Smokers have plenty of reason to be concerned about the trajectory of the anti-smoking movement(s) in this and other countries. But not nearly as many reasons as retailers, distributors, and manufacturers themselves. Then there is a third class of affected people, the “stakeholders” — those who invest and own shares of the big, publicly-traded tobacco companies — whose rights as owners of legal businesses are being marginalized by a wildly irrational hazing of an entire industry.

In this issue of Smokeshop, we are delighted to feature the first in a series of features by Luc Martial, an extremely knowledgeable tobacco expert who ultimately resigned from a high level tobacco control position with the Canadian government over issues of ethics. What he saw from the inside looking out truly disturbed him: a federal government unjustifiably vilifying legitimate industry stakeholders.

His insight into the mindset, tactics, and ultimate goal of the Canadian American, and other governments — egged on by powerful anti-tobacco lobbies — spells out a very serious threat to anyone whose livelihood depends on tobacco. The danger of complacency, of rolling with each new wave of crackdowns and regulations, is the diminishing ability to see how much ground has actually been lost, how close to being shut down entirely the industry incrementally approaches with each passing year.

Meanwhile, strange shifts are appearing within the tobacco industry itself which will undoubtedly gain more prominence in the years to come. One involves assessing the degree of risk associated with different types of tobacco use. The government, while on the one hand seeking to cash in on its own federal version of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) — whereby state governments earn income from the sale of cigarettes — spreads misinformation about a range of reduced-risk tobacco products. It’s an hypocrisy that even the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a highly-respected legal watchgroup with no love lost for the tobacco industry in general, found intolerable and has filed a formal complaint with an arm of the Health and Human Services Department requesting that false information about tobacco use be corrected in all the agency’s publications.

It’s plenty to think about; flashy-sounding misinformation about secondhand smoke alone has fueled the crackdown on smoking rights nationwide. Similar forces are hard at work trying to shut down tobacco entirely.

E. Edward "Ted" Hoyt III