Monthly Archives: November 2012

Orwellian language in anti-tobacco, an example

When Orwell’s 1984 is invoked in the context of anti-tobacco and other drug wars, it is usually a reference to totalitarian control.  But a rather more specific use of “Orwellian” in reference to those is the twisting of language to make it impossible for people to use the language to question those in power.  This is a tactic that is carefully and intentionally employed by the tobacco control industry to prevent reasoned discourse (which they would surely lose).  I have been meaning to write more about it, especially in the context of “addiction”, but for today, one quick example.

This article reports that grey/black market cigarettes now account for more than 1/3 of all consumption in the state of Washington, where per-pack taxes are extremely high (though hardly the highest in the world).  It points out (not in so many words) that such tax create an incentive to avoid taxes by buying “contraband” (i.e., untaxed) cigarettes.  There is no mention that this is further exacerbated by the fact that this tax is designed to be punitive and so people resent it.  (Average people — unlike bankers and other millionaires — typically pay their taxes without attempting to evade them, but when a law is perceived as being wrong and unfair, this changes.)

The punchline of all this is the statement in the article:

By the state’s estimate, illicit cigarettes cost Washington taxpayers a staggering amount of money.

Oh really?  Exactly how does not paying taxes cost taxpayers money?  And yet the Orwellian nature of the language around tobacco means that they can get away with that claim, unquestioned.

I realize, of course, that if forced to defend it, they would point out that it costs the state a lot of tax revenue, and that this needs to be made up for by raising other taxes.  But this just means the statement should be that the grey market “forces nonsmoking taxpayers to pay their fair share of taxes rather than offloading a staggering amount of that burden onto smokers.”

It is obvious that, at worst, the impact on taxpayers (as a collective group) is neutral.  Of course, that assumes that tobacco/nicotine users are considered to be people, and people who are due the same consideration as everyone else.  The bottom line is that the language has been twisted so that taxes on cigarettes (etc.) are not treated as taxes, or burdens on people at all, so absurd statements like that quoted above pass without notice.

As if getting rich off of taxes imposed on poor smokers was not enough for CTFK…

A friend sent me a screenshot of a Google search of “Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids” which reveals an interesting twist on that organization’s fund raising strategies:  the headline content for their website appears to be an ad for “generic Viagra”.

Campaign for Impotence-Free Kids?

So either they are not satisfied to confiscate untold riches from the involuntary contributions of overtaxed smokers, and so are picking up a bit of extra revenue, or they are trying to encourage the creation of more kids so that they have reason to demand more funding.

I suppose there is a third explanation, that they are the victim of some kind of hacking, but I like my other theories better.  If you do the search soon, you can probably see the same result (it worked for me), though I have to assume they will fix it eventually.  But they will probably not discover it via this blog — it is pretty clear that they carefully avoid reading anything outside of their echo chamber for fear of encountering legitimate criticism and troublesome questions.  And besides, they are probably busy right now, trying out their free samples of generic Viagra.