Thursday, January 26, 2006

Anti-Smoking Advocate Accuses Rest of the Story Author of Being a Traitor

In a public statement (issued on a tobacco control list-serve to which thousands of tobacco control advocates belong), an anti-smoking advocate accused me of being a traitor to the tobacco control movement, and, apparently, of being a tobacco industry front.

His accusation:

"I'm going to go straight to the point. It is my opinion that Michael Siegel is a traitor in our midst, that he is a tobacco stooge."

I take this as a great compliment, since Larry, Moe, and Curly were my favorites as kids. I am critical of the accusation only in its lack of clarity, since it is not clear which of The Three Stooges the advocate is accusing me of being most like.

It's got to be either Moe or Curly, since both came from families in the Jewish community of Brooklyn (my family was actually from the Bronx, but that's closer than Philadelphia, from which Larry hailed). Moe, like me, had two children, while Curly married four times and had a highly-publicized, scandalous divorce, so I'm hoping that Moe was the Stooge that the advocate had in mind.

On the other hand, since the advocate called me a "tobacco" stooge, maybe he has in mind lesser known Stooge Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz), who was notorious for smoking a cigar.

The Rest of the Story

This post is not actually about the accusation. Instead, it is about the opinion that I expressed that led to this attack. The opinion that led to it was my suggestion that perhaps it is not such a good idea to be promoting, as a public health intervention, firing smokers from their jobs.

That is what I find hard to believe.

I could certainly understand if I had suggested something "radical," such as challenging the established wisdom that smoking bans can produce a greater reduction in heart attacks than eliminating all smoking entirely, or suggesting that smoking should not be banned everywhere.

But this was a seemingly "benign" and "reasonable" opinion - that perhaps it is not appropriate, from a public health perspective, to encourage employers to fire all their smokers to save health care costs, rather than perhaps instituting worksite health promotion programs, including smoking cessation programs and other services and incentives to help smokers quit.

Not so, I guess. Apparently, this is such a radical opinion that ipso facto, it must mean that I am not even a deranged tobacco control advocate, but actually that I am a full-blown traitor, a mere tobacco front who is posing as a public health practitioner.

I'll be honest. I'm a pretty good actor and I can pull a lot off, but this is one I wouldn't even attempt. Especially not driving a Saturn SL. You would think if I was being paid off by the tobacco companies, the first thing I would do would at least be to upgrade to an SL2 -- or, at very least, an SL1???

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