Make Chest X-Rays Mandatory for Cigarette and Cigar Purchases

Photo: Wikimedia

In 2011 the Food and Drug Administration ruled that cigarette makers put one of nine graphic images on each pack of cigarettes for sale in the United States. The purpose was to warn people of the deadly dangers of tobacco use. The ghastly images—meant to dissuade people from smoking—were to be in use by October of 2012.

In February, however, a federal judge ruled the images unconstitutional. This is a travesty, an abomination.

Smoking kills. We know that. People who smoke are slowly killing themselves. They also are slowly killing those around them who are unfortunately forced to inhale clouds of carcinogenic smoke. We have to stop this.

Click image to see all nine

But I think the government’s anti-smoking campaigns are. That’s because our perceptions have all along been misguided. For example, the tamest of the nine images says, “Warning: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.” That’s cloudy thinking.

The truth is, smoke and smoking don’t kill people. People who smoke kill people.

Is it too harsh to say smoking is not only a crime but is a sin? I don’t think so. It may not be among the biblical lists of things that evokes God’s wrath, but I think it’s safe to say God would agree that taking a life through the deliberate act of smoking is just as bad as any other way. More than anything else, this is a religious problem

We must stop these suicides and homicides. So here’s my proposal: Enact a law to make chest x-rays mandatory before purchasing of a pack of cigarettes or cigars. After the x-ray, you must then sit down with a radiologist, a cancer specialist, and a counselor. You will then be issued a certificate with a date and time stamp. After a reasonable waiting period of 24 hours (per pack or single cigar), you may present your certificate and buy your tobacco product.

I can see right off that there are some logistical and ethical problems with my plan. But I’m a big-idea person. I leave it up the lawmakers and attorneys to close the loopholes and sort through these relatively minor concerns. After all, the purpose here is to save lives. 

As I said, this is a religious and moral issue. I call on clergymen and clergywomen across the country to use their positions of influence to speak out against this dreadful scourge. Frankly, I have no idea why they haven’t been doing this all along. Perhaps they just haven’t thought about it. 

It’s terribly unfortunate that trafficking in tobacco is legal in this country. Yes, I know it goes back to colonial days, and smoking is part of the American psyche. But in this case our founders were very misguided. It’s time we got on the right track.

Disclaimer: I used to smoke. But I haven’t for more than 20 years. Make of that what you will.

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth, Maybe

why we lieIn a relative world, what is true and what is not true depends on what one believes. People tend to believe what they want to believe and nothing else. And everything a person believes is the truth. Who would say, “Everything I believe is a lie”? In a sense, people sometimes choose delusion.

Those who understand this have little trouble taking advantage of others.

In his book Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind, David Livingstone Smith makes some interesting points about the human propensity toward deception. Here are three.

First, Smith contends that the ability to deceive is a naturally selected trait. Those who can easily deceive others are more likely to survive than those who can’t.

Second, just as the ability to deceive is a naturally selected trait, so too is the ability to detect deception. Smith uses a poker game as an analogy. An excellent poker player is one who easily bluffs the other players at the table. In addition, an excellent poker player easily detects when others are bluffing. Players with neither of these skills should not play poker. I don’t play poker.

The ability to hide telling traits is the third and most interesting point Smith makes. It’s not enough merely to mask tell-tail signs of deception with a poker-face, because someone skilled in detecting deception will see through the mask. Smith contends that the greatest deceivers are those who can first deceive themselves. If I believe that what I say is true, I will have a much easier time convincing you that what I say is true. Then you become a believer. And truth becomes relative to belief.

A relative truth cannot be wholly reliable because it is based more on belief than reality.

As belief propagates in ever-widening circles it transforms into the kind of truth that must be true because “I saw it on TV (or the Internet).” That’s why negative campaign ads work so well. Negative ads need not be true. It’s necessary only that people believe they are true.

Self deception—whether by means of denial, repression, self-righteous bias, or any of the other defense mechanisms and biases psychologists have identified—is a door that always leads away from truth and toward delusion.

With this knowledge, it’s easy to see how people are so easily led astray and deluded by the used-car salesman who just wants that piece of junk off his lot or the politician who just wants your vote. Both will say anything with absolute sincerity to get what they want.

Is it possible to know the truth? Yes, but only with the understanding that belief and truth are not the same thing. You can discover truth once the layers of deception and delusion—both internal and external—are peeled away to expose things exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.

You will know you’re getting close when what you find is disagreeable and difficult to accept.

Inappropriate Speech: It’s Not All about Rush Limbaugh

I grew up in a household where foul and derogatory language was a rarity. As I progressed through childhood, I noticed that my parents didn’t use many of the words I’d become accustomed to hearing at school. I wondered if they even knew them. 

Eventually I came to work in construction and realized how naïve I’d been. It must have been around then that it occurred to me: “Of course my parents know those words. How could they not?” 

Although I do remember, long ago, being threatened with a bar of soap on the tongue, I learned (indirectly) that it wasn’t the language that was bad, per se, but it was inappropriate in the household setting. The unspoken message was, “We just don’t talk like that at home.”

As a parent I took the same approach when my young children brought home playground language. “It’s not appropriate here,” was my message to them.

Language is a powerful thing. It’s like fire. Used appropriately it can bring benefits such as understanding and harmony. Used inappropriately it is divisive and destructive. Also, how you use language gives an impression of who you are and how you think. And what you think of others.

I’m among those who objected to Rush Limbaugh’s recent verbal attacks on Sandra Fluke. His remarks were in no way appropriate, and he’s since retracted them. However, it took a massive movement to show him just how inappropriate his language was. Without it, it would be business as usual—meaning he’d be saying the same things he’s done for the past 20 or so years.

The backlash centered around his “attack on women.” Yes, given the circumstances and the issue surrounding Limbaugh’s remarks, it was an attack on women. Many of his remarks are direct and excoriating attacks on women. But for me, it was just another example of inappropriate language bought into the national “household.”

One thing that Limbaugh does well—despite his distasteful language—is point out hypocrisies and double standards between “right” and “left” and other whole segments of society he doesn’t like. In this AP story, he’s quoted as saying, “Rappers can say anything they want about women. It’s called art. And they win awards.” He’s absolutely right. There is a sub-culture where women are routinely called whores and bitches. Not only is the language tolerated, it’s celebrated and imitated. 

A sub-tempest has developed over whether comedian Bill Maher, who donated $1 million to President Obama’s political action committee, is equally guilty for his raunchy slurs against Sarah Palin. Limbaugh and some of his supporters insist that Obama give the money back. This story in the Christian Science Monitor asks whose worse, Limbaugh or Maher?

The question is ridiculous for two reasons. First, it does nothing to solve a problem. Rather, it maintains a firm battle line between warring segments of American society. Second, it skirts the real issue.

Both Limbaugh and Maher (not to mention dozens of others) use language inappropriate within our national household. And here, you may note, I’ve walked into a trap of my own making: “Who are you to say what’s appropriate language and what isn’t? It’s all well and good for you to force your kids to watch their mouths, but don’t go trying to force your values on me!”

I got it. 

But where is the value in disrespect and divisiveness? What is the value in language that is harsh and harmful?

It may be valuable to those who have disdain for people they don’t like, but I say there is no human value to it, no societal value. But there is definitely monetary value. In this story from the Sacramento Bee, Limbaugh supporter Cal Thomas writes

A lot of what he does is theatrics designed to rev up his audience with red meat and to dramatize a point. It isn’t that he is insincere about his positions; rather, it is because the media environment, in which we are all forced to live, requires some to be louder and more emphatic than others to attract attention and ratings.

It bears repeating: The need for attention and ratings has created a “media environment in which we are all forced to live.” Rush Limbaugh and people like him—people from every political and social sector—have created the very “media environment” they (and we) are victims of. They have to be raunchy and divisive with their “red meat” language. Otherwise no one would listen to them. And then what would we do for entertainment? 

UPDATE: I just discovered this story on radio-info.com that states that Premier Networks has sent out a memo stating that 98 advertisers want to avoid “environments likely to stir negative sentiments.” The memo further states:

They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.

Writing about the memo in the Daily Beast, John Avalon makes a powerful statement about being nice with language in the national household:

But the left-wing talkers being condemned are actually following a model that Rush & Co created. Complaining about the escalation on the other side while ignoring the ugliness from your ideological allies is the larger problem, and it goes beyond hypocrisy. The only way we are going to stop this cycle of incitement is if we try to apply equal standards to both sides of the aisle. It’s not a complicated concept—it’s nothing more than the golden rule we learned in nursery school: treat others as you would like to be treated. And as political commentators like the radio pioneer Will Rogers once taught us, we can make serious points using satire, humor that is not designed to divide and destroy.