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By W Kip Viscusi, University of Chicago Press, 2002, $27.50, 263 pp, ISBN 0-226-85747-6
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Cigarettes are a major cause of premature death. Cigarettes are addictive. Secondhand smoke can be annoying, but is really not enough of a health risk to justify banning smoking in indoor environments. Payments to states in the Master Settlement Agreement were unjustified since cigarettes are self financing. States actually save money because smokers die young. Lawsuits against the tobacco industry are without merit, since smokers have long known about the health risks. Continuing efforts to warn the public about the health risks of smoking are unwarranted since public awareness of these risks are now universal. Filters and low tar technology have made cigarette smoking safer, but more could be done to encourage cigarette manufacturers to produce a less toxic cigarette. The government should focus on giving smokers information about the risks posed by different types of cigarettes, which would foster market competition in the development of safer cigarettes while at the same time preserving individual choice.
Such are the views expressed by Harvard Law Professor W Kip Viscusi in his new book entitled Smoked-filled rooms. If cigarette smoking hasn’t already caused one to become short of breath, reading this book surely will. Viscusi’s selective presentation of data on what consumers do and don’t know about the risks of smoking, the dangers of secondhand smoke, the benefits of filtered and low tar cigarettes, and ultimately who should be held accountable for the massive death toll caused by smoking cigarettes is breathtaking. This book leaves one with the impression that the cigarette industry and not the American public has been the victim in what has been a massive money grab by greedy trial lawyers and media starved state attorneys general. It appears that Dr Viscusi has spent a few too many hours in smoked filled rooms to be able to reasonably …