Michael Campbell, Tobacco Industry Sycophant

Yesterday, I received the 100th telephone solicitation to subscribe to the Vancouver Sun, and I turned them down for the 100th time.

I came to the realization 12 years ago that, whatever the Sun's target market is, I am not a part of it. I came to this realization because the Sun ran not just one, but two articles detailing predictions from astrologers on what was going to happen in the coming year. (One of the predictions was that Gordon Wilson would become the leader of the federal Liberal Party.)

By coincidence, my decision to not spend any of my hard-earned money on the Sun was validated yet again by a column by Michael Campbell that appeared that day (October 4, 2005). Campbell's writings are as silly as those of any astrologer, and his economic analyses have only slightly more depth than those of Chance Gardiner, a character portrayed by Peter Sellers in the film "Being There".

The column I refer to has the title "Smokers have known for years it could kill them."

Campbell's claim is factually incorrect, and easily disprovable. All you have to do is go to the "supressed facts" area of the smokersrightscanada.org web site, where it says that "not one single death has ever been etiologically assigned to tobacco."

Or, you could go the the discussion area of the mychoice.ca site, which is administered and paid for by the tobacco industry. Someone there who calls himself "fxr" wrote, "Where did you get the idea smoking has been proven to be harmfull (sic)? The only proof has been theoretic research. I have seen no indication of any physical proof of this harm." Or, there's this statement from "thepest": "FACT: TOBACCO AS (sic) NEVER BEEN FOUND TO BE CAUSING LUNG CANCERS OF ANY KIND."

Now, we should ask why it is that in 2005, there are still people who believe such things. Denial is obviously part of it. However, it's a fact that for many years after the release of the Surgeon General's report in 1964, the tobacco industry's PR people made persistent efforts to downplay the findings of the report, even while their own scientists were confirming the toxicity of cigarettes.

This is one of the many reasons why people whose lives have been damaged by cigarettes are entitled to have their day in court. Let's give the tobacco industry the opportunity to answer for this and many other things they have done over the years, and allow judges and juries to determine the appropriate level of guilt.

Campbell's piece also included this gem: "It's just that I find the self-righteous attitudes of the anti-smoking Gestapo so obnoxious that, despite being a lifelong non-smoker, I'd consider starting... just to get under their skin.  But what do I know?  I'm still trying to figure out why so many rabid anti-smoking activists also push to make smoking marijuana legal."

In his use of the term "Gestapo", Campbell uses the same cowardly tactic as his fellow sycophant Terence Corcoran; as long as you don't attach any names to the people you accuse, you can't get sued by them. (Corcoran learned this lesson the hard way; he slipped up and named Garfield Mahood of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association in one of his columns and found himself, and his employer, being sued for libel.)

Campbell now has the opportunity to prove that I'm wrong. Michael, if there's some anti-smoking assembly around that arrests people and interrogates and tortures them with no regard for warrants or habeas corpus, you have a responsibility as a journalist to give us their names and the location of their headquarters. Don't hold back on the details.

The Fraser Institute: Economic think tank or front for the Tobacco Industry? A paper published by the Non-Smokers' Rights Association