A Critique of Thank You for Smoking. . .?


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A Critique of “Thank You for Smoking. . .?"


Peter Brimelow is a senior editor for Forbes magazine. The essay was written taken from Forbes magazine (July 4, 1994).

Peter Brimelow’s “Thank You for Smoking” is a misleading argument which has very little precise evidence and illustrates a weak argument. The essay is about how smoking in some small ways, can be good for you. (Brimelow). In his claim it sounds like he isn’t sure of it himself because he used “might be” and “some” which are not strong argumentative words. When stating a major claim it has to be strong and get the message clear. It is supported by logic and reason, not by emotional rhetoric. (Clark 5).
Brimelow’s rebuttal talks about the Surgeon General and how he has determined smoking is not at all dangerous to your health. A rebuttal points out instances in which the claim or warrant might not be true or ways the audience might object to what the author is arguing. He goes on to say that 400,000 deaths are related to smoking each year. His rebuttal to this is comparing smoking with driving. He goes on to say that driving causes 40,000 deaths in one year. These two numbers comparing the number of deaths caused my smoking and car accidents are not even close to comparison. Another car can collide with them or bad roads can cause accidents, while smoking is totally preventable and can be controlled by the person.

Value is what the author believes strongly in and in this essay freedom is Brimelow’s value stated. I think it was clever using freedom to compare because it appeals to people and it gets their attention and keeps it. He says driving cars is dangerous and people have the freedom to drive cars then they should have the freedom to smoke where they want. Is it the smoker’s right to come into a room full of non-smokers and light up a cigarette? Should all the non-smokers have to bear the smoke or have to leave because they have a right to smoke anywhere they want. Smokers have the right to smoke but only where smoking is permitted. If they want to harm themselves let them do it alone and not harm people who want to breathe clean air.

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Backing provides support for the author’s warrant. The backing should be from a reliable source and backed by credible authorities. (Clark 5). His backing is from a British researcher D.M. Warburton who showed that cigarettes do stimulate alertness, dexterity, and cognitive capacity. Brimelow also points out in his backing that smoking helps to keep a person awake while driving long distances or flying. Smoking can stimulate the central nervous system but it’s not wise to start smoking just to increase alertness. Smoking carries too many negatives for one small positive.

He then switches the subject to say “smoking seems also to offer subtler health rewards to balance against its undisputed risks.” (Thank You). He uses the word undisputed risks meaning that theses risks are certain and cannot be forgotten or ignored. This value is not a strong one because of the wordings of seems and disputed. He sounds like he is not sure of the health rewards he claim can benefit from smoking.

The backing for the second value goes into diseases that can be supposedly cut if someone smoked. Smoking can cut Parkinson’s disease by half the rate as a non-smoker. Alzheimer’s disease can also be cut by 50% if a person smoked. In reality doctors do not know what causes Alzheimer’s. Endometrial cancer can also be cut as much as 50% with smokers than non-smokers. Prostate cancer with smokers is cut in half compared to non-smokers. He adds this needs corroboration though. Osteoarthritis is five times as less likely to develop with smokers. Colon cancer and ulcerative colitis is 30% to 50% less with smokers than with people who do not smoke. (Brimelow). All this sounds good and even beneficial, but all of these numbers are at 50% which is half the population. Brimelow is taking advantage of numbers that are statistics. All of these diseases have another thing in common; doctors are not sure what exactly causes them.[Add a document citation here, including the page number if there is one.] Three-fourths of these statistics are also based on surveys, which are not always accurate. All of this backing is not logical or by any means true. He is using diseases not fully understood to his advantage giving smoking a better image.

Brimelows’s minor claim is the human system can clear the effects of three to five cigarettes a day. He says that there is no current support for his claim and is merely based on assumptions by him. “It appears the human system can clear the effects of three to five of the much stronger pre- 1960 cigarettes, if dispersed across a day, with very little risk.” (Brimelow). This is not widely supported and is not a logical statement. This argument is based upon untrue facts


Works Cited

Brimelow, Peter. “Thank You for Smoking. . .?” The Genre of Argument. Ed. Irene L. Clark. Boston: Thomson- Heinle. 1998

Clark, Irene L. The Genre of Argument. Ed. Irene L. Clark. Boston: Thomson-Heinle. 1998


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