In Washington, D.C. smoking is banned from office buildings. But that rule doesn’t apply to the U.S. Capitol Building, where House Republicans have lifted a ban on smoking in that branch of Congress.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and other far-right pundits have been quick to applaud the move. Sounding a lot like the late radio host Rush Limbaugh, Carlson told viewers, “Nicotine frees your mind, and THC makes you compliant and passive.”
In a scathing article published by The Nation on January 23, journalist Joan Walsh slams House Republicans and their supporters for promoting something as unhealthy as smoking and argues that they are “killing” their “own voters.”
“I honestly thought it was fake news,” Walsh writes. “Just after Kevin McCarthy became House speaker, giving away his power to right-wing antagonists the first week in January, I read about Congress members smoking on the GOP side of the aisle. Just a projection from my liberal allies of Republicans’ intent to erode public health, I assumed. Funny GIF to come. But it was true. Rep. Tom Cole was smoking cigars in his office. Others were reportedly smoking cigarettes in other places.”
Walsh notes that “House lawmakers’ private offices aren’t governed by” either the District of Columbia’s anti-smoking ordinance” or “a Bill Clinton executive order” that “prohibits smoking in federal buildings that are under the authority of the executive branch.”
“Under McCarthy, smoking is allowed not just in members’ offices, but in public areas too,” Walsh explains. “Now comes more carcinogenic propaganda from right-wing losers. Last week, Fox’s Tucker Carlson began preaching a return to smoking as a return to American values. Tobacco is so much more American than increasingly legal and available weed, he told his stoned-on-lies audience.”
On Fox News, Carlson made cigarette smoking a culture war issue, telling viewers that liberals “hate nicotine” but “love THC.”
Walsh comments, “I shouldn’t be surprised at Carlson’s tribute to tobacco…. Republicans have long opposed anti-smoking measures, at least partly out of fealty to Big Tobacco. Former GOP Speaker John Boehner became infamous for handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor in 1995. As Indiana governor, Mike Pence railed against tobacco restrictions and insisted ‘smoking doesn’t kill.’ But the recent pro-smoking crusade seems to be inspired more by culture war imperatives than by defending the tobacco industry.”
The journalist points out that Limbaugh spent decades vigorously defending cigarette smoking on his radio show — before dying of lung cancer in 2021.
“Killing your own voters seems like a bad electoral strategy,” Walsh writes. “Salon’s Amanda Marcotte calls it ‘getting lung cancer to own the libs.’ Sadly, Republicans are mostly giving their base voters what they think they want.”