Indiana governor and now Republican VP pick Mike Pence has sleazy history of dealing with tobacco companies. Since he was first elected to Congress in 2000, he has religiously carried out the wishes of tobacco lobbyists while claiming ‘religion’ as his excuse for discriminating against women and LGBT Americans. When he broke on to the political scene in 2000, he wrote an op-ed in which he denied the link between tobacco smoke and cancer. Yes, this man managed to deny that smoking causes cancer in the 21st century, which is an admittedly astounding feat.
In his editorial he writes that it is, “Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” He goes on to attribute Congress’s attempt to regulate tobacco as, “back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric.”
Over his career, Pence continued to toe the tobacco lobbyists’ line and reaped the reward in the form of $100,000 of campaign donations from the industry, including voting against the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The act was wildly popular and, among other things, made tobacco less accessible to youth, put health warnings on smokeless tobacco products, and stopped tobacco companies from lying about how serious the risks of tobacco use are.
For the record, tobacco is a human carcinogen, which means that it is proven to cause cancer in humans. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only recognizes eighteen known human carcinogens. Tobacco smoke contains eight of them, or 45% of all substances on the planet that have been proven beyond a doubt to cause cancer.
Before we had the information to breakdown cigarette smoke into its components and assess them as carcinogens, we still knew that smoking causes cancer. In 1964, the Surgeon General published the “ground-breaking” report that first established a link between “smoking and ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease.” Pence was only five years old when America learned about how dangerous smoking is; apparently he has spent his entire life since then ignoring the un-ignorable mountain of scientific evidence that proves his editorial wrong.
Pence has spent his political career opposing science in exchange for money from the tobacco industry. A vote for a ticket featuring Pence is a vote for science denial, corruption, and dismissal of grave public health dangers.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.