Mike Pence 14 Years Ago: “Smoking Doesn’t Kill”

Mike PenceIn the coming weeks, Americans are going to be treated with the worst kind of Washington-speak regarding the tobacco legislation currently being considered by the Congress and Attorney Generals from forty different states. We will hear about the scourge of tobacco and the resultant premature deaths. We will hear about how this phalanx of government elites has suddenly grown a conscience after decades of subsidizing the product which, we are now told, “kills millions of Americans each year.”

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you… news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit. The relevant question is, what is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric.

The tobacco settlement is not only about big taxes it’s about big government. Under the current Senate version, the deal would require the creation of 17 new government bureaucracies to manage the tax windfall described above. But it is also about big government on a much more profound scale, namely, government big enough to protect us from ourselves.

Even a conservative like me would support government big enough to protect us from foreign threats and threats to our domestic tranquility but the tobacco deal goes to the next level. Government big enough to protect us from our own stubborn wills. And a government of such plenary power, once conceived will hardly stop at tobacco. Surely the scourge of fatty foods and their attendant cost to the health care economy bears some consideration. How about the role of caffeine in fomenting greater stress in the lives of working Americans? Don’t get me started about the dangers of sports utility vehicles!

Those of you who find the tobacco deal acceptable should be warned as you sit, reading this magazine, sipping a cup of hot coffee with a hamburger on your mind for lunch. A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.

—Mike Pence
The Great American Smoke Out

H/T: Andrew Kaczynski

Note: typos and grammar errors as the appeared in the original; formatting errors fixed.

10 thoughts on “Mike Pence 14 Years Ago: “Smoking Doesn’t Kill”

    • I hadn’t heard that. I’ve tried to stay away from him. But when I heard about this line, I had to find it. What I like even more is the slippery slope argument. Conservatives love these even though they never turn out to be true.

      • I’m sure it was anecdotal. But probably spot on since Pence was once described as the one of the denser members of the House when he represented the fine people of Indiana’s sixth district.

        • He certainly doesn’t come off as too sharp. I don’t mind stupid politicians, so much. I’m much more bothered that Louie Gohmert has a law degree from Baylor and was a judge. What’s with that?

      • The slippery slope argument isn’t always disingenuous. That’s how they work, so it’s natural for them to assume it’s how we work. Many Repubs are lying through their blisteringly white teeth. There are some that probably can’t conceive how any law intended to protect the public can possibly lack an ulterior motive. After all, whenever they pass a “Puppies Are So Cute Act,” it’s usually either meant to deflect attention away from something deeply antidemocratic that they’re in the process of scheming, or has cleverly-designed backdoor loopholes. Like, black people whose puppies are judged insufficiently cute by prosecutors can get voting rights revoked, or some such.

        Most significant liberal legislation is accused of a secret agenda when the agenda is fairly clear. The Democrats who pass it are usually tight-lipped, but our magazines and radio are full of leftists who hope that any such legislation is only a first, meager step forward. We have tons of people arguing what more our laws could accomplish.

        I can’t think of a piece of recent significant rightwing legislation that was upfront about its goal, or one that didn’t have liberal analysts explaining what the ultimate agenda of the law really was, or one where the liberal analysts were given serious attention in the regular media, or one where the hate media didn’t cry “fear mongering” at those analysts, or one where it didn’t turn out that the liberal analysts were completely right in their warnings.

        • There is a liberal blogger (can’t remember his name) who used to be a conservative and he said that the worst thing about being a conservative was constantly having to lie about what you really thought. I think it is far easier to be a liberal because liberal policy is actually popular. We don’t have to call the gutting of environmental regulations the “Clear Skies Act.” Obamacare is very clear: provide insurance for poorer people by taxing the rich more. But note that conservatives can’t even be open in attacking Obamacare. They almost never mention the rise in taxes as the reason they are against it, even though that is almost the only reason they are against it.

          The problem with slippery slope arguments is that things rarely work that way. We need a better analogy for reasonable arguments of this kind — ones that include the negative feedbacks that stop things from getting out of hand. I coined a term for something I noticed with my wife: catastrophizing. (This is a term a number of people use, but not in the way that I do.) She would go through a logical process to show that some minor setback (eg, losing a client) would result in dying of starvation on the streets where she had become homeless. It’s all that, “For want of a nail…” But that’s not to say that their won’t be consequences for the lack of a nail — just that it won’t result in the loss of the war or whatever.

          • Yes . . . think of “Citizens United.” That wasn’t a slippery slope. Liberals argued that it would result in rich a-holes buying elections willy-nilly, and BOOM! They are buying elections willy-nilly. No dipping their toes in the water and sneaking towards buying elections. It’s exactly what liberals predicted, instantly.

            There is something to be said for anticipating worst-case-scenario chains of improbable events, but generally when bad things happen they tend to happen quite fast, in my experience.

  1. @JMF – That’s true. And you are right: it is useful to consider the worst case scenario. The problem with the slippery slope arguments is that people claim that because something could happen, it will.

    • By focusing on worst-case scenarios, you can ignore what’s happening right in front of you. Just like focusing on the Eternal Plan Of Deity “X” can shift your focus from what might help your friends/family/community now. (Or yourself.)

      I suppose it’s a human thing. We’d rather focus on imaginary what-ifs than the troubles we face today, as those troubles are often overwhelming. People who feel powerless to face immediate/terrifying concerns imagine themselves empowered by standing up to hypothetical/insignificant ones. If my landlord shits on me and I can’t fight back, I can get pissy over a bagel shop taking too long about giving me my bagel. I can ream that bagel shop clerk for all it’s worth, and because I have the power in that situation, it makes me feel less diminished by other interactions in which I’m totally turded upon. This dynamic is probably why racism works.

      • That’s definitely true. Although it seems to me that in politics, it is mostly people who don’t have real worries who make up this stuff. I’m particularly thinking of the Iran deal right now. It’s really bugging me that if it were a Republican President doing this deal, everyone would be on board.

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