Susan Meets Susan

By Norman E. Kjono, January 29, 2007

I preface the below copy of an E-Mail that I sent to Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter today with excerpts from written tobacco control policy, as published April 1993 in "Planning for a Tobacco-Free Washington" under federal contract for the George H.W. Bush Administration's Project ASSIST (see TFW22.PDF).

Principles: To "Target" specific populations.

Strategy: ". . . the most effective way to reduce smoking rates is to decrease public tolerance of tobacco use."

Policy: "Changing public acceptance of tobacco use will require policy change, a critical ingredient of societal change." Its policies include:     

Increasing the price of tobacco products.
Increasing the number of smoke-free environments.

Media: "Social change requires that people receive persistent and consistent messages from sources they trust. To this end ASSIST resources will be use to generate a variety of media messages that will foster and strengthen public support for proposed policy changes."

Ms. Paynter's column that is excerpted below is a prime example of the "persistent and consistent messages" by media that are used to "foster and strengthen public support for policy changes."

-----Original Message-----
From: Norm Kjono [mailto:normkarl@earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, January 29, 2007 12:58 PM
To: 'Paynter, Susan'
Subject: Introducing a Kindred Spirit: Susan Alexander 

Ms. Paynter,

 

I thought I would introduce Susan Alexander, a lawyer in  San Francisco. Judging by the content of the two editorial works below, it occurs to me that you two Susans may be of kindred spirit. Both of you display particular skills at crafting negative labels and unfavorable stereotypes about your now-apparent "Target Group" of choice.

 

From the San Francisco Chronicle, January 28, 2007, "No Butts About It,"   by Susan Alexander:

 

"You should be content to pollute your own homes (even if you are endangering the health of your spouse, your children and the family dog). You ought to be satisfied with grabbing a quick smoke while huddled just outside the entrance to your office building. But are you? No, you're not. You've become street smokers. You stride through the streets of San Francisco, puffing away with complete disregard for anyone else. I've come close to being burned by one of your smoking wands too many times to keep it to myself anymore. You've got to be stopped. . . .  Convinced by Big Tobacco that smoking was "cool," you began smoking in your teens, then found yourselves addicted. So maybe I should pity rather than condemn you. Sorry, but I just can't.  Uppermost in my mind is the health and safety of us nonsmokers. . . . I'll pull that burning stick out of your nicotine-stained fingers, hurl it to the ground and crush it underfoot until it's dead. No jury in the world would convict me of causing harm to anyone -- especially you." (Underline added.)

 

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 29, 2007, "Smokes Are In Store for Another Battle," by Susan Paynter:

 

"With less smoke in our eyes -- even in our apartments -- in the year since passage of Seattle's public smoking ban, we may be squinting at cigarettes in new ways. At least the city and county's health department hopes we are. Tapping our feet in the supposedly quick checkout line while a shopper sends a clerk to unlock the Marlboros, do we suddenly question smokes sold with groceries? . . . And, rather than seeing a smoking down-and-outer on the street and thinking, 'Well, at least he has his comfort Camel,' does it hit us that health isn't only for the 'haves?' Odd how we can unblinkingly absorb certain assumptions the way we once did second-hand smoke. . . . It's no mystery that the mission of Public Health's Tobacco Prevention Program is to make it harder to smoke and easier to quit. But you may not know that your local QFC and Safeway are receiving gentle nudges to at least consider curtailing cigarette sales. Meanwhile, for the past year, with compassion in mind and nicotine patches in hand, the program has approached homeless shelters and other such agencies offering to help any clients who may like to kick the habit. At first, Tobacco Prevention manager Roger Valdez admits, agency directors resisted the idea as ridiculous, even cruel, asking, 'Don't poor people have enough problems?' Sure do. Homelessness, chemical dependency, maybe mental health issues and lack of health insurance, not to mention the price of a pack. Still, social injustice is another way to see it. Fewer people with jobs, homes and insurance are smoking." (Underline added.)

 

While both Susans share an obvious propensity for labels - including a fixation on stained fingers - I just say that Susan Alexander is one up on you: you merely support banning smoking in one's home, she will apparently be pacing the streets in search of opportunities to smack a cigarette out of the hands of anyone who smokes while walking down the street, too.

 

Perhaps the two of you should start a new anti-smoker coalition: Smoker Hate Intolerance Tantrum.

 

Is there no point at which even a slight embarrassment reaches you? How do you "compassionately" kick a "down-and-outer?" 

 

Best Always,

 

Norm Kjono

 

PS: Should you find a San Francisco attorney with the law firm of Lerach Coughlin in your search, please do not call her. She states that she is not the author of the Chronicle's Open Forum work "No Butts About It."  

Politics, Public Policy and Personal Values 

The first Bush administration's $135 million American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (Project ASSIST) was announced October 4, 1991. The program, managed nationwide by the American Cancer Society and slated to run from 1991 to 1998, was extended for a year. That extension occurred when its crowning achievement, Senator John McCain's Universal Tobacco Settlement Act of 1997 (UTSA), failed before Congress in June 1998. Senator Ted Kennedy also supported that bill. The UTSA would have imposed a $368 billion cost on persons who smoke, enacted a nationwide workplace smoking ban, and granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco-including explicit authority to reduce and/or eliminate the nicotine content of cigarettes. The UTSA was promptly replaced in November 1998 by the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), championed and negotiated by Washington's Governor Christine O. Gregoire when she was the state's Attorney General.  

Since the failure of the UTSA to achieve tobacco control's fondest revenue-enhancing dreams anti-tobacco activists have been desperately back-filling, struggling to mandate piece-meal what Senators McCain and Kennedy would have handed them in one grand slam through the first tobacco "settlement" in 1997. As evident in the news today about job discrimination, higher health insurance premiums, increased cigarette taxes, and expanding smoking bans they're still at it.  

Coincidently, the two politicians that mainstream media is currently promoting as leading Presidential candidates-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ)-are strong supporters of anti-tobacco and anit-obesity. Senator McCain as long supported anti-tobacco's mercantile agenda, as noted by his sponsorship of the 1997 UTSA. Most recently, he and Hillary Clinton co-sponsored former Sen. Mike Mike Dewine's 109th Congress bill for FDA regulation of tobacco. We'll see what follows during the 110th Congress. 

Sen. Clinton's support for anti-tobacco and anti-obesity dates back considerably more than a decade. For example, in "Planning for a Tobacco Free Washington" she is quoted at top of a page as saying the we should not permit people to smoke. In addition, in December 1994 the Seattle Times published "Many Of US Are Fat, So Shape Up, America -- First Lady, Former Surgeon General Everett Koop Launch Drive To Point Out Health Risks Of Obesity,"   by Steven Pratt of the Chicago Tribune, which said in part: 

"As Americans grow fatter and suffer more ill health as a result, a former surgeon general and the first lady are launching a campaign to get people out of the refrigerator and off their backsides. Shape Up America, a nationwide program to promote better eating habits, more exercise and a raised consciousness about obesity, will get its official start tomorrow in a White House press conference with Hillary Rodham Clinton and C. Everett Koop. Being overweight is not only a problem of looks, it's also a serious national disease that contributes to more than 300,000 deaths a year, Koop said Friday.  More than a third of all adults are obese, he said - 32 million women and 26 million men - up dramatically from 25 percent in 1980. Similar to Koop's war on smoking, which beefed up warnings on cigarette packs and helped push smokers out of offices and airplanes, the Shape Up campaign will focus on the workplace, schools, doctors' offices and even on cereal boxes. Most researchers categorize people as "obese" when they are 20 percent or more above the ideal weight for their age and height." (Underline added.)   

Those who would pull the voting lever for Hillary or John might consider that, should either become president, those who do not have the prescribed Body Mass Index (BMI) could find they are pulling a few extra shifts to finance higher health insurance costs, too. See, for example, consider the Fortune 500's National business Group on Health solution. From the Washington Post, November 14, 2006, "Smokers, Obese Should Pay More Health Insurance: Poll," by Kim Dixon: 

"CHICAGO (Reuters) - Most Americans believe smokers and obese people should pay more for health insurance . . . Sixty percent of those polled favored higher premiums for smokers while 30 percent felt the obese should pay more. 'When it comes to personal responsibility, consumers increasingly support making people pay more for unhealthy behavior,' said the report in the journal Health Affairs. . . . The rate of uninsured, now nearly 16 percent of Americans, has been climbing for years, driven by consumer demand and escalating prices for prescription drugs and hospital care. About 20 percent of large employers are already giving discounts to workers who do not smoke, according to Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which lobbies for corporations on health issues. 'The non-smoker's discount is growing in popularity and I think it is going to grow faster,' she said. As to obesity, 'I think it will be a while before we get to the point where people begin tying a financial discount to something like BMI (body mass index),' she said." (Underline added.)

The preceding policy advocacy being confirmed by an advocacy noted for its intense hatred of persons who smoke, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) From Science Daily, October 23, 2006, "Insurance Plan Penalizes Smokers, Obese:" by United Press International:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The director of a U.S. anti-smoking organization says smokers and obese people should pay substantially more for health insurance than others. John Banzhaf, director of the Washington organization Action on Smoking and Health said he's urging state governors to adopt his plan in reforming their Medicaid programs. Under the plan, obese people would pay a 10-percent increased health insurance premium, with smokers generally paying an even higher percentage. Those who are obese and smoke would pay nearly 30 percent more to obtain health insurance. 'While a growing number of health insurance companies are now charging smokers higher premiums, and a few state governments have started charging employees who smoke more for health coverage, this may be the first situation in which the concept is applied to Medicaid," Banzhaf said in a release. While noting increasing the premium penalty beyond a certain point might cause some to do without insurance, Banzhaf said correspondingly lower rates for non-smokers would probably help many of them obtain coverage that was previously financially out of bounds." 

Those who doubt that "hatred" of a "Target Group" is the appropriate word to apply to tobacco control and Action on Smoking and Health should consider that in September 1996 ASH posted a promotion of "Gasp! A Novel of Revenge," which included what the author described as tested and proven plan to cyanide product tamper with cigarette packages (See "New Book Tells How Protagonist Kills Smokers:"   That book promotion includes the following statement: 

"'In researching the book, I did everything my character did except, of course, actually poison people,' said Frank Freudberg, the Wayne, Pennsylvania, author of the book. 'I even dialed an 800 number and ordered cyanide crystals and had them sent to a mail box service ... a week later I had enough cyanide to murder 2,500 people.' Freudberg said he learned how to open cigarette packs and reseal them. He then traveled throughout the country with packs he had marked with a red "X" instead of actually spiking them with sodium cyanide. He said he carried out his scheme in 13 states, . . . 'In every case, an unsuspecting consumer either bought or picked up the pack with the red X,' Freudberg said." (Underline added.)

 

I can hear Mr. Freudberg today, explaining to Homeland Security staff today what his intended use is for specially marked packages of cigarettes in his carry on: "Oh yes, its research. Why, I have enough cyanide in my possession to murder 2,500 people!" Right, uh-huh . . .

 

Shortly after that book promotion was posted, in May 1997, the Washington Post reported about four people who were injured by exploding cigarettes in the Washington D.C. area. I wrote about that in "Anti-Tobacco Violence,"   published by Forces.org.  

Time for a Change? 

From the Seattle Weekly in its January 18, 2006 article "Big Nanny is Watching you," by Phil Dawdy:

 

"'Americans think they have a lot of rights they really don't have. Smoking is one of those things where people think they have the right to smoke, but you don't.' He used 'you' in the plural. 'You have no right to smoke. It's an addiction. It's something you should see a doctor about.' He went on to tell me that people have no right to smoke even in their private residences. 'The condo association can ban it, and you have no legal recourse,' Valdez said.  

The statements quoted in this commentary are those stated by people who look at persons who smoke as less than second class citizens. Such are the values that tobacco control and its supporters promote. We read expressions of those values in daily newspapers and press releases. We endure them as if such approached to public policy are at once inevitable and acceptable.  

"Target" consumers are inevitably viewed with contempt by public officials who support such agendas. For example, the following comments were made by Washington's Representative Lynn Kessler (D-24th) April 21, 2005 during house floor debate about ESHB 2314, which added 60 dents per pack new cigarette taxes: 

 "A bottle of gin, a bottle of bourbon, a carton of cigarettes. Is this what we're complaining about? The family at home with the children, having to pay another $1.33 for their quart of gin to bring home.  Is this what we're complaining about? Going out and leaving the children at home while we go to the grocery store to buy our $6.00 pack of cigarettes, to come home and smoke them around their children and give them secondhand smoke.

 

Point of Order by Rep. Ericksen (R-42nd): Voted "No:" "I just would urge the speaker to stick to the bill in front of us and not anyone smoking cigarettes in front of their children."

 

Rep. Kessler Continues: "Cigarettes and alcohol are the most discretionary buying any of us will probably make. I don't think this will break up families. I don't think that the earth will be shattered. I think we will be just fine. And if people choose to go to their stores, to their liquor stores, and buy alcohol, if they choose to buy cigarettes, I think that's fine. But it is their choice. I urge your support of this bill because these taxes that we're talking about are discretionary. And because we are focusing the cigarette tax on education. . . . I don't want to hear a lot about how people are suffering from this. Don't buy the cigarettes, don't buy the bottles of gin, don't pay the tax."

So there you have it: Rep. Kessler has given persons who smoke a choice. But there is more than one way to express choice. The ballot box often works better than choosing to accept what politicians mandate. 

My personal view of it is that such values have no place in public policy, nor does anyone who even tacitly supports them belong in public office as a representative of we the people. That goes double for the highest office in the nation. We simply let mainstream media news articles and opinion works speak for themselves.  

We receive the quality of government that we merit by our own indifference or inaction. We grow in spirit and together as a people by committing ourselves to ideals that are greater than our personal interests.  

You decide. As you do so I'll be undertaking a new and interesting project. 

Be well, do good, and best always, 

Norman E. Kjono


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