Monday, May 14, 2007

Christopher Hitchens is a twat

In his excellent review of Allan Brandt's The Cigarette Century, Robert N. Proctor reminds us that every year five million people die prematurely from smoking and the number will grow to about ten million in the next two decades. A hundred million people died prematurely as a result of smoking in the 20th century and ten times that will die in the present century if trends continue.
It was not until the 1990s that manufacturers admitted any real harms caused by smoking. Part of this about-face was dictated by a change in legal strategy, which by this time had recentered around the argument that 'everyone has always known' that smoking is bad for you--so people have only themselves to blame for whatever diseases they contract from the habit.
What a disappointment after this to come across Christopher Hitchens, opposing a ban on smoking in public places -- or keeping an end of the swimming pool for peeing in.

See also Chris Jordan's Running the Numbers
An American Self-Portrait
(scroll down for image of 65,000 cigarettes, denoting the number of US teenagers who become addicted every month).

2 comments:

Jura Watchmaker said...

It has been five years since I gave up smoking, but with such opprobrium heaped upon the esteemed Mr Hitchens, and the very existence of Patricia Hewitt, I'm half minded to resume the filthy habit.

Caspar, it would help if you actually addressed what Hitchens wrote in that article. Calling someone a "twat" is the kind of thing I do on a bad day. You've always struck me as being more sophisticated in your put-downs.

Even after recovering from from the impact of Hitchens' dazzling wit and rhetorical power, I still agree with his core arguments. Any ban on smoking should be confined to confined public spaces that citizens cannot avoid. This does not extend to privately-owned places of hospitality.

Caspar Henderson said...

Not for the first time, would that Hitchens's eloquence were mobilised for a more worthy cause. The public health benefits of actions to limit smoking are well demonstrated. A siginificant proportion of those 100 million premature deaths can be avoided with a combination of education and regulation (not to speak of penalties to the purveyors of addiction and death).

Do we object to signs on busy motorways telling us to watch our speed? Well, yes if we are very stupid and selfish.

Let Hitchens smoke himself to death in his own apartment with other consenting adults if that is what they want to do (although I would rather he, and they, lived a long and healthy life). For a more courteous and eloquent contribution than mine see Simon Hoggart in the same Guardian package.

As for the Patricia Hewitt canard, well take one's objectionable politician of choice -- George Galloway , say -- if he (or she) is against torture does that mean one should be in favour of it? Of course not.