Is cigarette smoking a generally dangerous pastime? Of course it is. And there are many good arguments available for those inclined to dissuade people from taking up, or continuing with, this often self-destructive habit.
The problem, alas, is that the anti-tobacco jihad has long ceased to be about health. These days it’s little more than a vehicle for those who wish either to proclaim their own virtue or, quite simply, enjoy bossing people around – or both. This change in motivation has, unsurprisingly, been accompanied by a sharp deterioration in the intellectual quality of the arguments made by those who would stub out the cig forever.
We’ve seen this, for example, in the use made by these zealots of ‘passive smoking’, a junk science first developed by the ethically flawed (passivrauchen was, let it not be forgotten, a concept first dreamt up by scientists in the Third Reich – a regime led by history’s most notorious anti-smoker), then refined by the scientifically inept, and now used by the intellectually dishonest and morally corrupt claque now at the forefront of the war against tobacco.
The latest instance of the degradation of anti-tobacco activism comes from the American Cancer Society, an organization that, when it comes to this topic, has long since turned malignant. Radley Balko (a CATO employee, it should be noted) has the details here, but the essence of the story is that this charity is now resorting to ad hominem, and inaccurate, slurs in its attempt to discredit those who oppose the proposed FDA regulation of tobacco products. The allegations center on whether the CATO Institute, an opponent of the proposals, is influenced by mysterious corporate donations from the likes of Philip Morris. Pointing out that Philip Morris actually supports the proposed extension of authority to the FDA, Radley makes short work of the ACS claims, but this controversy is a reminder of another point.
Organizations such as the American Cancer Society and, more importantly, their paid employees, have a vested interest themselves in maintaining the hysteria over tobacco at an appropriately intense level. It attracts donations – and it pays salaries. That’s something that’s worth remembering the next time you hear about supposed conflicts of interest in this debate.