Tobacco, Marijuana, Immigration: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

By | September 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Cannabis (marijuana) smoke and tobacco smoke contain many of the same potent carcinogens…Lifetime use of more than 50 times was significantly associated with a more than twofold increase in the incidence of lung cancer over a 40-year follow-up period, even after statistical adjustment for tobacco use, alcohol use, respiratory conditions, and socioeconomic status.
– Callaghan RC, Allebeck P, Sidorchuk A. Marijuana use and risk of lung cancer: a 40-year cohort study. Cancer Causes Control (2013) 24:1811-1820.

For at least the past two years, more young Americans smoke marijuana than tobacco cigarettes. The “health” crusaders must surely be proud of themselves. They demonize tobacco, telling us that second-hand smoke kills hundreds of thousands. So even if a smoker doesn’t care about his own health, he is motivated to quit for the sake of others. The result is praiseworthy, but the means to achieve it are questionable and based on unconvincing data.

But now, the crusaders go so far as to claim that “one puff” of tobacco causes serious health problems. In 2010, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin declared, “That one puff on that cigarette could be the one that causes your heart attack.” I spent most of my career in medical oncology, so I know the damage tobacco can cause. But one puff?

This is ridiculous − and reminiscent of the scare film “Reefer Madness.” That film exemplified the exaggerated propaganda against marijuana. The obvious overstatements convinced young people not to believe anything the government or health officials said on the subject. As a result, few paid attention to the factual warnings, and marijuana use increased. When health officials lose credibility, they lose everything.

Yet at the same time that pundits preach the horrors of tobacco, they remain almost silent on the dangers of marijuana. Children sent to the hospital when they ate marijuana-laced cookies or candies? No problem – at least they weren’t exposed to second-hand smoke. That is, they weren’t exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. Is second-hand pot smoke dangerous, especially to children? Probably, but health officials seem oddly uninterested.

Even worse, read this headline: “Welfare recipients can use debit cards for marijuana.” Now tell me with a straight face that our nation isn’t in a cultural and spiritual decline.
The “health” gurus must be bursting with pride. Now more high-school and college-age Americans are smoking pot than tobacco. Yet pot contains many of the same carcinogens found in tobacco and contains them in higher concentrations. (Marijuana does not contain nicotine, but at most it is a weak carcinogen.) Moreover, pot smokers inhale more deeply and hold the smoke longer. Both tobacco and marijuana cause bronchitis. Nevertheless, one must admit that an association between marijuana smoking and lung cancer requires further study.

Nicotine is addictive, but it increases alertness. Perhaps that is why cigarette smoking became so common during World War II. Marijuana induces sedation − that’s why it is used. The net result is that we are exchanging an unhealthful substance that increases alertness for an unhealthful substance that decreases it. In an era of motor vehicles and electronic devices of increasing complexity, this seems unwise, to say the least.

Think about it. Would you rather your surgeon smoked a cigarette or a joint before operating on you? What about your airline pilot? Your lawyer? Your accountant? Your auto mechanic? Your computer technician? I’ll go further. Would you rather your doctor smoked cigarettes or marijuana when he was in medical school? (Remember that lecture on coronary artery disease? No? Oh well, let’s read up on it sometime.)

One day my wife, who is a psychologist, walked in holding an e-mail and began reading it to me. I soon stopped her − the thing was utterly incomprehensible. The message seemed to describe new government regulations on how to prepare certain reports on patients.

Having worked in a large bureaucracy, I thought I was fairly good at interpreting bureaucratese. But this e-mail was so dense and convoluted that I was unable to extract the thrust of the message, much less the important details. My wife informed me that the message was from someone with limited knowledge of English.

I looked at her and said, “That’s the future.” In answer to her raised eyebrow, I added that uncontrolled immigration is bringing foreign-born people with limited English skills into the labor force. Threat of lawsuits then caused personnel directors in businesses and government agencies to hire these people.

Besides, foreign-language radio and TV stations and newspapers have become common. Immigrants have less incentive to learn English. Why should they? They can live, work, be entertained, and even vote in their native tongue. Of course, any attempts to require ballots or other official documents to be printed in English are met with cries of “xenophobia” and “immigrant bashing.” This leaves immigrants as second-class citizens, but who cares? We don’t have to be caring – we just have to pretend to be.

Meanwhile, the government accelerates its output of voluminous regulations. Take the health-care law commonly called ObamaCare. No one seems to know exactly what it contains. No one seems to know even how many pages it comprises. Is it 2100 pages? Is it 2400 pages? Or is it 2700 pages? All these figures appeared in news reports.

Yes, that’s the future. Colossal amounts of bureaucratese will be “explained” to us − and even worse, enforced − by people with limited English skills. And if the stress of this difficult job is too great, they can relax by smoking pot. Is this an exaggeration? Perhaps. But if “health” gurus can exaggerate to make their point, why can’t I exaggerate to make mine?

Gilbert and Sullivan are not as popular as they used to be, but do you recall what the Mikado sang in the comic opera of the same name? Unexpectedly, these lyrics came into my head recently:

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time
To let the punishment fit the crime
The punishment fit the crime.

The Mikado’s idea of the punishment fitting the crime is just what we need now:

● Let the “health” gurus who scream about the evils of tobacco, while ignoring the problems of marijuana, be placed in the hands of doctors, nurses, paramedics, lawyers, accountants, auto mechanics, airline pilots, police officers, and government officials who wouldn’t think of touching tobacco, but who smoke a joint every night to relax − and sometimes in the morning before work.

● Let the immigration “rights” advocates be placed in the hands of similar people who have limited knowledge of English, but who must understand and carry out complex instructions that were written by other people who also have limited knowledge of English − but whose native tongue is different. For example, let the brakes on their cars be repaired by a native speaker of Spanish who must read instructions written by a native speaker of Chinese. (Remember the Tower of Babel? How did that work out?)

● If the immigration “rights” advocates are also anti-tobacco crusaders, let their brakes be repaired by a native speaker of Spanish who must read instructions written by a native speaker of Chinese − and who is also a stoner. But don’t worry, the mechanic doesn’t touch tobacco. That thought should be a great consolation when the brakes fail on a long downgrade.

● And if the immigration “rights” advocates and anti-tobacco crusaders are also proponents of ObamaCare, when they are taken to the hospital after the car crash, let them be told by a nurse practitioner (in broken English) that they should take a pain pill (if they can get one) instead of having expensive surgery to repair their injuries. It’s only fair – that’s what they voted for. The Mikado would be pleased.

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