Happy Feet from the Amen Corner

Fred Brown
Would it really blow your skull into giblet bits
if you learned that your FDA (they work for us, you know) in all of its wisdom created a real boogie man monster within the deepest regions of their tobacco regulations? Oh, to be sure. Let me explain.

Back in 2009 when the FDA issued its regulations for The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the agency had to satisfy a law put in place during the Reagan presidency. This Regannomics law stipulated that any new regulatory stricture created by the bureaucracy had to define the cost-benefits of such a law. Well, holy tobacco leaf!

Buried in the body of the tobacco control act was the required cost-benefit analysis of a smoker (pipe smokers included) losing his or her favorite smoke. Moreover, that analysis proclaimed that a smoker’s "happiness quotient" suffered immensely when they had to lay down our evil habit.

I quote from a New York Times story on the issue concerning the "cost-benefit calculation. . . assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking – fewer early deaths and diseases of the lungs and heart – have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit." Uh, oops. Say, what?

In plain English, the FDA estimated a smoker would lose 70 percent of his or her happiness by giving up tobacco in any of its forms. This gave the anti-smoking crowd apoplexy.

Was it possible the FDA overestimated the benefits of laying down your pipes and tossing out your precious tobaccos you worked so long and hard to acquire? Awww, they wouldn’t do that, would they?

Yes, says the economists who studied the FDA tobacco regs and wondered about the "happiness quotient" and why it was so high.

The web page tobacconomics.org is no friend of tobacco. But here is what some of those serious economists say: "We concluded that the analysis of the impact of GWLs (graphic warning labels) on smoking substantially underestimated the benefits and overestimated the costs, leading the FDA to substantially underestimate the net benefits of the GWLs. We hope that the FDA will find our evaluation useful in subsequent analyses, not only of GWLs but also of other regulations regarding tobacco products. Most of what we discuss applies to all instances of evaluating the costs and benefits of tobacco product regulation and, we believe, should be considered in FDA’s future analyses of proposed rules."

In other words, the anti-tobacco economists want the FDA to lower that happy 70 percent to what they consider a more reasonable number.

Now this little bit of news about the happiness quotient has been very, very slow in coming to light.

Ahhh, as my old newspaper logo once supposed: "Give light and the people will find their own way."

Another way of thinking is to let a little light shine in, and it will disinfect the bugs.

Imagine the FDA having to admit that when one of the demon smokers (read "pipes" here) gives up the dreaded habit that is killing flora and fauna, causing tsunamis, ruining crops the world over, the practitioner of tobacco gives up 70 percent of his or her happiness quotient.

In essence, when you lay down your pipes for good, you are reducing your happiness by 70 percent.

Holy pipe tools! Did the FDA know what they were doing?

This cost-benefit analysis has caused the anti-tobacco zealots to require resuscitation and emergency heartburn medication.

In fact, many of the antis have now uncorked criticism at the FDA for even burying this nugget in its report, saying that it might give smokers the idea that they do not really want to give up 70 percent of their daily happiness quotient.

The anti-zealot line is that the "happiness quotient" is rated way too high at 70 percent and could indeed influence a pipe smoker not to toss out his or her favorite briar with the bath water.

The antis would like to see the happy feet chopped off at the knees and be reduced to nubs.

Why not just ignore the "happy" thing for smokers? They don’t really care about being happy in the first place, and they make the rest of the world miserable with their pipes and tobaccos and all that second-third-fourth-and-fifth-hand smoke.

Besides, all that off-hand smoke causes the house to collapse in on itself after a while. All that pipe and cigar smoke infuses the walls with nicotine that produces ravenous super termites drunk on tobacco that then eat the house away.

Think how happy the world would be without smokers (potheads excluded, of course)! The globe could pick up another 70 percent of happiness in a world in which there were no smokers.

Of course, governments would have to open up more looney bins in which tobacco-deprived nuts would be in charge.

Imagine a world with no pipes, no really cool tobacco blends, no cigars. No cigars? That is what I said.

You can forget cigarettes. They are toast. However, losing a favorite pipe tobacco blend or a La Perla Habana Classic Maduro registers more than a 70 percent hit on the happiness scale.

That’s like taking it all, creating a world without art or sunshine, or a beautiful sunset, or a Blue Moon over Kentucky.

Did I just say cigarettes are toast? Well, it depends upon the type lens through which you are peering. Many of the top cigarette manufacturers have noted quarterly increases in what British American Tobacco calls a "tough environment."

It seems then that not everyone is willing to give up his 70 percent happy times.

So, here is the bottom line as they say in the biz world: The antis are gonna go crazy whether our happy feel is 70 percent or 7 percent. Their view is that smokers should be taken out and shot at sunrise (I jest, but you get it).

Pipe puffers want to sit with their buddies, think about all the ramifications, philosophize and just get along.

Cigar chompers, the blue beards of the tobacco world, are likely to tell the antis to shove it, they are never going to let go of their precious sticks, or their 70 percent of the happiness quotient.

As for me, I like what Mark Twain had to say on the subject of smoking: "As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep and never to refrain when awake"–70th birthday speech.

Can I get an amen?

Good. Now I am happy.



Fred Brown
is a journalist who lives in Knoxville, TN. He will write this column for PipesMagazine.com monthly. He can be contacted at


10 Responses

  • I saw the news on this when it was discovered in an FDA report a while back and was intrigued that some inquisitive soul had entered a bit of philosophy and anthropology into the usual drum of statistical calculation. Imagine that. This goes well beyond the smoking discussion to all kinds of judgements made in the public good that looks at only one narrow aspect of any given issue, to the purposes of the current popular thinking, without wading into the vast rest of the thinking on any given subject. I is likely a fluke, a wild and whimsical fluke, but we all need to pay attention and see if we can’t summon similar unconventional clear-headedness into the public discourse from all side. We can amaze ourselves every day.

  • Glad you found something positive in all of this, Fred. It’s refreshing to know that there may not be a tobaccolypse.

  • Indeed.
    Now I am wondering what other FDA studies might include a happiness quotient?
    FDA: Please don’t take my happiness away!

  • I don’t understand what this is trying to say: the benefits of reduced smoking have to be discounted by 70% to offset the resulting loss in pleasure.

  • Anything that causes that antis consternation delights me!!!! But in the end I’m convinced the money (taxes) will rule the day. Cigarettes are now almost $10 a pack and guess who is reaping the windfall? It sure isn’t the tobacco companies!!!! The health issues with cigarettes are widely recognized but they are still available at any convenience store. Wonder why that is? Surely the government wouldn’t put the public at risk for a few tax dollars.
    But personally I think the 70% happiness factor is a bit low. At my age I don’t have that many vices left.

  • LOL, I love this!
    When I was 16, I was informed of the unusual diagnosis of type ALL leukemia, which usually happens (when it does) to younger children. With no family history of any sort of cancer, it was even more difficult to explain. But wait – my father smoked at least two packs/day all my life, and in the house. I got sick, and my younger sister didn’t. So then, was the cause 2ndhand smoke?
    There also happened to be an enormous coal stove which heated our farmhouse, warming the bedrooms upstairs through vents in the ceilings. The vent to the room where I slept was directly over that stove, directly under the not-airtight smoke shaft, and large disk covers on the stove probably allowed the diversion of odorless, colorless fumes directly out into the room. I slept over that stove for years, I was sick more often than my sister who did not sleep directly over the stove, and then I got leukemia! She never got any form of cancer.
    A couple of decades later, I decided that cigars and pipe smoking may be pleasurable, and I found out that they are. The treatment which saved my life was harsh, and I would hate to have to go through that again, but I would also hate to live unhappily! I have been drinking less since I’ve been smoking more, and alcohol is far more damaging, and to far more people who consume it. During the days before tobacco was first imported to Europe, were people happy then? No, they were the Dark Ages, and the trough of human misery! Give them tobacco, and then they all get happy and rise to greatness in the world.

  • Ain’t got no love
    Ain’t got no wife
    But what I’ve got makes me happy
    And I ain’t got no strife!

  • And when I am dead
    I don’t want no fool’s stone
    No good Christians shall mourn
    As I drift off alone
    Through the stars toward the gas clouds
    Where it all began
    And my golden pipe will not
    Be filled from a can
    But the golden dust from long dead
    Original stars
    Which upon their own passing
    They gave rise to ours
    And it gave us tobacco
    For us on this earth
    So that we may enjoy it
    Relaxing in myrth

  • This must be the source of the FDAs opinion;
    “1903-08: The August Harpers Weekly says, “A great many thoughtful and intelligent men who smoke don’t know if it does them good or harm. They notice bad effects when they smoke too much. They know that having once acquired the habit, it bothers them . . . to have their allowance of tobacco cut off.”