home > archive > 2004 > this article
Tobacco and the continuation of the Big Lie
By Steve Farrell
The last three states I lived in have educational funds set up from the tobacco settlements. And as if to irritate me, I keep hearing and reading periodic, self-righteous, thick-headed sermons on how wonderful this fund is, how just a cause it was that brought it into being.
I suppose in every state, kids go to college free, thanks to 'the settlement.'
'The settlement' sounds so middle ground that it almost convinces one that it wasn't 'The Robbery,' or 'The Betrayal,' or 'The Big Lie" that it was and is.
The claim, to this day, is that Big Tobacco hid from the public the fact that its product might be detrimental, to the health of its users, perhaps fatal, thus causing untold deaths and disabilities, which in turn cost the states big money.
Oh yes, the states, which of their own free will didn't exclude, or sufficiently hike, the premiums of tobacco users for their insurance coverage, despite the risks.
After the bloodsucking lawyers chalked up the victory, the states, not unlike the lawyers, swooped down to cash in on the cash cow, as if heaven had heard their prayers to pay for more of their socialist programs, which forcefully redistribute the wealth of private enterprise to 'the needy.'
It's all a Big Lie – and yet the lie continues to spread in government, media and 'educational' circles.
We've always known better. I knew it as a kid growing up in New York back in the 1960s and '70s. The warning labels were clear enough to me, as were the denunciations of tobacco use in my health ed classes, the lung cancer two of my grandmothers had, the throat cancer one of my grandfathers had, and, well, the first puff I decided to try, which turned my skin green.
Who's kidding whom? Everyone knew that tobacco was not good for the body – and we've known it for a long, long time.
Let's go all the way back to Columbus' Journal in 1492, when he and his crew first encountered tobacco users among the natives.
"[U]pon [our] journey [we] met with great multitudes of people, men and women with firebrands in their hands and herbs to smoke after their custom."
In the footnotes, we read:
"The two Spaniards met upon their journey great numbers of people of both sexes; the men always with a firebrand in their hands and certain herbs for smoking: these are dry, and fixed in a leaf also dry, after the manner of those paper tubes which the boys in Spain use at Whitsuntide: having lighted one end they draw the smoke by sucking at the other, this causes a drowsiness and sort of intoxication, and according to their accounts relieves them from the sensation of fatigue. These tubes they call by the name of tobacos. I knew many Spaniards in the island of Espanola who were addicted to the use of them, and on being reproached with it as a bad habit, replied that they could not bring themselves to give it up. I do not see what relish or benefit they could find in them."
This, the footnote states, is "the origin of cigars."
An addiction, a bad habit, so-called in 1492?
Christianity, as well, has long called tobacco the "evil weed."
My own faith declared of tobacco in 1833: "tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill."
"Sin taxes" on tobacco and other items have equally been with us as long as our country has been in existence. Somebody knew something.
Thomas Jefferson was one of those in the know. In his "Notes on Virginia" (written in 1781) he advised Virginia to end tobacco production for more useful crops, such as olives. His argument, in part, had to do with his desire to abolish slavery, for tobacco farming, as labor intensive as it was, promoted its continuation (in more than one way). But more than this, he never used tobacco or spirituous liquors (even refusing them on this death bed), because he knew the obvious, that they were bad for one's health and a detriment to the strength of mind and character he pursued all his days.
What bothers me the most, however, is not just the Big Lie that none of us knew – we all knew – but our willingness to subvert the law for profit, and political gain. For regardless of the detriment to health that tobacco presents, the industry was legal, and the precedent set is immoral and dangerous to our liberties.
The U.S. Constitution outlawed ex post facto laws, that is, laws which prosecute someone for what was a legal activity at the time of the supposed offense, by imposing a new law or new standard retroactively. And yet, what do we have here but such a violation, in spirit if not in fact?
Why, then, do we continue to praise this overthrow of our laws, this robbery, this socialist-styled redistribution of the wealth into the hands of dirty lawyers and empty-headed politicians as wonderful?
ESR senior writer Steve Farrell is associate professor of political economy at George Wythe College, press agent for Defend Marriage (a project of United Families International), a pundit at America’s News Page, NewsMax.com, and the author of the highly praised inspirational novel "Dark Rose" (available at Amazon.com). For you West Coast night owls, every Monday you can catch Steve on Mark Edward's 'Wake up America!' talk radio show on 50,000-Watt KDWN, 720 AM, 10 p.m. to midnight; or on the Internet at AmericanVoiceRadio.com. Contact Steve at email@example.com.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996 - 2005, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.