A week or two back, Vaping Liz sent me a link to a video of one of Dennis Prager’s fireside chats. It featured him sat, as promised, beside a blazing fire. And he was also smoking a cigar. And he was saying that Facebook had refused to promote a previous fireside chat of his because there had been complaints that he had been smoking a cigar.

He went on to talk about the diminution of freedom in the USA over his lifetime. He had, for example, flown unaccompanied from New York to Florida at the age of seven,

“There’s always a reason to deprive people of freedom… It’s always in the name of something good. Truth and freedom are always secondary to some other wonderful concern.”

All good stuff, until a little after 11 minutes in, when he starts to distinguish between cigars and cigarettes:

“Cigars are not in the same danger universe as cigarettes, as it happens. By the way when all this crazy hysteria over tobacco arose, and I fully admit that cigarettes – cigarettes in particular – are dangerous. Facts are facts. And my motto in life is first tell the truth and then give your opinion. That’s a fact. But this [cigar] is not particularly dangerous at all, because you don’t inhale cigars. You inhale cigarettes. 99% of Americans don’t even know that: this staggering difference between cigarettes and cigars. But hey, tobacco, tobacco…”

And after throwing cigarettes under the bus, he then for good measure throws alcohol under the bus too.

“I wrote a long essay a long time ago there’s something morally broken about a society that goes after tobacco and not alcohol. How many kids are abused by an adult who’s just smoked a cigarette? And I’m against cigarettes. But let’s be honest: zero.”

So he sees danger in cigarettes because the smoke is inhaled. And he sees no danger in cigars, because the smoke is not inhaled. Other people’s pastimes are dangerous, but not his own. And he regards this to be “a fact”.

I don’t think it’s a fact. I think it’s a theory. Or, more accurately, a superstition:

a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck

The idea that cigarettes are dangerous is, in my view, a superstition not different from the belief that it’s unlucky to walk under ladders, or unlucky if a black cat crosses one’s path. It’s a modern superstition.

It’s a modern superstition that has been promoted using modern propaganda techniques of continual repetition, allied with the suppression of all dissenting opinions.

And it’s a superstition that should be rejected because it was promoted in this manner.

Dennis Prager believes that the danger in smoking lies in the inhaling. But the statistician Sir Ronald Fisher devoted an entire chapter – Inhaling – in his 1959 book: Smoking, The Cancer Controversy to the question. He used data from the 1950 Doll and Hill London Hospitals study, which had asked smokers whether they inhaled or not, to show that inhaling tobacco smoke has a protective effect: inhalers had a lower incidence of lung cancer than non-inhalers.

It disproves at about the 1 per cent level the hypothesis that inhalers and non-inhalers have the same cancer incidence. Even equality would be a fair knock-out for the theory that smoke in the lung causes cancer…

Should not these workers have let the world know, not only that they had discovered the cause of lung cancer (cigarettes), but also that they had discovered the means of its prevention (inhaling cigarette smoke)?  (p 47)

And in fact other studies have suggested that the increased levels of mucus in smokers’ lungs may have a protective effect against environmental carcinogens (such as radioactive fallout), and that lung cancers frequently occur after smokers have stopped smoking.

While smokers believe most modern superstitions about smoking, they  will never be able to counter the advance of the antismoking juggernaut. They need to stop believing these superstitions, and they need to stop believing all of them.

And if people are to recover the freedoms that they are losing, they need to fight for all of them, not just some of them.

P.S. In his latest Fireside Chat, Prager has stopped smoking a cigar for the first time in 50 episodes. He has allowed Facebook to censor his content, and has submitted to the censorship. If anyone complains about the fact that his fireside chats feature a real fire that is producing smoke and carbon dioxide, and he’s censored for that as well, no doubt he will dispense with the fire as well.

About Frank Davis

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29 Responses to Superstition

  1. beobrigitte says:

    So he sees danger in cigarettes because the smoke is inhaled. And he sees no danger in cigars, because the smoke is not inhaled.
    Dennis Prager does not seem well informed or just listens to what suits him. According to my dentist any smoker (pipe, cigar, cigarettes) has a high risk (no data given by this dentist) of mouth cancer.

  2. Rose says:

    Prager has stopped smoking a cigar for the first time in 50 episodes. He has allowed Facebook to censor his content, and has submitted to the censorship. If anyone complains about the fact that his fireside chats feature a real fire that is producing smoke and carbon dioxide, and he’s censored for that as well, no doubt he will dispense with the fire as well

    That reminds me of a marvellously deranged article I read in 2007 on the subject of “recreational woodburning”, so resolutely blinkered that it’s title and author have stuck in my mind all these years.

    Mr Prager – about that real wood fire – – “because burning wood is an addiction.”

    Julie Mellum: But the fire is not delightful
    December 4, 2007

    “We’re snuffing secondhand tobacco smoke, but we continue to romanticize recreational wood burning — a hazard all its own.

    One big source of air pollution — as deadly as vehicle exhaust, and with many of the same toxicants as cigarette smoke — is wood smoke.

    The Star Tribune’s recent feature on the joys of back-yard wood burning (“All fired up,” Oct. 24) was so well-written and enticing that it no doubt caused sales of wood-burning equipment to skyrocket. Yet it did not address the perils of wood smoke. Wood smoke is more than a nuisance — it is a health hazard.

    Minnesota’s antismoking ordinance allows people to go to bars and restaurants and avoid smoke, because tobacco smoke is a proven killer. Yet because we still allow recreational wood burning in the city, where homes are close together on small lots, it has become a serious livability problem. All citizens are forced to breathe outdoor air that smells of smoke in many neighborhoods, night and day, in all seasons.

    There is so much smoke, either faint or heavy, that many hardly notice it anymore. But wood smoke is there, heavy in most neighborhoods at night or around our many wood-fired restaurants, if you stop to notice.

    How did this happen in a city such as Minneapolis, which has long been focused on improving air quality for the health of its citizens?

    Wood smoke comprises fine particulates, many of which are carcinogenic, such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. It is far more concentrated than cigarette smoke and travels much farther, spreading soot and fine particulates directly into our air and our lungs. It also invades our water and food supply with persistent organic compounds that do not break down but remain for years, causing a host of health problems in frogs, bluegills and mammals — including humans.

    Everyone is at risk from wood-smoke exposure. But children of all ages, the elderly, and anyone with asthma, allergies, or heart disease are in the highest-risk categories.

    The American Lung Association states that a majority of asthmatics cite smoke of all kinds as a trigger for asthma attacks. Asthma is epidemic in children, and it is life-threatening. Wood smoke is even implicated in sudden infant death syndrome. Are we OK with this? Aren’t these facts reason enough to stop recreational wood burning?

    Why, then, do people continue to burn? First, because they don’t know how harmful it is. Second, because it is strongly promoted by the hearth and home industry. And third, because burning wood is an addiction.

    I cannot be outside at all when wood smoke is in the air, because I have a “reactive airways” condition affected by it. I ache for clean air outdoors in a world where nature often is our only respite. Bad air is forcing many others I know inside when, as city taxpayers, we have a right to be outside breathing clean air.

    We must urge our City Council members to ban recreational wood burning — especially at a time when cities are looking for ways to reduce pollution to save lives and receive federal funding by being in compliance with air-quality standards. Many feel that our air-quality standards are not high enough. If air quality were measured near where people actually breathe it, when neighbors are burning, the results would be off the charts.

    I look to the Star Tribune and to all citizens to start building public awareness of the hazards of wood smoke.

    Julie Mellum is a Realtor and president of Take Back the Air, a Minneapolis group that works to address pollution at the neighborhood level.”

    Darwinism in action.

  3. I can’t abide people who fight for their own freedom by saying, “Don’t look at me, look at him”.
    They’re no better than Tobacco Control

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, Frank, I was SO disappointed that he gave in to Facebook! You have just reminded me I was going to make a scathing comment….

    When my children were small, I remember they flew to Johannesburg (we lived in Africa) ALONE. The air hostesses received them and delivered them on the other side. I cannot remember why they flew. I think their grannies and grandpa’s arranged it. But they did.

    How times have changed. Here, we cannot even drive to the shop with our grandchildren, because we haven’t got car seats! We cannot say “drop the kids off, we’ll bring them back” to our children like my mother did for me, because we don’t have car seats in our car. So we could have them fitted and have them upgraded every time the grandchildren grow? Do you know what an absolute bloody pharp car seats are for old arthritic hands? Not to mention the cost.

    Yes, I shall make my Prager comment now – thanks for reminding me!

  5. Emily says:

    I also remember flying alone at age 9, they hung a bag around my neck with my passports and other documents which said “UM” (Unaccompanied Minor) on it in big letters.

    This guy sounds like my uncle, he also smokes cigars and gives me a hard time about smoking cigarettes whenever I see him. And I have even heard of cigar bars that forbid cigarette smoking.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Several years ago (right after Quebec imposed its smoking ban) I was in a cigar bar at a steak house (exempted from the ban) in Montreal. I was not allowed to smoke a cigarette in the cigar bar (despite buying an expensive scotch and having just finished an expensive dinner). This was before they imposed the outdoor ban. So in the dead of winter, snow on the ground, I was able to enjoy by drinks and smoke cigarettes with friends (non-smokers that don’t mind smoke) on a heated patio. Now even that would be denied since Quebec has banned smoking on outdoor patios too. All based on the false threat of second hand smoke. The anti-smoking lies must be exposed.

      • What I’ve always found completely confusing and non-sensical about the whole indoor smoking ban is this; indoor cigar bars are legal in many places where cigarette smoking is banned indoors. And yet somehow, the second hand smoke from a cigar isn’t deemed the danger that cigarette smoke is purported to be. It doesn’t get much closer – a cigar is burning tobacco, and a cigarette is burning tobacco – so there should be no difference whatsoever in the sidestream smoke (granted they smell different, due to curing and types of tobacco). If cigar bars are legal and allowable, I can’t understand why there can’t be ‘cigarette bars’ too.

        Of course it’s not about science or any risk – it’s about de-normalizing cigarettes and cigarette smokers. That’s always and only ever been the goal.

  6. EG says:
    I read what you have written and your worst predictions are coming true. Health extremist are merging with climate extremist.

  7. Vlad says:

    This article makes perfect sense and hopefully Mr. Prager gets a chance to read it. One’s never too old to learn new facts.
    One comment I’d like to make regarding cigarettes vs cigars – the truth is that nowadays factory made cigarettes are an inferior product, containing perhaps 50% actual tobacco, the rest being various chemicals. The problem is not with inhaling tobacco smoke (cigar smokers also inhale a lot when smoking indoors) but with the chemicals put in cigarettes – which weren’t there in Ronald Fisher’s time.

  8. garyk30 says:

    One ‘rightous’ Person is just a small mob.

    Mobs are historically salient. It’s not so long ago that ‘lynch mob’ was more than metaphor. Righteousness — the belief that moral correctness of belief and action is so pressing and important that it transcends law and custom — is dangerous even in isolated individuals. When it infects a mob, it threatens everyone and everything in its path.

    This, at least, has been known for a while, partly because it’s psychologically satisfying for those who indulge. Aldous Huxley observed that the surest way to work up a crusade in favour of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behaviour “righteous indignation” — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.

  9. Frank Davis says:

    I wonder whether this might explain why there’s no smoking in the online alt-right? Perhaps Alex Jones and co know that if anyone smokes on their shows, someone will complain that it “promotes smoking”. So, like Dennis Prager, they have also acceded.

  10. Smoking Lamp says:

    Antismoking is a hysteria that like all superstitions is promoted by a core group of activists. Essentially another witch hunt. I hope this easy gets distributed wide because it exposes the extremist anti-smoking lies once again.

  11. waltc says:

    Still, memory tells me that Prager has repeatedly defended (cigarette) smokers rights as a matter of liberty. Second, he’s already had enough trouble with having his even smokeless videos banned by youtube because of their conservative political content. So if he’s acceded about the cigar, it’s likely because the entire rest of whatever his actual message was would have been disappeared and he had to make a choice: smoke and not be aired, or don’t and get on.

    Finally, since he’s a reasonable person, Frank, why not e him your evidence to the contrary?

    • Frank Davis says:

      His actual message (what I have heard of it so far) is that America used to be a free country in ways it no longer is. Acceding on the cigar demonstrated that further, and made him complicit, thus undermining whatever other message he might have..

      Trump has said he’s going to do something about the no-platforming of conservatives. I hope he keeps his word.

      And I don’t have an email address.

    • Philip Neal says:

      Probably true, but one reason why the centre ground keeps shifting leftwards is that nice guys like Prager position themselves as moderate, reasonable conservatives by contrast with those dreadful people further to the right. With every minor episode like this, the left gains a little ground which is never ceded back.

  12. Smoking Lamp says:

    Kissen DM, Relationship between lung cancer, cigarette smoking, inhalation and personality. Brit. J. Med. Psychol. (1964), 37, 203 noted that while it was reasonable to expect that inhalation of cigarette smoke would present a greater risk than non-inhalation and therefore that a direct causal relationship between smoking abnd lung cancer should be reflected in a greater risk to inhalers than non-inhalers. Nevertheless that direct association was not unequivocally established Citing Royal College of Physicians, 1962 & US Surgeon General, 1964.

    Keissen also noted that BMJ, 1962 suggested that among heavy smokers, non-inhalers may have greater risk for lung cancer. (The BMJ citation was the Royal College of Physicians: Report on Smoking, BMJ, 1, 5279 (Mar 10 1962, pp. 703-705); also cited as RCP, 1962.) Of course Doll and Hill, 1950 found lower proportion of inhalers among subjects with lung cancer and Fisher, 1959 questioned the statistical foundations of the causal link between smoking and lung cancer. (Doll and Hill, 1950 was Smoking and Carcinoma of the Lung, BMJ, 1950, Sep. 2 30, 2, pp. 739-748; Fisher, 1959 was Smoking: The Cancer Controversy; Some Attempts to Assess the Evidence, Edinburgh & London: Oliver and Boyd; contents available at

  13. Joe L. says:

    While smokers believe most modern superstitions about smoking, they will never be able to counter the advance of the antismoking juggernaut. They need to stop believing these superstitions, and they need to stop believing all of them.

    And if people are to recover the freedoms that they are losing, they need to fight for all of them, not just some of them.

    Amen, Frank! This is so very important and needs to be shouted from the rooftops!

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