Alex Massie

Are Smokers Dumber than George Will?

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In a word, no. Though George Will thinks they are:

Someday the ashtray may be as anachronistic as the spittoon, but fear of death may be a milder deterrent to smoking than is the fact that smoking is dumb and déclassé. Dumb? Would you hire a smoker, who must be either weak-willed or impervious to evidence?

The rest of Will's column is a reasonable, if hardly surprising, run through the contradictions and absurdities that abound whenever the US government turn its mind to tobacco policy. The latest example of this: decision to further restrict tobacco companies' freedoms via  a bill passed with the enthusiastic support* of Philip Morris who know fine well that it entrenches their position as market leader.

But Will's assertion that smokers must be "either weak-willed or impervious to evidence" is the sort of ignorant scorn you always see from scolds and the kind of lofty disdain that is Will's trademark style. It's hard to think that there are any remaining smokers in the western world unaware of the potential health consequences that the habit may bring. Equally, the fact that so many people successfully give up smoking might suggest that many of those who continue to consult Lady Nicotine do so, not merely because they lack the will power to abandon her, but because they choose not to.

What Will, and the rest of the anti-smoking mob, seem incapable of understanding is that many people smoke because they like tobacco and derive great pleasure from smoking. Why this should surprise anyone is a mystery to me, but apparently there are indeed many people who fail to understand that it is possible to make these decisions for oneself.

Smokers smoke because they enjoy smoking.

*A disgraceful business that has me rethinking my own loyalty to Philip Morris's excellent products.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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