Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.





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               Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

"I am not advocating restrictions on personal choices
that are currently legal.  Smoking is a choice, but it
       is a bad one."  (Sullivan, 1990, p. 1582)

     The increasing attempt to hold tobacco companies
responsible for the consequences of smoking behavior
poses a greater threat to liberty in a free society
than nicotine ever could (Hansen, 1997).  Despite the
fact addiction is not listed in standard textbooks of
pathology (because it does not meet the nosological
criteria for disease classification), anti-smoking
propagandists define the behavior of smokers as if it
were some kind of epileptic seizure.  Their attempts
to absolve people of responsibility for their behavior
are the obvious consequence.  Yet attributing smoking
entirely to addiction is not based on the facts and
has inevitably led to a legal policy based on fiction.
Here are the facts about smoking and responsibility.

     There's a difference between what smoking does to
a person's body and how smoke gets into his body.  The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in
cooperation with the public-health industry and with
attorneys who argue smokers get sick because they have
"lost the ability to choose" not to smoke, clouds that
distinction.  Concurrently, these groups suggest a
person's body (as opposed to the person himself)
causes a particular vice and its consequences, i.e.
smoking behavior doesn't exist apart from
physiological processes.  Nothing could be further
from the truth.

     While their intentions may be compassionate (Is
compassion a body product like smoking, i.e. caused?),
the net effect of their thinking is to reduce human
beings to machines--chemical and electrical
interactions, soulless animals--lacking free will and
moral agency, the very qualities we characterize as
distinctly human.  And remember machines don't operate
by themselves.  They are operated by people.

     Does a car "drive" the driver?  Does a pencil
"write" the writer?  Does a body "run" the person?  Of
course not.  People run their bodies, not the other
way around.  Yet those who assert nicotine addiction
causes smoking are engaging in just such illogical

     Consider the dangerous legal precedent that could
be set by such thinking:  If smokers physical
addiction to nicotine causes them to smoke, one might
just as easily argue rapists' bodies cause them to
commit rape, murderers' bodies cause them to commit
murder, child abusers' bodies cause them to abuse.
What kind of world would we live in if those theories
were upheld by the courts?  If we attribute
responsibility for the harm people do to themselves to
physiological processes, don't we necessarily have to
remove people's responsibility for the harm they cause
to others to justly apply the rule of law?  And then
we must remove moral agency and responsibility for
good behaviors too:  Heroism, courage and other
virtuous acts such as loving and praying, academic
achievement and creativity must also be viewed as
having nothing to do with ethical human action.
They're simply products of biology.  We all know
that's inaccurate reasoning.

     Nevertheless, it is exactly the kind of argument
used by people who are suing tobacco companies for
injuries the plaintiffs may have caused themselves by
smoking.  Tobacco caused them to smoke, they claim, as
if tobacco had a will of its own.  Cigarettes, renamed
"nicotine-delivery systems" by the FDA, render smokers
incapable of abstinence.  Any reasons for smoking
thereby become irrelevant.

     This doublespeak contradicts the scientific
evidence:  Smokers quit all the time--when it is
important to them to do so.  They moderate their
smoking at will too.  For example, a study of over
5,000 Minnesota workers published in the September
1996 issue of the American Journal of Public Health
showed "a substantial proportion of smokers are low-
rate users and suggest[s] that the proportion may be
rising" (Hennrikus et al., 1996).  This finding
supports the idea that psychological factors play a
part in smokers' decisions to smoke or not to smoke.
It contradicts the claim that people become
physiologically enslaved by nicotine addiction once
they start smoking.

     Moreover, studies published in Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA) have long shown
smokers can quit on their own (Fiore et al., 1990;
Glynn, 1990).  This finding undoubtedly upsets the
manufacturers of nicotine patches and gum, as well as
those who make money on smoking cessation clinics and
programs.  Indeed, these groups are economically
addicted to convincing the public smokers cannot quit
on their own, that willpower won't work.  So they
spread the lie smokers have an addiction disease,
caused by a physiological dependency on nicotine, one
they can never manage on their own.  They want the
public to believe their products are necessary for
curing the disease.  Yet scientific studies have long
shown that treatment programs for smoking addiction
don't work for most people (Fiore et al., 1990;
Glynn, 1990).

     Choosing to quit is a simple statement of
intention.  Whether people are heavy or light smokers
has nothing to do with the ability to quit.  The best
predictor of smoking and cessation of smoking is level
of education (Escobedo et al., 1990).  Plaintiffs'
lawyers in the numerous liability cases directed at
British and American tobacco companies rely on public
ignorance in order to make money.  They know less
educated persons on the jury are less likely to reason
out the facts and more likely to be swayed in their
attitudes by "authorities" who obscure the difference
between behavior and disease.

     Most of us know people who smoked for years and
then quit abruptly.  Their bodies had adapted to
nicotine and since they chose to quit, they did.
Question:  What do we attribute that behavior to?
Answer:  Free will.

     And what of people who do not want to quit?  Why
explain their behavior using terms such as weak will
and physiological addiction?  Those people simply
choose to continue smoking, even if a doctor or loved
one has suggested they quit.  They aren't suffering
from a weak will.  They have an iron will:  They
choose to continue smoking against medical advice.
And ironically, they are often the ones who transform
their iron will into an iron fist, demanding they be
financially compensated for the consequences of their
own behavior.

     There's nothing particularly unusual about
noncompliance with medical advice or blaming others
for one's own behavior.  Many people continue to
engage in certain behaviors against medical advice.
How many people continue to eat a high-fat diet when
their doctor recommends against it?  If they develop
cardiovascular disease, will they blame McDonald's and
Burger King for hooking them on hamburgers and french
fries?  Why not?

     Smoking and quitting, like eating and dieting or
exercising and being a couch potato, are matters of
free will and personal choice.  Yes, habits may cause
disease--but habits aren't diseases in and of
themselves.  Cancer is a disease.  Smoking is a
habitual behavior.  Moreover, likening a behavior to a
disease seems especially cruel to people with real
diseases.  A person cannot choose to quit or moderate

     The price of freedom in a free society is
responsibility for the consequences of one's actions.
Liberty and responsibility are positively correlated.
That's a fact.  People who claim addiction causes
people to smoke say the two are negatively correlated.
That's fiction.  We cannot increase freedom by
decreasing personal responsibility.  That's the road
to serfdom.

Escobedo, L.G., Anda, R.F., Smith, P.F., Remington,
     P.L., and Mast, E.E.  (1990).  Sociodemographic
     characteristics of cigarette smoking initiation
     in the United States.  Implications for smoking
     prevention policy.  Journal of the American
     Medical Association, 264, 1550-1555.
Fiore, M.C., Novotny, T.E., Pierce, J.P., Giovino,
     A., Hatziandreu, E.J., Newcomb, P.A., Surawicz,
     T.S., Davis, R.M.  (1990).  Methods used to quit
     smoking in the United States.  Do cessation
     Programs help?  Journal of the American Medical
     Association, 263, 2760-2765.
Glynn, T.J.  (1990).  Methods of smoking cessation--
     Finally, some answers.  {Editorial].  Journal of
     the American Medical Association, 263, 2795-2796.
Hansen, M.  (1997).  Capitol offensives.  American Bar
     Association Journal, January, 50-56.
Hennrikus, D.J., Jeffrey, R.W., and Lando, H.A.  (1996).
     Occasional smoking in a Minnesota working population.
     American Journal of Public Health, 86, 1260-1266.                                                          
Sullivan, L.  (1990).  An opportunity to oppose:
     Physicians' role in the campaign against tobacco.
     [Editorial].  Journal of the American Medical
     Association, 264, 1581-1582.

Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of
justice, law and society at American University's
School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.; an
adjunct professor of psychology at Montgomery College
in Rockville, Md.;  and a member of the part-time
faculty (psychology) at Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, Md.  He lives in Silver Spring, Md.


     Consider recommending your students apply to the
Institute for Humane Studies 1997 Summer Seminars
where Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D. will be lecturing on

    * Psychiatry and Public Policy
    * Addiction and Social Policy
    * Human Development (from childhood to adulthood,
      including Piagetian and Szaszian perspectives)

     This is an opportunity for students to learn more
about the myth of mental illness, the myth of
addiction as a disease, what psychotherapy really is,
coerced "treatment" for addiction and First Amendment
rights, existentially-based theory of human
development, the relationship between liberty and
responsibility, the meaning of mind, etc. in depth.
Spend hours in debate, discussion and one-on-one

     The week-long seminar is _FREE_.  All you have to
do is _APPLY_.

Special Theme Liberty & Society:

June 14-20
Emory University, Atlanta, GA.
Located in historic Atlanta, nestled in one of the
city's older suburbs, it is still only minutes from
downtown Atlanta and the airport.

For those who are particularly interested in issues of
personal freedom.

Choose this seminar if you want to explore personal
freedom, individual rights, and public policy.

Take up questions surrounding free speech and
censorship, Prohibition and the war on drugs,
affirmative action, gay rights, children's rights,
medicine and psychiatry, and more.  How are
individuals best protected?  What is the history of
state control?  How can we reconcile individual rights
and the larger community?  Grapple with such questions
at a seminar focused on personal freedom.


* Stephen Horwitz, economics, St. Lawrence University
* Loren Lomasky, philosophy, Bowling Green State
* Richard Murphy, law, George Mason University
* Jeffrey A. Schaler, psychology and social policy,
     American University
* David Ramsay Steele, social and political thought,
     Open Court Publishing

Your students can apply via the world wide web.  The
IHS home page is at

Questions?  Call (703) 934-6920 or 1-800-697-8799

Or write:  Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason
University, 4084 University Drive, Suite 101, Fairfax,
Va., 22030-6812.  Fax:  (703) 352-7535

Jeff Schaler