'The smell of freedom': Tucker Carlson and House Republican defend tobacco smoking inside the Capitol
Last Tuesday, Reuters congressional reporter Patricia Zengerle informed the American public that the new Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives eliminated a fifteen-year-old ban on smoking inside the Capitol.
"So there’s indoor smoking on the House side of the Capitol now that the Republicans have taken control," Zengerle tweeted.
"Washington, D.C., law bans smoking in all indoor spaces, but it does not apply to the private offices of members of Congress, never has," she explained. "So when you have a change in party control, and they move offices like they just did, if the member who moves into the office is - as in this case - a cigar smoker - you have smoke."
Three days later, on Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson dedicated a segment of his show to promoting tobacco use and sharing misinformation about President Joe Biden's public health initiatives.
So what is interesting is that for the past two years, the Biden Administration has been actively encouraging drug use among Americans. Not just weed. There are dispensaries on every corner and every town in the country all of a sudden. Some people are getting rich from it: 'smoke more weed. It's good for you.'
But also, meth and crack. The Biden Administration has literally sent crack pipes to crack addicts, something we never thought would happen. But they're doing it.
Methamphetamine is illegal everywhere in the US. While twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have legalized the recreational consumption of cannabis, and thirty-seven have allowed medical use, the plant remains on the Drug Enforcement Agency's list of Schedule I narcotics alongside methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), heroin, peyote, and methaqualone (quaaludes).
A CNN fact-check dismantled Carlson's latter talking point last year.
On the other side, you have Republicans. They're back in control of the House of Representatives. And because they are -- on the House side -- Republican members who want to smoke tobacco once again can. They couldn't when Nancy Pelosi was speaker because she had banned tobacco smoking in the Capitol complex back in 2007.
Now, you'd think this would be non-controversial in a country where you're allowed to smoke meth in a park. Kids are encouraged to smoke weed. But it's very controversial because unlike meth and weed and crack, tobacco is bad.
The detrimental effects of tobacco smoking and second-hand inhalation are well-documented and irrefutable.
"Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. Smoking-related illness in the U.S. costs more than $600 billion a year, including over $241 billion in direct medical care for adults and $184 billion in lost productivity," the American Lung Association noted in 2022.
Yet that is not stopping conservative lawmakers from throwing fits, as Carlson pointed out:
Several members of the Capitol press gallery are horrified by this, and they're complaining. So you have to kind of wonder, why is tobacco so dangerous? Well, we thought we would ask a member of Congress who uses it -- who smokes an occasional cigar. Troy Nehls joins us tonight. Congressman, grateful that you're here, willing to stand up for the most American of all pleasures, which is tobacco. Sorry to say it, it's true. It founded the country. Tell us why it's important for you to burn a cigar occasionally in your office.
Carlson omitted the fact that tobacco farming – along with sugar – was enabled by hundreds of years of slavery.
Nehls, a former sheriff with no medical training, responded with a defense of smoking:
Well, thank you for having me, Tucker. It's all about freedom. It's interesting, the dishonest media and those -- they want to complain about a little smoke coming out of my cigar – they don't want to talk about the inflation or the crime or the southern border. And people have been enjoying cigars – nations leaders, world leaders from Winston Churchill to United States presidents from Andrew Jackson to Theodore Roosevelt, Nixon, JFK, they liked smokin' their cigars – we even know that Bill Clinton, he enjoyed a good cigar every once in a while. So I don't know what all the hoopla is all about. You're right. In 2007, under Pelosi, she said you cannot smoke cigars in the Capitol building, ie, you can't smoke cigars on the House floor or in committee hearings. But it did not include members' offices. So in members' House office, we've always been able to smoke cigars. There are many of us in the Cigar Caucus – about thirty of us – that enjoy a good cigar in our office. And we do so. Nancy Pelosi for two years – I've been smoking cigars, nobody complains about it – but now they wanna come after us 'cause we're in the majority. This is typical from the left. They wanna infringe on our rights. They wanna complain about our smoke. They're probably complaining about maybe my aftershave or the color of my tie. It doesn't – it doesn't end.
Carlson repeated his falsehood about cannabis and methamphetamine and suggested that tobacco is healthy because it was used by Native Americans (experts agree that there is no difference in the dangers to health depending on what form tobacco takes):
But if you were smoking weed or meth no one would say anything. What is it about tobacco -- which was a religious sacrament for the American Indians, for all the Mesoamerican Indianas – what is it about tobacco that triggers them so profoundly, do you think?
Nehls presented his preferred brand of cigar:
I don't know. Maybe they've never tried one. But you look at a nice Ashton cigar – it's a beautiful cigar, it's mild, made Arturo through and through – it's a great cigar. Try one.
Nehls then lit it and took an on-air puff. Carlson found that hilarious:
Hahahahaha. Congressman Troy Nehls. Striking a blow for freedom. That is the smell of freedom. We appreciate your coming on tonight and standing up for Americanness.
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