WASHINGTON, D.C.—Secondhand gas dramatically increases the risk of acute nausea, insult to the nasal lining, asthma attacks, and even asphyxiation, this according to U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams. In a sobering report issued November 4, Adams warned that these "public health risks" can be controlled only by making all indoor spaces gas-free.
"The scientific evidence is there," said Adams. "Secondhand gas is not a mere annoyance, a cause of embarrassment on a date, or an opportunity for blaming it on the dog."
The report found that any exposure to secondhand gas carries a risk. Even in single-parent households, secondhand gas can cause respiratory problems, sinus infections, asthma attacks, and sudden infant death syndrome. The only way to protect people is to make all gas passing indoors a second-degree felony.
Not surprisingly, the surgeon general's report was blasted in some quarters. Edward Ferlinghetti, executive director of the Pork Rind Producers of America, said, "The dangers posed by secondhand gas are debatable and likely to remain so given the limitations of epidemiology."
While allowing that gas can increase the risk of nausea and asthma attacks, Mr. Ferlinghetti raised the question of how much secondhand gas would have to be inhaled in order for that to happen.
"To be exposed to the laboratory levels of secondhand gas necessary to induce lung damage in mice," he said, "a person would have to be locked in a small room in a Mexican restaurant with a party of twelve for twenty-five years."
Mr. Ferlinghetti also waved aside the surgeon general's report because it failed to take into account the contribution of animals to secondhand gas.
"It's counter-intuitive to say that mastiffs, bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and other gassy breeds do not up the ante in this discussion. If the surgeon general is so keen on regulating gas passing, he should require these breeds to wear butt plugs indoors."
A source downwind of the surgeon general, speaking under condition of anonymity, says, "This report leads to one inescapable conclusion: comprehensive gas-free workplace laws."
Other lobbyists urge a turn-the-other-cheek approach. The Pennsylvania Tavern Owners Association, for one, remains split down the middle on the question of secondhand gas. Some board members appear willing to endorse the surgeon general's position, while others believe the owners of bars, nightclubs, and other places restricted to adults should decide whether to allow farting—or should, at the very least, be allowed to provide farting and nonfarting sections in their establishments.
"The main complaint, as always, is the immediate smell, and that does not justify imposing a one-fart-fits-all solution on every business in the country," declared Mr. Ferlinghetti. "Whether secondhand gas is a health hazard or merely a nuisance, people who want to avoid it can do so by avoiding businesses that allow farting. A gas-free society that respects diversity should make room for people with different preferences."
Finally, said Mr. Ferlinghetti, "enforcing any gas-passing ban would be a logistical nightmare. Certainly, the guy who rips a hole in the back of his jeans and knocks three people over is an easy call, but what about the SBD (silent but deadly) types? Are we going to have fart police in every restaurant and subway in the country? Do we really want people spying on one another and ratting-out their neighbor who let one go during a Super Bowl party?"