Michael Siegel reflects on a depressing but run-of-the-mill reality: when it comes to antismoking and prohibition, science does not matter.
That is because science is irrelevant to a program that has nothing to do with public health in the first place. Smoking prohibition is the cutting edge of an extremely important social experiment, the scope of which is often underestimated: political control through the channel of public health.
In the past, most dictatorial regimes emphasized health for the excellent reason that “public health” and totalitarianism go hand in hand because of natural ideological similarities. In all cases (even in the most extreme Nazi one), the emphasis on health was perceived as a tool to increase the overall fortitude of the nation. Nevertheless its social function was accessorial, as more dominant values were implemented: economic systems, national pride, military strength, and so on.
But the current incarnation of “public health” is different, because what is tested here is the carrying capacity of a new channel of political power deliverance. This time executive power is channelled directly through public health institutions, for the very reason that they are (erroneously) perceived as non political (thus “harmless”). Those who would call minister of finance Smith names for raising the tax on food to balance the budget, would most likely “pay and obey” for the same tax if Mr. Smith happened to be the minister of health citing the latest piece of junk science that attributes X “deaths” to, say, MacDonald’s hamburgers. Even worse, while minister of finance Smith would not be believed, minister of health Smith would.
So far, the socio-political mass experiment has worked marvellously and exceeded the expectations of the fiercest dictator, paving the way to a social and jurisprudential system able to micro-manage an overcrowded world in its smallest activities and choices. A tool for survival, or one for cultural death? We are much inclined to take the second as true.
Politics is, by definition, the process by which groups of people make decisions. Public health trash science has already piloted the decisions of millions about smoking, drinking, eating, what toy to buy for the kid or even what kind of car to ride in. Those decisions in turn affect employment, industrial production, wealth distribution, the legal process, taxation, and a great deal of other decisions and behaviours. All it takes is a few authoritative talking heads pronouncing the sacred words: “it’s no good for you” or "it ’causes’ cancer" and that industry, product or group of citizens is doomed – with absolutely no need for verification, scientific demonstration, debate, or actual proof. Whilst even the highest religious authorities can be (and are) questioned by mass-media, shysters who speak that (insert target) “kills”, quoting some “public health” chair, is accepted on faith. By the same token, constitutional and individual rights have become disposable in the name of some kind of "bigger right by public health".
So, Mr. Siegel, now that we have established where REAL political (and even “religious”) power actually resides, why should antismoking groups concern themselves with scientific accuracy or truth? Politics and religions never did – and never will.