Thursday, March 01, 2007

Major Anti-Smoking Groups and their Politicians Get High Marks for Meaningless and Deceptive Propaganda

In an unusual change of pace from my past criticism of the major anti-smoking groups for their role in deceiving the public about the details regarding the proposed FDA tobacco legislation, I am today awarding these groups, and the politicians who are working hand-in-hand with them, a grade of A+ on my meaningless and deceptive propaganda report card.

The Rest of the Story

Leading the charge and making a substantial contribution to the A+ grade is Senator Edward Kennedy, who came up with this whopper of public deception:

"If Congress fails to act and smoking continues at its current rate, more than 6 million of today's children will ultimately die from tobacco-induced disease."

Of course, this statement implies that by Congress acting, and enacting the proposed legislation, Congress will prevent these 6 million kids from dying from tobacco-induced disease. It indicates that the legislation will reduce smoking prevalence so that smoking does not continue at its current rate.

But the truth is that the proposed legislation will not reduce smoking prevalence, and it might even increase it. Supporters of the legislation are banking on strict advertising regulations to curtail youths' exposure to cigarette advertising, and in turn, to reduce smoking initiation. However, as I explained yesterday, the Supreme Court is virtually certain to find unconstitutional any advertising restrictions that might result in a meaningful reduction in youth exposure to cigarette advertising.

On the other hand, by giving tobacco products an FDA seal of approval, public perception of the dangers of smoking is likely to be undermined. This would be expected to lead to an increase, not a decrease, in smoking prevalence.

The second whopper of public deception goes to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which in its Senate testimony tried to make Congress believe that there is no opposition to the proposed legislation within the public health community:

"It [Senate bill 625] has been endorsed by every major national public health organization... ."

Clearly, the Campaign is trying to convince Congress that the legislation is universally supported by public health practitioners. The truth, however, is that the public health community is deeply divided on this issue. A large number of public health organizations and advocates vehemently oppose the legislation. In fact, I personally am working with a coalition of at least two dozen public health advocates to try to derail the legislation.

To tell Congress that every major national public health organization has endorsed the legislation is close to a complete lie. What saves it from being a complete lie is the word "major." By leaving room to argue that they interpret "major" in their own particular way, the Campaign spares itself from perjury in front of Congress.

But would it really be accurate and forthright to state, for example, that the American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP) is not a major national public health group? The AAPHP has helped lead the fight against the FDA tobacco legislation for the past two years.

The AAPHP's mission statement makes it clear that this is indeed a major national public health organization: "AAPHP will expand its role as an influential national organization. Public Health physicians will, in greater numbers, convene under the AAPHP banner to develop their policy and advocacy plans and strategies. AMA, ACPM, other physician and public health organizations, and others, will increasingly seek AAPHP assistance in their policy deliberations. Working together we will help improve the health information of the nation through effective application of public health principles, and the development of data-driven population based services."

Perhaps the Campaign's testimony is not an outright lie - but if it isn't a lie, then it is a downright insult to the major national organization of public health physicians in this country, who have now been discounted as being a major national public health organization. Take that, public health physicians! You are not important. Your organization, while national and related to public health, is not major. You - public health physicians - are just a minor player in our public health system. So go back to your doctor's offices. No one needs to know about your position on this legislation (since you're against it).

I can kind of see why proponents of this legislation need to resort to wild, grandiose, exaggerated, meaningless and deceptive propaganda: because when you actually talk about the specific merits of the proposed legislation, you realize that it is actually an absurd regulatory framework that would institutionalize continued deception of American consumers and lead to devastating effects on the public's health. But it would protect Philip Morris' profits.

Who's deceiving who here?

In some ways, the deception by the anti-smoking groups supporting this legislation is greater than that of the tobacco companies over the past years. At least with smoking, it was pretty obvious that the companies were lying or stretching the truth. Here, unless you read the actual bill for yourself (which few people are going to do), you'd have no way of knowing that our major anti-smoking groups and the politicians standing with them are deceiving you.

I guess it is perfectly honest for me to state that every major national public health organization is deceiving the public about the proposed FDA legislation. Since every major national public health organization has apparently endorsed the legislation and since the rhetoric regarding the legislation is deceiving the American people, my contention seems perfectly valid.

In conclusion, then, every major national public health organization in the United States is part of a campaign that is deceiving the public about the proposed FDA legislation.

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