Monday, July 25, 2005

Welcome Readers from Reason Online, Forces International, and the Smoker's Club

Welcome readers from Reason Online's Hit & Run blog, from Forces International, and from The Smoker's Club.

As I mentioned in my second Challenging Dogma post, the anti-smoking movement has a tendency to lump together anyone and everyone who disagrees with its positions as being affiliated with the tobacco industry, and to attack these groups and individuals rather than address their arguments on their merits. But not everyone who takes a different view on these issues is part of the tobacco industry.

Forces International is in fact one organization that I had been led to believe was simply a tobacco industry front group. The Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) website lists FORCES under the category "Front Groups and Allies." And it states that "Even though the National Smokers' Alliance is now (sort of) defunct, the background information from this document is still relevant to other smokers' rights groups such as FORCES." Since that document states that the National Smokers' Alliance was created by and heavily funded by the tobacco industry funding, I would assume ANR is implying that FORCES was also created by the tobacco industry and is heavily funded by the tobacco companies.

The Rest of the Story

In fact, ANR itself reveals that FORCES was offered and did not accept tobacco industry funding. A 1999 Philip Morris document stated that: "The most prominent of the smokers' rights organizations is FORCES (Fight Ordinances & Restrictions to Control and & Eliminate Smoking). FORCES does not accept tobacco industry funding."

Just because ANR disagrees with FORCES on issues does not justify misleading the public into thinking that this organization is merely a tobacco industry front group (and if I was misled, it is likely that many in the public who read this site are being misled).

I suppose ANR could defend itself by arguing that FORCES is listed under "Front Groups & Allies" rather than just "Front Groups." But you know what: that's exactly the point. In ANR's view, there's no difference between the two. They can just lump them together because they essentially represent the same thing - groups that disagree with ANR's views on the issues and therefore need to be attacked.

Individuals who are not part of the tobacco industry but who disagree with certain policies related to the regulation of smoking are not, in my view, merely promoting tobacco industry interests. In fact, there are a number of interests - including privacy rights, the need for evidence-based policy formation, and concerns about unfair and discriminatory policies - that anti-smoking organizations would be wise to consider. While I disagree with some of these groups' arguments, I agree with some of them, and will be continuing to comment on these over the next few weeks in my Challenging Dogma posts.

Ultimately, I view smokers not as the enemy, but as the very population that led me to this field in the first place. I am in public health and focusing on the smoking issue because as a physician, I saw first-hand the devastating health effects that smoking can have on individuals and their families, and I wanted to do something about it.

But attacking the smokers, tying them to the tobacco industry whenever they argue against tobacco control policies, and taxing them whenever we need more money for underfunded government programs just doesn't seem like the most reasonable approach to me.

Thus, welcome again to my new readers from Reason Online's Hit & Run blog, from Forces International, and from The Smoker's Club.


Anonymous said...

You seem to have completely gone off the deep end. The more outrageous you get, the more people react, thus further justifying in your mind the idiocies that you present as reasoned analysis. Go to the Forces section on "Evidence":

and you tell me that they are not "promoting the tobacco industry's interests."

Really, are you setting yourself up to be to the American Luc Martial? You're well on your way.

Michael Siegel said...

Actually, I did not state that they are not "promoting the tobacco industry's interests." I stated that they are "not merely promoting the tobacco industry's interests."

In other words, they are not a tobacco industry front group set up by the industry to do its bidding for it. They are (to the best of my knowledge) an independently-funded group that is promoting its own agenda.

I think it's time that we recognize that there are actually individuals out there who have an individual interest in these issues and that they are promoting their own interests. They are not just industry moles.

Anonymous said...

Michael, do you know who Carol Thompson is? You should.

Click on the "search" button in the right-hand column of the FORCES home page, and do a search on "Carol Thompson". You will get a LOT of matches.

Also, note that John Luik, a professional liar who IS funded by the tobacco industry, is listed as a "researcher" in the left-hand column of the home page.

Anonymous said...

Oh, OK. Now it's clear. I truly believe (and I'm not being sarcastic) that Louis Camilleri is not "merely" promoting the tobacco industry's interests when he gets up and defend's PM/Altria' positions and behaviour. Nor are the many hotel and restaurant associations when they allow themselves to be misled by bogus economic impact studies on the impact of smoke-free laws.

The real problem according to your blog mind seem to be public health groups (ANR, TFK) and their lack of respect for "scientific integrity".

Michael Siegel said...

The fact that one individual involved with FORCES - John Luik - has been paid by the tobacco industry does not mean that the organization is nothing other than a tobacco industry front group.

In fact, it appears that FORCES has gone to some trouble to attempt to maintain a distance from the tobacco companies. Its website states: "We have no link with the tobacco companies, and we are supported solely by member donations and volunteer work." I take that to mean that FORCES does not get tobacco industry funding.

I'm well aware of who Carol Thompson is but have found no evidence that she is paid by the tobacco industry. If Anonymous is making such a claim, he or she needs to provide some documentation.

Anonymous said...

1. I made no claim that Carol Thompson is paid by the tobacco industry. She is a violent-minded psychotic, and FORCES doesn't seem to have a problem with this.

2. FORCES HAS received tobacco industry funding, for an ad campaign for one of the California referenda.

3. Besides Luik and Thompson, another unsavory creature associated with FORCES is Gian Turci; he's listed as a "columnist" on the FORCES home page. Since you advertise yourself as a "researcher", you should try getting the RCMP file on Turci. These URLs will get you started:
The "Dr. Blatherwick" referred to was Vancouver's medical health officer at the time.

benpal said...

"Click on the "search" button in the right-hand column of the FORCES home page, and do a search on "Carol Thompson". You will get a LOT of matches." So what? Google for "anonymous" and you will find a lot of matches, too. What's your point when treating Carol Thompson as a "violent-minded psychotic". Is this scientific evidence or discrimination based on purported funding by an industry? As long as you have no better arguments you fail to make the point.

Anonymous said...

"Discrimination based on purported funding by an industry"? I've already spelled out that I made no statement that Carol Thompson was or is funded by the tobacco industry. Do you know something about this that I don't?

Would you like some evidence that Carol Thompson is a violent-minded psychotic? OK, here goes:

"These anti-smoking conspirators must be prosecuted, and pay for their crimes against over 50 million people with the DEATH PENALTY. Nothing else will be sufficient for the magnitude of their offenses." - Carol Thompson - this quote appeared on the FORCES web page

"Morally, the anti-smokers deserve to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, and hanged like the Nazi war criminals." - Carol Thompson, Feb. 4, 2001

Anonymous said...

Congrats for this excellent blog Michael -- I don't know if you saw it but you were written up by Jacob Sullum:

I'm sure you'll be criticized by the health nazis for this but don't let those turkeys get you down :)!

Maryetta Ables said...

I find it amazing, that the anti tobacco extremists can attack, defame, and demonize anyone who does not agree with them.
But if someone attacks, defames or demonizes them "its not fair" and the person is further demonized.
The anti tobacco zealots have been attacking those who choose to speak up for their personal beliefs and rights for some time now.
The anti tobacco activists in our area (WV) have threatened local business, local politicains and arranged health inspections that cost those businesses who openly object to the smoking bans tens of thousands of dollars.
Perhaps they should now understand that 'big tobacco' doesn't have to fund FORCES, they have offended so many, lied to so many, and openly operated in violation of so many laws that they have brought about the beginning of their own demise. The more the scream foul now, the less they are believed by the public in general.
They have made themselves the laughing stock of society, and effectively removed almost all credibility the scientific and medical field had with the public.
As long as there is money to fund their little 'busybody suzy homemaker' non profit groups, who use smokers money to fund regulations against smokers, we will have to deal with them, but this too shall pass, and they will have to go find real jobs somewhere else. But while they are still around, and we have to deal with them, just remember, we are playing with rattlesnakes, who will say and do anything for the money they get.

Maryetta Ables

Terry Gray said...

It amazes me that anonymous remains anonymous. This is the kind of underhanded and cowardly approach taken by many of the tobacco Nazis. They lash out at those who wish to preserve freedom and fight amongst themselves any dollars that may be a consequence of their actions. Then they accuse any who stand by tobacco as being on the dole.

If anonymous will take a look at the funding that provides negative information on tobacco, the funding that provides for the lobbying efforts of the antis, the funding that provides for "research" into tobacco, and much more, he'll find that these activities are funded by tobacco as well. The problem there is that the money to fund these "antis" activities is stolen or otherwise forced from smokers. What money that isn't taken from smokers for these activities comes from organizations that have a stake in legislation against tobacco. It is all about money.

One more thing Mr. Anonymous, when one places a person like Carol Thompson, with whom I'm unfamiliar, into a general category, one cannot claim to not have directed asumptions in regard to that person. The same with Gian Turci, whom I do know. This makes you no better than those who would classify you as a moron.

Terry Gray
President - Forces Kentucky

Anonymous said...

Fascinating -- I went to the FORCES intl. Website and clicked "about us". A blaring headline read: "WE ARE PRO-CHOICE FOR THE CONSUMER!". Yet strangely enough nothing about demanding that the companies that produce tobacco products disclose what they put in the cigarettes and how they are engineered. You'd think people interested in the rights of the consumer would as a very basic step demand to know what is in the product they consume. Lots about how "politically correct advocates" are attempting to "control our lifestyles" but nothing about the manufacturers. I dunno, that strikes me as awfully strange. Maybe I'm missing something....

Wiel said...

If you always would know what you are really eating, you would stop eating. Especially with the modern pre-processed foods.
Sometimes it's better NOT to know and just enjoy. Because enjoying is healthy.....

Anonymous said...

So if a company was putting cyanide in the cookies your kids were eating you'd rather not know and let them "just enjoy"? Please. I'll know a legitimate smokers' rights group when one starts demanding that the companies disclose what they put in their products. Until then I'll consider them either the defensive, knee-jerk product of nictoine addicts or industry fronts.