We were sitting around at the Magic Castle on January 2, at the 51st anniversary party. From out of the blue, Siggie asked if any of us had any cigars. She’s always been kind of a firebrand.
“My father died of smoking in 1989,” I shot back with a bite in my voice.
Everybody at the table was silent for a long moment. Finally, Adam chimed in cheerfully.
“How do you know he died of smoking?”
I shot him a look. He was wearing a red suit and a shit-eating grin on his face.
“Because he was a pack-a-day smoker,” I said. “He went into the hospital with one of the most advanced cases of undiagnosed COPD and emphysema the doctor had ever seen. He died of a series of strokes and heart attacks.”
“Yeah,” Adam said, “but how do you know it was the smoking? Lots of people these days are dying of lung cancer who never smoked in their lives.”
“My father didn’t die of cancer. It was COPD and emphysema.”
Clearly, Adam wasn’t understanding my tone, which was filled with venom and warning, or perhaps he was perversely choosing to ignore it, maybe to get under my skin.
“I know that,” Adam said, “but how did you know it was smoking that caused it?”
“Adam,” I said, “the Surgeon General issued a report as far back as 1964 showing a strong correlation between smoking and lung disease. This is well established.”
“That was a long time ago,” Adam said. “Our research has come a long way since then. There are all sorts of reports these days finding different kinds of things.”
“What kinds of things?”
Adam floundered for a while trying to answer that one, and I let him flounder. He was proving himself wrong, although by that time, there was nobody else there to witness it. Adam has a similar contrarian view on climate change, government regulations, the national debt, and other Fox News lies.
“You can’t tell me what kinds of things,” I finally said. “But I can tell you that the tobacco companies are evil. Reagan’s Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, said that smoking was as addictive as heroin. And I can tell you that on his deathbed, my Dad said that he had tried to quit 150,000 times. Those were his exact words, ‘150,000 times.’ And after he died, we went through his stuff and found all sorts of literature about smokers’ rights. And you know who published it? Organizations that were funded by Philip Morris and all the other tobacco companies.”
I never did convince him, but he convinced me of something: that he appropriately summed up the dictionary definition of ignorant.