Hitler and cigarettes

The other day at Barnes and Noble, I read parts of a book of transcripts of Hitler's dinner conversations during the war. The conversations were one-sided, almost monologues, as you might imagine. Hitler expanded on many subjects, including art, food, history and astronomy.

Hitler was adamantly opposed to smoking. He didn't allow it in his presence. He listed those he knew who were killed by smoking, including his father. He chided those at the table who smoked, saying "You're next!"

One of the peculiarities of World War II to the modern observer might be the fact that cigarette rations were considered vital to the morale of the troops. When I researched old local North Dakota newspapers from the war era, I was surprised to see that schoolchildren put on cigarette drives for the troops.

Apparently, the enemy had the same idea. Hitler said he thought it was crazy that his generals found cigarettes so important for the troops. He knew the soldiers were hooked, so he didn't plan to deprive them of their tobacco, at least for the rest of this war. But next war...

Hitler didn't drink, smoke, or eat meat. He was defeated by Churchill, who did all three as often as possible, and Roosevelt, who smoked himself to an early grave. Is there a broad lesson here? Probably not, except for that the purity of a leader's personal habits are no guarantor of his public virtue.