In de Seattle Times verscheen gisteren een interessant artikel over de huidige en historische oorlogen tegen de rokers. Bestrijden van rokers is toen niet gelukt en zal het deze keer ook niet redden. In de huidige oorlog worden door de anti’s weer dezelfde fouten gemaakt als in de eerste: té zware overdrijving en moralisme zal hun geloofwaardigheid opnieuw laten afkalven….
En waarom komt anti-roken in moeilijke economische tijden bovendrijven? Cassandra Tate, auteur van “Cigarette Wars: The Triumph of the ‘Little White Slaver.’ en hoogleraar geschiedenis aan de Universiteit van Washington hierover:
The world today is marked by an even more pronounced undercurrent of uneasiness, associated with an unsettled economy and increasing strains on education, health care and other social services — to say nothing of new fears about international terrorism. Cigarettes may catch the eye of the reform-minded in part because they appear to be more manageable than other problems. As one commentator put it a few years ago, “The mannerly middle class may not be able to outlaw assault weapons or rap music or violent movies, but it can shove smokers (usually the working class, the minorities and the young) into the pariah class, right next to the serial killers.”
When the world seems out of control, you control what you can. It’s certainly easier to pass a local no-smoking law than to challenge a federal government that is steadily retreating from air-pollution-control standards.
“There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” says Paul Knepprath, a lobbyist for the American Lung Association of California, repeating what has become a mantra for anti-smoking activists today. “We have a toxic pollutant that is wafting about and exposing people in their apartments or condos. We have to protect the health of people in these situations.”
This is sheer hyperbole, powered by the same impulses that gave rise to and ultimately undermined the first organized campaign against cigarettes, one that began more than a century ago.
The first generation of anti-cigarette activists articulated virtually every issue still being debated about smoking, including the effects of “secondhand smoke” (a phrase in use as early as 1911). They differed from their modern counterparts primarily in the matter of emphasis. They gave more attention to reforming smokers than to protecting nonsmokers, and they spoke from a platform braced more by moralism than science.
Not that today’s “antis” are free of moralism. They demonize cigarette manufacturers as “merchants of death” who have brought about a “tobacco holocaust.” People who smoke cigarettes are “no less guilty of murder than serial killers, even though they only kill us slowly.” Secondhand smoke “kills 53,000 nonsmokers a year” — the precision of the number hiding the imprecision of the science behind it.
While numerous studies show that secondhand smoke can cause short-term irritation and respiratory problems in nonsmokers, particularly children, evidence about its role in cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases is equivocal and disputed. By using slogans such as, “If you can smell it, it can kill you,” anti-smoking advocates run the risk of weakening their credibility with exaggeration and selfright-eousness, just as their predecessors did.