Music Essay

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THE SMOKING ISSUE An essay by Joe Jackson My articles in the New York Times and UK Daily Telegraph, protesting smoking bans and antismoking hysteria, have attracted a huge amount of attention. Since this has unfortunately become such a contentious issue, and since I’m now constantly asked to discuss it, I’m going to take this opportunity to set out my position as clearly as I can, without the ‘filter’ of editors, the time constraints of radio, etc. This essay was primarily written for my website, but it can be freely downloaded, copied and circulated. I’m ‘pro-choice’ on smoking, not just because I want to smoke (I don’t even smoke very much) but also because I’m concerned about certain worrying political and cultural trends. The antismoking movement is on such a roll at the moment, and smoking has been so thoroughly demonised, that some of what I have to say is bound to raise a few eyebrows. All I can say is that my views are carefully considered and extensively researched. (1) DANGERS OF SMOKING Two or three years ago I considered giving up my own moderate enjoyment of tobacco because of the constant barrage of horrific statistics. But antismoking propaganda in the USA (I was living mostly in New York) seemed so overblown, so hysterical, that I became skeptical. So instead of giving up smoking, I started doing research. At first my mind was pretty open; I half expected to find that smoking was even worse than I thought, and I decided that, since I wasn’t a hardcore nicotine junkie, I could live without it. Instead, I’ve been astonished, again and again, by how flimsy much of the antismoking evidence really is. By now I’m absolutely convinced that the dangers of smoking (and ‘secondhand smoke’ in particular) are being greatly exaggerated, for a number of reasons, many of which have less to do with health than with politics, money and

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