Search the Web's most comprehensive Political Directory:

Submit a site

Alex Aichinger
Kirsten Andersen
Brent Barksdale
The Cynic
Joe Giardiello

Scott Gillette
Bret Hrbek
Mario H. Lopez
Ramesh Ponnuru
Dorothy Seese
Jason Soter
Brian Trascher



Smoking may be good for children

The Cynic


Click Here to receive Political USA updates and exclusives

OK, the 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 bloated statistics.

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 another" mantra.

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 children."

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 smoke.

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 in court.

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 government.

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 worst. 

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.

Have you joined the Cynic's newsletter yet? Column updates, rantings and many extras!
Just click
here and send a blank email message.

Buy Books 

For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health
by Jacob Sullum

Slow Burn : The Great American Antismoking Scam (And Why It Will Fail)

by Don Oakley

PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine
by Sally, M.D. Satel

Smoked : Why Joe Camel Is Still Smiling (The Read & Resist Series)
by Mike A. Males

Search the Web for:


 Online Gambling
 Gift Ideas


Search the Web for:



The Cynic, 2001

See our new Friday feature:  Who's In, Who's Out

Today's featured columns:
Defending Jesse:  Why is everybody always picking on him

Kirsten Andersen informs us there are more wannabe housewives than HBO would have us think

Only politics can explain the difference in treating AIDS and tobacco use


View expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Political USA.

Home | PUSA Columnists | Talking Heads | Directories | News
Chat Boards | Links | Advertise | Submit | Contact | Shopping

Copyright Political USA, 1999-2000. Unauthorized use of materials is prohibited. If you want something, just ask us!


Click Here!