Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hearing on Smoke Free Workplaces Bill tomorrow

Speak up for smoke free workplaces in Michigan! There will be a hearing tomorrow and the Regulatory Reform Committee will be taking testimony on both sides of the issue. Here's the info:

Regulatory Reform, Rep. Bert Johnson, Chair

Date: 04/01/2009Time: 12:00 PM

Place: 326 House Office Building, Lansing, MI

Agenda:Continuing testimony on a statewide smoking ban.HB 4377 (Gonzales) Health; smoking; smoke-free workplace and food service establishments; require.

To view text of legislation go tohttp://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.asp?page=Bills

Individuals who wish to bring written testimony need to supply a minimum of thirty copies for distribution.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of smoke free workplaces

Overheard at the Michigan House Office Building: "I have a fundamental right to smoke if I want to, damn government can't tell me what to do....It's my Constitutional right."
That statement is so wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. But, as a professor once told me, when you're dealing with the Constitution, you've got to look at the context.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee held Round 2 of their public hearings on smoke free workplace law. The usual suspects were all there: doctors in favor of the ban, restaurant owners and casinos opposed to the ban, the Rep who is overwhelmingly supportive of the ban who nods approvingly while listening to testimony, the Rep who gets money from big tobacco and would only support the ban if tobacco control advocates could cough up some bucks. Contrary to what some folks think, public health advocates in Michigan (a) are not paid by pharmaceutical companies and (b) are not rolling in taxpayer cash.

The U.S. Constitution is the highest law of the land and it deserves more respect than it's being given. All that said, let me give you a crash course in Constitutional Law and why smoking (or allowing smoking in your restaurant, bar, casino, store, or VFW hall) is not one of your fundamental rights as provided by the Constitution.

People claiming a right to smoke rely on two main arguments: 1) smoking is a liberty guaranteed under a person's fundamental right to privacy; and/or 2) the Equal Protection clause protects smokers from "discriminatory" smoke free workplace laws. Don't be fooled by the casual legalese, these arguments are bunk, hooey, bull, and whatever other synonyms for NOT TRUE you can think of.

I. Fundamental Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that "only personal rights that can be deemed 'fundamental' or 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty' are included in the guarantee of personal liberty."* Fundamental rights usually relate to an individual's privacy and autonomy over one's body and within one's home.

During the hearing yesterday, one of the business owners opposed to the ban argued that his choice to smoke a cigar on occasion was his "private individual right" that the government could not take. In fact, the Constitution only protects privacy interests related to marriage, contraception, family relationships, and the rearing and educating of children.** By contrast, courts have rejected smoking as a fundamental privacy interest.***

II. Smokers are not a protected group
Another opponent to the smoke free workplaces law claimed the law was "clearly discrimination" and "just plain wrong." Courts have repeatedly spurned the idea that laws regulating smoking discriminate against smokers as a particular group and violate the equal protection clause.

The equal protection clause serves as a guarantee that the government will not treat similar groups of people differently without good reason.¤ Certain groups of people are given greater protection against discriminatory government acts under the U.S. and Michigan constitutions.⌂ These groups are granted extra protections because they have "immutable characteristics determined solely by the accident of birth."· People are not born smokers and although it is a fierce addiction that can be incredibly difficult to overcome, it is a behavior, not an "immutable characteristic."

The equal protection clause also prohibits discrimination against fundamental "interests" that inherently require equal treatment. These fundamental interests include the right to vote, political freedoms (like political candidacy), the right of access to the courts for certain proceedings, and the right to interstate travel. Smoking, however, is nowhere on the list.

So what does this all mean? Well, if a government ordinance affects an individual right that is not constitutionally protected, the ordinance will be upheld so long as there is any reasonably conceivable set of facts that could provide a rational basis for the law. Smoke free workplaces have been proven to improve the quality of a state's overall public health. The overall welfare and betterment of public health is a legitimate government goal. Therefore smoke free laws are a legitimate and constitutional exercise of governmental authority.

Notes (These cases are available at either Oyez.org or the Michigan Courts' website)
*Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152 (1972)
**See Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479, 484 (164 (married couples have right to contraception), Meyers v. Nebraska, 262 US 390 (parents' right to educate children as they see fit); Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 US 494 (1977) (sanctity of family relationships)
***City of North Miami v. Kurtz, 653 So.2d 1025, 1028 (Fla. 1995) (right to smoke not under penumbra of federal constitution's privacy provisions)
¤Ordinances are presumed constitutional and the burden is on the party challenging the ordinance to show that it is not rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest Alexander v. Detroit, 392 Mich. 30, 35-36 (1974)
See Brown v. Bd. of Ed., 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (race); Craig v. Boran, 429 U.S. 190 (1976) (gender)
·Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 686 (1977)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Let the Reps know that YOU support Smoke Free Laws TOMORROW!

Do you think smoking sections in restaurants should be a thing of the past? Are you shocked that Michigan hasn't passed a smoke free regulation yet? Are you wondering what the hold up is on this darn law?

Well...find out! Join us tomorrow for a meeting at the Michigan House Office Building for a committee hearing about smoke free legislation. That's right the MI House Regulatory Reform Committee will be meeting tomorrow to hear testimony on Smoke Free Legislation. This is the second in a series of hearings that will (hopefully) culminate in a vote on April 1, 2009.

So if you're shocked and appalled, or even just mildly irked that Michigan is still NOT smoke free, unlike 35 other states, go to the hearing and tell these Representatives what YOU think. Doctors will testify, advocates will testify, victims of tobacco related illnesses will testify, and YOU can testify. Some of the most powerful testimony comes from ordinary citizens because it's the ordinary citizens who elect, and re-elect these politicians.

These Representatives really need to hear from some of their younger constituents, i.e. high school and college students. A lot of politicians have no idea what their younger constituents want, some of them don't even seem to care. We at TFM urge you to MAKE THEM CARE. During our last election cycle, the youth movement turned out in masses to vote for change. Let's keep this momentum going and register our voices once again.

So if you've got something to say, say it tomorrow at the Regulatory Reform Committee Meeting:

12:00 PM
326 House Office Building, Lansing, MI
AgendaCheck Spelling
Discussion on a statewide smoking ban
Representative Bert Johnson

If you can't make it to the meeting, you can also watch the hearing via webcast and stay tuned for information about future hearings.


Tomorrow, March 25, 2009, is National Kick Butts Day! Kick Butts Day, or KBD, is time for youth everywhere to STAND OUT, SPEAK UP, AND SEIZE CONTROL AGAINST BIG TOBACCO.

Youth across the nation will be holding all sorts of events - graffiti walls memorializing those lost to tobacco related illnesses, to letter writing campaigns to local lawmakers, film festivals featuring short films about tobacco use, and even KBD Carnivals.

Here are some activities from past KBD events, including a NJ group’s music video and “They put WHAT in a cigarette?!”

So, are any KBD events going on near you? Tell us about them!

Monday, March 23, 2009

This is testimony given by a Detroit casino worker about the secondhand smoke and hazardous health conditions in their place of employment. Their identity had to be hidden due to the possibility of retaliation from their employer for speaking out.

Video may not work...if not, check out Michigan Campaign For Smokefree Air's Facebook Page http://is.gd/oDFM

If just one more person quits smoking, then it's a success

Some of you may have heard about the Michigan QuitLine's recent Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy promotion. You may have heard that it was a bust because the QuitLine ran out of supplies and shut down after only five days. You may have heard that it was all a ploy on behalf of the Governor's office, i.e. "offer something good for free then shut down the program when it starts to work."

We here at Tobacco Free Michigan were stunned and pleasantly surprised at the response to the Michigan Department of Community Health's Quitline promotion. We've also been shocked by some of the comments we've overheard on the net and in person about the promotion's "failure." So, we came up with an FAQ sheet to address some of the questions, comments, and concerns we've heard about the Quitline in recent weeks.

What is the Quitline?
The Quitline provides services to Michigan residents that want to quit using tobacco products. The Quitline offers a personal health coach, participant toolkits and referrals to local programs help tobacco users gain the confidence and motivation they need to quit for good.

Why did the Quitline stop taking calls?
After launching the Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) promotion on March 11, Michigan’s Quitline received over 66,000 calls in less than a week. This unprecedented response, while terrific, has depleted the Tobacco Prevention Program’s supplies. The Michigan Department of Community Health has temporarily run out of funding to purchase additional NRT or coaching services.

Is the Quitline shut down permanently?
No, in fact the Quitline is still available for Medicaid Managed Care clients. It is also serving all those people who have already signed up for services. The Michigan Department of Community Health is currently seeking more funding to reopen the Quitline to everyone.

I don’t smoke, why is it my problem if these smokers can’t quit?
Because smoke-related illnesses affect everyone, whether they’re breathing in the air, paying taxes toward Medicaid or watching a loved one battle a tobacco-related illness. Tobacco use costs Michigan $3.40 billion annually in health care expenses. Of this amount, Medicaid pays over one billion dollars annually in health care for tobacco-related diseases.

Can I still get Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
Although the Michigan Tobacco Quitline is no longer giving away free NRT, there are many local and national programs that provide Michigan residents with support during quit attempts. Many free resources and materials are available by going to www.michigan.gov/tobacco.

I want to quit, but I don’t have the money to buy patches, gum, or lozenges. What am I supposed to do?
In addition to the programs listed above, your insurance may cover your quit attempt. Call your insurance company to see what programs and medications are covered.

Quit with a buddy. Many people find it hard to buy a week or more supply of nicotine patches or gum all at once. If you quit with a buddy and split the cost of the product, you can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Others have put the cost of the product on a credit card. They saved all the money they would have spent on cigarettes and used it to pay off the card when the bill came due.

Why did the free promotion end so quickly?
The Quitline free NRT promotion had an unprecedented response. The same promotion ran in the fall of 2008 and had 3,684 callers over a six week period. This promotion received over 66,000 calls in 6 days. The demand for service was far beyond what was projected. The Michigan Department of Community Health has spent over a million dollars on the Michigan Tobacco Quitline this year. This is still not enough to meet the overwhelmingly high demand for Quitline services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Michigan spend $12 per person on tobacco prevention. Michigan spends a mere 50 cents per person. The Michigan Tobacco Prevention Program should be funded at a higher level.

Didn’t the tobacco companies give Michigan a huge chunk of change for the tobacco settlements?
YES. The 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement – the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) – provided for annual payments to the states from the major cigarette companies to settle the state’s lawsuits against them, reimburse the states for smoking-caused costs, and provide funds the states promised to use to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

So why not just take dollars from the MSA to fund the Quitline and other Tobacco control projects?
Despite the original intent of the payments, Michigan is not currently using any of its settlement dollars for tobacco prevention or reduction. Although Michigan has received over $400 million in settlement payments, many of those dollars have been securitized for undisclosed “economic development” projects. Medicaid also receives a large amount of the settlement, but NONE of the currently funded projects go toward reducing chronic disease, prevention, or lower healthcare costs.

Fortunately, Michigan received a bonus payment in 2008. Although much of that money is also gone, there is about $5 million that has yet to be designated or securitized.

So the $5 million will go to tobacco prevention and control?
No. As of right now, that $5 million is sitting in a bank and will most likely wind up being securitized. But YOU have the power to change that! Contact the Governor’s office, and your elected officials and let them know that you think it’s time they kept their word and use the MSA money for its true purpose.

Who do I contact to get things set straight?
Contact the Governor’s Office or one of your locally elected representatives.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
PHONE: (517) 373-3400
PHONE: (517) 335-7858 - Constituent Services
FAX:(517) 335-6863

Find your local representatives here:
Find a Rep -- http://house.michigan.gov/find_a_rep.asp
Find a Senator -- http://senate.michigan.gov/SenatorInfo/find-your-senator.htm

From the land of lead-based children's toys...

comes the E-Cigarette. Touted as a "healthy alternative to smoking," the e-cigarette has been heavily marketed to smokers trying to quit for the past few months. They are marketed as healthier because most of the harmful material produced by the combustion of tobacco in traditional cigarettes is not present in the atomized liquid of electronic cigarettes.

Despite marketers' claims however, there have been no scientific tests to examine the overall "healthiness" of the e-cigarette. Some e-cigarette companies have posted information and quotes from the World Health Organization, giving the impression that the WHO endorses this product. In fact, the WHO has disclaimed all knowledge of the e-cigarette's therapeutic benefits as a cessation aid. That said, WHO does not "does not discount the possibility that the electronic cigarette could be useful as a smoking cessation aid. The only way to know is to test."

In a press release from the WHO, Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative stated, "If the marketers of the electronic cigarette want to help smokers quit, then they need to conduct clinical studies and toxicity analyses and operate within the proper regulatory framework...Until they do that, WHO cannot consider the electronic cigarette to be an appropriate nicotine replacement therapy, and it certainly cannot accept false suggestions that it has approved and endorsed the product. "

Is the e-cigarette a safe alternative to smoking? Perhaps. We here at Tobacco Free Michigan are not completely discounting its potential benefits but, we're also not endorsing the product. The e-cigarette's current "scientific proponents" sound a lot like some other "scientific proponents" from yesteryear...

See if you can identify which statement was made by an e-cigarette company and which was made by a tobacco company:

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Non-smoking Section in a Restaurant is Like a No-peeing Section in a Pool...

...you just can't avoid other people's gross human byproducts.Once upon a time, the non-smoking section of a restaurant was made up of the 3 tables without smokers. Nonsmoking sections in restaurants began to gain popularity in the 1980s. Today entire states mandate that all restaurants be completely nonsmoking.Last weekend, I travelled down to Ohio, a smoke-free state. On the way there, my travelling companion and I stopped at a restaurant in Ann Arbor. We sat down in the "non-smoking" section, which, was directly next to the "smoking" section. There wasn't even a barrier to make it seem like the smoke would somehow be blocked from creeping in. Seriously, it looked like this: Restaurants like this surprise me. It's like owners think the smoke will see the no smoking sign, read it, and turn itself around. Smoke is not a naughty puppy you can keep out of the living room. "Non-smoking sections" were a great idea when they were first on the scene, but now there are much better options...like non-smoking restaurants. 35 state have smoke free regulations that include restaurants, including Virginia, Marlboro country itself (See image below: states in green have smoke free worksites, restaurants, and/or bars).* Seriously Michigan, shouldn't our state get with the program and get this legislation passed already?

*Virginia's recently passed law will go into effect on December 1, 2009. South Dakota's recently passed law goes into effect July 1, 2009.