Archive for Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Cardiologist chats online about smoking ban

April 21, 2004


Moderator: Welcome everybody. Dr. John Hiebert, a Lawrence cardiologist and proponent of a smoking ban in places of employment, is here and brought a case of smoking study references with him. We'll start the chat in a few minutes.

Brian, Lawrence: Would you support a ban on the sale of meat and dairy products in Lawrence grocery stores because of their "ravaging" effects on the body? Many studies indicate this may be a much worse problem than cigarettes. Thank you.

Dr. John Hiebert: It is true that excessive calorie consumption and eating certain foods is associated with shortened life expectancy. What one person consumes does not impact directly on the health of another person--which is the case in the circumstance of ETS. My answer is no, I would not support a ban on meat/poultry sales.

Moderator: Just a reminder that at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, Chuck Magerl, a smoking ban opponent and owner of Free State Brewing Co., will also be online to take your questions. Now, our next question for Dr. Hiebert.

Rick, Lawrence: If you people are really serious about protecting the citizens of Lawrence from tobacco-related illnesses, why don't you propose a total ban on all tobacco products within the city limits? Or county limits? Make it illegal to sell, consume or possess tobacco in any form, anywhere. This would take the onus of regulation off the restaurant and nightclub owners, and put it back in enforcement, where it belongs.

Dr. John Hiebert: The thrust of a workplace smoking ban is the protection of nonsmoking individuals from ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke). The extension of this ban to smoking outdoors and in the home does infringe on personal freedoms in those settings. As a physician we counsel all patients who smoke to quit, but I do not believe there should be a ban on smoking in the home, for example.

Mike, Kansas City: What type of an effect would this proposed ban have on small, locally-owned businesses (bars, coffee houses, etc.) that rely heavily upon a large base of patrons who use tobacco?

Dr. John Hiebert: The data available from a number of cities in the US - Boston, New York, El Paso, have shown that workplace bans have been revenue neutral (at worst) to the hospitality industry. The most recent study re: the effects of the NYC ban were published in March 2004 in The New York Times, and demonstrated significant increases in revenue.

Steven, Lawrence: How confident are you that Lawrence citizens would vote yes to a smoking ban if they were given the opportunity?

Dr. John Hiebert: A 1999 survey of Lawrence citizens documented that more than 85% of individuals favored a workplace smoking ban. I am extremely confident that after implementation of such a ban that the approval of a ban will increase with time - with both the citizens and businesses in Lawrence. This has been the experience, in both Boston and NYC, among others.

Ross, Lawrence: Given that every individual has the right to protect themselves from all forms of smoke inhalation by not entering certain buildings, how could we possibly justify a ban on smoking in public places?

Dr. John Hiebert: This question gets at the issue of an individual's right to smoke versus a nonsmoker's right to breath air free of ETS. Whereas there is statutory protection of non-smokers, as a protected class, there are protections under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guaranteeing protection of a disabled individuals (such as persons with severe asthma, cystic fibrosis) from ETS in the capacity of an employee (Title I) or as a patron (Title III). In this context, a business is required to make reasonable accommodations in order to provide an environment free of ETS. Please refer to the Summary of Legal Cases Regarding Smoking in the Workplace and other Places @

John, Lawrence: Aren't there studies that show the effects of secondhand smoke aren't all that bad? Whose science should we believe?

Dr. John Hiebert: One question that needs to be asked first is who is the author of the study, and how is it funded. Analysis of the such studies has revealed that more than 80% of studies reporting findings of no effect of ETS are funded by the tobacco industry. JAMA 279(19)1566-70. Follow the money. The overwhelming findings are that ETS is directly associated with Lung diseases (ashthma, cancer) heart attacks, and reproductive diseases including sudden infant death syndrome. This is true not only in this country, but in many countries around the globe (Canada, Ireland (which has not implemented a ban country-wide), Sweden, Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia--to name but a few. Also, go to for more information on tobacco control.

Moderator: I'm afraid that's all the time we have. We're expecting Chuck Magerl, who is against a smoking ban for bars and restaurants, to be online to take your questions in just a few minutes. Thanks for participating!

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