A number of my anti-smoking colleagues have responded in recent days to my commentaries pointing out the lack of scientific integrity that seems to have taken hold in the tobacco control movement by attacking and insulting me and by suggesting that there are more important things for anti-smoking groups to worry about.
Interestingly, these colleagues seem to acknowledge that my arguments are correct and that the movement is indeed basing its smoke-free air campaigns, in part, on a distortion of the scientific facts regarding the health effects of secondhand smoke. However, they argue, we have too many important things to do to be concerned about the "small" number of misrepresentations that are being made.
For example, one advocate wrote: "I think there are a lot of people who may agree with you in principle -that any organization including anti-smoking organizations need to be accurate in their communication. But the question is what are you going to do about it. I don't like Trent Lott, but he's in for 6 more years, and I am not going to go out an picket him every day. I don't like prostitution, but I am not going to spend my time fighting it. I've got other things to do."
The Rest of the Story
I think this attitude reveals exactly why what the anti-smoking groups are doing is so unethical. My colleagues readily admit that we are misleading the public, but excuse it by saying that we're too busy doing too many important things to worry about it.
Well I'm sorry, but misleading the public about the health effects of secondhand smoke in order to promote our cause is simply wrong. I reject the idea that the ends justifies the means. That is a very dangerous proposition.
The bottom line is that if we adopt this attitude, then we have completely lost our scientific integrity as well as our ethical principles upon which public health should be based.
And the consequences of adopting such an attitude are not only a threat to the tobacco control movement, but to public health itself.
What could possibly be more important than our honesty, our integrity, our ethics, and our scientific integrity? It's beyond me how our agenda is somehow more important than all of those combined.
It's noteworthy that a number of advocates are threatened by my commentaries, and that they apparently see the truth within my arguments, so that they are left with no response but an insulting ad hominem attack against a colleague.
It shows me that what I'm doing is indeed having an impact and that people are angry with me because I really do represent a threat. In other words, it reveals that deep down, people see the truth in what I'm saying.
Well you know what? They should feel threatened. This is a serious threat to our credibility and to our integrity.
And if people do see the truth in what I'm saying, then the appropriate response is not to attack ME, but instead, to correct the problem!!!
The continued ad hominem attacks against me, with absolutely no discussion of the actual issues or arguments that I raise, is documentation that the tobacco control movement has become a McCarthyism-like movement in which one cannot challenge the prevailing wisdom without risking one's career. And that's precisely why nobody is willing to speak out against the nonsense that is going on.
Wake up out there! We have publicly stated that just 30 SECONDS of exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart attacks. That's despicable (what's despicable is really that we haven't corrected it or apologized - anyone can make a mistake). There's simply no excuse for it (for failing to correct it and apologize).
This completely destroys our scientific integrity and threatens our credibility. Once that is lost, then we can spend all the time we want doing all the "more important" things mentioned in the responses to my commentaries, but it won't amount to a hill of beans. Because without credibility, we don't have a movement. Or at least one that can accomplish anything.
Most importantly, I find it disturbing that my colleagues suggest that even though there are severe integrity and ethical problems going on in our movement, we should turn a blind eye towards them and focus on our agenda. That violates the most basic values that I pride myself on.
Should we turn a blind eye to what went on with Foley in Congress because there are more pressing issues for the Congress to deal with than whether pages are being sexually harassed?
I agree - prostitution is a serious societal problem and perhaps we can't doing anything about it. We just accept it as part of society. Fine. But when that prostitution is occurring in our movement, then we sure as hell need to do something about it. There's no mystery about "what are you going to do about it?" The answer is simple: eradicate it. There's no room for a lack of scientific integrity in tobacco control. Period.
Others may be willing to accept prostituting our scientific and ethical principles for the cause. Well I'm not.
And colleagues can continue to attack and insult me all they want, but I'm not going to let down. These are values that are basic to me, and I'm not giving them up, no matter how much mud is slung at me.