May 14, 2012

Of Slippery Slopes

Patrick Laverty

I figured I'd take some backlash for my post supporting the bill that would ban smoking in cars with young children. Even Justin offered his own criticisms. After having a few days to think about it all, I'm going to stick to my guns and try to respond.

It seems that one of the common threads was the "slippery slope." If we allow X, then eventually we'll allow Y and that's just going too far. So let's look at the slope a different way. Rather than looking downhill, let's look uphill. Many people took things to a ridiculous extreme such as "eating lots of chocolate cake" and "eating lollipops while driving." It seems that the concern is with the government "Extinguishing parents liberty to raise THEIR children", as one commenter mentioned. So let's take that to the other extreme.

Many of us believe in the Second Amendment, as in the right to keep and bear arms. I should be allowed to shoot my gun as well. What if it hits someone? Are you going to put me in jail for that? I mean, all I was doing was exercising MY rights.

I like to play baseball. I need to practice swinging a baseball bat. Maybe it hits someone while I'm swinging it. Maybe I choose to swing it as I'm walking down Main Street. I don't have a right to do that? What's next? Are you going to ban something as American as baseball?

All "slippery slopes" have a gray area. Some parts of the slope are black and white, Shooting someone with a gun or hitting them with a baseball bat is black and white. Most of us feel that's wrong. For others, smoking in a car with children present is a gray area. As another commenter mentioned, there is a line that we cross from one end, "shooting our child in the leg" to the other "feeding our child a Kit Kat." And lots of things in between. Where exactly is that line? For each of us, it is in a different place. For some people, spanking is on the "ok" side of the line, for others, it's not. For some people, smacking a child across the face is ok, and for others it's not. Clearly, smoking in a car feels ok to some people, where for others, it's not.

One of the things that also struck me here in the comments was how the vast majority of them were concerned with the parent's rights. How dare we take away the parent's rights to smoke in a car with children? How dare we challenge that person's rights to parent their child. I don't think a single commenter even mentioned the child's rights, which is exactly how I started the original post. Your rights end where mine begin. Your rights end when you start harming me.

So that leads to the question of how much harm is there. Someone even questioned whether second hand smoke is harmful at all and said the studies are unclear. Well, if you believe the tobacco lobbyists and corporations, smoking isn't even harmful. Do you believe that too?

Others wanted studies. Writing for Anchor Rising isn't a full time job for me, so I don't have time to do the kind of research I've done when I was in school. Sitting in libraries, researching and reading many studies and dissecting. I can run a few simple Google searches and come up with some things. Of course Google quickly comes back with multiple recommendations from doctors about banning smoking in cars, along with lots of other cities and a few states who have done it. But doing the next level of research, I come up with studies like:

Like I said, this isn't exhaustive research and you can denigrate the studies linked all you want, like I said, I wish I had the time to do the proper digging.

However in the meantime, I'll take my chances with this altitude of the slope and re-state my support for Senator Sosnowski's bill.

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OK. I'm reading the studies. They're making a few assumptions:

1. That damage caused by smoke inhalation is relative to exposure, even in amounts that are VERY low.

2. That the exposures from second-hand smoke are a significant portion of the overall damaging factors.

This is where things get really weird. The particulates and carcinogens from a typical wholesome campfire or a grill used for cooking are higher than those encountered by second-hand smokers. Should we ban taking kids camping? From eating BBQ? It might save more lives.

And the assumption that tiny amounts of exposure cause any damage at all seems suspect to me. Your body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Obviously, if I spill 1 200 degree cup of coffee on you it's going to do a lot of damage. If I spill a 150 degree cup of coffee on you it will do some damage, but these studies assume that if I spill a 99 degree cup of coffee on you it will harm you just a little bit. We all know that in the latter case, you'd probably complain about the coffee being cold!

A typical cigarette delivers 2mg nicotine to a smoker. These studies showed that the second-hand exposure was 9ug, meaning that the exposure was less than 1/200th what the smoker was getting. In other words, a child could take a ride in a car with a smoker every day they went to school in a year and get exposed to under one cigarette's-worth of harmful materials. Does that sound so bad? Did anyone ever get sick smoking one cigarette a year?

Posted by: mangeek at May 14, 2012 12:11 PM

Over the last century a couple of hundred thousand kids have died while traveling in automobiles, all of which would be prevented if we had simply banned kids from cars.
Hey even more would be saved if we raised the driving age to 30... or 40...or banned cars altogether.
Not to mention the risks posed by football, hunting, archery, baseball, flying, swimming, etc.
Then of course there is the risk the Left will NEVER speak about-that your kids will be among the literally millions of kids who have been sexually inveigled by unionized teachers.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 14, 2012 12:36 PM

The car is a great case...

If a product came out today that let people get around ten to twenty times faster than they already do, but it would kill 40,000 people a year and require billions upon billions of government upkeep for infrastructure, would it ever 'make it'? Would we let 16 year-olds do it after driving around the block once or twice?

Patrick, 'freedom' aside, we're becoming a safety-obsessed culture. I think it's actually at a level that's detrimental to the economy and the social fabric.

Posted by: mangeek at May 14, 2012 2:18 PM

mangeek, I like the points you made about the studies.

I haven't looked at them myself yet but on the subject of studies...

I often laugh at hearing results about some such think doubling, tripling, multiplying the risks of something to sound terribly alarming but if you look more closely the risk could be going from a fraction of a fraction of one percent to 2 or 3 times that remaining far below one percent.

Sort of like saying something could take 3 times longer when the something takes less than a millisecond and you don't need to do it for millions or billions of iterations.

What's not funny about this is that government and media use this to deceive the public to push forward agendas they want and to take away more freedoms so they will have more power over our lives.

Posted by: Chris P at May 15, 2012 6:05 AM

The first study seems deliberately designed to be hard to understand. Rather than putting things into context or aid in making a comparison there are constant "adjustments" being made (reminds one of "hide the decline").

Many of the comparisons made seem more statistical than scientific. If it doesn't compare the amount of chemicals that enters the lungs between a smoker and a passive smoker it fails. If it doesn't cite the effects of the chemicals in the doses received by passive smoking it fails.

I have never smoked a single cigarette in my entire life although I did do plenty of passive smoking as a child--as did millions of others--and my politically slanted scientifically lacking issue alarm goes off loud on legislation based upon the treats of second hand smoke.

I would say that the well meaning people are falling for the politically arrived at science and studies similar to those who buy into the man caused global warming hoax.

Posted by: Chris P at May 15, 2012 6:31 AM

My response is in the other thread on the May archive. It supports individual liberty,parental rights and is not politically correct.

Posted by: helen at May 17, 2012 10:22 PM

Patrick,it's a bigger issue.

Posted by: helen at May 17, 2012 10:36 PM
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