Whether they realize it or not, small business owners in Ohio are enjoying the benefits of grass-roots opposition advocacy at its finest. That opposition is provided in large part by Opponents of Ohio Bans (click on preceding link to access their Web site.) From theToledo Blade, July 24, 2008, Smoke-Ban Foes Support Effort to Gain Exemptions, by Julie M. McKinnon:
“Nearly two years after voters passed Ohio’s smoking ban, some Toledo area business owners and private club officials are backing a legislative effort to exempt some bars and other establishments. Ohio’s draconian smoking ban has financially hurt bars, private clubs, and other businesses, said Pam Parker, co-founder of Opponents of Ohio Bans. A drop in wholesale liquor sales, closures, and other ill effects are proving it to lawmakers, she added. ‘If we don’t get our businesses back as business owners, we’re not going to have anything,’ Ms. Parker told about 75 people during a meeting last night in Sommerset Hall, 2458 Tremainsville Rd. ‘This is our last shot,’ she said.. . . Ms. Parker said public health groups first went after smoking, which is weeding out the number of bars. Their next targets will be alcoholism and obesity, further hurting bars and other establishments, she said. She also questioned the motivation of the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund smoking bans. It also is one of the biggest institutional shareholders in Johnson & Johnson, which makes smoking cessation patches, she said. ‘How has this been allowed?’ Ms. Parker asked.”
The Toledo Blade has historically supported tobacco control. It is therefore remarkable that Opponents of Ohio Bans and Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association have received at least one balanced press report from that newspaper. It is commendable and heartening that The Blade reported on the advocacy efforts of Ms. Parker and Mr. Delaney. But will The Blade now follow through with meaningful reporting about tobacco control conflicts of interest and the mercantile agendas behind smoking bans? Will The Blade put Ms. Parker’s and Mr. Delaney’s earnest efforts in proper context of protecting all Ohio small business owner and consumer interests from encroachment by monopolistic, out-of-state special-interests? Time will tell. It must be noted that on the same day the above article was published The Blade included a poll on the front page of its online edition. The poll asked:
“Should some small businesses be exempt from Ohio’s smoking ban?”
With 1,056 responses tallied early in the day 53.4 percent responded “No” and 44.8 percent responded “Yes,” some businesses should be exempt. The above article about Opponents of Ohio Bans was not on the front page and it was necessary to search on the title to find it. It therefore follows many responses that indicated “No,” some small businesses should not be exempt from the ban could have been made without benefit of the information included in the article. In addition, tobacco control advocates typically load such polls with favorable answers to support their agenda in early stages, creating a huge hurdle for honest voters to overcome. It also appears that this poll in The Blade may permit multiple responses by the same person, particularly if one deletes cookies before voting again. Reporters for the Toledo Blade would be well-advised to use extreme caution when citing these poll results in future articles to support tobacco control because the location and features of the poll plus anti-tobacco’s predictable behavior to stack the votes in their favor raise serious questions about the outcome. Under the conditions described above an opposing view of the early outcome is well justified: with a location disconnect between the poll and the news article, predictable advance vote deck staking by anti-tobacco activists, and the possibility of multiple votes it is truly amazing that the poll came in with 1,056 responses at a scant 8.6 percent spread between “Yes” and “No” responses.
Yet, the best laid plans of mice and manipulators oft go awry, as confirmed in later poll results. Near the end of the day with 1,567 responses tallied 50.9 percent voted “Yes” some businesses should be exempt from the smoking ban and only 47.4 percent of respondents said “No.” There is a strikingly clear message in these poll results for voters: despite the best efforts of anti-tobacco activists to stack the vote and clever placement of a poll in the online edition, tobacco control still comes up dry in its efforts to prove the public supports their self-serving agenda. How much higher would the “Yes” responses have been with placement of the poll on the page with the article about opposition to the smoking ban? Shouldn’t the public consider proponent and opponent views when responding to a poll?
Such news reports are also part of an emerging pattern. As the negative consequences of tobacco control advocacy are increasingly felt across business, economic and political lines mainstream media necessarily begins to consider opposing views. Mainstream press also tends to do damage control for antitobacco when presenting alternative views, such as those from Mr. Delaney and Ms. Parker. An article that is presumably favorable to opponents is published, to be followed later with a new article that cites survey, poll or study data that discounts the importance of the opposition’s stand and reinforces tobacco control. On some occasions opponents are often directly attacked. The press then continues to drone the tobacco control party line as if opponents never spoke a word. The message presented by the opposition is ultimately lost in the flak of publishing repetitive anti-tobacco dogma (and the polls allegedly prove that the public “overwhelmingly” supports the agenda, to boot.) That pattern is confirmed by events in many other states, including Washington, Colorado, Hawaii and Iowa. A fundamental truth remains, however: the apex of tobacco control’s social marketing influence has already passed and its influence is waning. Current events such as those in Ohio assure that the decline of tobacco control advocacy will correspond to the collateral damage that its pharmaceutical product sales social marketing agenda imposes.
But the true story surrounding the above article is found behind the scenes. What did it take for Pam Parker and Bill Delaney to be standing in a meeting hall while speaking to a group of small business owners about opposition to a smoking ban? What was required for them to be able to cite specific adverse effects of Ohio’s ban? What is the nature of the folks who earnestly and in good faith stand firmly behind opposition to all bans inspired by special-interest pharmaceutical grantee advocates? The answers to those questions are found in definitions for words like tenacity, grit, diligence, commitment, endurance and perseverance. The path from health department public hearings on proposed smoking ban rules in early 2007 to standing in Sommerset Hall to discuss the Ohio ban with dozens of small business owners has been challenging, to say the least.
It has been nearly a year and a half since the Ohio health department published its smoking ban enforcement rules. Forces reported on the unseemly events during a health department hearing for proposed smoking ban enforcement rules through Norman Kjono’s March 8, 2007 commentary, Opposition to Smoking Bans Heats Up VII. The nut of it is that American Cancer Society spokespersons Tracey Sabetta and Wendy Simpkins reportedly staged an exit from the public health hearing about 45 minutes early. What immediately followed in the press was a February 28, 2007 article in the Columbus Dispatch, “Tempers Flare at Hearing on Ohio’s Smoking Ban,” by James Nash, which said in part:
“The State Highway Patrol advised the two American Cancer Society representatives to leave the Ohio Department of Health hearing because of threats from some in the crowd, said Wendy Simpkins, spokeswoman for the society.
Mr. Delaney was quoted in the above article by The Dispatch. The transparent purpose of the American Cancer Society’s publicity stunt – as aggressively reported by a compliant press – was to negatively label and unfavorably stereotype all opponents of the smoking ban as violent malcontents. That tactic has also been employed by American Cancer Society representatives in other states. Problem is that, as presented in the March 8, 2007 Forces commentary, the Ohio State Highway Patrol later explicitly denied that any of its officers advised anyone – including American Cancer Society representatives — to leave the public hearing due to threats of violence. In short, American Cancer Society representatives falsely accused public hearing attendees of engaging in the crime of assault, which in lay terms is to place another person in fear of imminent peril to their physical well-being. The Dispatch later published a clarification of the story, which is included in the March 8, 2007 commentary. That anyone in Ohio continued with earnest opposition to the bans after such a personally dangerous threat that they are publicly accused of a criminal act is about the best definition of perseverance that one can think of.
Successful advocacy also takes tenacity and true grit. Those qualities clearly abound in Ohio smoking ban opposition efforts. Tenacity is exhibited by sticking with a quest for credible facts despite the apparent odds imposed by a well-greased, special-interest social marketing machine. True grit is having sufficient courage of one’s conviction to act on them. Mr. Delaney and Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association have been in the thick of things speaking out against the Ohio smoking ban and pursuing legal recourse since at least 2006. Opponents of Ohio Bans’ tenacity recently produced three press releases that were the product of consulting with others more familiar with the subject, confirming sources for information, communication with state agencies, then preparing message drafts and honing them to final copy. The press releases can be accessed through the below links or by visiting the Web site at: http://opponentsofohiobans.com/default.aspx. Ohio opposition published the press releases and then acted on their information with state representatives. Two bills that amend the smoking ban have also been sponsored in the Ohio legislature. The press releases published by Opponents of Ohio Bans are:
May 7, 2008, It’s Time for Truth in Ohio. Opponents of Ohio Bans Weigh In.
June 12, 2008, Ohio Voters Misled When They Voted for Smoking Ban; Ohio Senator Introduces Common Sense Bill
July 23, 2008, Who Really Profits From Smoking Bans? Oppoents of Ohio Bans Say “Just Follow the Money”
We close this introduction with a note about commitment. Commitment is sticking to the job until it is finished, whatever it takes. The job concerning tobacco control will be finished when two things have occurred: first, their self-serving legislation concerning cigarette taxes and smoking bans has been reversed; and second, when no politician who supports that agenda is left in public office. The former is already beginning to occur. When the later occurs is up to the people and their votes. Regardless of when that outcome occurs it is clear that many small business owners in Ohio are already sending a clear message to their elected representatives: “We’ll remember in November.”