Friday, June 15, 2007

Paging Dr. Thatcher, You're Needed on the House Floor

By now you may have heard that the House passed SB 571-C this morning, which furthers the existing indoor smoking ban to include bars, bingo halls and "bowling lanes" (I've never actually seen someone smoking on the bowling lane itself, so I'm guessing they meant the whole alley). The bill now goes back to the Senate so that it may ratify the removal of other exemptions, including Portland's greyhound track.

I had one ear open to the floor debate this morning, and while most of the discussion was fairly predictable--Republicans claiming a huge cost in lost lottery business that they never really tried to substantiate from anyone other than the tobacco companies--I had to chuckle at the most egregious attempt to feign medical knowledge since Bill Frist diagnosed Terry Schiavo via TV magic.

While introducing the bill as the carrier, Democrat Diane Rosenbaum took the time to note the positions of the US Surgeon General and CDC, both of which consider the threat of secondhand smoke a medical fact. That didn't stop Republican Kim Thatcher--not one of our most intellectually rigorous representatives, although competition on that side seems to be stiff--from declaring her independence from pernicious scientific assessment at the highest levels of our goverment.

I knew we were in for a treat when she rose with a stack of papers and said, "I did a little reading on the internet about this..." and proceeded to read snippets of articles she found in such luminary journals as the London Telegraph--not that it's some horrible newspaper, but come on: did she really think a few minutes with Google and the phrase "secondhand smoke" was going to be a winning argument for her? The rest of her speechifying was littered with phrases like these:

  • “it is not all conclusive that passive smoking causes these health problems”
  • “workers should choose where they work”
  • “we shouldn’t be banning peanuts because people are allergic”
  • “we could start justifying things based on this that we shouldn’t be, uh…I just think it’s a slippery slope.”
Lest anyone in the House be swayed by that highly convincing oratory, Rosenbaum closed her appeal for passage by reiterating the evidence: the OMA’s floor statement on the subject notes that “according to CDC, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke show increased chance of heart disease by 25-35%; lung cancer by 20-30%.” Returning to the Surgeon General's statement from 2006, she reiterated: “The debate is over. The science is clear. Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard.”

On the other hand, I'm not even sure who the Surgeon General IS these days (I stopped following them when they began to get fired for asserting such outlandish ideas like masturbation possibly being normal behavior), so maybe we should just take ol' Doc Thatcher's word for it. She used an algorithm!

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