Misguided War On Tobacco: The negative effects of America’s anti-smoking laws

1949 Chesterfield advert featuring Hollywood actress Joan Crawford for upcoming Flamingo Road.

Luckies taste better! Winston tastes good like a cigarette should. The new cigarette that doesn’t cop out on flavor. Only the flavor touches your lips. Pall Mall. OUTSTANDING…and they are MILD! These were slogans that were once heard in every American household on radio and television sets. It was once a family tradition at every holiday gathering at the dinner table. It was at one point the flavor that every man smoked that got him through the day. It relaxed and eased anxiety for our boys out at the battlefield. It helped you focus in school, made your breath smell like mint before a kiss, and was a staple of every celebrity, world leader, and business owner of power. Whether it came out of a pipe, a cigar, cigarillo, or a pack at the gas station, it was always there for you like a man’s best friend in any flavor you could imagine. The idea was that if a he’s old enough to go to war then he aught to be able to smoke a pack and have a beer. This was an essential freedom that we never thought would go away. America always had a strong relationship with tobacco since the very beginning when smoked peace pipes and traded goods with the Indians. Perhaps that is why the only place you are still allowed to smoke is at the casino? How did we get here and where are we going today?

Today understanding not just smoking history but the history against smoking, we have to understand the relation with other parts of the world. Is it fair to call the anti-smoking crowd Nazis? Actually that would be historically accurate. America’s anti-smoking campaign had huge influences and originated in other parts of the world. We can look at the Bolshevik Health Minister Nikolai Semashko and Lenin’s attempt at implementing tobacco bans. When they were unsuccessful, Lenin and Semashko turned to propaganda which they used abundantly. Its success is hard to assess but, according to Starks, Soviet appeals were everywhere, including testimony from workers that it inspired to try to quit. Perhaps no world leader in history had a greater influence on the war against tobacco than Adolph Hitler himself. Under Nazi Germany Hitler placed a ban on smoking in every university, post office, military hospital, and Nazi Party office, under the auspices of Karl Astel’s Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research, established in 1941 under orders from Adolf Hitler. The Nazis conducted major anti-tobacco campaigns until the demise of their regime in 1945. The Nazi anti-tobacco campaign included banning smoking in trams, buses, and city trains, promoting health education, limiting cigarette rations in the Wehrmacht, organizing medical lectures for soldiers, and raising the tobacco tax. The Nazis also imposed restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking in public spaces, and regulated restaurants and coffeehouses. The term “passive smoking” (“Passivrauchen”) was coined in Nazi Germany by Fritz Lickint.

Much has already been written about this relationship, but it’s important that you have some background on history if you are unfamiliar. Hitler’s obsession and views against tobacco stemmed from his understanding that smoking lowered fertility rate, and this prevented the German people from procreating which hurt the full potential of the Arian race. He also believed that it made his own soldiers less effective in fighting the West in battle because it was a huge distraction. It can really be said that no world leaders were such an influence of later anti-tobacco campaigns than Hitler himself. When the war came to a close half of Hitler’s scientists and doctors immigrated to the Soviet Union, and the other half under Operation Paperclip would enter the United States such as Erich Traub who went on to work directly under our CDC department in revealing scientific studies the Nazis conducted on tobacco smoking and it’s affects on human health. What are these scientific studies, and how and where did the tobacco industry lose the war they were fighting to keep away from regulators?

To answer that question there first needs to be an understanding of the health affects of smoking. In my phycology courses I took in college, I learned about the method of proving theories and the difference between anecdotal evidence and what we call empirical evidence. Anecdotal evidence is using your personal experiences and stories to illustrate your point. Empirical evidence is measured, unbiased, and replicable. There has never been any empirical evidence that shows that smoking tobacco causes cancer or lung disease, since there has never been any unbiased or measured study performed that can be replicated showing these results. Partially because the nature of claiming a carcinogen is the realization that we’re not only talking about smokers but also second hand smoke. It was second hand smoke that formed the basis for smoking bans that are now in place across every town, city, and currently imposed in 33 states in America including outdoors. There is never been any provable study which shows that second hand smoke is a carcinogen. There has even been an entire book written on this subject you can read called Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains written by Michael J. McFadden who has spent his entire life researching this and he isn’t shy about his views.

70 year old tobacco rights activist and author Michael J. McFadden smoking Camels at his favorite bar.

Michael J. McFadden serves on the Board of Directors of the International Coalition Against Prohibition, and Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at Citizens Freedom Alliance. He pointed out that is the answer is found in the “1975 Conference on Smoking or Health” that exhorted health activists “to foster an atmosphere” where it was perceived that active smokers would injure those around them. The antismoking battle plan was formed before most research on secondary smoke had even begun. In 1995 the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was formed to bring anti-tobacco education to the classroom. On their website their mission statement is listed as fighting to protect children and save lives from the #1 cause of preventable death: tobacco use. Our vision is a future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco, because tobacco has killed enough. Michael explained that it is often said there are “69 carcinogens” in smoke. Usually the general public will read that and think it means that there are 69 known carcinogens that give cancer to humans in tobacco itself. But that’s not actually the case. There are about a dozen or so chemically discrete class A1 human carcinogens in any measurable quantity in tobacco smoke, and taken all together they add up to about 1/2 of a single thousandth of a gram per cigarette — about 2,000 times less than the amount of Class A1 human carcinogen given off by a standard martini evaporating its poison into the air over the course of an hour. Furthermore there are so many cases of odd examples that simply disprove the theory outright. How could you explain Groucho Marx, George Burns, Bill Cosby, Keith Richards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, and countless other notable figures in history that lived past the average life expectancy of a human. Notably George Burns who regularly smoked 10–15 cigars a day and lived to be a century old. Or really, just about every crooner in the music industry from the last century including the likes of Sinatra and Dean Martin. Think about that. Singers who’s professional career was keeping and maintaining their vocal cords, actually smoked to help with rasp and tone that gave them the ability to sound more powerful in the microphone in just about every genre of music.

“Usually, I smoke one cigar a day, after lunch, but when I’m working, I smoke more. It helps relax me.” — Dany DeVito

Here are some more important facts to consider. A chain smoker or what we call a habitual smoker on average smokes a pack a day. That is the cliche scenario. There are guesses and estimates out there that say the average smoker has between a 5% and 20% chance (depending on a lot of subfactors) of getting lung cancer from their habit of modern additive laced cigarettes. The most common time to develop lung cancer is between the ages of 65 and 85. A pack a day for fifty years comes out to be 379,000 cigarettes. Are there any substances in our daily lives for which we can consume quantities of 379,000 and have it not be a carcinogen? What would happen if you consumed 379,000 cans of beer, or 379,000 chocolate bars? Even more startling is the understanding that a quarter of those in America who will contract lung cancer every year have never smoked tobacco in their entire lives. That is not an insignificant number which includes second hand smoke. Smoking rates in the United States have reached historic lows, while at the same time cancer rates have reached historic highs. Shouldn’t the opposite be happening? If this were just a simple disagreement over numbers, or an annoyance over having to put out your smoke before walking into a movie theatre (if we can still go to those in the pandemic age) these numbers would not be startling, but have our anti-smoking laws and culture in America been actually causing great harm to many unsuspecting Americans? Has banning indoor and even outdoor smoking at the beach created a public health crisis that we never saw coming? Were we better off smoking the cigarette?

To answer all of those questions, we have to begin with the origin of what pushed indoor smoking bans, and it was not because it was dangerous to our health or because random businesses or corporations were concerned about preventing cancer. The largest nuisance in the fight was the smell. On February 25, 1990, the “no-smoking” sign was permanently lit on U.S. domestic airline flights — “for the health of flight attendants and passengers”. This eventually led to smoke-free air on all flights to and from the U.S. and to smoke-free policies for airlines worldwide. Heading into the 1990’s, California was the first state to pass a statewide indoor smoking ban in the year 1995 which included workplaces. In recent years cities like San Francisco which was the birthplace of 60’s rebellion, and New York City had banned outdoor smoking even in Central Park. As of the year 2020 there are 21 states with smoking bans in effect. This now meant that restaurant workers could no longer smoke inside the kitchen. Mechanics could no longer smoke while they worked on vehicles. Employees at the dry cleaners now had to smoke in the back room where they wouldn’t be caught. A family out to the beach couldn’t light up a cigar while they watched the waves crash to the shore. This happened after a series of activists pushed to ban indoor smoking to stop that awful smell that comes from smoking. After all, who wants to go out to eat with your family only to have to smell ripe tobacco for the entire night. Who wants to rent a hotel room only to have your sheet reek of burnt smoke? What if I told you that what you are smelling actually is a figment of your imagination, and prohibition offers zero health benefits?

Actress Audrey Hepburn dining for lunch on the set for upcoming romance Roman Holiday in 1953.

We have to go back to the golden era of the tobacco industry where smoking in the United States was at its peak and encouraged. It was advertised on every other commercial, and even recommended by doctors in magazines to cure all sorts of ailments such as anxiety, depression, and preventing osteoporosis and arthritis as nicotine has been linked to preventing cartilage and joint deterioration. Cigar smoking was equivalent to desert at the end of a meal in every restaurant in all the major cities, and you could be sure that you would enjoy a night out at the theatre by smoking your favorites flavor. Everywhere from a day at the office, banks, and the stock exchange you could witness pipes being filled and cigars being rolled. It was enjoyed by all classes of wealth no matter if you were rich or poor, and it was practically tax free. The many flavors offered some would say added a pleasant smell to the air.

At this time period smoking tobacco was considered “refreshing” and “cool”. Picture an episode of Mad Men. If you were to walk into a bar of smokers in Manhattan during the 1960’s you would have witnessed not a foul smell but a rather pleasant one. That is one of the common myths surrounding tobacco, as you regularly see a non smoker plug their nose in the modern era when they step into a room of smokers. You regularly see families requesting non-smoking hotel rooms. However this doesn’t make any sense for anyone who is knowledgeable about the world of tobacco. Any casual smoker that seeks out fine grade tobacco to smoke from pipes or cigars, can tell you that there is no obnoxious lingering smell or aftertaste that you get with modern cheap gas station cigarettes. An old phrase you used to hear was “smells good like tobacco”. Many perhaps have fond memories of their grandfather lighting a pipe during the holidays, and taking a whiff of the freshly lit tobacco. Some may find it similar to the pleasing smell of roasting coffee beans. This is not what you are getting with modern cigarettes, although Lucky Strikes and Marlboro didn’t always have this obnoxious odor. The indoor smoking bans in restaurants, hotels, and planes which didn’t start appearing until the end of the 20th century is very much linked to how tobacco found in cigarettes and the manufacturing process of commercial tobacco changed rapidly. We can look no further to examining anti-smoking laws for the culprit.

The very fear around indoor smoking and cigarettes began to press the industry to develop the cellulose acetate or otherwise known as plastic filters that are used on cigarettes today, even though they provide no real benefit and in fact are causing much worse harm to the smoker.

“Synthetic fibers in cigarette mouthpieces have created new problems. In the 1960s, Philip Morris scientists noticed that mouthpieces shed tiny fibers that could be inhaled into the lungs. The industry calls it “fallout.” — New York Times (7/08/2012)

Not only what you are inhaling but also for the fact that filters dilute the effects of nicotine, requiring smokers to puff harder and inhale more smoke in order to get the same high, and thus defeating the purpose and in fact increasing second hand smoke from cigarettes. The very thing that filters are supposed to be preventing they may actually be doing the opposite. This has led the tobacco industry into forcing them to use what are called absorbent enhancers to compensate with the use of ammonia compounds, which were found to increase the absorption rate of nicotine once it enters the lungs. You can add that to the list of additives which are found in modern cigarettes, which are also a significant carcinogen pushed by 1970's anti-smoking laws. Filters also reduce the amount of tobacco that can fit into one smoke, and they force users to smoke more to get the same high. This leads to more package sales which simultaneously increases the amount of tax revenue going to states as well. It could be the worst idea any industry adopted according to many experts.

Governor Jerry Brown giving press conference on Fire Safety before passing TB 117 in 1975.

All of this stemmed from a shock to the nation when in 1964 a report by then Surgeon General Luther Terry with the help of an advisory committee, linked smoking cigarettes with dangerous health effects, including lung cancer and heart disease. The nation and industry in a public relations broad brush went into a panic and decided quick action based on lackadaisical evidence was better than no action. The thought was better safe than sorry, and so a campaign led by Governor Jerry Brown would now enter every American household, affecting every American including innocent children. During this era heading into the 1970’s the hysteria led every major consumer manufacture and government policy to look for new ways to prevent fires. Since smokers were linked to increased house fires, going after smokers directly was viewed as a means to win reelection in any given state race. In 1975, then Governor Brown signed into law “Technical Bulletin 117”, or TB 117. Along with recommendations from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, this mandated that brominated and chlorinated flame retardants be injected and doused on all upholstered furniture sold in the state like carpets, as well as children’s clothing, booster seats, television sets personal computers, changing pads, and even adult mattresses and camping tents. This affected the entire nation since nationwide manufactures adopted its use to comply to California’s flammability standards, including Silicon Valley. Now subjecting the public to new toxins over the fear that smokers were starting fires.

For example. A mattress in order to be deemed by the government a legal product, would now have to contain enough flame retardant to be able to withstand a two-foot wide blowtorch open flame for seventy seconds. Completely unrealistic and unrelated to a lit tobacco product. With California’s law a de facto national standard, a typical sofa now hit the market with two to three pounds of chemicals that actually do cause cancer and hormone disruption and reproductive problems such as reduced fertility, neurological disorders, endocrine and thyroid disruption, and adverse effects on fetal and child development. Something that indoor smoking and second hand smoke never caused and unlike anti-smoking laws our concern was based on facts. So much so that the only President in history who tried to stop the laws from getting passed and recognized the dangers would be taken to court by the largest clothing manufactures in order to stay in compliance with California. That man was a peanut farmer by the name of Jimmy Carter.

The industry found the perfect chemical. Tris, only it wasn’t so perfect. It was shown to cause liver cancer in factory workers, after scientists found it to be a mutagen or gene-altering agent that would put children in harms way. In 1977 it was banned by Carter after some clothing companies refused to stop using it. Corporate America fought back. In 1977 a federal judge ruled against the ban sighting that corporations did not have enough time to prepare. It was never challenged by the Supreme Court so it was never banned. The Carter administration continued to go on a campaign against the use of this chemical, until it received enough public backlash that the industry voluntarily stopped using it in pajamas sold in America, but kept chlorinated fire retardants in almost all other consumer products. The industry then sued the Carter administration for compensation from lost sales and they ultimately won the battle.

Front Page of Kansas City Times dated May 24, 1977. (Kansas City Newspaper Archives)

However there was a loophole. Although it was phased out of domestic production in 1977 that would be sold to Americans, American clothing companies were still widely producing clothing with Tris that would be exported to third world nations like India and Vietnam. In some cases reimported back into the United States. After Carter refused to reimburse companies for loss of sales from the ban, many companies used this loophole to continue to sell unsold stock. When Carter found this out he was furious, and signed EO #12264 to combat what he called the “circle of poison”. This executive order banned the export of all banned chemicals in the United States, which was a huge blow to many corporations including pesticide companies like Monsanto and Dow and lead paint manufactures.

Unfortunately within Reagan’s first 30 days in office, he revoked the executive order which allowed banned substances to be exported again citing “excessive regulation”. Then in December 31st of 1983, President Reagan gave $50 million dollars in direct federal reimbursements to the manufactures of five corporations who were affected by Carter’s temporary ban on Tris. No President has since tried to ban the export of banned chemicals. In 1998 Senator Patrick Leahey from Vermont tried but failed again. In the year 2020, the United States still exports leaded household paints. It took China banning lead paint in children’s toys in 2007 to stop the practice. Tris has also found its way back into household furniture in the 21st century through imports. What could be even worse is the fact that for the last four decades chemical companies under current laws are allowed to keep these chemical ingredients proprietary and secret. In 2005, 2012, and 2013 Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced the Safe Chemicals Act but it failed to even get a vote. Finally in 2016 under the Obama Administration, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was passed giving much needed reform in taking a step back and asking if we want these chemicals in our lives. There are now mandatory requirement for EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines. In recent years the government and states such as California have recently back tracked and admitted they had made a huge mistake.

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law new legislation that reversed the fire safe mandate he pushed for and created with an apology. The new rule of that year eliminated the need for furniture makers to inject the chemicals into upholstered chairs, sofas, and other items. In the year 2020 the state of California outright banned classes of flame retardants in Business and Professions Code sections 19100–19104, AB 2998 which prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and sale of children’s products, specified mattresses and mattress components, and upholstered and reupholstered furniture that contain specific flame retardant chemicals in excess of 1000ppm. It was viewed as a small victory to those who have been pleading for common sense and a halt to smoking hysteria for years. However, that is over 45 years of children and families subjected to incredible amounts of toxins while they sleep and in the clothing babies wear. The National Library Of Medicine in peer reviewed published studies even linked sudden infant death syndrome to certain classes of flame retardants in baby cribs. Was all of this really necessary and did it indeed even prevent fires like it claimed?

“The chemical industry makes three main arguments on flame retardants. They work really well, they safe, and they’re actually good for the environment. When you take each one of those arguments and you look at the scientific research behind those arguments it doesn’t hold up.” — Sam Roe (Chicago Tribune Reporter)

A lot of the original evidence which supported the use of fire prevention chemicals in household items was based on a U.K study after they pushed legislation as the only country in the world to pass a national mandate. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended 1989, 1993 and 2010) designed to ensure that upholstery components and composites used for furniture supplied in the U.K. meet specified ignition resistance levels. However the UK’s data was completely discredited in 2014 when the UK government published papers based on research that proved the main ignition test fails in practice in up to 90% of cases — backed up by the findings of Trading Standards, the UK enforcement authority. The data supporting the UK’s regs had been based on the assumption that this test worked; now we know it doesn’t. In December of 2017, Chemosphere published a paper by Prof. Richard Hull and others which proves that a UK sofa treated with flame retardants is actually more dangerous than an EU without treatment — because the toxic smoke produced very soon after ignition on the UK sofa will kill you before the flames will. It’s also putting fire fighters at risk of breathing in toxic fumes over a lifetime career.

Dr. David Heimbach testifying at California State Capitol in April of 2011 on fire safety and retardants.

There is a huge monied interest as well. In the year 2019 the chemical retardant industry made $7.09 billion, and has been increasing every year since the mandates were put into place. One of the largest benefactors is actually a front group known as Citizens For Fire Safety, a trade association consisting of the three largest makers of flame retardants in the world. Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, and Chemtura. In 2011 the organization paid for for the travel expenses and time for industry burn expert Dr. David Heimbach to testify in stopping California’s recent reform of anti-tobacco smoking and fire prevent safety measures.

“Citizens for fire safety goes out of its way to suggest that it is a broad coalition of every day Americans out to kind of project the public from fire. Its website shows these five smiling children holding a hand drawn banner. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.” — Patricia Callahan (Chicago Tribune Reporter)

This movement not only targeted household furniture and clothing, but it also targeted the very cigarettes that smokers use. If you watch an old interview from the last century where a cigarette is lit in the background, it was once possible to keep a cigarette lit for hours on end without relighting it since paper naturally burns. It’s not possible to do that anymore and it is very much linked to the public’s fear of fire and anti-smoking mentality, and it could be in fact endangering the health of every smoker in America. In the year 2000 the state of New York under Governor Pataki passed a law called that now mandated that all cigarettes have the ability to “self extinguish”.

‘’This could be the beginning of a global standard for cigarettes,’’ said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. ‘’If New York goes ahead, it will drive a national debate because tobacco companies are not going to make one set of cigarettes for New York and one for the rest of the U.S. And if the U.S. sets standards, those will be standards for the entire globe.’’ — New York Times (1/01/2004)

To accomplish this cigarette manufacturers were mandated to place “ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer”, otherwise known as carpet glue adhesive into the paper of cigarettes. The result is that cigarette smokers are now inhaling burning glue every time they take a puff. According to a Harvard Study, the self extinguishing cigarettes produce 13.9% more Naphthalene and 11.4% more carbon monoxide than cigarettes made without the glue. Naphthalene is a substance used to make moth balls and in quantity, causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions and coma. This in fact made the smell of second hand smoke much worse and more harmful. This was quickly followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and Minnesota passing similar laws which forced the tobacco industry to adopt one standard. As of August 26, 2011, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had passed state legislation modeled on New York’s original bill, mandating the sale of fire-safe cigarettes and cigars. This has made it so that the only way possible to avoid these toxic additives is to roll your own tobacco. Even “all natural” American Spirits contain these additives by law.

It should be known that this only happens in the United States. Nowhere else in the world is mandating this in tobacco products, and in particular you can look to our neighbors to the north in Canada. Most American tobacco is Burley and most of the rest of the world is Bright and other sorts of tobacco. And the way the TSNA and other carcinogens come out, is dramatic. American cigarettes are profoundly higher in carcinogens, and this is directly proportionate to the mandates put on the tobacco industry. While Most of the agreed in 2013 to phase out brominated flame retardants from all consumer products, the United States chose not to.

“Tobacco from Canadian brands with awide range of nicotine and tar yields as measured by the ISO/FTC method contained loweramounts of preformed NNN (up to 982 ng/cigarette; Fischer et al., 1990b) than US brandssold domestically or internationally (up to 3050 and 3892 ng/g dry tobacco, respectively;Djordjevic et al., 1990, 2000a; Counts et al., 2005).”

Now if I told you in consequence, the most plastic pollution in the world is coming from cigarettes would you laugh at that statement? While it’s true. Since government mandates cigarette have become the most abundant form of plastic waste in the world, with about 4.5 trillion individual butts polluting our global environment. These plastic filters, carpet glue, and household flame retardants are actually ending up in landfills and polluting the environment, something a state like California is supposedly fighting to protect. Meanwhile fire retardants chemicals that were supposed to be safely locked inside the foam cushion of furniture is showing up all over the planet. It’s being found in harbor seals off the coast of Maine, polar bears in the Arctic, porpoises in the South China Sea. It’s also being found in house dust, the primary mode of how people are exposed to these chemicals. It gets out of the cushions as they cushions age. The chemicals are volatilized. They get into the dust and then adults put their hands in their mouths more than we realize. We’re ingesting some of that dust every day since 1975.

Another misguided effort to prevent fires may have been smoke detectors themselves. Anti-smoking laws to prevent fires have regulated the smoke detecting devices now be placed in every American home before it can be sold on the market. This essentially prevents Americans from even smoking in their own home without setting off an alarm and alerting the police. It would be one argument if these were doing a good job at preventing fires, but when you look at the facts the argument also does not add up. In 1989 NFPA 74 first required smoke alarms to be interconnected in every new home construction, and in 1993 NFPA 72 first required that smoke alarms be installed in all bedrooms. According to estimates by the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, U.S. home usage of smoke alarms rose from less than 10% in 1975 to at least 95% in 2000, while the number of home fire deaths was cut nearly in half. Thus the home smoke alarm is credited as the greatest success story in fire safety in the last part of the 20th century, because it alone represented a highly effective fire safety technology with leverage on most of the fire death problem that went from only token usage to nearly universal usage in a remarkably short time. However we must take a closer look to understand why these numbers may not accurate depending on who you ask.

If the ionization smoke alarm was responsible for most of the decrease in fire deaths in the last part of the 20th century, shouldn’t the rate of decrease have been greatest over the time period that smoke alarm usage increased the fastest? Yet over the time period of 1977–1987, when the use of smoke alarms skyrocketed, the trend line remained relatively constant. I spoke with former Deputy Fire Chief of the Boston Fire Department over the phone for his opinion on the matter, and here is what he had to say.

Charts showing decrease of death rate from fires in comparison to rise in smoke alarm usage.

Again we can also point to a very profitable industry. Ever since the fire alarm mandate was passed into law business has been booming. The global fire alarm and detection market size was estimated at USD $39.23 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to witness a CAGR of 8.4% from 2020 to 2027. That same fire prevention groups advocating for the placement of smoke detectors, are organizations with ties to the industries that directly benefit them. This is usually the case with any trade association. A lot of commercial building simply installed smoke detectors to keep away smokers, as the excuse was you could no longer smoke in this building because it would set off the alarms. We are now even mandating in new homes that smoke detectors be placed in bedrooms and bathrooms. The introduction of smoke detectors in our culture is probably the least negative aspect of misguided anti-smoking policies, but it further shows an example of hysteria not based on common sense or any real factual evidence depending on who you ask. In this century families cannot even smoke a cigar at the holiday diner table. An alarm company has you under their surveillance all hours of the day and night.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is the detrimental effect this movement has had on Americans in the lowest income bracket. Immediately after those laws you have read above were passed, states used that as a springboard to significantly increase taxes on tobacco products and so did the federal government. In the Fall of 1992 the national tobacco tax was raised by $0.25 per pack. Federal taxes were increased again under the Obama administration in 2009, with the cigarette tax being increased from $0.39 per pack to $1.01 where it stands right now. Overall, the federal cigarette excise tax has increased by 321% since December 1995. In 2019 the U.S government saw revenues from tobacco tax amounting to $12.46 billion. You also have to include states taxes as well. Since the beginning of 2000, 48 states and the District of Columbia have passed 148 state cigarette tax increases. The median tax rate for states is now at $1.78 per pack. In Massachusetts where I live we are charged $3.51 for a 20 pack. This is opening up a huge black market. The Tax Foundation estimates that New York state loses an estimated $1.63 billion in tax revenue every year to black market sales, and one of the largest underground market sales just happens to come from menthols. The same product the federal government under the Joe Biden administration is now pushing to ban. However non flavored tobacco remains legal and taxed high. If menthol products are disproportionally used by minorities, is that who we should be imprisoning now for smoking a certain flavor of tobacco? Previously in 2009, the Obama administration had banned all other flavors of cigarettes sold that even had the ability to mask the smell of tobacco.

This brings me into my final point and last discussion. We know that these tax increased are not being utilized to prevent cancer or help the public, because these taxes are also being applied to cigars, pipes, and even electronic cigarettes which do not even include any tobacco or smoke at all. The average smoker in American now spends $300 a month on enjoying a fine smoke, and over half of that is going to taxes and in high taxed states most of it. This is supposedly to encourage Americans to smoke less, but you simply cannot ignore the fact that governments used the original anti-smoking campaign for an excuse to raise taxes and collect more revenue. How is that helping the smoker? Throughout history we tend to favor products we can tax more and discourage recreational products we cannot tax. Another inconsistency is the country’s increasingly positive stance towards smoking marijuana. Across the country you can find marijuana bars, marijuana hotels, recreational dispensaries. At the same time smokers tobacco lounges and bars are being closed down at alarming rates. You don’t inhale a cigar, you inhale weed. Tobacco doesn’t affect your brain, weed does. This is not logically consistent to stand on both sides.

Conservative radio host Dennis Prager who unapologetically smokes one cigar a day at lunch break.

Dennis Prager vocally expressed that when he was about 17 years old, he asked his father if he could try a cigar. His father said yes, and both were surprised they really liked it. His father went on to live to the age of 96. The reason I wrote this article was to challenge myself to defend an opposing viewpoint I had originally disagreed with. I love taking on challenges such as that, because every time you learn something new which may change your opinion. I can tell you that my opinion on tobacco has changed. For a chance that 379,000 cigarettes may cause cancer, should we resort to the actions we have taken? We now live in a world where it’s impossible not to come across and breathe in flame retardants in our daily lives, and smokers are being forced to inhale toxic carpet glues, ammonia, and plastic particles into their lungs that have actually been shown to contribute to cancer and lunge disease. Tobacco companies have also resorted to genetically engineering their crops today to have tobacco plants produce four times as much nicotine as they once did. The point of me writing this article was to showcase how your grandparents cigarettes are not the same ones we are smoking today, and how misguided government policy and hysteria has led to unintended consequences that have actually made cigarettes much worse than they ever were in the past. It’s not fair to compare apples and oranges. Sadly I don’t feel America is ever going to embrace rights for smokers ever again. If you want to read an interesting book on this subject, I can recommend Dissecting Antismokers Brains written by anti-prohibition advocate Michael J. McFadden. It certainly opened my mind to an opposing opinion and surprising facts.

Independent writer outside of Boston.

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