Mike Pence kicked off the 21st Century by claiming “smoking doesn’t kill”

Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana and Donald Trump’s running mate, is nobody’s idea of a moderate. This is, after all, the guy who signed a bill into law mandating funerals for aborted fetuses and who compared the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare to the 9/11 attacks.

But perhaps his most dangerous stance has to do with tobacco. In a 2000 op-ed, posted on his personal webpage and unearthed by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, Pence brazenly declared, “Smoking does not kill”:

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you… news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit.

This paragraph is a veritable maze of contradictions. First, Pence asserts that smoking doesn’t kill. To back this up, he bafflingly concedes that a huge fraction of smokers — one in three! — die from smoking-related illnesses, a fact that a casual observer could be forgiven for interpreting as proof that smoking does, in fact, kill, and kills a lot of people at that. (Only one problem: Subsequent research has found that two out of three smokers die from a smoking-related illness — not one in three, as Pence insisted.)…He proceeds, instead, to argue that the evils of tobacco do not compare in scale to the evils of big government…

Pence’s history of promoting tobacco companies and denigrating public health campaigns against smoking came back to bite him in his 2000 congressional race. His opponent, Bob Rock, raised it in a debate. Pence responded, per a local news report Kaczyinski unearthed, by saying that “the article was taken out of context and that while there is no direct ‘scientific causal link medically identifying’ a link between smoking and lung cancer that was not the point of writing it.”

So when directly questioned in a debate, Pence doubled down on the totally erroneous assertion that there isn’t evidence that smoking causes lung cancer. This is truly remarkable science denialism…

As governor of Indiana, a state with the seventh-highest smoking rate in the country, Pence has repeatedly taken pro-smoking positions, ThinkProgress’s Josh Israel finds. He slashed funding for the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation office, and rejected a proposal from Republican legislators to raise cigarette taxes to fund transportation.

I have no idea what’s behind Pence’s demented anti-science defense of tobacco and smoking. The cynical guess says Follow The Money; but, I imagine folks have already worked that angle. No matter.

The man is a fool. He puts his political skills to work every day to oppose scientific conclusions about health. As a national leader – he is worthless.

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