Thursday, July 14, 2016

WE'D NEVER BE ABLE TO RESTRICT SMOKING IF WE LEARNED ABOUT ITS DANGERS TODAY

It's being reported that Donald Trump has picked Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski has unearthed some op-eds Pence wrote fifteen years ago, the most jaw-dropping of which is the one in which he says cigarette smoking is not lethal:
Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you.... news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit. The relevant question is, what is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric.

... Those of you who find the tobacco deal acceptable should be warned as you sit, reading this magazine, sipping a cup of hot coffee with a hamburger on your mind for lunch. A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.
Smoking, in other words, is only as harmful as red meat or coffee. Silly big-government liberal!

Big Tobacco resisted smoking restrictions for decades, but ultimately lost the fight. It would be nice to think that was because smoking opponents had the facts on their side -- but as we know now, that's not enough. Look at what's happening with climate change and gun violence.

Opponents of smoking won because America learned about the dangers of smoking starting in the 1960s -- before Fox News, before the spread of right-wing talk radio, before the full-scale Kochification of our electoral system, before the Powell Memo. Smoking foes won because they had a head start, and because a report from the surgeon general of the United States was considered credible at the time across much of the political spectrum. (The heartland hadn't been trained to hate and mistrust government the way it has in the past few decades.)

If we were only now trying to deal with the negative impact of smoking, the big tobacco companies wouldn't just fight back, they'd use right-wing propaganda outlets to turn smoking into part of the culture war. They'd find a way to make smoking seem like a thing Real Americans do, to the horror of liberals in the big cities and academia. They'd tell us that those "elitists" want to restrict smoking in order to be "politically correct."

If we were fighting this battle now, smoking would be mandatory for hosts on Fox. There'd be story after story on Fox about non-smokers dying of cancer and heart disease, and about smokers living to advanced ages. Tobacco companies would provide lavish funding for pseudoscience meant to demonstrate smoking's health benefits.

Congressional Republicans would vote to withhold federal aid to any institution that banned smoking. Republican states would make it illegal for localities to institute smoking restrictions. Ultimately, all Republicans would denounce smoking science as a conspiracy. There'd be a pro-smoking section in every Republican Party platform.

Mike Pence was on the wrong side of history -- but only barely. The good guys won that fight. They're struggling to win similar fights now.

9 comments:

Victor said...

Conservatism kills, too!

Just look at the states which didn't expand Medicaid even though the Fed's were going to pay for the first few years!

Conservatism is about as lethal as smoking.

Ernest Lamonica said...

So Trump picked an idiot so he wont look really stupid by comparison? Why else would he pick a fool like Pence? He does not add a thing to Trump and the people in Indiana are so thankful. Like most of Trumps moved really dumb.

Feud Turgidson said...

Recall the name of Charlie Pierce's book: Idiot America.

http://www.idoc.co/files/683058f7cb3c5f335d-0.jpg

The writing inside is so good, so perversely beautiful in describing idiotic cruelty after idiotic horror after idiotic tragedy, it's a shame there's no simultaneously less cheesy-looking while more apt title.

Feud Turgidson said...

EL, IMO it came down to choosing Gingrich would mean a loose cannon at VP candidate (I know...) plus having to put up with interminable wives shots

(Three wives men,
Three wives men,
They joined to go after the White House gig,
Remind me again which one is the pig,
Three wives men...),

or choosing Christie meaning a paranoid attack dog but with David Samson's guilty plea coming, interminable Bridge-Gate questions and speculation over Christie being indicted are inevitable,

or the Stupid Sack of Hammers I'm With who seems tight with the Two Corinthians crowd plus isn't likely to be indicted AFATCT.

I'm kicking myself for this: there's ALMOST ALWAYS a GOP governor on the GOP ticket in recent years, yes no?

Unknown said...

“...If we were fighting this battle now, smoking would be mandatory for hosts on Fox. There'd be story after story on Fox about non-smokers dying of cancer and heart disease, and about smokers living to advanced ages. Tobacco companies would provide lavish funding for pseudoscience meant to demonstrate smoking's health benefits….”

Umm — that actually sounds pretty close to how they actually *did* handle the science of tobacco’s dangers.

Trump Pence a bag said...

OK feud t.h how bout this instead? See the turds,Trump Pence are sad. Trump Pence,Trump Pence. Trump Pence are sad. Though their words are simple and few, listen, listen, they're calling to you.

Trump Pence a bag said...

OK feud t.h how bout this instead? See the turds,Trump Pence are sad. Trump Pence,Trump Pence. Trump Pence are sad. Though their words are simple and few, listen, listen, they're calling to you.

Mike Lumish said...

When did we restrict smoking?

I was under the impression that one could walk into any store in the country to pick up a pack, and that they cost about as much (adjusted for CPI) as they did twenty years ago when I had my last drag.

Chris Wolfe said...

@Mike Lumish:
No smoking in elevators, planes or any form of public transit.
No smoking in restaurants or in bars (in many cities)
No smoking in any public buildings.
No smoking in indoor concert halls, arenas, etc.
No smoking within X feet of an office or apartment building (often 50').

Of those, banning smoking in transit, restaurants and bars has been the most helpful at reducing smoke exposure for people who have no choice in the matter (employees). To be clear, these smoking restrictions are good for us as a society. Individuals are free to choose to smoke in their own homes or cars and on outdoor public spaces like roads, sidewalks and parks.
The advent of vaping has the potential to eliminate secondhand smoke in public without restricting the ability to use nicotine. (Secondhand nicotine is a thing, but not a carcinogenic public menace.)
Although cigarette taxes are frequently debated, the costs that have actually been added over the last 20 years are a (sometimes sizable) tobacco surcharge on insurance premiums and increased taxes on non-cigarette tobacco products often viewed as 'ethnic' or related to drug culture (flavored cigars, rolling papers, etc.)

The OP is suggesting that if we were to discover smoking's health hazards today then any proposed restriction as listed above would be compared to the persecution of Christians in roman antiquity and opposed with religious fervor. That does indeed sound like the right's response to climate reality.