A Climate Deniers take on Tobacco Smoke

Read time: 2 mins

It’s no secret that many of the people and organizations funded by cigarette companies to defend “smoker’s rights” and downplay the harmful effect of tobacco smoke have been involved in the energy industry-funded campaign to downplay the serious effects of climate change.

No group typifies this more than the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based “think” tank that simultaneously operates the “smoker’s lounge” and “global warming facts” sections on their website. The former arguing for “smoker’s rights” and railing on about the need for “sound science” on tobacco issues and the latter arguing that “global warming is not a crisis.”

It’s no coincidence that the Heartland Institute has also received funding over the years from companies that stand to benefit from delaying government regulation in the areas of tobacco and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to publicly available documents the Heartland Institute has received $676,000 from oil giant ExxonMobil. The oil money stopped flowing in 2006 from Exxon, but Dan Miller, executive vice president of the Heartland Institute, called its funding from ExxonMobil “pocket change.” “We can live without Exxon’s contribution just fine,” Miller said. Ya right.

Other reported funders over the years have been Philip Morris Management Corp., Chevron USA, the National Coal Association, the Brown & Williamson Tobacco corporation, Ford Motors, and General Motors.

In his self-published book on tobacco smoke oddly titled Please Don’t Poop in My Salad, Heartland’s President, Joseph Bast argues that a moderate amount of tobacco smoke is a mere annoyance:

“So this year, I will pledge to reduce, but not quit, smoking. If you are an anti-smoker, I ask you to consider making a New Year’s pledge too. Admit you may be over-estimating the health effects of smoking in moderation and underestimating the pleasure tobacco brings to the smoker’s life. Pledge to be more tolerant of the smokers in your midst. We, in turn, will do our best not to let our habit annoy you.”

On global warming, Bast argues on Heartland’s website that:

“Except for radical environmentalists–who always have been a small minority of the general public and even a minority within the environmental movement–most people don’t “ believe” in global warming. They believe–and rightly so–that the science is still undecided and government action is unnecessary.”

Downplay the effects, downplay the need to do anything - same strategy, different piles of money. I guess everyone has to make a buck somehow.

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1) If you have the kind of business that privatizes profits and socializes costs, you want  front organizations that can hide you amongst legitimate wishers for less government.  Think of throwing rocks at police from middle of crowd.  It’s safer, especially if you can get someone else to throw the rocks.

2) Of such businesses, tobacco is the clearest offender, and a leader in clever tactics.  At least coal & oil companies help provide something people need (energy), even if the downsides are also clear.

3) Smoking gets defended as individual choice, smoker’s rights, minimizing government interference, etc. BUT:

A) The tobacoo  business plan depends almost totally on addicting *children*, while their brains are developing, which for most, fits the 12-18 age-range, generally before it is legal for them.  This is needed to “wire” their brains for addiction.

B)  Most adult smokers want to stop,  and are often trying.  If they started as adults, they often succeed.  If they got hooked in high school, it’s very difficult.  Obviously, there is individual variation, but even intelligent, well-educated, disciplined people who started early find it very hard to stop.

C) Tobacco companies certainly know this, apply clever marketing, and invent products like “Twista Lime” (candy-flavored starter tobacco, not candy cigarettes).


D) Unlike heroin, etc, this product has managed to be kept legal for adults  …  very cleverly.

“The surgeon general…” was 1964.  For 45 years, tobacco companies have managed to keep getting kids addicted.  By now, there are relatively few smokers around who were older than 12 in 1964 (i.e.,  would have been born in 1952, which would make them ~57 today.)

E) WHO thinks a billion people will die from smoking-related diseases inteh 21st century.


F) From Allan Brandt’s book, p. 165,  John W. Hill (of PR firm Hill & Knowlton) architected the strategy for the cigarette companies in the 1950s, although he had personally quit smoking for health reasons.

G) Again, somehow smoking reduction, a low-cost/high-payoff option if there ever was one, didn’t make the cut for Lomborg’s Copenhagen Convention.  [Raising cigarette taaxes especially reduces teenage usage.]  Not a surprise.

H) Personally, I could care less if adults do dumb things, if they don’t bother others.  If someone wants to start smoking at 22, and not do it where I have to breathe it, and not cause me to pay higher insurance, go ahead.

I) But Heartland works to help addict *children* early enough that many of them will end up dying miserable, prolonged deaths.

In most societies, adults try to help children learn good judgement while protecting  them from doing stupid things that cause them permanent damage.  In this case, tobacco companies utterly *rely* on children making stupid choices, because that’s the only way to keep their customer base, given that older customers die off.  They pit the cleverest marketing on the planet against kids, and they win often enough to stay in business.

Some references:

AllanM.Brandt, The Cigarette Century.  A fine history.





But, on the upside, although not a done deal, even Virginia is considering restrictions on smoking:


I just do not understand how global warming promoters complain about the funding of skeptics. It is fine when the government or an oil company gives money to promote global warming alarm but when its the other way around,oh no! Another funny thing is that the tobacco companies have been able to fend off attack claims because the people against them often “doctor” the data to make the effects of smoking look worse, kinda like what you do with global warming. For example, Fred Singer had to testify for a tobacco company because he discovered that the opponents cheated on the data analysis. Result, judge ruled in Singer’s favor. Fred Singer does not smoke and does not think it is healthy. He just knows cheats when he sees them.

Exxon Mobil got to declare that $676,000 as “charity”, didn’t it? The Heartland Institute is non-profit. Money can flow through a series of “charities” without ever being taxed by federal or states. Then it loses traceability to the industry who pays for the denial.

When is a donation “charity” and when is it advertising? Paying preachers who then ‘happen’ to give a sermon against global warming – it’s all ‘solar variation’ – is this doing God’s work? or Exxon’s?

Who is paying Heartland to put on its second anti-global warming conference this March? Is this really charity? How much are they paying? and how much are they listing as a ”contribution” on their tax returns?

Two senators wrote Exxon a letter last year telling Exxon to stop funding denying, which Exxon has, apparently. But the denial machine (many of them ‘scientists’ who first shilled for tobacco) has kept on churning. Money is still pouring into deniers.

So how about Congress, or the IRS, considering whether paying a non-profit to repeat a commercial industry’s ‘talking points’ is really tax-deductible!

So how about Congress, or the IRS, considering whether paying a non-profit to repeat a commercial industry’s ‘talking points’ is really tax-deductible!

I imagine that’ll be really tough. There’s a reason why these shill groups are often known as “think-tanks”: they are organizations which ostensibly do independent research on policy issues. Of course, we know their “research” is just regurgitation of talking points, but how does one codify into law the difference between actual, independent policy analysis, and industry shilling?

Two senators wrote Exxon a letter last year telling Exxon to stop funding denying, which Exxon has, apparently.

Well, they stopping funding some deniers….


There are just so many things wrong with Big Tobacco and its cronies. What The Heartland Group should focus on is electronic cigarettes and smoke juice instead of following the death toll of Big Tobacco. The e-cigarette is the closest thing possible to a real tobacco cigarette without the negative health effects. It saves lives without modifying the lifestyle. The Heartland group should definitely be into electronic cigarettes.

Johnny Blaze http://www.halocigs.com