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3.16.2001 00:21

Anti-smoking campaigns failed Canada and Hitler

WARREN KLASS

WINNIPEG

REGARDING Steven A. Whitcomb's excellent Feb. 19 letter, " 'Them' is us, not Big Tobacco," I would like to draw the Journal's attention to the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in Canada on the whole politicization of the smoking question. In the past decade, Canada has embarked on an unprecedented "politics of punishment" campaign against Canadian smokers. The effort includes a $7 price in Canadian dollars for a pack of Camels, which includes punishment taxes to pay for draconian restrictions on indoor smoking and a goofy, moronic, self-defeating propaganda campaign.

A leading Canadian public-policy think tank, the Fraser Institute (www.fraserinstitute.ca), in a study released last July 26, concluded that "the evidence is questionable that government interventions have lowered the rate of smoking. It seems instead that government interventions have been directed more to the punitive taxation of smokers than to their salvation."

The Fraser Institute found that, underneath all the obvious sophistry, Canada's war on smokers was little more than a war on the poor by members of the upper classes who embrace anti-smoking campaigns. You can go to any Canadian city and see thousands of starving kids crowding the food banks. Their crime? Having parents who became addicted to cigarettes in less politically correct times. But this is a small price to pay so that Canada's legions of anti-smoking activists can attend winter conferences in Miami on teen smoking.

Other than punishing the poor (and often nonwhite), Canada's war on smoking has been largely ineffective. According to Fraser Institute data from 1996, Canada's smoking rates are 28.5 percent. All studies put Canada's national youth-smoking rate in excess of 30 percent. The irony is that youth smoking was decreasing before Canada embarked on the "politics of punishment" crusade. Since the campaign commenced, youth smoking has been on the increase -- significantly.

The precedent for this massive backfire can be seen in Nazi Germany. Despite an 800 percent increase in tobacco taxes, draconian restrictions on indoor smoking and a goofy, anti-Semitic, anti-smoking campaign, youth smoking increased in Germany by 50 percent between 1932 and 1939, while staying stable in France during the same period (British Medical Journal No. 7070, volume 313, "The anti-tobacco campaign of the Nazis: A little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933-45," by Penn State historian Robert N. Proctor).

Those most likely to take up smoking in Nazi Germany? Alumni of Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, who were fed an endless propaganda barrage of cartoons depicting smoking as the vice of "Jews, Africans, Indians, loose women and decadent intellectuals." Cartoons depicted caricatures of Hasidic Jews trying to lure an Aryan youth to take up smoking. Jews were banned from purchasing or smoking cigarettes in 1938. Hitler was obviously concerned about their health. This was later extended to women under 25 or over 55, and all pregnant women. Non-Jewish-owned restaurants that allowed smoking were forbidden to sell cigarettes to female customers.

Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls regularly put on plays depicting smoking as an evil plot against the "Aryan Race." They all took "no-smoking pledges" for the Fuhrer. Most ended up smoking. If you tell kids 500 times not to smoke, guess what they do in massive numbers?

Is this the kind of America you want? Isn't this the "progressive" agenda that cost Al Gore your recent presidential election?

Warren Klass lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.



The Writing of Warren Klass