The Heartland Institute and Tobacco

“Forecast the Facts,” a front-group created by environmentalists to attack The Heartland Institute, its donors, and the scientists it works with, has posted a one-page document on its Web site titled “Heartland Institute and Tobacco.”

The document consists of a paragraph of false and misleading claims meant to defame The Heartland Institute, followed by twelve bullet points consisting of quotations, the first six apparently by me (dates but not sources follow my name after each quotation) and six from persons not affiliated with The Heartland Institute, but possibly taken from Heartland’s Web sites. I have not tried to confirm the authenticity of the quotations attributed to me, and won’t.

The quotations from persons other than me do not represent the views of The Heartland Institute. Heartland hosts “PolicyBot,” an online search engine and database that contains more than 25,000 reports and commentaries from 350 sources. We are a clearinghouse for the work of other groups. You will find a wide range of opinions on many topics there, including tobacco control, not all of them representing Heartland’s positions.

A full statement of positions taken by Heartland’s spokespersons on tobacco control, last updated in 2007, appears on our Web site. Here, briefly, is what we have to say on this topic:

■ Smokers already pay taxes that are too high to be fair, and far above any cost they impose on the rest of society.

■ The public health community’s campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science.

■ Litigation against the tobacco industry is an example of lawsuit abuse, and has “loaded the gun” for lawsuits against other industries.

■ Smoking bans hurt small businesses and violate private property rights.

■ The harm caused by smoking can be reduced by educating smokers about their options.

■ Punishing smokers “for their own good” is repulsive to the basic libertarian principles that ought to limit the use of government force.

The essay on our Web site unpacks and explains each of these statements, and links to scores of studies and articles that provide evidence in support of each statement.

You may or may not agree with us on each of these points, but after reading the full essay and some of the sources it links to, you will be persuaded that they are based on real research and the findings of credible experts. “Forecast the Facts” falsely claims that we take the positions we do because we are funded by tobacco companies. In fact, tobacco companies have never contributed more than 2 percent of our total income in a given year. I repeat: Not more than 2 percent. Our positions on tobacco control are based on facts and principles, not on who funds us.

Anti-smoking groups exaggerate the dangers of smoking, second-hand smoke, and smokeless tobacco products in order to support their agenda of higher taxes, more regulations, and subsidies. We’ve certainly earned their enmity for pointing this out, but it is untrue to claim that we are misleading the public, denying a very real public health problem, or in some other way are behaving badly. We are not.

Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute

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