Jacob Sullum

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Jacob Sullum is a journalist who serves as Managing Editor of "Reason" magazine. Sullum has also worked at "National Review."

Tobacco advocacy

Sullum has argued that news accounts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 1993 Risk Assessment on secondhand smoke were "one-sided, credulous and superficial," and that journalists "missed an important story about the corruption of science by the political crusade against smoking." [1] The Reason Foundation, which employed Sullum when he wrote the article criticizing the EPA, received at least $10,000 from Philip Morris in 1993 [2], and got further funding from Philip Morris subsidiary Kraft General Foods.[3] Sullum himself has received $5,000 from R.J. Reynolds, another major cigarette company [4]--to reprint another article he wrote about secondhand smoke. Sullum's ties to the tobacco industry were exposed in a 1994 article by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). [5]

Jacob Sullum is one of the most vociferous defenders of the tobacco industry in print today. As editor of Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine published by the Reason Foundation, Sullum adopts a "Clinton defense" regarding the industry's long history of deceiving the public over tobacco's dangers. "Yes, the industry's position on the hazards of smoking has been disingenuous and irresponsible. But does it amount to fraud?" he asks. "What industry spokesmen said was not, by and large, literally false. Indeed, they carefully phrased their statements to avoid direct denial of tobacco's hazards. . . . The tobacco companies didn't fool anyone who didn't want to be fooled."[citation needed]

Although Sullum admits that "smoking is bad for you in the sense that it raises the risk of certain diseases and tends to shorten your life," he says smoking might "also be good for you, in the sense that it provides pleasure, relieves stress, or offers some other benefit. . . . The refusal to acknowledge the benefits of smoking--to admit the possibility that anyone could rationally choose to smoke--illustrates the arrogance of insisting, 'You shouldn't smoke because it's bad for you.'"[citation needed]

Sullum is one of the few inhabitants of planet Earth who defended Bob Dole's ill-fated claim that tobacco is non-addictive. He accuses other journalists of serious errors, exaggerations, and a bias against the tobacco industry. In discussions of the secondhand smoke issue, he "also accuses the EPA of corrupting science and cites many of the tobacco industry's arguments that so far have persuaded virtually no one in medicine and public health who are not recipients of tobacco industry money," observed Andrew Skolnick, an editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sullum defends his reliance on tobacco-funded researchers by arguing that scientists who "have qualms about the case against secondhand smoke" and "have the courage to speak up are apt to be sought out by tobacco companies as consultants and to attract research grants from them. If such funding is grounds for doubt, so is money from private organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, and government agencies, such as the California Department of Health, that are committed to achieving 'a smoke-free society.' "

The tobacco industry itself likes Sullum's work so much that in May 1994 the R.J. Reynolds company bought reprint rights to an editorial he had written for the Wall Street Journal. A few months later, Philip Morris paid him $5,000 for the right to reprint one of his articles as a five-day series of full-page ads in newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, and Baltimore Sun. "We felt that this report was particularly objective," explained Philip Morris vice president Ellen Merlo.(More...)

Snus advocacy

Sullum has been writing articles advocating the legalization of Swedish snus at least since 2004.[6]

Alcohol advocacy

Sullum has been writing articles advocating the legalization of alcohol vaporizers at least since 2005.[7]

Illegal drug advocacy

In 2004, Sullum wrote "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use", a book advocating the legalization of all recreational drugs. He has also had dozens of articles and innumerable blog posts published also advocating an end to drug prohibition.<Jacob Sullum Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use 352 pp. Tarcher. ISBN-10: 1585422274. May 8, 2003</ref>


  1. Sullum J, Forbes Media Critic Passive Reporting on Passive Smoke Published article. 1994. Bates No. 513209088/9094
  2. Associated Press, June 24, 1994
  3. Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1994
  4. Richmond Times Dispatch, June 30, 1994
  5. Jim Naureckas, Extra! Smoke Screens: When Journalists Boost the Tobacco Industry, Follow the Money Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. September/October 1994
  6. Sullum J, Reason Magazine Snus Ruse: Why lie about smokeless tobacco when a misleading half-truth will do? December 24, 2004
  7. Sullum J, Reason Magazine Targeting Temptation: The puritanical impulse behind alcohol vaporizer bans and anti-drug vaccines May 20, 2005

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