title is a bald faced lie. Smoking is not good for children, but
I think that if politicians can base a whole series of
legislation on lies for the sake of 'the children,' I
should be able to title my column under the same premise.
My intent here is to illustrate the silly tirade our nation is
going through to use "the children" as a means to
enact new social policy. We disarm nuclear weapons, for the
children. We clean up the environment for the children. We put
nutritional labels on our food so we know what we are putting
into our children. (Are there any adults left in this country?)
Personally, I'm not crazy about my kid being used as a pawn to
push an agenda, particularly those that end up adding wealth to
politicians or business people. Nowhere else is this type of
deceitfulness more present, than in this country's campaign
against tobacco use.
Each and every day we are bludgeoned with "It's for the
children" antismoking campaigns. Things like: "Quit
smoking now and your children will thank you later."
(Later? How much later? As a smoker, I figure tobacco will
probably kill me in my late sixties/early seventies. Any kids I
have will be in their 30s by then, and they will probably be
sick of me anyway. Maybe they will thank me for continuing
smoking and getting out of their way while they still have some
life ahead of them.)
Politicians will say that they are raising the taxes on
cigarettes by X amount per pack, so children will not be able to
afford them. They file multibillion dollar lawsuits to stop
tobacco companies from being 'predators on our children's
health.' They ban tobacco advertising, regulate tobacco,
and penalize businesses for selling tobacco and it's all for the
sake of children.
The fact is, a horrendous amount of misinformation and half
truths are running around disguised as facts in this campaign
against smoking under the cloak of protecting the children.
It's not about the children, it's about money. They only say
it's about children, so opponents will have a hard time
defending it. It's an old-school debate trick that works as well
today as it did in 1950. (I'm reminded of that scene in The Dead
Zone where Martin Sheen holds up that kid to avoid getting shot)
To me the greatest thing a government can give to its people is
the truth, and when it comes to smoking (and everything else)
they fall woefully short.
Does Smoking kill?
Antismoking zealots love to throw out the line that tobacco
is the only product which kills 1 in 3 users or how the Center
for Disease Control found that 400,000 Americans per year die
from tobacco. Now in theory, I am not against using hard data to
encourage children to do the right thing. The problem here is
that this isn't hard data. It is the typical trick of the
"fun with numbers" technique that many activists use.
For the real truth behind these deaths, you have to look deeper
into the numbers.
Robert A. Levy and Rosalind B. Marimont did an in-depth review
of these numbers for the Cato
Institute. They looked at the number of deaths broken down by
age. What they found was that of these 400,000 'premature
deaths, 17% of them were over the age of 85 (Premature?). 45% of
these deaths occurred over the age of 75, and a full 60% were
over the age of 70.
Further, the CDC is a tad unclear on what they consider a death
caused by smoking. These death totals are not only for lung
cancer or emphysema victims, they include smokers with coronary
related deaths also. So, if a 62 year old drops dead from a
heart attack and smoked for 10 years during his life, it's a
tobacco related death. This of course disregards the fact that
this person may have made a habit of snacking on Snickers bars
wrapped in bacon, with a tablespoon of mayo on the side to
cleanse his palette. He smoked, so his death is automatically
tabulated as a smoking fatality.
So what's the big deal? Even if it scares one kid into not
smoking then it has done some good, right? Well, if you prefer
to lie to kids, then so be it. In the process you will hurt your
credibility, you will hurt scientific credibility, and have one
less kid smoking. This seems to be typical of the bizzaro logic
that is running rampant these days.
Does smoking kill? It can. Smoking is an unhealthy habit. It can
cause permanent damage to your lungs. It can give you cancer. I
cannot imagine any smoker who doesn't understand this. Smokers
are cognizant of the risks, and some of us forsake the security
of a healthy lifestyle to indulge. Smokers are entitled to an
accurate presentation of the risks to base their decisions. Not
What about those taxes?
Let me clue you in on something. Anytime any politician
claims he is doing something for 'the children' he has figured
out a way to draw more taxation revenue.
They get up on their little soapboxes and declare that raising
the taxes on cigarette purchases will bring the price high
enough so children cannot afford to buy them.
That should work, just like those high prices on marijuana and
cocaine stop kids from using it. I'm sorry, but if a 13 year old
can save up $60 for a video game called "Mortal Bloodquest
VIII; Behead your enemy," I don't think charging $5 per
pack is going to prevent anything.
So what is the real purpose of these tax increase? Revenue,
revenue, revenue. They have found a way to separate taxpayers
from even more of their own money by punishing behavior. Smokers
represent 25% of the population. They are the least vocal of any
group. Your average smoker will gladly refer to his smoking as
"my nasty habit." They have accepted the social
shunning of peers and bunch together in small little groups
under canopies in the rain, reminiscing about the good old days
when they could smoke when and where they pleased.
They are the sub servants to Uncle Sam's dominatrix. They may
complain when a new tax is purposed, but once the tax is passed
they resort to the "Thank you, sir, may I have
Tobacco is a cash cow for both the federal and the state
governments. The federal government and a majority of the states
make more money per pack of cigarettes than the tobacco
companies themselves make. This is why smoking will never be
outlawed. They will tax and tax and tax until enough smokers
(customers) quit and the revenue decreases. If I didn't know
better, I would swear that they were performing some kind of
experiment to see how high they could tax an item before a
revolt. And I am sure that if the cause a revolt they will be
quick to say, "Hey, we were just trying to protect the
Second Hand Smoke; Health risk or minor annoyance?
Second hand smoke, or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is one
of the major smoking debates taking place today. Junk
science runs amok when discussing the perils of second hand
Scientists have tried to prove that second hand smoke poses a
serious health risk. The problem is, they have yet to do it.
This is not to say that second hand smoke is healthy, it is just
that they do not have the scientific grounds to determine it as
a legitimate hazard.
They have tried to tie second hand smoke to lung cancer, heart
disease and every other know plague to man, and each and every
time they produced studies that couldn't stand up to peer
review. Study after study has been performed trying to connect
ETS with heart disease and/or cancer and each have gone down
like cans at a shooting gallery.
Once again, science is telling us what common sense taught us a
long time ago. Smoking has been going on for centuries and the
only people being harmed from it are the smokers themselves.
So why does the government keep telling me that second smoke is
hazardous? That's simple. Everyone is exposed to second
hand smoke. Tobacco companies have a lot of money. 280,000,000
victims. 280,000,000 possible jurors. There is a Federal lawsuit
pending. You can make the connection from there.
Is Big Tobacco evil?
In a word, yes. Not evil in that they are killing people
with their product evil, just normal big business evil. Remember
the state tobacco settlement?
Contrary to popular opinion, this was not a lawsuit settlement,
this was a business arrangement. While yes, the tobacco
companies had to pay an enormous sum of money to the states, the
tobacco companies got a lot of favors out of the states as a
result. Some of these favors include:
No class action lawsuits.
No further suits to be filed by the states.
Increased regulation on their product.
Bans on certain types of advertising.
Allowance for minimum pricing requirements.
So now you are thinking: How can those last three be
considered favors? They seem to be going against them. This is
where you would be wrong. It may surprise you to find out that
of all the hundreds of different cigarette brands there are
essentially only 5 manufacturers. Regulation is expensive. Big
business welcomes regulation, it's expensive and it keeps the
little guys out. If you were an upstart tobacco company (we will
call you Mini-T), go ahead and try to grab market share without
advertising, while paying for expensive regulations, and having
to sell your product at roughly the same price as the major
five. That's a recipe for Chapter 13 if I ever saw one.
As far as the billions of dollars is concerned, it is being paid
out over 20 years. They immediately raised cigarette prices by
fifty cents a pack and continue to increase the price every
year. Smokers are the ones paying the settlement, not the
tobacco companies. Which is odd, because I don't remember being
So again, what about the children?
Kid's shouldn't smoke. They still will. The price will never
be high enough so they can't afford to buy them. We cannot
monitor every convenience store, gas station, grocery store or
cigarette machine to stop them from buying them. If you do not
want your kids to smoke, you have to be the enforcer, not the
You have to be an example. You have to punish them when you find
out they are smoking. If you decide you Sunday is better spent
on watching NASCAR instead of spending time at the park with
your kid, don't expect me to pay for your poor parenting. He is
your responsibility, not mine.
Even if you have done everything within your power to prevent
your child from smoking and he still engages in it, please, keep
it in perspective. How bad is it?
It's an unhealthy action and it's an addictive habit, but it is
not something that puts him in imminent danger (say that about
alcohol or mountain bike riding). Ask yourself, would you prefer
your 15 year old son to come home and tell you that he started
smoking, or would you prefer him to tell you that he tried
heroin? How about getting his girlfriend pregnant? What if he
tells you he hates NASCAR? There are a thousand better things
that your kids can be doing, but smoking is definitely not the
So why the ganging up on smoking?
There are several forces involved in the campaign against
smoking. Most notably, pharmaceutical companies have been
funding a lot of the politicians and antismoking advocates. You
know, those companies that make Nicorette, Zyban and other
smoking cessation devices. So the antismoking forces continue to
preach that smoking is the worst thing to happen since the
bubonic plague, and these companies help you quit smoking. Do
you think that there could there be a connection?
There are also those who just don't like it. You know the type:
"The smell bothers me, I don't wanna stink like an
ashtray...yadda,yadda,yadda." There is a sense of
empowerment that goes along with this attitude. A sense of
personal space that shall not be penetrated by others' filthy
odors. This is where we are at in civil society these days. The
80s may have been called the "me generation," when in
reality the 90s (and the 00s) are beginning to make the 80s look
like an Amish community.
People are entitled to likes and dislikes, although we seem to
have taken it to a whole new level. Everything is a major
violation of personal rights. Everything is more bothersome now,
than at any time in history. Everything is open to a civil
lawsuit. Welcome to 21st century America, land of the litigators,
home of the perpetual plaintiff.
I remember a time, not so long ago, that every nonsmoker kept
ashtrays in their house for when they had smoking guests. They
invited their smoking friends over because they wanted their
company. They were willing to put up with the odor of cigarette
smoke, as long as they could count you as one of their friends.
I wish we could return to the time when get-togethers meant
something. I remember my family parties being such a hoot.
People laughing, drinking and making fun of each other. I always
looked forward to our get-togethers, as I always would come away
with some new jokes or an interesting story.
Nowadays, we still have family parties, although they are
attended with much less enthusiasm. We still go, but we just
kind of go through the motions. We stay just long enough to not
be rude. Where before, it wasn't unexpected that the party would
go well into the night, it's now over before 8:00 PM. What's
changed? The fun people were the smokers and the smokers have
been shuffled off to the garage to engage in their nasty sin and
that is where we spend most of the evening. Huddled up and
puffing away all the while wondering where the good times went.
Oh, that's right, we gave them up for the children.
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