Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Name This Anti-Smoking Advocate

"Have you not reason then to be ashamed and to forbear this filthy novelty, so basely grounded, so foolishly received and so grossly mistaken in the right use thereof. In your abuse thereof sinning against God harming yourselves both in person and goods, and raking also thereby the marks and notes of vanity upon you by the custom thereof making yourselves to be wondered at by all foreign civil nations and by all strangers that come among you to be scorned and held in contempt; a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless."

Today's question is: What anti-smoking advocate made the above statement? The choices are:

a. John Banzhaf
b. Stanton Glantz
c. James Repace
d. Michael Siegel
e. King James I

The answer, obviously, is King James I. But with slightly altered language, the quote could just as easily have been made by many of today's anti-smoking advocates. The quote is from the King James I treatise entitled "A Counter-Blaste to Tobacco," which was published in 1604.

This treatise is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it clearly recognizes the harmful effects of tobacco, including its adverse impact on the lungs.

Second, it also recognizes the addictive nature of tobacco use. King James writes: "And from this weakness it precedes that many in this kingdom have had such a continual use of taking this unsavory smoke, as now they are not able to forbear the same no more than an old drunkard can abide to be long sober without falling into an incurable weakness and evil constitution. For their continual custom hath made to them habitual alter am natural."

Third, it views tobacco use not merely as an unhealthy behavior, but as an immoral one that reflects sinful behavior and poor character. King James writes: "Thus having, as I trust, sufficiently answered the most principle arguments that are used in defense of this vile custom, it rests only to inform you what sins and vanities you commit in the filthy abuse thereof: First, are you not guilty of sinful and shameful lust (for lust may be as well in any of the senses as in feeling) that although you be troubled with no disease, but in perfect health, yet can you neither be merry at an ordinary, not lascivious in the stews, if you lack tobacco to provoke your appetite to any of those sorts of recreation lusting after it as the children of Israel did in the wilderness after quails. Secondly: it is as you use, or rather abuse, it a branch of the sin of drunkenness, which is the root of all sins; for as the only delight that drunkards take in wine is in the strength of the taste, and the force of the fume thereof that mounts up to the brain, for no drunkards love any weak or sweet drink."

The Rest of the Story

I find it unfortunate that our view of smokers as sinners who have poor character does not seem to have advanced in the past 400 years. The modern-day anti-smoking movement is essentially repeating the mantra of King James, albeit in somewhat toned down fashion. Smokers are essentially viewed as sinners who must be punished. A number of policies being promoted by anti-smoking groups in 2011 support this view. They include:
  1. policies to not only remove tobacco smoke from the workplace, but also to remove smokers;
  2. policies that deny medical care to smokers;
  3. policies that treat smoking around children as a form of child abuse, even allowing removal of children from homes with smokers under certain conditions;
  4. policies that make smokers ineligible to adopt or foster children; and
  5. policies that fine smokers to enter an entitlement program (e.g., Medicaid).

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