Monday, 23 May 2011

Is smoking outdoors like dog poop on the sidewalk?

New York City’s new law takes effect today banning cigs in public parks and beaches. Local TV was all over the story last night, distinguishing itself by providing Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds a million or so dollars’ worth of free advertising each, i.e., showing dozens of shots of people of all ages puffing away. Has no one ever alerted the television news editors that the government banned paid images of people having a grand time smoking cigarettes because it ENCOURAGES the practice?

That’s bad enough though so routine as to be unsurprising. But what ever happened to the he-said/she-said, both-sides-of-the-story trope of American journalism? Most of the reports focused on unhappy smokers. A few did manage to include people who liked the idea of smoke-free parks, but not one reporter thought to look into the scientific evidence, which is readily available, about why outdoor smoke might (or might not) be harmful.

Tufts professor James Repace has public information at his Web site that claims that ‘secondhand smoke from a single cigarette can be detected at levels exceeding known thresholds for irritation for healthy persons at 7 meters from the source. . . . with 4 smokers, irritation can occur at distances as far out as 12 meters’.

Repace may be right, or he may be wrong. But isn’t it the task of journalism to research the facts and present some version of them? I know this is a silly, pointless protest, but it would be nice if the yapping heads filling our airwaves and our brains with endless mush would be encouraged, pressured, forced or humiliated into actually doing some legwork to find out shit instead of just turning their cameras onto a random set of bipeds willing to state their uninteresting opinions.

No comments: