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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2002 / 14 Kislev, 5763

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
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Consumer Reports

James Bond meets his most fanatical foe yet -- anti-smokers | The latest James Bond movie, "Die Another Day," follows the pattern of previous Bond films with scenes of glamorized violence including murder and mayhem, and titillating nudity with suggestive sex scenes. These, of course, garner no protest (nor am I advocating any such protest).

But it is surely an illustration of the moral confusion of our times that while scenes of gratuitous violence and sex, whose only purpose is to titillate the viewer, not to mention scenes of alcohol drinking, arouse no controversy, one scene is seething with controversy: Pierce Brosnan as James Bond smokes a cigar!

According to news reports about the Havana-based film, "In one scene, Bond extols the virtues of a cigar with a Cuban gangster." Anti-smoking groups around the world have reacted with a fury that no other imaginable scene would elicit. Movies that "extol the virtues" of underage sex, drug use, extra-marital sex or criminal behavior from bank robbing to murder elicit far less condemnation than a movie that depicts cigar smoking. We truly live in the Age of Stupidity.

Nothing more clearly represents our present moral and intellectual confusion -- which results in large part from the secularizing of society -- as does the hysteria surrounding smoking. For the zealots who devote their lives to the anti-smoking crusade, it is never enough to simply inform people that cigarette smoking is dangerous and takes years off the lives of up to one out of three smokers.

But why not? Why isn't informing people of the risks of cigarette smoking enough? Why all the laws against smoking? Why all the lawsuits on behalf of people who voluntarily chose to smoke for 40 years? Why the vitriol against cigars and pipes, neither of which is nearly as dangerous as cigarette smoking (cigar and pipe smokers do not inhale)? Why are photos of FDR doctored to remove his ubiquitous cigarette? Why do so many people have a quasi-religious mission to end smoking? Why is Britain set to outlaw cigarette smoking in films, but not torture, rape, murder or alcohol drinking?

Because health is a god in secular society, and, therefore, anti-smoking has become a religion -- and a major source of income -- for many people. Just as it was mostly religious zealots who fought to prohibit alcohol in the 1920s, mostly secular zealots fight against tobacco in our time. But there is a major difference between alcohol and tobacco. Whereas tobacco addiction only hurts the smoker (with the rare exception of some people exposed to smoke in an enclosed room all day for many years), alcohol addiction hurts all those in the lives of the alcoholic.

Would you rather be raised by a parent addicted to cigarettes or addicted to alcohol? The answer is so obvious that only an individual or a society suffering from severe moral confusion could find this question anything but rhetorical. Most of us were raised by at least one parent who was hooked on tobacco. None of us suffered anything but inconvenience (or on rare occasions the exacerbation of an asthmatic condition). But virtually any person raised by an alcoholic parent has a lifetime of emotional and psychological problems.

Would you rather your pilot smoked a cigarette/cigar/pipe before or during a flight or drank an alcoholic beverage before or during a flight?

Millions of innocent people have been beaten or murdered, and millions of girls and women have been sexually abused or raped because someone was under the influence of alcohol. Has anyone ever been beaten, murdered or abused because someone was under the influence of a cigarette, cigar or pipe?

At least the religious zealots who fought against alcohol were animated by moral concerns. The secular anti-tobacco zealots are animated by health concerns (and a loathing of big business).

These zealots who condemn cigar smoking in a movie are worthy of contempt, while Pierce Brosnan and the makers of "Die Another Day" are worthy of praise for defying the zealots. Had a cigar-smoking James Bond been successfully censored, a cigar-smoking Winston Churchill would surely be next.

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JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He is a director of Empower America and the author of "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to visit his website and here to comment on this column.


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© 2002, Creators Syndicate