The Shame in Prop-56.

If you have been paying attention to the goings on in California, or follow any of the vaping personalities online, you are well aware of the struggle California vapers are having with the passage of Proposition 56. This is not going to be yet another article about why Prop 56 is a bad piece of legislation. There is plenty of information out there dealing with the special interest kick-backs, dangerous changes to California’s state constitution, or the fact that the money that will be raised to combat a public health problem will not actually be going to deal with that particular problem. All of these points have been well covered, and there are plenty of more reasons to vote “No” on Prop 56.

I am taking a different approach on this issue. Anybody who knows me, knows I have high expectations of my elected officials. I fully admit that I am a deeply flawed individual, as are most of us. Perfection is not an inherently human quality, and I am strangely at ease with that fact. A person has character flaws, incorrect or misguided opinions or goals; due to years of perceiving the world around them through their own unique lens. When we zoom out and see “people” we see those ideas which at best are misguided, and at worst dangerous, become diluted as the group we examine gets larger. I recognize that populations can be less than perfect, and make poor decisions. I am also strangely at peace with this. I recognize the inherent weaknesses of people in large numbers. Where I really become an idealistic fool is when it comes to our government. I understand and accept that I have views that are inconsistent with the goal of making society the best that it can be. For example, I believe that there are instances where the state should be able to condemn people to death. I can in no way objectively support this position. The science isn’t there to support it, and there are multiple sound ethical arguments against this practice. As much as I would like to say that a serial child murderer should be sentenced to die at societies hand, if I had to check a box on a ballot on that issue today, I would vote against it. I firmly believe that my government should be more righteous and just than I am.

In addition to having these expectations of my government, I also have them of non-government groups that have a mission statement that purports that they are advocates for the overall health and well-being of the population. This includes organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association. These organizations take public funds and carry out studies and lobby government to operate in a manner that is supportive of public health. Unfortunately, these organizations fail to live up to my standards. Issues such as the diversion of donations to the high salaries of their leadership, to the willful ignorance of data that any such groups should be jumping for joy over to fit their agenda. Personally I was a Basic Life Support instructor for the American Heart Association and found their rules more suited to forcing community organizations and cash strapped public service agencies to buy their textbooks for every student in a CPR class as opposed to teaching evidence based curriculums that would negate the need for added AHA branded materials.

My latest frustration comes with their Pro-Prop 56 demonstration in California that occurred on October 11th. The group picketed the Altria government relations office building. They proceeded to use images of dead children to dress up their demonstration which consisted of dumping 5,600 toe tags into a body bag that the Prop 56 website claims is “from the morgue”. While the biggest issue in my mind isn’t the source of the materials used, I am left wondering, did a municipal agency donate the items used in this protest? And if so, is it acceptable to use public funds to advertise for a proposition that raises taxes, and allows the state of California to change their state constitution to allow the misdirection of public funds? In my opinion, it isn’t. But this is a very small part of my objection to this display.

The logic of Yes on 56 is that 17,000 children become hooked on tobacco and a third of those (5,600) will die of smoking related causes. I am not doubting those numbers, although I would like to see sources. It is absolutely tragic that 17,000 children become dependent on tobacco in the year 2016 where we clearly know of the hazards associated with smoking. And if this is all true, which I am not doubting, why is a safer alternative to tobacco also being targeted by this proposition? Clearly this is not in the interest of public health.

Imagine for a second, a world in which seatbelts are not mandatory in motor vehicles. Auto companies have the option of selling cars with no seat belts, only lap belts, and the standard three-point lap and shoulder belt. If we wanted to curb automotive fatalities, it would make sense to add a tax to vehicles sold without seatbelts. In this world, a car without seatbelts would be charged a 15% tax. It would then be reasonable to say that a car with only a lap belt would carry a tax of 10% since it is marginally safer than a car without seatbelts. But would it make any sense at all to tax a car with a three-point restraint 5%? Of course not, but that is exactly what the state of California is proposing. If there is a safer alternative, there is no reason for a public health organization or government body to assign a tax to it. Yes, 5,600 children a year may die when they reach adulthood from smoking related illnesses. But why would you make the safer alternative harder for someone to obtain? Go ahead and tax tobacco products if you care about public health. But don’t levy a tax on vapor products and try to explain to me that you are protecting society.

The real reason this display makes my blood boil is the shameless appeal to the “for the children” crowd. I have said over and over again, if you’re argument is solely based on saving children, because you’re the only one with the knowledge to do so, you have no argument. Does the pro-vaccine crowd argue that they can save the children? Yes, they absolutely do. But unlike the anti-vaping zealots they have the cold hard science to support their claims. If you have an argument, and no data, pound sand. You’re intellectual dishonesty and laziness are not worth my time.

As a person who has spent the better part of the last decade in the critical care and emergency medical fields I am personally offended. If you lined up and dropped a toe tag in that body bag, and haven’t had the personal experience of zipping up a body bag over the body of a deceased child, go to hell. The death of a child is something that affects everyone. It affects the family and those surrounding it. I have seen the most grizzled, salty, and hard to excite providers reduced to a quivering puddle of tears when a child in their care dies. It is the type of event that forces those who devoted years to providing real, in the trenches healthcare pack up their stuff and go home. Couples who lose children often break up because of the shared trauma, and the people you rely on to keep you safe are driven to self-destructive habits when children they are called to help dies.

To those who carried out this disgusting demonstration:

Shame on you.

Shame on you for standing on the graves of children to accomplish your goal.

Shame on you for reigniting the haunting memories of those parents that have lost a child so your friends can get some tax money that the state constitution says they are not entitled to.

Shame on you for reigniting the PTSD of those who worked in the gutters of America fighting to keep a child they never met before alive.

Shame on you.

I hope that everyone that this demonstration negatively effected floods your inbox, and the empathy you claim to have forces you to experience even just a fraction of a nightmare that these people experienced first-hand.

Yes, politics can be ugly. But politicizing dead children is abhorrent, and you should be embarrassed and ashamed.
Go to hell.


Rising From The Ashes Podcast
Mark A Egidi