Lots of suggestions for Tobacco Control’s biggest lie. So I thought I’d create a poll to ask: What’s the Tobacco Control Lie that most needs to be nailed? Only one answer can be chosen.
I think I’ve included more or less all the suggestions, and I’ve added a few more that have come to mind while constructing the poll. There are probably hundreds more that could be added. Further suggestions are very welcome.
In the comments, echoing other commenters, Jax wrote that the SHS myth was ‘anti-smoking’s very own “original sin,” from which all the others have freely flowed.’ So I’m sort of expecting that Secondhand Smoke Kills will top the poll, because as she says it’s a deliberate lie.
For myself, I think that it’s Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, because it’s the one most deeply lodged in the public mind, and one which many smokers believe too, and because it’s the lie upon which the SHS lie was constructed to create the Tobacco Control edifice of lies. Once that one was believed, more or less anything could be believed. But, while I think the claim is untrue, I’m not really sure whether it was a deliberate lie. Although since it goes all the way back to Nazi Germany, it probably was a perfectly deliberate lie.
There are also the forgotten lies. When smoking was first fingered as the cause of lung cancer, it was smoking cigarettes that was seen as the problem, because cigarettes were a new way of smoking that only became popular during World War I. Nobody would have believed that chewing tobacco, or smoking pipes and cigars, could cause lung cancer, because people had been doing that for centuries. But, fairly soon after cigarettes had been widely accepted as a likely cause of lung cancer, all tobacco products were lumped together and the distinction lost.
Another forgotten lie was the early claim that Tobacco Control only wanted to create a few smoke-free environments on planes and buses, and had no further ambitions in this direction. That didn’t last long.
I’m not sure of the psychology underlying this ready resort to lies. In large part it must be that antismokers regard their lies as “white lies”: lies told in a good cause. They seem to think that if some lie will get a few smokers quit smoking, then it’s a lie worth telling. The end is the only thing that matters, and the means of getting there doesn’t matter at all.
But the trouble with telling lies is that one lie regularly requires subsidiary supporting lies, and eventually the construction of a separate reality. And this is pretty much what Tobacco Control have done.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think that such edifices of lies must eventually collapse. But perhaps they can be helped to collapse, rather in the manner that “hiding the decline” (of tree ring temperature proxies in the late 20th century) in the Climategate emails helped bring about a collapse of faith in climate science. That’s why I’ve been wondering which of Tobacco Control’s multitudinous porkies is the best one to stick a pick-axe into.
In fact, I rather suspect that Tobacco Control can dimly see the writing on the wall for them, and that’s one of the reasons why the lies are coming so fast and furious these days (hidden displays, plain packaging, etc). They know that public trust is collapsing, but they want the gravy train to stay on the rails for a few years more yet. Because it’s been a nice little earner. And anyway, when they are finally met with public disbelief and derision, they’ll just walk away from it.