We can't help but feel some satisfaction about a judge's ruling this summer regarding the 1993 Environmental Protection Agency report on secondhand smoke. Judge William Osteen of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in effect called the report flawed and riddled with scientific inconsistencies. He stated that the authors approached the study with a predetermined result in mind, and that they manipulated the research and analysis to arrive at that conclusion (see page 97 for the whole story). The judge's wording is different, but we've been saying the same thing since 1993 when the EPA report was approved.
That's not the end of the story. Yes, we were right. That does feel good. But now the hard work begins. There's only so much, however, that we at Cigar Aficionado can do. The rest is up to you, the citizens of every city in America where unreasonable smoking bans were imposed based on the EPA report. The fact that many of those bans rely so heavily on the report suggests that they may be vulnerable to challenges raised against them.
Let us make one thing clear: we're not opposed to smoking areas, or reasonable restrictions that separate smokers and nonsmokers. After all, we do not like to be exposed to things that irritate us, whether it's loud music at midnight or noxious fumes from petrochemical plants. But we do resent laws that turn smokers into pariahs, forcing them into the streets or into their own homes as their only refuge for enjoying a cigar, or that simply deny the possibility of smoking anywhere in public, even when special arrangements are made to deal with smoke.
One example of the latter just occurred in Nashville, where there is a new sports and entertainment arena downtown. The city council decided to prohibit an enclosed cigar bar in the arena, even though it would have been separately ventilated. We're appalled at such high-handed efforts to prevent people from enjoying cigars, especially when it's done without regard to the simple idea of accommodating the rights of smokers.
Or how about the California smoking ban, which was, in part, inspired by the EPA ruling? The ban has eliminated smoking in practically any workplace in the state. Bars and restaurants were exempt for the first few years of the law, but this past January even those places were declared off-limits to smoking where employees, such as wait staff and bartenders, are working. It's a law that goes far beyond any known science about the dangers of secondhand smoke. Considering Osteen's ruling, California's law should be immediately and drastically modified, or better still, swept off the books completely.
Any smoking ban that used the 1993 report should be modified or overturned, because the EPA report is invalid. Any misguided efforts to enact new smoking bans with references to secondhand smoke should be stopped in their tracks. The EPA report was motivated by a biased ideology, an ideology that believes tobacco is evil in all its forms for all people. The EPA report should never have been used to justify draconian laws that, in the end, restrict the rights of all Americans. If a simple administrative report like the EPA's can be used to implement more than 750 smoking bans across the United States, what can we expect from the next U.S. surgeon general's report that doesn't like butter or coffee or chocolate?
Any injustice that stems from the application of an invalid scientific report must be corrected. The EPA report clearly is such a document.
Editor & Publisher
Marvin R. Shanken