Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Smoking Out the Tobacco Problem

For the record, I am a nonsmoker, and my house is and has always been a smoke-free zone.

As detestable as the interventionist policies and practices of the government may be when it comes to the use of tobacco, the fact is that tobacco use is a severe health issue.  This is a matter in which none of the major players have clean hands:  Not the tobacco companies, not the smokers, and not the government. 

And understand that the victims include more than just those who are addicted to the substance.  The livelihoods of the small business enterprises such as retailers and individual tobacco farmers have been and continue to be manipulated by the government's inconsistent and contradictory policies.  And the cure purveyed by the government threatens personal autonomy within the walls of the homes of those who happen to be tobacco users.

It is difficult for me to draw solid bold lines on what my stance on the tobacco issues should be, but I do favor the free transmission of accurate and objective information.

Hamodia, a newspaper of the insular religious Jewish community, has published an article in its "Inyan" magazine [Hamodia, Inyan Magazine, August 22, 2012 / 4 Elul 5772] entitled "Smoking:  A Preventable Addiction."  The use of the Internet amongst the insular religious Jewish groups is a very controversial issue, but Hamodia does have a closely circumscribed Internet presence, including the aforementioned article (at least a part of which is not in the proprietary zone of the Hamodia website).

The article describes Rabbi Yechezkel Ishayek's efforts to reduce the incidence of tobacco use amongst the insular religious Jewish community, a practice I do applaud in light of his use of the objective accurate information model (though I am not totally unconcerned about the potential for coercion in future efforts by others which might conceivably follow on to Rabbi Ishayek's project).

A few matters in the article struck me as remarkable (and I am in good company, because my wife made similar observations when she read the article).  In no particular order:

A.  Rabbi Ishayek noted that he "heard testimony from world-renowned experts and came to the conclusion that one of the reasons why the smoking rate did not decrease in the religious world as much as it did in the general population is because, baruch Hashem, we are not exposed to the secular media. While it is a wonderful thing that we avoid the spiritual dangers inherent in that  media, we are also not adequately exposed to information about the dangers of smoking."

Yes, many of the people in the community truly lead very sheltered lives.  But then, on the other hand, there are many, many who have very excellent knowledge of world current affairs.  As valid as Rabbi Ishayek's observation may or may not be, methinks that it is an oversimplification and that there is more to the story.  Specifically, I will suggest that a social group which has effectively been taught from early age to hold science and the scientific method in contempt would be a natural for ignoring, minimizing and invalidating the information on the hazards of smoking which was in fact sent out amongst them.

B.  The rabbinical leaders of the various factions within the insular religious Jewish community, individually and collectively, have already demonstrated their ability to regulate the behavioral impulses of their followers when they so choose.  Knowing the tobacco usage habits amongst such social circles, I have to wonder just how much of a priority those rabbinical leaders place upon decreasing tobacco usage.  See "A" above.

C.  I will note that until relatively recently, the city of Bnei Brak in Israel, which is overwhelmingly populated by the insular religious groups, had a cigarette factory in operation on its main drag, Rabbi Akiva Street.

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  • At 19 September, 2012 14:06, Anonymous marie said…

    Electronic cigarettes are the better option than traditional ones. Looking on the net, you will rarely find contradicting news about its benefits. However, it might not be 100% safe, but it's the better choice in the market these days.

  • At 20 September, 2012 02:11, Blogger Expatriate Owl said…

    Marie, they are not "better," they are merely less worse.

    Even though many of the smoke issues have been eliminated or reduced, the electronic cigarettes still have health issues with the nicotine and its addictive and vasoconstrictive and, dare I say, carcinogenic qualities.


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