When "Social Values" Means Smoking

angry cigarettesWhen the dangers of smoking first became widely known, cigarette companies secretly hired biomedical scientists to create confusion. A new study co-authored by TobaccoWiki editor Anne Landman shows that cigarette makers also used sociology to try to shift public opinion. The Social Costs/Social Values Project of the late 1970s and early 1980s paid respected philosophers, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists to develop pro-smoking arguments that avoided any mention of health or medicine. The resulting arguments included that smoking has positive social benefits, that cigarette taxes are regressive, that anti-tobacco advocates act out of self-interest, and that applying a cost-benefit analysis to smoking is inappropriate. Another project, the Associates for Research into the Science of Enjoyment or ARISE, recruited academics in the 1990s to counteract the information that cigarettes were addictive. ARISE "experts" were paid to attend conferences, write books and give interviews in which they said that smoking, drinking tea, shopping and eating chocolate all promoted good health by relieving stress.


Interesting that you would emphasize sociology when industry and government uses all the social scientists for propaganda. Actually, it was my understanding that it was Sigmund Freud's nephew who played a critical role in getting women to accept smoking. He interviewd their psychoanalysts and found they felt smoking was a male privilege. So they hired fake suffragettes to smoke at voting rallies, calling cigs 'tourches of freedom." The woman began to equate it with liberation and took up the habit. Of course, with women's lib came weight oppression (give a freedom, take a freedom) and many women also started smoking as a means of weight control.

p.s. They may have been at least partially right about chocolate and tea!

p.p.s Want to do something more useful than almost a century old propaganda story? Please look further into SSRI antidepressants. In yet another school shooting, the kid went off either Prozac or Paxil. It is amazing how many of these recent infamous cases involve prescribed psychotropic drugs. Yet, it is spun over and over again as an unsolvable mystery why these things happen. This definitely demands attention.

Under 18% of US adults smoke. Some of these will develop disease as a direct result. Some who become ill don't have insurance; however, each time the government increases the tax on cigarets, it is with the assurance that this money will be used to cover smoking-related health care costs. Cigaret taxes bring in some $26 billion per year.

My greatest concern is that while many agree that government must play a stronger role in our personal lives, enforcing good health habits, targeting cigarets is like concentrating on swatting at a mosquito while a bear is sneaking up behind you. While we can't determine whether a breathing-related disease is due to smoking, hereditary factors or pollution, we know that the most carcinogenic smoke is that which contains oil particles (from motor vehicles). Smoking restrictions are so stringent that few people have any exposure to cigaret smoke whatsoever, while very few can avoid exposure to motor vehicle smoke. Our excessive use of motor vehicles (in spite of high gas prices) is, unlike cigarets, a primary cause of global warming. This doesn't even touch on the impact of oil on America's militarism.

That said, it is clear that we need to begin using social pressure on those who drive, much as we do on those who smoke. We need to start focusing on the bear instead of worrying about the mosquito.