Monday, January 18, 2010

Academic Anti-Smoking Authoritarianism

I just received this e-mail from an anti-anti-smoking activist named Mike McFadden. According to his biography on the Smoker's Club site, over the past 20 years McFadden has:

"battled with Antismokers on computer bulletin boards, at public meetings, and in private conversations while building up his knowledge base to be able to combat the Antismokers' ever-slicker claims. Finally, just after the turn of the century (hey, c'mon, I can say that!) he settled down to write "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains" and began working with all the Free-Choice groups he could connect with.

"He continues his efforts to help people who find themselves a target of a powerful lobby against which they feel they have no defense and he continues in his belief that spreading truthful information and standing up against social injustice will win out in the end."

McFadden's e-mail is as follows:

Dear Prof. Langbert,

I am a Free-Choice activist fighting the well-funded and highly coordinated SmokeFreeCampuses (SFC) campaign. I have no connection to Big Tobacco or other such commercial interests. See my bio at:

SFC promotes total college campus smoking bans, inside, outside, and eventually even on nearby streets. Their underlying goal is to stigmatize student smokers while making smoking as difficult and uncomfortable as possible: behavioral modification. College administrators are pressured by anti-smoking groups who play the bandwagon argument ("Campuses everywhere are going smoke-free!") while making it appear that there's a strong student demand for total bans. Additionally, while I have no solid documentation to back this up, I believe that in at least some cases administrators have been "bribed" to push campus bans with promises of lucrative grants from groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson and American Legacy Foundations.

I'm writing you, as representing your campus's Libertarians, in the hope that you will see the importance of the issue in a wider framework and will be willing to help those opposed to such bans communicate and coordinate with each other. Free Choice students and faculty are often deliberately made to feel that they are all alone in their opposition and should keep quiet or suffer the consequences of the iron fist hiding within the velvet glove. The "softly, softly" approach to enforcement can quickly morph into hard rules involving suspensions, expulsions, firings, or even the invitation of police enforcement on campus. To those of us who went to college in the 60s and 70s this is nothing short of unbelievable.

I would like to see several things happen:

1) For college Libertarian groups to find at least one representative per campus who is concerned about this issue and willing to communicate with those concerned at other campuses. This sort of sharing of experience/thinking/expertise exists on the antismoking side, but campuses under attack by antismoking forces usually feel totally isolated. I'd like to see that change.

2) For college Libertarian groups to aid in education on this issue. I strongly believe in the benefit of fully informing students on the issues surrounding smoking bans. Ban-promoting sound bites and statements are based largely on lies, and when students are exposed to the facts they will be angry about how they're being manipulated. They'll also gain a better understanding of how the powers controlling the flow of information can manipulate wider political opinion and beliefs. The trick lies in getting material out to them, and that's where I hope you can help. I am attaching a .pdf document I call "The Stiletto.” It is ideal for binding in clear plastic slide-bar-grip term paper covers for reading and distribution. If your campus is presently engaged in a ban dispute and you would like to customize the Stiletto (particularly some of its beginning/ending pages) to your own situation please let me know and I'll send you a copy in .doc format.

3) For college Libertarian groups to develop policies regarding smoking bans as well as a body of educational literature about the issue. The Stiletto's facts are accurate and their presentation is honest, but it is a fairly superficial piece on its own: there is a lot more out there. I'd also be happy to work with any professor developing a course segment dealing with smoking bans: their history, their scientific/medical basis, their psychology, their economics, medical/political ethics, or the simple politics of behavioral/attitudinal manipulation. I could offer my own "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains" at discounted bulk rates, and might also be able to arrange a discount for several other books in the same area: Snowdon's "Velvet Glove, Iron Fist," King's "The War On Smokers," and White's "Smoke Screens."

"Brains" and "Glove" are both solid 400 page presentations, each with over 600 specific references backing up their material and arguments; Brains from a psychological and propaganda-analysis perspective and Glove from a historical base. "War" and "Smoke Screens" are shorter works, but also well backed with references. "War" presents sound arguments against the "Nanny State" and "Smoke Screens" presents arguments critical of the medical condemnation of smoking itself.

Please let me know if this email reached you and if there are others on your campus I should send it to. Feel free to forward it as you wish.

Many thanks and best of luck. I have been greatly distressed to see the hard-fought freedoms of students so lightly surrendered in the name of political correctness. I believe that by working together we can fight this while reminding students that allowing authorities to infringe on the liberties of some opens the door to allowing them to infringe on the liberties of all.

As Supreme Court Justice William Douglas said, “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of darkness”.

My response:

I certainly will. As a minor point of disclosure, I served as a consultant to the Tobacco Institute concerning a labor union case against them in the late 1990s. I have a degree in labor relations and co-authored a book on Wellness Programs in Taft Hartley Plans. That said, I would be delighted to help you in any way as I agree whole heartedly that the public health people have gone overboard on this. They are authoritarians who fit a fascist mindset well. I am on Sabbatical and so not on campus this year but would be glad to help you with students' needs in the future. I am unaware of any programs at Brooklyn College although I think that there are smoking designated areas. That seems fair to me as second hand smoke does have a health effect.

There's a very good book by Stanton Peale entitled "Diseasing of America" about the nonsensical claims that things like gambling addiction are diseases. That is related to this issue as well. Let me know what I can do for you. I will put this correspondence up on my blog at


Anonymous said...

Dr Langbert...You talk about Authoritarianism and you proclaim your self to be a libertarian. But take a look at this article

We have become a country that tortures and kills and then lies about it.

I am not surprised that you are silent. You will also possibly find a way to explain it away.

Anonymous said...

good afternoonpeople this is a great forum hope im welcome :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, as you may already found I'm new here.
Hope to get any help from you if I will have any quesitons.
Thanks and good luck everyone! ;)

Anonymous said...

pretty cool stuff here thank you!!!!!!!