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.