PETER HITCHENS: Cigarettes are healthy! And if you believe that, you’ll fall for Big Dope’s marijuana propaganda, too
It is not all that long since people seriously tried to pretend that cigarettes were safe. Most of them were motivated by greed, and by fear that the truth would destroy their profits.
Everyone now agrees that cigarettes cause lung cancer and many other diseases. But we forget the struggle that doctors and scientists had to fight, against Big Tobacco, to get this accepted.
Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford-Hill established in 1950 that there was a clear link between smoking and cancer. A wider study in 1954 absolutely confirmed this.
Yet such was the power and wealth of the tobacco giants that it was decades before anything serious was done to discourage smoking. It was not until 1971 that the first feeble warning was placed on cigarette packets in this country.
As late as 1962, the cigarette-makers were still pretending there hadn’t been enough research, and even that tobacco was good for you, claiming ‘smoking has pharmacological and psychological effects that are of real value to smokers’.
A Tory MP, Ted Leather, denounced the doctors’ warnings as ‘unscientific tosh’ and ‘hysterical nonsense’. Lung cancer was blamed on air pollution. The prominent journalist Chapman Pincher proclaimed ‘cigarette risks are being exaggerated’. It was seriously argued that restrictions on smoking were an attack on liberty.
I’d guess that many who made such claims lived to regret, bitterly and with some embarrassment, their part in covering up a terrible danger. Those who listened to them died, early and often horribly. They are still dying now, in cancer wards up and down the country.
Earlier, firmer action would have saved them and their families from much grief. Those tobacco apologists all have their parallels now.
I know, but will not name here, drug lobbyists, a Tory MP and several prominent journalists, who make the same excuses for marijuana, just as the evidence of its grave dangers piles up. They claim the evidence against it is exaggerated. They claim it has medical benefits. They claim its effects are caused by something else. May God forgive them. I cannot.
Our society, learning nothing from the tobacco disaster, has for years been appallingly complacent about this terribly dangerous drug, whose effect on the brains and minds of its users can be utterly devastating. Knowledge of its dangers does not show up in statistics which pay little attention to the sort of damage it does.
The victims of marijuana seldom die (though they increasingly frequently kill others, in mad car crashes and violent crime).
School failure, delinquency, delusional behaviour, persecution mania, young lives wholly blighted and continued only thanks to a devastating cocktails of antipsychotic drugs, do not register much in NHS figures. Nor do the special miseries of the families of these people, compelled to care, for life, for a husk of the person they once knew and had hopes for, and still love. Such families keep their grief to themselves. But there are many of them.
Look, I am right about this. But it is no good being right if you are not believed. I and my allies are roughly where the doctors who warned against lung cancer were in the mid-1950s. The evidence keeps on coming. Last week’s report linking marijuana use to depression and suicidal feelings among the young is just the latest in a great mountain of such studies. But the popular culture continues to act as if there’s nothing to worry about.
It is now seven years since I published a book which pointed out the truth – that the police and courts have given up prosecuting the major crime of marijuana possession. Back in 2012 I was denounced, snubbed, sneered at and told by distinguished academics that I was wrong and that there was a stern regime of cruel prohibition.3
Now everybody recognises that what I said seven years ago is absolutely true. It is hard not to do so when so much of our country openly stinks of marijuana. Even if the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, cannot smell it, the rest of us can.
Sooner than seven years from now, I suspect that the connection between marijuana and severe mental illness will also be widely understood and accepted. But will it be too late?
Today’s Big Dope lobby wants to silence warnings about the dangers of marijuana until they have it legalised, and we can’t go back. They are like the Big Tobacco of the 1950s, a cynical greed campaign prepared to cause misery to others in the pursuit of riches.
This is the reason for its busy Trojan Horse operation to portray marijuana as a medicine, a claim for which there is very little evidence. And in any case, what use would a medicine be whose users risked irreversible mental illness?
Thalidomide was wonderful at treating morning sickness. But what does that matter compared with its terrible side effects?
Be on your guard. Make sure your MP isn’t fooled by Big Dope propaganda. Write to your MP when you see reports of crimes whose perpetrators were cannabis smokers. Your local papers will be full of them, if you look. Ask your MP to read the many reports linking this drug with mental illness.
And don’t be fooled. All of us sympathise with the mothers of very sick children who seek remedies for them. But beware of the shadowy figures who often stand behind such stories, and who use this suffering to promote a nasty cause.
It’s a race against time. If we lose it, the suffering which follows will be at least as bad as the suffering caused by cigarettes, and probably far worse.
Source: Peter Hitchens Mail on Sunday 16 February 2019