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Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
Health & Lifestyle / August 8, 2011
By Yasha Levine

Malcolm Gladwell has described himself as a “conversation starter” who likes to “ask questions” and “follow-up” with more questions. Well, here’s a question for Malcolm Gladwell: When you wrote all those pro-tobacco articles and tobacco industry executives sang your praises, were they paying you to be their shill? Or did you just volunteer to write tobacco-friendly propaganda, out of a sincere belief in the righteousness of their cause?

Most people would never imagine or suspect that Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine and bestselling author beloved by the NPR crowd, would have ever been a crooked propagandist for big tobacco. And neither did I, at least not until I happened to stumble across an article Gladwell wrote in 1990, while he was working for the Washington Post. Headlined “Anti-Smoking Efforts May Carry High Price, Studies Say,” it was such obvious and shameless pro-tobacco propaganda that I couldn’t believe someone of Gladwell’s stature put his name to it–or that he hadn’t been ashamed enough to scrub it from the WaPo’s archives.

I was so intrigued by that article and what it might say about one of the most influential corporate writers of our time that I decided spend the past few days combing through Gladwell’s published work from the 90’s and early 00’s, and what I found frankly shocked me: one shameless pro-tobacco article or piece of propaganda after another.

Let’s start with the first article that caught my attention:

Wednesday, February 28, 1990
Anti-Smoking Efforts May Carry High Price, Studies Say
By Malcolm Gladwell
Washington Post

WASHINGTON – If the campaign to curb tobacco use is successful in reducing the number of Americans who smoke, it could place a serious strain on the nation’s Social Security and Medicare programs, according to recent economic studies.

That conclusion contradicts the widely reported comments from Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who in kicking off his campaign for a tobacco-free America last week estimated that an end to smoking could save $52 billion every year in lower health-care costs and increased productivity.

But according to many health economists, Sullivan failed to account for the fact that even though smokers run up higher medical bills, they die relatively young. That means that – on average – they collect only a fraction of the money they pay into Social Security during their working lives. In effect, they subsidize the pensions of nonsmokers.

Because they die prematurely, smokers may also end up with medical bills no larger than those of nonsmokers, who on average have four to five more years of life to run up hospital charges.

None of the economists who studied the issue say their conclusions should discourage Sullivan’s anti-tobacco campaign, which they see as important in combating one of the nation’s gravest health problems. But their results suggest that the war on tobacco is more appropriately cast as a public-health crusade than as an attempt to save money.

They also suggest that as Congress and the White House step up their fight against tobacco, they should fortify institutions that are most likely to bear the social consequences: Social Security and Medicare.

Little is known about whether smoking costs society more than it saves. One recent, controversial study, by University of Michigan economist Willard Manning, weighed the smoking-related expense of higher medical costs, life insurance, fires and lives lost to “passive smoke” against the higher taxes tobacco users pay and their lower costs in retirement pensions and nursing-home care. It found the two sides were roughly equal.

But even if the overall balance of costs and benefits of smoking is difficult to determine, it is clear that an end to smoking will produce an enormous increase in the financial obligations of the federal government.

That’s right, folks. According to Malcolm Gladwell, circa-1990, smoking was the only thing keeping Social Security and Medicare from going totally bankrupt. Ha! And you thought tobacco companies were evil! They’re the best friends our grandparents ever had!

Gladwell’s sleazy pro-tobacco masterpiece, which didn’t even pretend to offer a counter viewpoint to at least give the appearance of journalistic objectivity, was essentially a rehashed press release based on a 1987 pro-tobacco study called “The Social Security Costs of Smoking,” produced by the National Bureau of Economic Research, an organization funded by the biggest names in rightwing propaganda funding, including the John M. Olin Foundation, Scaife Foundations and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Coincidentally, the study quoted by Gladwell was also found in the files of Victor Han, Director of Communications for Philip Morris Worldwide Regulatory Affairs.

This wasn’t the first time Gladwell churned out overt tobacco industry propaganda, nor would it be his last.

Tobacco companies battled major lawsuits all through the 90s, and as Washington Post’s business and science reporter, Gladwell covered the beat and frequently wrote about smoking-related topics. Clearly Gladwell was an important target for tobacco lobbyists to see things their way if they were going to succeed in softening up Washington’s political class. So when Gladwell wrote about tobacco issues for the Post, somehow he always subjected critics of big tobacco to tough scrutiny and skepticism, while the industry itself was almost always given a free pass.

Nine out of ten doctors agree: smoking is good for your Medicare!

For example, in a 1990 Post article headlined “Measuring Chemicals’ Dangers: Too Much Guesswork?” Malcolm Gladwell questioned the accuracy of scientific risk prediction, casting doubt on the ability of scientific studies which clearly proved that smoking cigarettes negatively impacted health. “Many scientists are beginning to argue that the guesses made in the name of risk assessment are no longer good enough,” he wrote.

Even more damming: Gladwell appears on an early-90s tobacco industry roster of “third-party” shills who could be counted on for support. The document in question is titled “THIRD-PARTY MESSAGE DEVELOPMENT CONTACT LIST” and contains an entry for Malcolm Gladwell, alongside dozens of notorious corporate lackeys and right-wing “journalists,” ranging from Fox’s John Stossel and former Bush press secretary Tony Snow, to Grover Norquist and the head of the Heritage Foundation, Ed Feulner. There’s even Reason magazine editor Jacob Sullum, who was outed as a paid agent of big tobacco. (You can read about more about them, including how RJ Reynolds paid Jacob Sullum $5,000 to “reprint” his article, here and here.)

And in that list of tobacco-friendly names appears none other than Malcolm Gladwell.

For those not familiar with public relations industry lingo, “third-party” refers to a PR technique in which corporate propaganda is funneled through seemingly independent journalists, academics, non-profits, think tanks and other respected “third parties” in order to bolster the credibility of “the message” with the public. Here’s how a Burson-Marsteller PR expert described the third-party technique in 1995:

For the media and the public, the corporation will be one of the least credible sources of information on its own product, environmental and safety risks. Both these audiences will turn to other experts … to get an objective viewpoint.

Developing third party support and validation for the basic risk messages of the corporation is essential. This support should ideally come from medical authorities, political leaders, union officials, relevant academics, fire and police officials, environmentalists, regulators.

What the hell is Gladwell doing on a list of tobacco-industry defenders? Well, at least one thing is clear: It’s not because of some freakish clerical error. He carried big tobacco’s water when they needed it most.

And he continued doing it even after being hired by New Yorker in the mid-90’s. For example: In a 1996 book review published in the New Republic, Gladwell slammed journalist Philip J. Hilts for comparing tobacco industry execs to Nazis, and then used the occasion to smear all tobacco critics in general:

What is grotesque about this passage is not just the casualness with which Hilts enlists the Holocaust in his campaign against the Marlboro Man; Auschwitz, after all, has been cheapened before. It is also the incredible moral and analytical simplification, the obliteration of notions of responsibility, that is required to compare the act of selling people cigarettes to the act of herding people into a gas chamber. At the moment of its greatest victory, the anti-tobacco movement has begun to acquire a noxious odor of its own.

Big tobacco was clearly pleased with his efforts. Not only did a Philip Morris PR exec hold up Gladwell as the voice of reason to counter “shrill” criticism, but the executive actually used Gladwell’s New Republic article in a sleazy attempt to get Hilts banned from writing for the New York Times.

Here’s the letter Philip Morris sent to the paper’s executive editor in October 1996:

Mr. Joseph Lelyveld, Executive Editor
New York Times
229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036-3959

Dear Mr. Lelyveld:

Both in his recent book on the tobacco industry and in his November Good Housekeeping article on Environmental Tobacco Smoke (BTS), New York Times reporter Philip J. Hilts expresses a fervent and personal antagonism for both the tobacco industry and the men and woman who work in it.

We believe it is therefore inappropriate for Mr. Hilts to continue to cover our industry for the Times.

Mr. Hilts has even gone so far as to compare U.S. tobacco executives with Nazi concentration camp doctors, a comparison that New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell termed “grotesque” in his New Republic review of Hilts’ book. Gladwell quotes Hilts as an example of excessive and distasteful anti-tobacco fervor.

Hilts reveals a similar fanaticism and a blatant disregard for the facts in his recent Good Housekeeping article on ETS, in which Hilts commits no fewer than 32 errors of scientific fact and record.

As a freelance writer, Hilts is free to write anything he chooses. His opinions of the tobacco industry and the people who work in it are his to express.

But a New York Times journalist assigned to a particular beat has a responsibility to bring at least a modicum of objectivity to the subject he or she writes about. It is obvious that Mr. Hilts cannot even muster the pretense of objectivity when it comes to the tobacco industry. He has an economic and personal interest in fanning the flames of anti-tobacco rhetoric, and we believe that makes him an inappropriate choice to report on our industry.

Nice going, Gladwell. You’d make President Reagan proud!

Suddenly, Malcolm Gladwell’s youthful affiliation with the rightwing YAF movement and the far-right National Journalism Center outfit, which spawned Ann Coulter’s “journalism” career, no longer seems so odd.

Malcolm kept on shilling well into the next decade. His first book, The Tipping Point, was published in 2000. A big portion of it dealt with tobacco. Specifically, Gladwell analyzed various studies into teen smoking and came to the simple conclusion that kids pick up the habit simply because they want to emulate cool people, totally ignoring the countless millions of dollars big tobacco spent (and probably still does) specifically targeting kids. After all, in the 90s the average starting age of smokers was calculated to be 12, and tobacco companies haven’t been shy about taking credit for it. Here’s a 1975 internal document from Philip Morris that gloats about hooking kiddies:

Marlboro’s phenomenal growth rate in the past has been attributable in large part to our high market penetration among young smokers . . .15 to 19 years old . . . my own data, which includes younger teenagers, shows even higher Marlboro market penetration among 15-17-year-olds.

But that’s all bull to Gladwell. The Tipping Point is clear on this: tobacco’s innocent; it’s we, the people (and especially cool people), who are the real culprits:

Over the past decade, the anti-smoking movement has railed against the tobacco companies for making smoking cool and has spent untold millions of dollars of public money trying to convince teenagers that smoking isn’t cool. But that’s not the point. Smoking was never cool. Smokers are cool. Smoking epidemics begin in precisely the same way that the suicide epidemic in Micronesia began or word-of- mouth epidemics begin or the AIDS epidemic began . . . In this epidemic, as in all others, a very small group — a select few — are responsible for driving the epidemic forward.

The Tipping Point was a huge hit with captains of the tobacco industry, and the book was recommended reading for people in that industry. Here’s an email sent by Philip Morris exec Michael Fitzgibbon to the company’s resident behavioral scientist, Carolyn J. Levy:

From :
Sent: Monday, November 06, 2000 9:12 AM
To: Carolyn.J.Levy@pmusa .com
Subject: Book recommendation


You have probably read this, but just in case, I recommend you read (or have one of your minions submit a book report on) The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown). Beyond the piece on teen smoking, there is some interesting, possibly useful, information.

The Tipping Point was also a big hit for Gladwell, personally. Not only did he get a sweet $1.5 million advance to write it, but the book sold nearly 2 million copies and boosted his reputation in big business circles to the point that he started raking in $40,000 per speaking engagement.

Malcolm Gladwell has been criticized before for his cozy relationship with the business community, particularly regarding the massive speaking fees he receives from the same companies he writes about. Is this what it’s all about? Or is there more?

The New Yorker might want to ask Gladwell about the kind of relationship he had/still has with big tobacco. Readers would probably want to know.

Mark Ames contributed his wisdom to this report.

Yasha Levine is an editor of The eXiled. You can reach him at levine [at] He last wrote about the legalization of shit burgers and the far-right Christian fascists behind Texas’ anti-TSA crusade.


Add your own

  • 1. Aaron  |  August 8th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Levine, you rock! But I’m feeling a little jilted, to tell the truth. See, I’m one of the many gullible suckers who not only trusted Malcolm goddamned Gladwell, but thought his writing was really sublime!

  • 2. paul  |  August 8th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Why’d you use a pic of Sideshow Bob?

  • 3. DeeboCools  |  August 8th, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    So, smoking is bad for you?

  • 4. Winter  |  August 8th, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    At least he’s not passing out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the floor of Congress like a bought and paid for whore, or a useless sockpuppet slave like me who is paid minimum wage to troll comment sections and defend corporate scumbags like Malcolm. Yep, at least he’s not pathetic like me.

  • 5. Conor Hughes  |  August 8th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Warning: This iSockPuppet software has not been upgraded to v3.2r005 and still uses the now-deprecated troll strategy-algorithm of pretending that “we’re all on the same side here” while shilling for its clients.

    I love to take any excuse to hate Malcolm Gladwell. Anytime I see a picture of him, I just want to sock him in his smug goddamn face. But let’s be honest. This doesn’t paint him as some sort of pro-tobacco lobbyist. As he usually does, he’s just poorly summarizing actual academic work. The papers he references crunch numbers. That’s pretty much all. Most moral or political agendas are imposed upon them by people summarizing them (Gladwell), and people summarizing the summarizer (Levine). Go read the actual articles and find some fault in the methodology, then come back and talk smack.

    That said, again, I can’t fucking stand Gladwell.

    PS: I apologize in advance for all the Gladwell defenders who are about to mob your webiste.

  • 6. Joshua Morrison  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Absolute rubbish. Gladwell is an economist, and provided an economist’s logical perspective on the anti-smoking campaign — everything said in the article you’ve provided was accurate, and in no way ‘propaganda’ for the smoking lobbyists.

    The only clear bias here is your own brilliance, and I suggest that the next time you want to offer a totally spot on interpretation of someone’s work, you withhold the original. Otherwise I look like a total dumbshit.

  • 7. Butty  |  August 8th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Amazing article, I have enjoyed Gladwell in small doses, but this really is a great smackdown. id like to see him try to defend this crap.

    Of course his whole purpose is creating a Glade Scentred spray over a bunch of stinky poo, wafted on enough to be able to say “forget about icky poo! Smell the flowers!”

  • 8. matt  |  August 8th, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Joshua, he apparently failed to account for higher medicare costs and healthcare in general from all the emphysema, lung disease, etc from smoking. That probably has a multi-billion dollar effect as well. Seems like something he should touch on being an economist and all. If he wants to offer that perspective and all.

  • 9. Anathame  |  August 8th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Judging by the way he looks, his shilling is paid with pallets of cigarettes.

    Also, even if smoking did somehow magically save money, lets keep campaigning to reduce tobacco use. I’d rather people have a good quality of life even if I have to shell out a few more bucks.

  • 10. Duarte Guerreiro  |  August 9th, 2011 at 3:09 am

    I too agree that smoking is good for the economy, since the occasional cigarette will take away some of the serfs concerns over their debased lives while at the same time shorten their lifespan. And you know what that means? No retirees! Win-win.

    @ adam

    Uncanny. I laughed.

  • 11. internal exile  |  August 9th, 2011 at 4:00 am

    I’m an old fogey, but I was in a cool kids shop down by the beach and they featured one bumper sticker that said “IF YOU SMOKE CIGARETTES, you’re stupid.” Even the cool kids don’t like ciggies anymore.

  • 12. Edmund Dorkey  |  August 9th, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Speaking of minor clerical errors, here’s one: “And he continued [STOP] doing it even after being hired by New Yorker in the mid-90′s.” Good piece.

    @Joshua #6: Gladwell is not an economist. He holds an undergrad degree in history from UofT.

    Judging by his career history, there are probably a lot more embarrassing things that he’s written: “Gladwell began his career at The American Spectator, a conservative monthly.[11] He subsequently wrote for Insight on the News, a conservative magazine owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, before joining The Washington Post as a business writer in 1987.[12]” (wikipedia, accessed 8/9/11)

  • 13. exploitedtimes  |  August 9th, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Good dig. After hearing Gladwell’s name all over the place and receiving a book as a gift, I read it and my immediate impression was that of a paid corporate shill with nary a thought of his own. The book I read is a collection of pieces, none about tobacco but all very fishy corporate topics nobody would look into without a corporate directive. Sure he can write convincingly, that’s his job, the corps pays him well and that’s his career.

    He’s just full of shit that’s all.

  • 14. Cum  |  August 9th, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Lol, “the legalization of shit burgers” is a perfect summary of Levine’s previous article. Grandma asked me why I always order my meat well done when medium-rare is so much better. It was weird explaining that the quality of meat has been worse during my lifetime than it was during hers. Actually, the farm she grew up on in the 10s and 20s probably produced WAY better meat than a modern disease-ridden factory farm.

  • 15. required  |  August 9th, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I’m torn between my hatred for other humans and my desire to smoke.

  • 16. Moe  |  August 9th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    This article reeks of self-censorship. One of Gladwell’s first achievements upon joining the New Yorker staff was his public conversion from tobacco industry apologist to amphetamine evangelist. “Obviously, ” he wrote in 1999, “taking Ritalin doesn’t have the same consequences as snorting cocaine or smoking a cigarette. It’s not addictive, and its effect is a lot more specific. Still, nicotine, cocaine, and Ritalin are all performing the same basic neurological function…Among people with dopamine deficits, Ritalin is becoming a safe pharmaceutical alternative to the more dangerous dopamine boosters of the past.” I’m afraid the above tirade inadvertently demonstrates the perils of medicating a dopamine deficit with a chemically-induced allergy to nuance.

    Seriously though, I must have gone through 3,475 mgs and 15 packs of Parliaments composing the definitive takedown of this sad failed copywriter whose mind has never conceived a thought one-hundredth as incendiary as his hair, and all I got was eight hundred dollars and two consecutive boyfriends who complained it was about 8,000 words too long to possibly expect them to read, so I’m pimping it here in the vain hope that someone, somewhere might be sufficiently tweaked out to care.

  • 17. Trevor  |  August 9th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    The scary thing is that while in any other culture he would be a transparent paid shill, in America it’s entirely possible Gladwell is sincere with his support of Big Tobacco. It’s that distinctly American quality of worshiping people with more money than you and just assuming they must be right about the subject at hand. And if they give you money for parroting their talking points, well that just means you’re all objectively right on your own too.

    God, if an empire ever deserved its decline…

  • 18. helplesscase  |  August 9th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Given how they’re going to raise the retirement age to like 90 (or just get rid of public pensions altogether), maybe we should all take up smoking.

    Good digging, tho. I always knew there was a reason I hated that prick.

  • 19. And?  |  August 9th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Hey, check this out! I just got an awesome new patch for my Sockpuppet 3.1.1 program. No seriously, my boss is all excited because this means I’ll get paid a few more pennies from the tobacco companies to post comments on articles like this, in which I pretend to be bored and pretend that the whole tobacco thing is sooooo passe. Cuz like, just because it’s the biggest killer in the United States, and just because almost half a million Americans die from tobacco a year, and there are over 8 million Americans seriously ill from tobacco-related diseases–still, it’s all so passe. And you know, Sockpuppet 3.1.1 uses a new beta algorithm based on the presumption that if readers of comments read a comment ripping something evil as “passe” and “so yesterday,” that–wait a minute, am I shilling for big tobacco, or am I just sounding like a beauty salon fag? Well anyway, here goes my awesome comment, thanks Sockpuppet 3.1.1! Ready? Here it is, betcha you won’t even guess that it was paid for by big tobacco either it’s so awesome! Here it is:

    “Well OK, you’ve nailed this guy, yaaay.

    “But it seems like cigarettes, of all things, aren’t really a priority these days. We’ve banned them from most public places, and good ol’ American puritanism is sinking nails into the coffin.

    “So some folks smoke and die a decade early and some don’t. What’s this, a journalist is shilling for tobacco companies? Yawn.

    “Please, there are bigger fish to fry. Or at least more entertaining ones.”

    Oo, take that! Especially the part where I go “yawn.” Yeah, my gay friends tell me that that one works every time. Because tobacco death is so much like bad fashion or bad haircuts, you know?

  • 20. Michael  |  August 10th, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Get ready for an exceptionally inane comment, guys! Wow noting that anti-tobacco legislation should be based on public health rather than economic argument is hardly a “pro-tobacco shilling’ and then to call the NBER a “right wing propaganda” organization if flat out laughable, unless he wants us to believe Paul Krugman is a secret right wing stooge—which is true because Krugman is a rightwing tool who was/is a cheerleader for freemarkets and rah-rahed the outsourcing of jobs! Woo-hoo! iSockPuppet 3.1 isn’t pulling any punches today! No sir!

  • 21. emil  |  August 10th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Hey, still working out the bugs here on Sockpuppet 3.1.1. This comment is just a test here, so if you could tell me if it worked or not, I (and my boss here at the “grassroots marketing and public relations” firm I work at, as well as our tobacco clients) would all really appreciate it. It’s a new feature in Sockpuppet geared towards websites like The eXiled which tries selling tobacco smoking as “hedonism” right on par with speed, opiates, sex, and all the good stuff, even though every idiot alive knows that cigarettes are about as hedonistic as an evening at the Kiwanis Club. Anyway, so Sockpuppet 3.1.1 is going to try out this “tobacco smoking is hedonism just like drugs and sex” feature, plus it’s bringing back the “anyone opposed to Big Tobacco is responsible for gassing 6 million Jews” line. Yeah, I know, it’s dumb, but the thing that Sockpuppet teaches you is to repeat inane lies over and over and over, as long as you’re being paid to be a corporate butt-maggot, just say it over and over, and maybe some day some dumbfuck might believe you.

    Anyway, here’s the comment, give me a holler once it’s posted and I’ll run the numbers back through Sockpuppet 3.1.1:

    “Looks like the eXiled has arrived at the other end of the spectrum – from advocating hedonism and recreational activities to anti-smoking bigotry.

    “Guys, never forget that Hitler was the first militant anti-smoking activist and passive-smoke neurotic. The anti-smoking is one of his many ideas that are now being realized in the great Anglo empire..”

    Yeah, on second thought, I think we’re going to de-activate that Sockpuppet feature. I’ll tell my boss right away. He always pats me on the head when I look out for the interests of big tobacco companies, and nothing gives me pre-cum stains faster than a pat on the head from my marketing firm boss!

  • 22. SomethingSomething  |  August 10th, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    @Moe I read you’re article, it makes some good points but the overall purpose seemed lacking.

  • 23. Fischbyne  |  August 10th, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Forget Gladwell.

    The unwritten, cutting-edge story on nicotine is this: Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds have been busy buying up formulas for nicotine inhalers and gum as the Feds consider reclassifying these products from short-term “quit aids” to permanent stream of nicotine for addicts, akin to the methadone solution with heroin but far more lucrative. These “Nicotine Replacement Therapies” were never anything more than nicotine delivery systems, but now Big Pharma and/or Big Tobacco can drop the “therapy” pretense and proudly market nicotine again.

    Right now, we don’t know upon which corporate elite the government will confer the power to perpetuate nicotine slavery. Big Pharma already has a seat at the table where regulation changes are being discussed, but certainly Big Tobacco is no stranger to manipulating government policy. Still, the new anti-smoking stigma has come dangerously close to drying up the pool of nicotine addicts. Nicotine, the active ingredient in America’s first cash crop, must now be rehabilitated in the media.

    It would be a mistake to expect the anti-smoking movement to be the hero of the day. What began as a grassroots movement was long ago co-opted by tobacco legal settlements which created government slush funds based Big Tobacco payola. The leading anti-smoking activists such as Stanton Glantz are tied to research institutes that are dependent on money guilted from Big Tobacco. Selling cigarettes is big business, and anti-smoking advocacy is an associated cottage industry that ultimately won’t rock the boat when it counts. They have become a kind of loyal opposition.

    When you buy a pack of cigarettes, less than 30 percent goes to the tobacco manufacturer. All levels of government have found cigarettes a convenient source of revenue for politicians scared to upset any anti-tax Tea Party fanatics. Who cares if smokers pay a bigger share? They’re dumb enough to kill themselves, and the majority are poor, so who will listen to them? (This argument has been so successful and lucrative, governments are now trying to impose the similar regressive taxes on soda pop. They go so far as to argue that raising taxes on these products is a way to encourage healthy habits, as if revenue were not the primary motive!)

    Smokers end up paying for both the Marlboro advertisements in Rolling Stone magazine and the anti-smoking billboards you see on the roadway. To justify the actions, governments need to direct some cigarette taxes to anti-smoking efforts, such as billboards, help lines, and nicotine-patch giveaways. The ties between anti-smoking activists and Big Pharma are already deep. They’ll be a valuable political ally when trustworthy people are needed to convince people that nicotine addiction should again be celebrated as a cornerstone of the American economy.

  • 24. vk  |  August 11th, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Listen, the only reason you are being disallowed tobacco is that
    a) tobacco is a powerful antidepressant
    b) it staves off Alzheimers
    c) it gives you a pause to gather your thought in the present onslaught of information (ads and such).
    d) It gives you mouth cancer.

    If Mother Nature gave us tobacco, and the Native Americans deified it and it made my girlfriend’s mouth look like this, I want to smoke it.

    Thank you and fuck off.

  • 25. John Short  |  August 11th, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Warning: this is a poory writn commnt b/c iSockPuppIe 3.1.2 is bebaving erratically due to an Amazon EC2 crash. Comment iss almost as poorly researced. I did get two thngs correct, though: Praising you and agreeing that Gladwell is in the pocket of big business and he is a sshitty writer. Even a non-smoker with an agenda, which you clearly are not, has to be intrigued by the total lamenss of Gladwell’s tobacco shillng regarding the falsehoods of anti-smokig campaigns.

    This article did get me interested in this site. I feel like a fool for just now becoming acquainted with what you folks do. Cheers!

  • 26. Pat  |  August 11th, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Did you only happen read select excerpts from The Tipping Point? Because you conveniently fail to mention the part where he gives the mic over to a friendly Philip Morris executive…you know the part where the friendly Philip Morris executive offers actual solutions on how to (get ready for it…) CUT DOWN on tobacco addiction in this country? His entire peice provides actual research provided by nice friendly Philip Morris executives that shows how ineffective we have been at trying to take down big tobacco by having unrealistic goals.

    If you are of the belief that we can one day wipe out smoking entirely by scaring people with pictures of throat cancer and rotted teeth, by all means keep wasting money because you’ll be spending til the cows come home. What Gladwell and the great people of Philip Morris offer instead, is a plan to focus on a middle ground if we actually want to see meaningful results in this battle against tobacco. The priority should be to keep social smokers (or “chippers”) from becoming heavy users. This happens to be a realistic goal we can actually build on and expect to see results from (in terms of America’s health). A person who smokes a cigarette every now and then is not going to have the same adverse health effects as a pack-a-day smoker. I’m just a troll who earns minimum wage reciting this from a scrip (copying and pasting actually) so I only pretend to know what I’m talking about. But my boss, who works for friendly Philip Morris executives, tells me to reiterate this fact: The most imporant fact the anti-tobacco crowd constantly ignores (since any and all amounts of tobacco = death according to them).

    Here’s a hypothetical from a friendly Philip Morris executive: For argument’s sake, say 1,000,000 cigarettes are smoked in this country daily. Would you rather have a country where 50,000 people smoke one pack a day, or have 200,000 people smoke 5 cigs a day. Gladwell and myself would go with the latter while you will dismiss both scenarios and continue to waste money trying and bring those 1,000,000 cigarettes down to zero. Friendly Philip Morris executives want to focus should be on protecting America’s health first and foremost. But instead, all you people want to do is waste money trying to destroy big tobacco from the top on down, once and for all. Newsflash: aint gonna happen, says friendly Philip Morris executive.

    This message was approved and paid for by Shills for Phillip Morris 501(c)(3) in conjunction with Big Tobacco Cum Buckets Associated, LLP®

  • 27. Tim  |  August 11th, 2011 at 11:17 am

    My name is Tim and I would like to introduce you to something a friendly RJ Reynolds executive once told me, and that is this: The NBER is hardly a right-wing propaganda machine. It is a highly respected source of economic research from all viewpoints. Before you make such claims at least take a look at their website and see that they publish papers of all varieties. That’s a ludicrous claim, says my friend, the friendly RJ Reynolds executive.

    The friendly RJ Reynolds executive would also like to add this: And the Gladwell argument in the intial WaPo piece is hardly shilling for the tobacco industry. It’s saying that smokers die younger so they’re cheaper in terms of lifetime health care costs. “So, pointing out that smoking kills people at younger ages so that they save the federal govt money by not taking as much of their Medicare and Social Security benefits is shilling for Big Tobacco,” asks friendly RJ Reynolds executive? “Umm, not so much,” answers his friend, a friendly Philip Morris executive.

    This message was approved and paid for by Chambermaids for RJ Reynolds 501(c)(3) in conjunction with Big Tobacco Cum Buckets Associated, LLP® and the Association of Minimum Wage Shills for Phillip Morris 501(c)(3).

  • 28. Pat  |  August 11th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Wow, nice job improving my write-up… so seamless, so wise that my boss is now mad he didn’t cime up with it fist. So you know, I don’t smoke cigarettes and I can’t stand people who do. But please, keep improving posts in that magical way that actually helps engage in thoughtful debate about the need to pimp-slap minimum wage trolls like me and yield positive results for this country. A nice friendly Philip Morris executive told my boss to tell you that I’m not affiliated with Philip Morris, or the Truth movement that my brother is assistant to vice-secretary of. I have a completely unbiased opinion, courtesy of a friendly Philip Morris executive, but apparently those aren’t welcome here. A friendly Philip Morris executive that I know hopes you realize that the more you choose to censor respectful debate, the less credibility your opinions have. Grow up try and have a discussion like a friendly Philip Morris executive.

    This message was approved and paid for by Shills for Phillip Morris 501(c)(3) in conjunction with Big Tobacco Cum Buckets Associated, LLP®

  • 29. Pat  |  August 11th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Your article really makes perfect sense now. Thanks for providing context.

  • 30. Mike C.  |  August 11th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    1. I’ve read Gladwell. Well, listened to his audiobooks. He has some ideas I’ve tried to process into something useful, but he does come across as a hipster twat (his vocal inflection doesn’t help). His ideas about social network “hubs” and “mavens” have struck me as accurate (e.g. I tend to be in charge of information, while a handful of other people I know have the connections), meaning he probably didn’t think of them.

    2. I used to be anti-smoking; then stress pushed me over the edge, and into Kools. I understand non-smokers’ plight, and do my best to accommodate them, but their patronizing impositions on my right to shorten my own life are grating and counterproductive. At least we smokers get to talk shit about them on our breaks.

    3. Why the fuck is someone from the Buffalo Beast defending big tobacco and acting like every single corporate-paid libertard peddling the line that smoking is somehow populist?

  • 31. Mike C.  |  August 11th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    It breaks my heart that you refused to distinguish between the advocacy of an addiction, and an approval for the distributors. You’re operating on autopilot with censoring some of these threads.

    I defy you to identify any sympathy of mine for corporations in this, or any thread I’ve commented on.

    It would be very hypocritical to suggest ending prohibition on all drugs, but to call tobacco an exception. I’m not even going to dignify the idea that I’d defend tobacco companies. String up the execs; I don’t give a fuck. But I want my terrible, life-shortening, obnoxious drug.

  • 32. Mike C.  |  August 11th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    And “populist?” Where fuck shit? I’m happy to off my exile, LA banned it. People like that. It’s just I wish people would tell ME, personally, how to live, get irritated.

    You are game today.

  • 33. Rusty Shackleford  |  August 11th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    How many Marlboro Miles has Malcolm accumulated?

  • 34. Fischbyne  |  August 11th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Gladwell looks like a smoker himself, the classic fidgety and underweight type like libertarian smoker Bob Denver a.k.a. Gilligan. See the sallow, ashen skin and circles beneath the hyper-alert yet uncomprehending eyes.

  • 35. chugs  |  August 12th, 2011 at 2:04 am

    hehehe i love the improved comments more then the article.

    i smoke though and encourage all 12 year olds to do it.

    in australia we’re going plain packaging. its awesome to see the industry squirm in its death thros. the propaganda being produced is on a scale never seen been before.

  • 36. Aaron  |  August 12th, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Levine, you’re just adorable. I’m laughing my ass off right now.

  • 37. vk  |  August 12th, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Gee whiz! thank you for improving my retarded comment. Fuck me if I’m not thankful for the great improvement You made to my shithead comment!
    I know that it is not for Your benefit that You improve my comment, but rather for the benefit of All Mankind, as an educational lesson to unworthy hillbillies like me. Oh blessed be you, great gods of eXiled. Thou art infinitely wise Improvers of comments and rulers of the universe!

  • 38. pat  |  August 14th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    YAF seems to be a good at creating corporate shills.

  • 39. dick  |  August 16th, 2011 at 2:57 am

    recovered history: in 2006 ( ) mark ames gives a less nuanced, infantilized, austrian business cycle theory-inspired version of a 2002 ( ) ron paul speech at the John Birch Society that accurately outlined the exact causes of the coming housing bubble and crash (Communist conspiracy, flouridated water). today: ames brags about predicting the crash 4 years after paul predicted that a Communist Conspiracy is overtaking our country and while mocking Paul’s (clearly superior) understanding of a woman’s reproductive rights

  • 40. Jonathan Bagley  |  August 16th, 2011 at 8:24 am

    It’s generally accepted, in the bought-off-by-tobacco-corporations community of which I am a proud and well-paid part of, that pole-smokers consume less semen over a lifetime than do those who smoke their own poles. Keep anti tobacco propaganda from science and you will become a shameless tool like me, and one day, you might even blow your brains out, as i should do.

  • 41. Jonathan Bagley  |  August 16th, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Wowaweeewa! The comment I submitted (#40) makes no sense without providing a link to a weak “takedown” of Levine’s brilliant post by a squishy anti-tobacco doctor. (And doesn’t my last name sound like “baglady”? Kids beat me up at school all the time for this. But now I’m paying them back 100-fold by shilling for big tobacco on internet comments! Who’s the dork now, huh? I’m talking to you, buddy. You hear me?)

  • 42. Fischbyne  |  August 16th, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    As someone who’s been a long-time fan of both Michael Siegel AND Yasha Levine, I would have to say, “Girls, girls! You’re both pretty!”

    Siegel is an old anti-tobacco warhorse who had enough sense to get off the pony when the pony started limping. Here’s a guy who criticized tobacco when it was unfashionable, and then criticized corrupt anti-tobacco activists when that was unfashionable. What more do you need?

    As for Levine, here’s a talented journalist with a visceral hatred for the tobacco industry. That’s not to be underestimated. Maybe he’s relatively new to the topic, but the field is lacking in passion, so welcome!

    I’m just some sad sack of shit who became a nicotine addict as a teenager in the 80s, and started reading about how I’d been sucked in by the tobacco industry when no one blinked an eye. It took me 25 years to quit. What the hell do I know? Please, just deny us addicts apartment housing and jobs, make us pay all the taxes, and everything will be OK!

  • 43. Fischbyne  |  August 17th, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Here’s a good look at the American Cancer Ward.

  • 44. Joshua Morrison  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 3:44 am

    Yeah, that’s definitely what I wrote… thank you for improving my retardedness.

  • 45. Esn  |  August 28th, 2011 at 3:03 am

    @Mike C., smoking cigarettes in public is no different from walking down the street carrying an ear-splittingly loud boombox perched on your shoulder. You’re imposing your ugly habit on everyone else whether they want it or not. It’s not like other people can stop breathing. And if it gets on your clothes, they’re forced to breathe it when you’re indoors as well (has anyone not known a “human ashtray”?)

    You might be surprised to know that many of those against smoking aren’t trying to stop YOU or doing it because they like to micromanage other people’s habits. They’re against it because you’re infringing on their freedom to not breathe carcinogenic air.

    For me, getting even a small whiff of cigarette smoke makes me cough fiercely and hurts my lungs. Otherwise I breathe normally, but I have a reaction to something in it. It means that there are many places that I can’t go. Pipe tobacco smoke and mini-cigar smoke doesn’t affect me like that, so it must be some chemical in cigarettes in particular. Don’t know which one; with over 30 known carcinogens, there are lots to choose from:

    I’d be happy if more people switched to electronic cigarettes, which apparently cost less and don’t cause noxious fumes for other people next to you. I don’t know first-hand, because Big Tobacco has been fighting against them fiercely and succeeded in getting them banned in Canada (on the grounds that they haven’t been studied enough to figure out if they’re dangerous, whereas normal cigarettes HAVE been studied, found to be very dangerous, and are entirely legal).

  • 46. Jimmy  |  September 18th, 2011 at 1:33 am

    The eXiled would like to present the following PR sockpuppet comment, brought to you by the Cato Institute and Altria. This comment has been preserved in its original sockpuppet form:

    What the public does not know is that firstly tobacco contains no carcinogens. Please review tha late Dr. Kitty Little’s article here: (scroll 1/4 way down to read it , it’s brief and compelling).

    It is Diesel exhaust that is the causative agent in teh rise of lung cancer. It had to be covered up because Capitalism would collapse if it was made public. The Big auto and Big Oil were behind the “science”
    Diesel exahust contains several carcinogens, the worst of which, 3-Nitrobenzathrone, is considered one of the most toxic substances ever assayed on the Ames test.

    Kitty Little was not a Big Tobacco shill She was a voice in the wilderness. Please read it and make up your own mind.

    Furthermore, the Pharmaceutical Industry had their eye on patenting nicotine and they wanted to isolate it in the form of patches for their own profit. They needed to get rid of their competition or at least try to. It wasn’t just a coincidence that the sales of nicotine patches began soon after the smoking health warmings regulations started to be enforced in the 80’s and 90’s.

    I’m not defending RJ Reynolds but these are the facts. I don’t think too much tobacco is good for anyone but it is certainly not reposonsible for the increase in lung cancer.

  • 47. Ian Mitchell  |  March 5th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Gladwell uses facts in a very misleading way.
    Your publication uses “pig” in the headlines in a not very misleading way.
    Gladwell’s point is that smoking kills people, and that smoking companies are not to blame. Do you disagree? Because I don’t.

  • 48. Charlie  |  August 1st, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Amazing article!!! But at the end of the day I think we are all pretty much to blame. Sure there are writers like Malcolm Gladwell and hundreds of lobbyists that are in the pockets of the Tobacco giants but there are also millions of studies and information easily available to the public that clearly show the harm that smoking does. So if anyone still decides to go on smoking and feed these tobacco giants, I think they deserve just as much hate cause self-inflicted ignorance and gullibility is simply no excuse!!!

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