Smoking: Don’t Believe The Hype

Let’s chat a little about smoking. I’m not sure if there is an issue that I’ve seen that is more polarizing than whether or not we choose to puff. There also are very few issues where both sides of the debate, from tobacco industry insiders to fervent, health-conscious anti-smoking mavens, are as completely full of it as this one.

My entire rant today was kicked off by running across this lovely little slice of government intrusiveness. This is the first in what promises to be an ongoing stream of regulations from the FDA’s newly acquired powers that is sure to hasten the eventual formation of a black market for tobacco, and the associated crime that will go along with it. But remember we’re doing it for the children when the first body drops over bootleg tobacco. If I follow the logic properly here, then we should soon be seeing bans on flavored alcoholic beverages as well. Kids have to think tangerine flavored vodka is more attractive than the basic stuff. Think about the children. And what about sodas? They’re bad for you, especially kids, and they come in all sorts of flavors that appeal to young people. I think we should only allow soft drink companies to sell plain sugar water with some fizz. That’s sure to be less attractive to kids, and anyone else who happens to be alive.

See where I’m going with this? Selling tobacco, whatever the flavoring, to minors is already illegal, with lots and lots of penalties that go along with it. Why should I, or any adult, not be allowed to purchase a coconut-flavored smoke because some bureaucrat thinks it will encourage kids to break the law and smoke anyway? It’s because it’s not really about the kids, but about trying to get people to quit smoking, which is nice and all, but mind your own damn business. Getting rid of flavored cigarettes isn’t going to cut down on smoking, it’s going to cut down on the enjoyment of smoking. Thanks alot, busy-bodies.

And the hits keep on coming. Here’s the latest on the ban smoking at all costs front. I’m of the opinion that if we’re going to put our troops in harm’s way on a daily basis, the least we can do is shut up and let them enjoy a relaxing smoke break once in a while. But this ban has some of the same all-too-typical justifications: we spend too much on health care for smokers. Considering studies like this one that seem to show exactly the opposite is true, and that thin, supposedly healthy people actually suck up significantly more health care dollars than smokers, or obese people for that matter, you wouldn’t think that argument would still work, but since when has a little thing like the truth stopped the anti-smoke brigade?

There’s even a new accusation in there, one that seems pretty audacious, even for folks who routinely manipulate statistical probabilities to exaggerate a legitimate health risk to service their personal agendas. Apparently, according to the Pentagon (and when have they ever been wrong, I ask you?) there is a strong link between tobacco addiction and mental illness, including but not limited to schizophrenia (!!!!). So smoking makes you crazy. And all this time, I thought that crazy people just liked to smoke. What a load.

Try this one on for size, too. At least in this one, the people are (somewhat) honest. So Tobacco will kill 6 million people this year. And it’ll rob a liquor store in Boise. And steal some towels and an ashtray from a hotel in Illinois. The real dirty secret here is at the beginning. World governments don’t really give a damn about your health, what they care about is the estimated $500 billion (see, more justifications masquerading as real statistics) in health care spending because of tobacco, and a GDP loss of 3.6 %, all because people want to smoke. You get sick and die, we don’t care, but hit us in the wallet on your way out, and now it’s a world health catastrophe.

So what has been the result of all this? Besides obscenely higher taxes on poor people who make up the majority of smokers, it’s the indoor smoking bans that have spread like wildfires across the globe, bans that wouldn’t have been Constitutionally possible without scientific data supporting the hypothesis that second hand smoke, or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), is a serious health risk for non-smokers. Now that they’ve gotten their bans, we’re all set to see lots of reports like this one. Sure, it’s unverifiable anecdotal evidence from extreme short term data that doesn’t take into consideration other factors for a decrease in heart attacks, but it does make for a good sound bite, and it does make it look like they weren’t totally full of it to begin with.

Now, I may sound like an apologist for big tobacco, but there’s a good reason for that. As many dirty tricks and statistical manipulations as the tobacco industry has engaged in over the years, and they have no doubt done some pretty unseemly stuff, these guys may actually be worse if for no other reason than they cloak their lies in a veil of sainthood. No one’s denying that smoking is bad for you. We all know that. It’s the need to stretch the evidence to support things that aren’t true that bugs me. We have enough problems in the world without having to manufacture some.

Don’t believe me? Well, get yourself a cup of coffee and read all about the history of manipulations in the name of declaring ETS a serious health problem. And get used to the phrase “statistically insignificant” as that is what the actual increased health risks of exposure to ETS amount to. British author Christopher Snowden does a pretty thorough retelling of the long and winding road of B.S. anti-smoking crusaders have used over the past few centuries or so to squeeze minimal actual scientific evidence into the neat little package of faith and preconceptions that led us to today. This link is to a few chapters of his book, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist, a history of the anti-smoking movement. Whether or not you are a smoker, the lengths to which some of our esteemed medical practitioners have gone to achieve their personal ends should piss you off. It’s been said that the truth shall set you free. Well, the flip side of that is that lies and manipulations are what take our freedoms away, and the entire ETS line is complete garbage that has and will continue to do just that. Snowden’s even got a blog dedicated to exposing junk science like this. I put it on my blogroll, just in case you’d like to check it out. It’ll be in my regular rotation.

The most telling of all the lies here is perhaps the most bogus “scientific” work ever done by our government, and that’s saying something. Back in 1992, the EPA published a study called “Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking.” I don’t want to spoil it for you when you read all about it in Snowden’s work, but suffice it to say this report was so slanted and artificial that it ended up vilified in a U.S. Court of Law. The judge said, and I quote:

“The EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information…failed to disclose important findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers. EPA’s conduct left substantial holes in the administrative records. While so doing, EPA produced limited evidence, then claimed the weight of the Agency’s research demonstrated [ETS] causes cancer.”

In other words, they were full of it. The truly fascinating part is that even though this study was clearly discredited, it’s still being used today in support of the anti-smoking movement, and in particular the bans on indoor smoking. Here it is referenced on the National Cancer Institute website, here it is as the very first reference in a World Health Organization (WHO) report on ETS, and here it is still available for download from the EPA itself. So much for scientific credibility.

I’ll close here with one more link about smoking, this one pretty telling as well. And don’t miss the line at the bottom from the esteemed doctor who has to throw out the tried and true gateway drug line of B.S. that has almost as long and storied a history of scientific and statistical manipulation in its support as the risks of ETS. It’s nice to know that our medical profession is so slanted against any possible medical uses for marijuana that they aren’t even bothering to follow up on what could be a promising lead to help with the treatment of cancer.

We spend about $150 billion a year on medical treatment and services for obese people. It’s a world health crisis. Up to 85% of overweight individuals regularly indulge in eating cheesecake. It starts with that first slice with graham cracker crust and cherries on top, and the next thing you know, you’re downing whole bags of Cheetos, entire boxes of Twinkies and eating dinner at McDonald’s every couple days. Cheesecake is a gateway food to obesity. We must, for the sake of our health and our children’s health, regulate cheescake, the rich and creamy killer.

See how easy this is?

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