Rich White has charted himself a difficult road to walk in Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco, but he walks it well and if you join him you’ll learn some things along the path.
Most of those who have fought the 800 million dollar a year “Tobacco Control Lobby” in recent years have done so on the basis of their wildly spurious claims about the “deadly risks” of wisps of secondary smoke in the air. It’s a relatively easy fight to win if you can find an audience with minds open enough to listen because the lies are so easily exposed and the nonsense so easily swept aside. The only thing keeping the smoke-banners ahead of the game is the enormous money-pot they can dip into and the non-existent financial resources of their opposition. Those opposing smoking bans are “forbidden” to even touch support from Big Tobacco or face the risk that their arguments will be simply dismissed without a hearing. Unfortunately, without that support they never even get to grab the microphone and so the only ones generally heard from are the ban supporters. Meanwhile Big T. itself is so terrified of lawsuits in a highly charged negative environment that they’re usually afraid to voice the mildest squeak of protest against even the wildest medical accusations.
In Smoke Screens Rich White has taken up the challenge of fighting the Antismokers at their strongest point: their claims of the harm of smoking to smokers themselves. His dedication and hard work in gathering and organizing evidence has paid off and while he may not convince the majority of readers he’ll certainly give them at least some pause to think about what they’ve basically been hearing since they’ve been in the cradle: the cute little sound bite, “You Smoke: You Die.” may be true, but Rich reminds us that “You Don’t Smoke: You Die.” is also true and not quite as different as we may have thought. Medicine has gotten caught up in witch hunts and beliefs in its omniscience in the past and Rich puts forth the argument that its crusade against smoking will eventually be shown to be largely built of the same material that predicted millions of deaths from Mad Cow Disease and warned us of the deadliness of butter.
He writes clearly and in an engaging style, presenting facts to support his arguments and presenting those arguments in a straightforward way while avoiding the tedium of simply citing reams of numbers and blocks of repetitive references. He makes an argument that’s very hard to make and unfortunately most readers will find that even in the face of his most convincing presentations their background “common sense knowledge” will make it difficult to accept his conclusions. Still, it’s an argument that *does* need to be made and even those with the most rock-solid belief in the concept that “Smoking Equals Death” should walk away after his book with at least a little doubt in their minds: things are not always what we think they are.
Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”
Actually, that makes it sound a bit dull. This book has the word “contentious” written all over it and it is certain to generate strong opinions.
Smoke Screens will appeal to those who are dubious about the alleged risks of smoking and believe – rightly or wrongly – that the benefits outweigh those risks. Whether it will convert anyone who takes a rather different view of tobacco remains to be seen.