucy Brown’s.

I have been a smoker longer than I haven’t been one. I am not proud of this because it is an addiction unlike any other. I never felt comfortable smoking in front of non-smokers and I totally respect their decision to be non-smokers. (I was one once and plan to be one again someday.) I can’t say that I am opposed to the new rule. I will do my best to make it work and chances are I will quit sooner than later.

But why stop there? What about people who don’t recycle? What about all those people who sit in their parked cars with their engines running in the middle of summer yapping away on their cell-phones? Isn’t that polluting our environment? Isn’t that killing all humans globally? Why isn’t anything being done about this? Why aren’t these people made to feel like criminals? I know that if I don’t stop smoking, I will develop some form of cancer or worse, and yet someone who works in a smoke-filled bar who doesn’t have the good sense to not work there develops cancer and dies.

If an F1 race car driver slams into a wall at 200 mph, killing him and a few spectators with debris, does that mean we should ban F1 racing? If a child drowns in a swimming pool, should we ban swimming pools? Where does it end and are we really hitting the mark when passing these laws? It seems that the catch-22 and inconsistency of lawmaking will never fully protect the general public and serves only to empower the rich and/or the stupid and shackle everyone else into submission. (Remember the woman who burned herself with hot coffee at McDonalds?)

It’s alright for people to pick on smokers because we have faces, but what about the environment? What about our children who have to grow up with a planet that we are killing? There is no law that says that we have to recycle or car-pool. Hypocrites!

Lastly, I assume that the police will be enforcing this ban. If there’s never a cop around when you need one now, what’s it going to be like when they’re out hunting down us murderous smokers instead of those self-obsessed sit-in-my-car-with-the-engine-running bastards that we have to share this planet with? Aren’t there more people out there with cars than there are people who smoke? Get real. Grow a brain or buy one at least.

We don’t need more chains, we just need a little more common sense and respect for others.

» Gerhardt

 

The following writer begins by dismissing Dr. Romano as not having any opinions worth listening to because he enjoys drinking wine at a picnic. The hostile writing style is typical, once again, of the self-righteous "anti"-camp. To his credit, Mr. Yates does make a good point about the boom box and the cigarette butts. To these, we answer – let boom boxes and smokers be welcome in those businesses that cater to them, and those who don’t like it don’t have to go there – that’s freedom of choice! As for the cigarette butts, those smokers who pollute should be more considerate, and the police should do their job of enforcing municipal bylaws. We agree – there is no excuse for the kind of rude behaviour exhibited by those who toss cigarette butts on the sidewalk or anywhere else.

Anti-smokers fight back

Joel Demers’ letter defending his colleague, political scientist Dr. David Romano, makes no sense [Letters, "Pro-smokers still fuming," June 15].

I cannot understand how anyone could defend Dr. Romano’s opinions about anything. Dr. Romano writes: "My favourite pastimes in Ontario: cycling to a park with a picnic lunch, a bottle of wine and a friend. This is illegal, since I don’t cycle with a bike helmet, and having some wine with your picnic is also forbidden there." [Letters, "Quebec libertarianism up in smoke," May 25].

I’ve been riding a bicycle to commute and to generally get around for over 15 years. I ride in traffic almost year-round. Any person who lacks even the basic common sense to understand how inherently dangerous drinking and riding a bicycle is cannot have any opinions worth taking seriously. Really. The way I see it, if a drunken Dr. Romano, riding without a helmet, should get knocked off his bike by a speeding, inattentive motorist, that’s just Darwinism at its best. (I hope it never happens.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Demers’ opinions are no less confused. He writes: "The truth is, second-hand smoke is not any more harmful [...] than chlorinated water [...] or whole milk," but goes on to say in the very next paragraph: "...a smoky environment is an annoyance that can easily be ventilated to a comfortable level. And should it even be a risk, we [...] should be allowed to choose it."

What is being argued here? Is it a risk or not? Is second-hand smoke harmful, or isn’t it? If second-hand smoke isn’t harmful, then how can it be any risk?

In fact, second-hand smoke is harmful. I know this, because for most of my life I—like countless others—have been driven from bars, clubs and restaurants by the puffy, red, teary eyes and raw sinuses that I inevitably suffer from 10 minutes after sitting down in a smoke-filled room.

But Mr. Demers is correct that the issue is a political one. The issue is about choice. Smoking in public, from a socio-political stance, is analogous to walking into a quiet coffee store with a cranked boombox pounding away. That sort of questionable behaviour would annoy people and disturb the quality of their lives. It would create a public nuisance. It would not be tolerated. Why, then, should any smoker be allowed to disturb the quality of my life, blowing smoke in my face and making me feel ill?

With the smoking ban in place, everyone gets to choose. I, a non-smoker, can choose where I want to go to eat, drink and party comfortably. Smokers can choose to smoke outside or smoke at home, but they can no longer choose to create a public nuisance.

Unfortunately, many smokers still do anyway, with their selfish habit of callously dumping millions of soiled butts daily on every sidewalk, street, park, courtyard, highway and parking lot.

» Alan Yates

The following letter completely misses the point about magnitude of the danger, and of the anti movement becoming a self-sustaining industry.

In your report "End of a Smokey Era," [April 13] you say, "The government says 359 people died in 1998 as a result of ETS [environmental tobacco /second-hand smoke] exposure."

In fact, the government currently alleges 300 deaths from lung cancer and 700 from heart disease for a total of 1,000 as a conservative estimate (see www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/second/fact-fait/tox/index_e.html).

So logically, the smoking advocates are saying one of two things. Either (a) this is a small price to pay for the freedom of smokers to light up where it’s convenient for them, or (b) scientists and governments across North America have conspired to exaggerate the dangers of second-hand smoke (though it’s not clear why). Or, perhaps, (c) non-smokers enjoy getting lung cancer and heart disease, that should be their choice.

Either way, the discussion is absurd. I’m sure someone is having a good laugh about it.

» Jason Mayer

The following letter is one of the most pertinent issues in the debate, and is one of the reasons that C.A.G.E. supports of the Non-smokers Rights legislation that forbade smoking in truly public areas such as banks, waiting rooms, bus and metro terminals, etc. Ms. Lewis, Daniel Romano, and others who have no liking or no tolerance for cigarette smoke can always choose whether or not to go into a smoking bar.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/062206/letters.html

I don’t need anyone to tell me about second-hand smoke because I get physically ill with asthma whenever I’m exposed to it. That’s reality for a lot of people. No amount of cynical spin-doctoring can change the fact that second-hand smoke hurts people.

» Deborah Lewis

 

We sympathize with the following writer’s sentiments, but would like to propose a less totalitarian solutions that protects us all. Mandate minimum air quality standards for indoor areas. If ventilation is sufficient to maintain that air quality then so be it. Antis don’t like this solution because their main goal is eliminating the smoking lifestyle, not looking out for our help. They know that many smoking venues have far better air quality than many non-smoking, poorly ventilated ones.

 

One thing people seem to forget about this ban on smoking indoors is that it gets really, really cold here in Montreal. I can live in principal with restrictions to my smoking habit—I would not object to a law forcing all bars to have a non-smoking section, or even to a law requiring all

establishments to separately ventilate their smoking area, but now I am going to be forced to smoke outside this winter instead of finding a cozy hole near work that serves coffee. If it’s negative 40 and windy outside, frostbite can strike in five minutes.

Unless the government is willing to make smoking completely illegal, they should tone down the legislative rhetoric and make laws that take everyone’s best interest into account. If they had enacted laws that prevented my habit from harming others’ health without unduly risking mine, I would have been fine. As it is, they’ve done nothing but alienate a good portion of the

Quebec voters with an ill-conceived, totalitarian, unnecessary law.

» Basil Berntsen

So, because the following writer feels it is a non-issue, those who feel that one of their important pleasures is being taken way should not feel it is a big deal either, right? And why the hostile writing style? Why ‘enraged’? Why ‘get the fuck over it’? What is it about antis that makes them so aggressive in this debate?

Somehow, I am mildly enraged by the two letters "Smoking Politics" letters in the Mirror [June 8]. Both Lucy Brown and Gerhardt seem to think this is a big deal, and it is not.

How many cities already have a smoking ban? Aren’t there a few cities that have already banned scents? Wasn’t perfume invented many centuries ago in order to cover up BO because no one in those days got to bathe that often? People are cleaner now, no? I don’t care a whit about the debate on how "dangerous" second-hand smoke can be—there are a billion things that are dangerous, and Gerhardt is right to bring up the environment as something we are killing, though I must add that it in turn will be killing us. There are countless injustices more profoundly disturbing than having to go outside for a bit of tobacco. Get the fuck over it, Montreal.

» Craig Stewart

The following letter was sent in by Iro Cyr, an active member of C.A.G.E., before her being nominated and elected as an officer to replace the departing Dr. Dave Romano.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/061506/letters.html

Pro-smokers still fuming

In reading Scott Jones’s attack of Dr. Romano’s views on smoking bans, I was really saddened to see how people in our society have been misled by the anti-tobacco industry’s unethical scare tactics [Letters, "Smoke-free satisfaction," May 25].

The public should not take Dr. Romano’s nor the anti-tobacco zealots’ word to tell the difference between truth and manipulation. A little common sense and research on the issue would convince even the most sceptical individual of the fallacies behind the anti-smoking propaganda.

Smoking bans are not in place to protect non-smokers from the fictional harms of second-hand smoke, but to coerce smokers to comply to the government’s view of an ideal citizen through immoral, fear-inducing propaganda. Dr. Romano, a political science doctor, is exactly the type of doctor needed to recognize political manipulation when he sees it.

Wake up people, and smell the odour of dangerous precedents being set in your own so-called democratic country

» Iro Cyr

 

This letter was written by Joel Demers, then a recently joined C.A.G.E. member who quickly became very active and now serves as an officer.

This is in response to Scott Jones’s letter in response to my colleague Dr. David Romano—whose PhD in political science, by the way, is a better qualification than medicine to assess this situation.

The trend nowadays is definitely to gut our hard-earned liberties under pretexts of protection from imminent dangers. The dangers are exaggerated, and then authorities can step over our fundamental rights to "protect" us with some approval.

This is especially true when it comes to health. Obesity crusaders, for instance, are starting to review the success of anti-tobacco and consider applying the same strategies. So much for denormalization. It is nothing but the opposite of democracy to impose an "expert"-decreed normality on citizens’ personal lifestyle choices.

About the smoking ban and "such scare tactics": If people weren’t scared of second-hand smoke, few would support such draconian bans, and the polls suggest a split opinion even after years of unidirectional propaganda.

But the truth is, second hand smoke is not any more harmful (at a risk factor 1.17–1.30) than chlorinated water (at 1.5) or whole milk (at 2.4!) if one is exposed daily for many hours. According to a May 12 ABC News story on non-smokers

who lived with smokers (abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/story?id=1955237&page=1), "they studied people who were exposed to lots of smoke, often shut in with chain smokers for years in claustrophobic situations like homes and cars. Even then, some of the studies found no effect... [Dr. Michael Siegel], who helped ban smoking, now says his movement is distorting science."

Even working daily in a smoky environment is an annoyance that can easily be ventilated to a comfortable level. And should it even be a risk we, adult citizens, as owners, employees or patrons should be allowed to choose it if we so please. We members of CAGE (Citizens Against Governments’ Encroachment) are not suggesting that anyone should be forced into smokey places, just that they should have the choice.

As for Heather Crowe, her case actually raises a lot of questions beyond the capacity of the anti-smoking establishment to curve the Workplace Safety Board’s decisions and exploit a dying lady. What of the Hamilton fireman who was denied benefits for his cancer? He likely caught it fighting a toxic fire, but, according to a CTV News story (toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20060504/ firefighters_private_members_060504/20060504?hub=TorontoHome), his cancer "could not be definitively linked to the fire." How was Mrs. Crowe’s cancer "definitively linked" to ambient smoke? All evidence is conveniently unavailable (see this Moorish Orthodox Social Justice Committee page at www.geocities.com/defendliberty2004/heathercrowe. html).

And why are we paying for all this propaganda with our tax dollars? That is no matter for medicine.

» Joel Demers, Citizens Against Governments’ Encroachment

 

This letter seems to come from a bona-fide citizen who is writing his own beliefs and is not likely to be employed by any of the « anti » coalitions. He brings up valid points and reasonable arguments, and is one of the few who is not engaging in ad-hominem attacks. We are grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas with this type of fellow citizen.

 

Lucky to have good government

Regarding recent letters about smoking laws, I am still confused about what I have read. People have said that cigarette smoke might be harmful, but so is drinking tap water or breathing dirty air from car exhaust. So that’s a good reason to do something about those problems. How is it a reason to change the smoking laws back to how they used to be?

As an immigrant from Brazil, I can say that you—and now we—are very lucky to have a government that stands up to businesses that profit while we die. This was a big factor for me in choosing Canada. Most people are not so lucky. In my native country, laws like these could probably never happen; business interests would pay off the right people to make sure they didn’t.

The ones who are really inconvenienced by the smoking ban are the tobacco companies. First, they didn’t want people to believe smoking was addictive, then they denied it was dangerous. The latest thing is second-hand smoke, and they have spread a lot of disinformation about how it is not really harmful. Maybe it’s funny how they pretend they are using science, but mostly I find it sad that so many people have bought their lies.

» Fernando Paiva

Most appropriately, Mr. Paiva’s letter was answered by a fellow immigrant to Canada. Ms. Cyr also comes from a country where the government behaves in an extremely oppressive manner vis-à-vis its citizens. Unfortunately, the editors of the Mirror exercised a bit of excessive editorial license in choosing the title of the letter.

Pro-Smokers Still Fuming

Fernando Paiva does not get it when he states that the debate is about smoking laws changing back to how they used to be. Nobody wants to turn back the clock. The debate is about the excesses of the anti-tobacco legislation and the unethical means that the government employed to justify it.

Accepting that governments lie and deceive without being held accountable for such practices, is even more dangerous than allowing businesses to do the same, because it will eventually lead to the same oppressive governments that many immigrants leave behind in their quest for a better future in the land of the proud and free.

If the government protects us from ourselves under pharma-funded lobbies’ pressure, lies and without fair representation from the most concerned, such as when they excluded the smokers' voice from the National Assembly presentations, then who is left to protect us from government excesses that affect our everyday lives, livelihoods and freedoms? And how is it a better government than the one M. Paiva suggests he (left)fled for the same reasons ?

Iro Cyr 

Vice-President

 C.A.G.E. (Citizens Against Government Encroachment)

 www.cagecanada.ca

 

Thankfully, the editors of the Mirror were very fair in allowing Ms. Cyr to comment on the title they had chosen.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/070606/letters.html

Smokes, let’s go

Thank you for publishing my letter ["Pro-smokers still fuming," June 15]. There is a point I have to make, however, as to the title. Where did you see anything pertaining to pro-smoking in what I stated in my letter? Being against political manipulation on behalf of the anti-tobacco lobby’s propaganda has nothing to do with being pro-smoking. Being against the means does not necessarily mean one is against the end results. There’s nothing wrong with a smoke-free world, but everything wrong with using unethical, dictatorial and hypocritical ways to obtain it.

» Iro Cyr

 

The following is the sort of letter that saddens us. Rather than addressing the important arguments we bring up, such as 1) is second hand smoke really the threat it is made out to be, and 2) does a universal smoking ban do more harm than good, this letter uses the sort of invective and language which is clearly an attempt to debase the target as opposed to addressing the factual and theoretical validity of the arguments put forth.

 

While reading the letter from Iro Cyr, I had to hold back the urge to simultaneously vomit and fall down laughing. It saddens me to no end that there are apparently intelligent people out there totally devoid of a clue.

Having worked in advanced pre-clinical inhalation toxicology studies for over a decade, I can say with 100 per cent conviction that the results of all the second-hand smoke and "healthy cigarette" studies—ironically sponsored by the cigarette companies themselves—prove that cigarettes are freakishly dangerous things.

Watching as mice and rats on study fall to all kinds of horrid ailments caused directly by this smoke—the twitching rodents still go in for more—makes you realize the monstrosity of this issue.

More so, based upon the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), accompanying the tobacco product has one wearing a full environment suit and doing a full wash down pre- and post-study work.

Often in this industry, when clients don’t get the "all safe" results from the toxicologist, they just go to another CRO (contract research organization) and repeat the testing.

So, do you still think smoking and second hand smoke is safe? Remember: ignorance is bad for your health.

» Science Guy

 

The following strikes us as a sincere and heartfelt argument from someone who does not appear to be in the employ or on the payroll of any anti-tobacco coalitions.

 

Opponents of the indoor smoking ban use the word "choice" a lot. People should have a choice. If I have to breathe cigarette smoke where I work, haven’t they taken away my choice not to smoke?

It doesn’t make sense to say, "Well, you shouldn’t be a waitress then—you can go work in one of those places where smoking isn’t allowed." What if this is the only job I can find?

How could it be that we don’t deserve the same protections the rest of the workforce already takes for granted? I find that quite elitist.

» Carole

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/080306/letters.html

This writer later addressed Dr. Romano directly by e-mail. Dr. Romano responded, presenting him with all of the requested arguments and referrals. The writer maintained a very hostile and insulting attitude, and Dr. Romano asked him not to correspond anymore. New C.A.G.E. officer Joel Demers felt convinced that by simply providing this writer with all of the hard facts and references to neutral studies, he could win over this writer. After many interactions, all polite on the part of Joel, and most quite arrogant and sarcastic on the part of the writer, Joel asked Mr. Skala for permission to publish their correspondence that others might see and comment on it. Mr. Skala became very upset at that suggestion, declared he was no longer interested in the debate, and stated that if C.A.G.E. published a private correspondence it would just show what kind of people we are. Out of respect for the principle of civil behaviour, we will not publish this correspondence, but we do disagree with Mr. Skala’s final point. Publishing what you wrote Mr. Skala, would show the world what kind of person YOU are.

Nic Fits

The answer to Iro Cyr’s question [as to proving shopping cart and golf ball safety, Letters, "Still Smoking," July 27] is that tobacco smoke contains 200 toxic chemicals and at least 50 carcinogenic chemicals—unlike the shopping carts and golf balls he mentions.

If tobacco was a new invention, it would never be approved for sale. And if somehow it found its way into people’s hands, the general public reaction would be, "Hell no, you’re not smoking that thing anywhere near me!"

The same goes for anything else containing 200 toxicants and 50 known carcinogens that you would like to burn in public indoors. Unless you can prove it’s safe (an absurd proposition in itself), you would never be allowed to do so.

In the case of second-hand tobacco smoke, we have a whole body of scientific medical evidence showing that it is decidedly unsafe (if facts count for anything around here).

The reason for the indoor smoking ban is that people should be able to go wherever they want in public or in their workplace without being harmed by others. That’s not too much to ask for in a free society.

Anyone who is still confused about this should call their MNA’s office. I’m sure they will explain their reasons for supporting Bill 112, which by the way was passed unanimously.

» Matthew Skala

 

This response to Mr. Skala remains unanswered by him or by anybody else:

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/072706/letters.html

Still smoking

Although Mr. Matt Skala agrees that it may be true that "second-hand smoke fails to meet some arbitrary risk ratio," he puts the onus on smokers to prove that it is safe before they light up in his presence. What kind of reasoning is this?

Nothing in life is 100 per cent risk free. Should we be asking Mr. Skala to prove that pushing his shopping cart at the grocery store is totally safe for the other shoppers before he’s allowed to do so? Or perhaps he can prove without a doubt that his ball will not hit another player over the head before he’s admitted to the golf course? Come on, Mr. Skala, you can do better than to give the readers this totally silly argument. Why don’t you just admit straightforwardly that you dislike the smell of tobacco smoke? It’s quite alright if you do. Most smokers do not wish to inconvenience people intolerant of tobacco smoke. What they are asking for is the right to be able to congregate in some designated smoking establishments, while those who choose not to enter such venues can be catered to elsewhere. Obviously this is too much to ask for in a free society!

» Iro Cyr

Although C.A.G.E. president Dan Romano liked this letter, especially the homour about seeing the sunny side of things, the issue remains quite serious. To the following letter, C.A.G.E.’s "offical" is that "yes, life is unfair, but that’s no excuse for our own government to act in an unfair, unethical, or illegal manner". Some people will sit back and take it. Others will stand up for what they believe in, and still others who are not themselves inconvenienced, will stand up and fight for the rights of those who are. We know what camp we fall in at C.A.G.E.. How about you, Mr. Claro? If you won’t stand up to fight for the rights of your fellow citizen, would you at least stand up and fight for your own? Back to Dan Romano’s personal point of view: It’s nice to enjoy the sunshine when you are going outside by your own choice. When you are kicked out, or forced to kick out your own customers – that’s a different story altogether.

What’s with the repeated publication of the useless letters about the infamous smoking ban? These letters seem to have become absurd and increasingly ignorant.

Finally someone has attempted to set a little reality check in "Smoking and thinking" [July 20]. You can’t help agree that this ban may indeed be a little unfair, but I suppose the expression "Life isn’t fair" may be suitable. When I see the changes of this ban, I can’t help but see the bright side, or in fact the sunny side of it: Being "forced" outside may just be a great idea that can give those who are cooped up inside an excuse to enjoy nature. Maybe I’m exaggerating the effects, but I believe the near future will bring us convertible restaurants just to satisfy the needs of the smoking class.

» Richard Claro

 

Of all the letters in favour of the smoking ban, the following one is one of the few with any real merit. Yes, the ban will very likely help primary smokers quit. In fact, many people at C.A.G.E. believe that this is one of the main motivations behind the ban, since the dangers of second hand smoke are clearly (to anyone who bothers to look into it) a fraud. Unfortunately, much as we favour helping people to quit smoking, the dangers of using intrusive and overbearing legislation in order to effect social engineering that would otherwise be quite illegal is the sort of thing that scares us. It scares us very much. If they can use dishonest and unethical, and potentially illegal means to influence 25% of the population, a population ostensibly backed by big tobacco money, then imagine what they could do to a smaller, more disenfranchised, less affluent group?

Enough with the smoking debate. The only thing that’s going to change in Quebec is the number of people who smoke—not the laws. Though we still smoke the most in the country, studies have shown that Quebecers are quitting at a faster rate than in any other province. This isn’t because the government has gagged and bound anyone, it’s because people have made a decision to stop poisoning themselves and don’t want to die a shitty, young death.

The ban on smoking indoors is only going to make this decision easier and more convenient for people who want to quit. Yes, it’s less convenient for people in the smoking camp, and perhaps second-hand smoke is less of a killer than fear-mongerers make it out to be. But it’s foul at best, and those happy sitting in a toxic haze are a dying breed.

» sonia gomez

 

The following letter is just too easy to take apart. Editorial comments inserted in blue print for the fun of it….

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/072006/letters.html

Smoking and thinking

I’ve been reading some pretty strange things in the letters to the editor section lately.

Cigarette smoke is no more harmful than chlorinated water ["Don’t smoke ’em if you got ’em," July 13]? No one ever got lung cancer or heart disease from chlorinated water, at least not that I ever heard of (that is EXACTLY our point! Other than through the use of highly questionable computer projections, nobody has ever died from second hand smoke either.). Nor asthma or bronchitis. Yes, chlorinated drinking water has been linked to small increases in the rates of rectal and bladder cancer (The numbers are far too small to be considered a serious enough threat, therefor it is not worth banning chlorinated water). But chlorinated water has saved countless lives from water-borne diseases (And smoking cigarettes brings pleasure to the countless who choose to engage in this behaviour). Anyway, six bucks buys you a charcoal water filter that eliminates chlorine and its by-products ($6000 purchases an excellent air filtration system that renders the air quality in a smoking bar far superior to that of many non-smoking restaurants and offices). So I don’t see any valid comparison here (That’s because you choose not to look).

People shouldn’t have to go outside to smoke because it gets cold and windy? Well, one has a choice. No one is being forced to smoke, so no one is being forced to go outside (No one is being forced to go into a bar, no one needs to be exposed to SHS against their will.)

The indoor smoking ban is totalitarian, dictatorial? The government of Quebec was democratically elected (…and the smoking ban was never part of their platform! Nobody voted for this, and their own polls showed 80% of the population was against it.). They looked carefully at the facts (as presented to them by the anti-tobacco groups, without consulting anybody else) surrounding second-hand smoke, and they acted to protect their citizens (they acted to further their own careers. If they were acting to protect the citizens, they would have taken that 100 million dollars and applied it to better smog prevention, and other REAL problems for which we need a government. Tobacco was perceived as an easy win.), as is their duty. Most people support the new law (even if this were true, democracy does not equal tyranny of the majority). So, what is totalitarian or dictatorial about that? (It’s about public policy being determined by career-anti smoking activists, professional health-militants, and pharmaceutical corporations anxious to push their "nicorrettes". It’s about public money being used to advocate policy based on fraudulent and discredited claims. It’s about the stifling of public debate. It’s about a person’s right to personal autonomy and responsibility. It’s about freedom of business. Any more questions?)

Has anyone considered the possibility that the people making these statements have had their judgement clouded by addiction to a very powerful drug called nicotine? (Or that the other side’s judgment was clouded by Puritanism, righteous zealotry, the pleasure of bending others to their will, or the fat paychecks they get from the anti-tobacco coalitions?) And given what we know about tobacco, doesn’t the habit itself probably indicate poor judgement to begin with? (If Mr. Murray bothered to read the C.A.G.E. website and discover who the founder and president of C.A.G.E. is, he would realize how silly this argument sounds.)

 

» Richard Murray

The author of this letter, Scott Jones, is a professional anti-tobacco activist. Unable to meet the challenge of debating C.A.G.E. on the facts, he resorts once again to an attack against C.A.G.E. and its leaders themselves, and in his closing sentence, the usual effort to stifle the debate. He implies many things, with no proof whatsoever, but does not reveal his own affiliations nor the sources of his own paychecks. As expressed by Luc Martial, most of the things that anti-tobacco activists accuse those who oppose them, are things which they themselves are guilty of.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/083106/letters.html

Cagey tactics

The Mirror has so far published at least seven letters from the lobby group CAGE (Citizens Against Government Encroachment) in the last two and a half months. That includes one from co-founder and director Lucy Brown, and three from active member and now vice-president Iro Cyr, neither of whom bothered to mention their affiliation. So it might be useful for your readers to know a few facts about this organization.

On its Web site, CAGE asks for donations of up to $5,000 or more, saying, "It is on the corporate members that we depend the most for financing." Corporations generally expect a return on their investment. The Web site says they are still debating whether to accept financial contributions from the tobacco industry.

CAGE is closely involved with a legal challenge to the indoor smoking ban by two Montreal bar owners, and is supporting the suit in a number of ways, apparently including financially.

CAGE encourages its members to write letters to the editor as "added pressure to get the others in," even going so far as to post sample letters on its Web site for its members to "borrow any of the statements and concepts herein and resubmit them to the media." How ironic for Iro Cyr to have used the word "propaganda" in describing the government’s actions.

Those are the facts. Draw your own conclusions. I would suggest that we’ve heard more than enough from these people.

» Scott Jones

At this point, C.A.G.E. president Dan Romano stepped in for the first time to place things back in perspective.

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/091406/letters.html

Smoking and the citizenry

Back in May, after the Mirror published a letter by CAGE director world-renowned political scientist David Romano, who argued against Quebec’s most recent anti-tobacco legislation, a number of anti-smoking activists responded in ire.

In his most recent letter ["Cagey tactics," Aug. 31], lead-"anti" Scott Jones shifts the debate from a discussion on the merits (demerits?) of the legislation to an attack on CAGE itself. This tactic is not surprising given the number of "anti" letters that resorted to ad-hominem attacks against Dr. Romano and subsequent CAGE contributors.

Although mildly amused by the attempt to portray us as a well-financed lobby group, I do feel bound to set the record straight. CAGE was born in my living room after many lengthy discussions between my brother and myself about our huge government’s evolution into an all-powerful and unstoppable Super Nanny that combines the hysterics of extreme risk aversion with the power to fine, penalize and imprison us.

CAGE now lives on my computer desk, and in the hearts of a number of dedicated volunteers across Quebec, Canada, and the U.S. CAGE is financed mainly from my own pocket and through donations of $10–$50 from ordinary people who are grateful for our efforts. Given what we have managed to accomplish so far with these meagre funds—imagine what we could do if that $5,000 dream donation ever did materialize!

As an adamant non-smoker who will not let my own friends smoke in my apartment, smokers’ rights was originally the least of my concerns when I launched CAGE, and although it has become an important canary in the mine-shaft of government encroachment, it remains only one of many issues to which we lend an active voice. Our goal is to awaken our fellow citizens to the reality of their quickly disappearing personal rights and freedoms. When we openly encourage people to write to newspapers and to speak out, it is called "grassroots mobilization," not "propaganda," as was implied by Scott Jones. For a better understanding of who the well-funded propagandists really are, please do follow Mr. Jones’ advice and check out our Web site so as to draw your own conclusions.

» Dan Romano, President & Co-Founder, CAGE (Citizens Against Government Encroachment), www.cagecanada.ca

 

True to his word, Mr. Harden, the following writer, joined C.A.G.E. as a member the following day.

Personally, I think the people at CAGE should be commended. They are a true citizens’ group. So what if they didn’t mention an affiliation. I notice that Mr. Jones didn’t mention an affiliation either. Anti-smoking lobbyists rarely, if ever, do. They also never volunteer information on their funding, a lot of which comes from government. That’s right, folks, a lot of your tax dollars are being given to these one-issue lobbies. While the anti-smoking lobby has their "sugar daddy," you can be sure that none of your money is flowing to groups like CAGE.

Mr. Jones’s letter has inspired me to either join CAGE or make a donation.

» Vince Harden, Winnipeg

 

Once again, we see in this following letter the true source of hostility. All letters to the Mirror by C.A.G.E. members and activists have been polite and cordial. All the letters by antis have resorted to personal attacks. Only the letters by ordinary non-smokers have shown any sort of civility. Now, the target of the ad-hominem attack is the mother of the Romano brothers. This sort of tactic indicates the insecurity of those who have no facts upon which to stand, and vindicates C.A.G.E.’s thesis that our society is gravitating toward an environment of Puritanism and totalitarianism wherein anybody who dissents with the accepted "line" is vilified and crucified. Read more about others who have been personally attacked, threatened and vilified on our "People" page, under "Heroes" or on the following page about Dr. Romano.

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/092106/letters.html

No more smoking

Dan Romano’s letter, "Smoking and the citizenry" [Sept. 14], makes two Romanos who have called me an anti-smoking activist, or "anti." I guess their mommy never taught them it’s not nice to call people names. All I really said ["Smokes, let’s go," Letters, July 7] was I shouldn’t have to breathe toxic waste where I work—just as you are not asked to.

I serve food for a living, and everyone where I work has been really happy with our smoke-free workplace since May 31. We haven’t had a single complaint from a customer. What are they going to say, "I deserve a smoke-free workplace but you don’t"? Business has been as good as last summer—in fact, better.

The hostility of Dan Romano and Vince Harden’s letters made me feel sick. I don’t know what you are thinking when you pick the letters to publish. Montreal has gotten over this. Why can’t the Mirror?

» Carole

 

This following letter must be an example of the hostility that Ms. Carole is referring to. Notice the attacks on her parentage …

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/2006/100506/letters.html

 

Smokes, bingo and freedom

In "No more smoking," [Letters, Sept. 21], Carole expressed frustration towards Mr. Daniel Romano, president of CAGE, suggesting that he called her an "anti" smoker, and against the Mirror’s coverage of Montreal’s opposition to the smoking ban.

We do not understand why she and other opponents fail to understand that we also support their freedom and their choice to live according to their beliefs. For the record: tobacco smoke is not "toxic waste" for non-smokers any more than our water or milk supplies are toxic baths. Poison is in the dose! However, regardless of the overwhelming evidence on this fact, we definitely support freedom of choice for everyone. Carole claims she doesn’t get complaints, I submit that the reason is probably because smokers may not feel very assertive facing the combined anti-smokers’ powers of the state and special-interest groups who convicted them without trial, and now depict them as stinking murderers.

Many simply no longer go out in places where they can’t smoke. For that reason, small businesses are greatly suffering and a few have already closed—charity bingos are struggling and consequently so are the livelihoods of people not as lucky as Carole. Furthermore, smokers are denied their rightful lifestyle freedom of choice, as employees or customers. I have rarely seen such an effort to shut a debate as we are presently witnessing from this coalition against the smoking debate in the Mirror.

Non-smokers are people who simply do not smoke, and they are the vast majority. Anti-smokers, on the other hand, a loud but well-funded minority, want smokers to quit or be punished. I can see why she would qualify the term ‘‘anti-smoker’’ as name calling.

Where does Carole really stand in this issue? I will let her and the readers decide. Instead of trying to close the debate, since the whole law is being challenged by Julius Grey for bar owners, Carole and other freedom of choice opponents should attempt to enlighten us with one good reason for Quebec’s law not to allow for a certain number of smoking venues like most of the civilized world does. Montreal is not about to get "over" personal freedom and we, the vast majority of smokers and non-smokers, are thankful that the Mirror is a fair reflection of this ongoing debate.

» Joël Demers, Communications francophones-Public and media relations, CAGE (Citizens Against Government Encroachment)

 

Another "hostile" response to Ms. Carole… The author, Diana Reid, is a café owner and former nurse who has waged a heroic struggle, at great personal expense, against the governments intrusion into her private business affairs. She writes here from her very real personal experience. Read more about Ms. Reid in on our "People" page, under "Heros".

While Carole is bashing Mr. Romano and Mr. Hardin, I wonder how she will feel by spring.

We have been non-smoking in Guelph since 2000. I run a business too, and believe me, trade will disappear and so will the staff.

Winter is the first shock—our weather does not make patios attractive. By the spring, people have got used to take-out, and the patios are only half full. The next winter kills trade, with only places with heated patios surviving. Now those have been banned here, so trade will be even more affected.

As for the staff, I used to employ 10, and now run it alone. I can cope, as trade is down so dramatically. Both our bingo halls have closed, and coffee shops have cut staff and hours. One restaurant took out half its tables and spread the others further apart to look busier, but trade continues to decline.

As for the non-smokers who were supposed to flock to the smoke-free bars, what a joke! This might be a good time for Carole to look for another job—hers will probably be gone in the near future.

» Diana Reid, Guelph, Ontario