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DC at Night

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unlucky Strike: The Science and Politics of Smoking

Keith Richard still smoking at 70
Despite almost universal opinion to the contrary, for Duke University professor John Staddon most of the facts provided to wage the war against smokers and smoking amount to nothing but an unsubstantiated smoke screen.

"Smoking is not lethal, it is risky," Staddon contends. "All these points (about smoking) have not been scientifically proven. Smoking is a private health problem, but a public policy disgrace."

The psychology professor believes that instead of universal bans on smoking, individual businesses such as bars and restaurants should be allowed to decide whether they want to be smoke-free or serve people who choose to smoke.

Staddon outlines his case in his most recent book Unlucky Strike: Private Health and the Science, Law, and Politics of Smoking.

When he recently appeared at the Cato Institute, Staddon offered his view. He said that despite claims to the contrary, science doesn't prove the dangers of smoking the way health and government officials maintain it does. "Their arguments are skewered by false information," Staddon charged.

The professor argued that actually:
  • those who die from smoking tend to die close to retirement age.
  • lifetime medical costs for smokers are less than for nonsmokers since "dying is very, very costly and it is (financially) much better to die of a heart attack than 20 years of dementia."
  • and the reported risk to others is impossible to measure accurately.
"So maybe a short pleasurable life is preferable to a long one. The owner of the life should surely decide that," Staddon said. "Do we have the right to abridge the smoking rights of others? If they want to smoke these things and they are not harmful to others, why not let them smoke them?"

So then why does Staddon believe that smokers are over-taxed, dissed, and discriminated against in so many ways?

"It came from the frustration from the health establishment at the failing war on cancer," Stoddard maintains. "People said 'at least we can stop people from smoking".

Staddon said he is concerned about the continuing misinformation being circulated by anti-smoking proponents. "Even as smoking has gone down, the (reported) smoking deaths have gone up. What kind of sense does that make?"

"There is no limit to smoking alarmism," he added. "Now the are talking about (the dangers) of third-hand smoke. How on earth do they know? They don't know. It's just an act of faith, not science. And even e-cigarettes are being vilified as we speak."

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