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GOP VP Candidate Mike Pence Believes That ‘Smoking Doesn’t Kill’

What a drag.

via Flickr user (cc) Gage Skidmore

Good people can argue over tax rates, regulations, and moral issues, but there are certain stone-cold, proven, undeniable facts that shouldn’t be up for debate. Especially when those facts can affect the public’s health. But for Donald Trump’s newly-chosen running mate, Governor Mike Pence, it’s completely fine to mislead the public on the dangers of smoking.

During Pence’s campaign for an open seat in the House of Representatives in 2000, Pence wrote a series of op-eds on his website, one of which was titled, “The Great American Smoke Out.” Inspired by debates in Congress over the regulation of tobacco products, Pence boldly and incorrectly proclaimed that “smoking doesn’t kill.”

Here’s an excerpt from Pence’s editorial:

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you.... news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit. The relevant question is, what is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric.

According to Pence, big government is something we should fear much more than second-hand smoke. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, second-hand smoke kills nearly 34,000 Americans a year from heart disease and more than 8,000 from stroke. The CDC has yet to release any studies on the health effects of big government. Although Pence’s categorically-false beliefs on the dangers of tobacco are from 16 years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General documented the link between smoking and cancer back in 1964. So by the year 2000, Pence should have got the message.

Pence’s opinions on smoking are most likely connected to his relationship with big tobacco. According to Think Progress, Pence received around $13,000 from the tobacco lobby during his 2000 campaign and would go on to graciously accept nearly $100,000 from cigarette companies over his decade in Congress. During Pence’s 2012 and 2016 gubernatorial campaigns, he took around $63,000 from R.J Reynolds, the fine folks who brought you Joe Camel.

As America decides whether to choose Pence for Vice President we should ask ourselves: Does his op-ed reveal him to be so poorly-informed we should question his ability to hold office? Or so morally bankrupt that he’d lie to the American people about the dangers of smoking? We’ll see in November.

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