Mike Pence's past claim that 'smoking doesn't kill' resurfaces after Trump names him to lead coronavirus response

In the wake of President Trump's naming of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, past writings by Pence where he defended the tobacco industry are resurfacing.

During his 2001 run for Congress while he was governor of Indiana, Pence penned an op-ed where he claimed that despite the "hysteria" from the "political class," there's no evidence that smoking is dangerous for humans. "In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer," Pence wrote.

While Pence made sure in the op-ed to acknowledge that smoking isn't healthy, his critics are seizing on his past claims to show that he's not equipped for his new role.

"As governor, Mike Pence put ideology over science & contributed to one of the worst HIV crises his state had ever seen," tweeted Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). "In 2000, he wrote an op-ed arguing 'smoking doesn’t kill.' We need competence & science driving our response—that’s not the VP’s record."

Also speaking out was Sen. Brian Shatz (D-HI).

"Mike Pence is for conversion therapy. Mike Pence said smoking didn’t cause cancer. Mike Pence doesn’t believe climate science. Mike Pence questioned whether or not condoms worked," Shatz tweeted, adding a cringe emoji.

As IndyStar points out, in 2009 Pence voted against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which sought to put new warning labels on cigarettes while giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco.