Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gay Rights = Smoker's Rights

I'm not a smoker, but I think it's time for someone to stand up for smoker's rights. For several years now smokers have had many of their civil rights denied them. Here's a short list:

1. The right to peaceably assemble.
Local and state laws have increasingly barred smokers from assembling with other smokers in the gamut of public places.

2. Right to Privacy.
A high court in Florida has decided that a smoker can have "no legitimate expectation" of the right to privacy.

3. The right to work.
Hiring bans on smokers are legal in many states.

4. Right to housing.
Some states have banned smoking in private apartments and public housing.

5. Right to pursue happiness on private property.
In Rolling Hills, CA, local homeowners lost the right to have a smoke in their own yards.

The list goes on. Here on Guam smoking is banned in restaurants which I believe is an infringement on private property rights. Proprietors should be free to run their businesses as they see fit. No one is forcing non-smokers to visit their restaurant.

In the name of health the government is expanding its coercive powers on all fronts. Since most of us do not smoke, we didn't pay much attention when here on Guam they went after the restaurants. But as we can easily see from the example of other states, it will not stop there, as Bill 150 clearly shows.

Senator B.J. Cruz introduced Bill 150 which would raise the tax on tobacco products an extra 50%. I find it a bit amusing that the champion of civil rights for one particular group is leading the charge against the civil rights of another group.

As you know, Senator Cruz backed Bill 138 and introduced Bill 185 in the interest of securing civil rights for people with same-sex attraction. Since the introduction of Bill 138 in June, we have heard at length from proponents about how homosexuality is something that can't be helped, that gays and lesbians are just "born that way" and because of this helpless predilection society must recognize and grant them the right to marry whomever they choose.

Okay, let's say that it's true, that there is in fact a "gay gene", that homosexual behavior is something hard-wired into one's system and that same-sex attraction is as genetic as being Black or Mexican. Fine. But smoker's can make the same claim.

In an article published in the American Psychological Association's journal of Health Psychology in January of 1999, entitled ''Evidence Suggesting the Role of Specific Genetic Factors in Cigarette Smoking,'' psychologist Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., of the Georgetown University Medical Center and her co-authors demonstrated that a link exists between smoking behavior and the dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3-9). In their study of 289 smokers and 233 nonsmokers, they found that individuals with an SLC6A3-9 genotype were less likely to be smokers than individuals without that gene.

And in their article, ''A Genetic Association for Cigarette Smoking Behavior,'' Dean H. Hamer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues found from examining 1,107 nonsmokers, current smokers and former smokers that the SLC6A3-9 gene was associated with certain personality characteristics that influenced a person's susceptibility of being able to start and stop smoking.

According to these studies, smokers are every bit as helpless as gays say they are. So why is Senator Cruz, the recognized champion of gay civil rights, bent on not only depriving these helpless people of their civil rights, but punishing them with a tax on top of it?

The primary rational for the war against smokers is the burden smoking places on health resources. In the Marianas Variety on 8/15/09, Senator Cruz stated “Considering the overwhelming scientific data showing numerous health-related problems associated with tobacco use, an increased tax on tobacco is definitely necessary to prevent people from smoking.”

I wasn't going to bring this up, but since Senator Cruz has taken to employing "scientific data", perhaps smokers should require scientific data of their own. At the public hearing for Bill 185 - the domestic partnership bill - I resisted inserting data from a report entitled The Health Risks of Gay Sex by Dr. John Diggs, Jr., M.D.

The medical data is detailed, graphic, scientific, and staggering. But as to the present topic, the study notes that while smokers lose an average of 13.5 years of their life, the average years of life lost for practicing homosexuals is 20.

I didn't bring up the study because for every study there is always another study. But since the proponents of Bill 150 want to bring up studies, then out of fairness, smokers should demand that similar studies be presented on the health risks of homosexual behavior and its potential impact on health care resources.

It could all be very scientific. The question is which puts more of a burden on health care, smoking or gay sex? You don't have to look far for the answer. According to National Institute of Health 2002, while 11 million people in America are directly affected by cancer compared to three-quarters of a million with AIDS, seven times more money is spent per patient on AIDS research than Cancer research.

If taxing tobacco products will reduce smoking as Senator Cruz claims, then taxing gay sex should do the same, don't you think? Of course such a proposition is ridiculous and I'm for leaving both groups legislatively alone.

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