Monday, July 09, 2007

Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards - July 2007

This is the second installment of my Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards (first installment is here). These awards are given out for the best examples of hypocrisy in the anti-smoking movement. This month's winners are:

#5 - American Medical Association

Cracking into the top 5 for the first time, the American Medical Association is being recognized for supporting legislation that is supposedly needed to prevent the tobacco companies from making undocumented claims, while at the same time making a doozy of an undocumented claim itself: that the proposed legislation will save "millions of lives."

Are we to seriously believe the AMA's suggestion that this legislation will save millions of lives when the Association doesn't so much as offer an explanation of how exactly the legislation will save even one life, much less millions?

I do, however, have to applaud the AMA for one thing. At least they didn't take the cowardly step that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids took and merely claim that the legislation will save "countless" lives. The Campaign isn't able to actually count the lives because those saved lives don't exist. No plausible mechanism has yet been offered for how the legislation will save lives.

At least the AMA is willing to pin a number on its claim. We don't have any idea of the mechanism, but at least we now know that the proposed legislation will save millions of lives.

Boy - it would sure be nice for me to be able to make bold and grand claims like that without having to support them, back them up, or even offer a plausible mechanism for the purported effect.

The American Medical Association is also being acknowledged for its suggestion that the proposed FDA legislation is necessary because of the tremendous volume of tobacco industry advertising, when in fact the legislation does not regulate the volume of advertising by the industry. This is exactly the kind of deceptive doublespeak that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and American Cancer Society have perfected in their campaigns to promote the FDA legislation. By adopting similar tactics, the AMA earns its way into the top 5.

#4 - American Cancer Society

Fourth place goes to the American Cancer Society, which has run a campaign of deception in support of the proposed FDA tobacco legislation, which it says is needed because the tobacco industry "has proven that they can't be trusted."

The American Cancer Society publicly misrepresented Philip Morris' position on the legislation, telling the public that "The tobacco industry has fought us at every step of the way," when in fact Philip Morris has supported the Cancer Society's efforts the entire way. Apparently, the tobacco companies aren't the only ones who can't be trusted.

#3 - American Heart Association

Third place goes to the American Heart Association which, in announcing a new policy to hold its annual scientific meetings only in smoke-free cities, supported the policy by telling the public that just 30 minutes of secondhand smoke slows the flow of blood to the heart muscle, making people much more susceptible to a heart attack - a statement which is untrue. The Heart Association then announced that its next scientific conference will be held in Orlando, a city in which bar workers are exposed to extremely high levels of secondhand smoke.

You see - in Florida, smoking is still allowed in bars. If attendees of the AHA conference this fall go out for drinks in the evening in an Orlando bar, they will more likely than not be exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke. Can you imagine all the heart attacks that are going to occur during the conference? It's a good thing that there will be so many cardiologists around.

The hypocrisy of the AHA's press release is startling. Secondhand smoke is so dangerous that only 30 minutes of exposure decreases your coronary blood flow and can trigger a heart attack; however, it's not so bad that we need to protect bar workers from secondhand smoke. Let them keel over from heart attacks - as long as the AHA conference attendees have a place to enjoy their evening cocktails to unwind after a long day of scientific presentations (many of which, incidentally, are going to be about how harmful secondhand smoke is).

#2 - Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids earns a well-deserved and solid second place finish for its support of legislation that it says is needed to stop the tobacco companies from making deceptive and misleading representations to the public, but with the use of a deceptive campaign of its own in which the Campaign is deceiving its own constituents and the public about the legislation.

On multiple occasions (it has become essentially a weekly occurrence), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has misled its constituents by stating or implying that the proposed FDA tobacco legislation is opposed by Big Tobacco, when in fact the largest company within Big Tobacco - Philip Morris - supports the legislation and is vigorously promoting its passage.

The Campaign's misrepresentation of the truth, which I have documented in multiple posts (example 1; example 2; example 3; example 4; example 5; example 6; example 7; example 8), is glaringly hypocritical in light of its stated purpose: to make sure that the tobacco companies do not deceive the public in their public communications.

The Campaign's seeming inability to tell the truth even garnered the attention of R.J. Reynolds, which rarely in recent years has called any anti-smoking group to task. Reynolds, most likely in vain, asked the Campaign to try sticking to the facts.

The fact that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is misusing youths in order to get them to lobby for this legislation only adds to the Campaign's case for a strong second place (example 1; example 2; example 3; example 4; example 5).

#1 - American Legacy Foundation

There are multiple levels of hypocrisy for which the American Legacy Foundation is being rewarded here.

First, the American Legacy Foundation testified before Congress last month, decrying the actions of companies like Time Warner, whose depiction of "smoking on screen recruits about 390,000 new youth smokers every year." According to Legacy, "youth exposure to movie smoking explains between one-third and one-half of all adolescent smoking initiation." Legacy has repeatedly bemoaned the exposure of youths to smoking in non-R rated movies, and has called for the Motion Picture Association of America to adopt a policy of giving an "R" rating to any movie that depicts smoking in a non-historically correct manner.

So who did the American Legacy Foundation choose as its leading corporate partner? You guessed it...Time Warner, the chief culprit of what Legacy says is basically the killing of our nation's children by addicting them to smoking. That pretty much defines hypocrisy. For that alone, Legacy probably would have carried home first place in the July 2007 Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards.

But wait - there's more. As a condition for Schools of Public Health accepting funding from the American Legacy Foundation, schools were required to sign a statement agreeing not to take funding from any tobacco company for the duration of the grant. This clause in the grant conditions is known as Clause 12.

As explained in a recent Public Health Reports article: "Grants awarded under this program required that the dean or CEO of the school of public health confirm that the school of public health does not currently accept nor will accept any grant or anything else of value from any tobacco manufacturer, distributor, or other tobacco-related company during the grant period. This restriction is a policy of the American Legacy Foundation and applies to all of the foundation'’s grantees and sub-grantees."

Thus, a School, in order to receive Legacy funding, has to agree that none of the researchers at the institution will accept tobacco funding. If I were to successfully apply for an American Legacy Foundation grant, then the conditions of that grant would mean that my colleagues at the School - all of them - would be bound from applying for funding from any tobacco-related company.

Of course, the ultimate irony of this whole story is that the American Legacy Foundation receives all of its funding from...
... you guessed it: the tobacco companies!

So you can imagine how heavily the hypocrisy is spread out over the Legacy Foundation, to have the gall to say that taking tobacco money is fine for them, but completely unacceptable for anyone else.

Moreover, to make matters much, much worse, Legacy is attempting to obtain funding to sustain its "truth" campaign from...
... you guessed it: the tobacco companies!

Legacy is doing this by funding a front group - the Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth - to push for tobacco company funding of the campaign. According to its web site, the Commission is working toward either voluntary or involuntary tobacco company funding to support the campaign: 'The Commission is seeking to persuade or force the tobacco companies to accede to court-supervised funding of the Public Education Fund through the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which they signed with the states in 1998."

Apparently, persuading the companies to fund Legacy by voluntarily continuing MSA payments would be acceptable to Legacy.

I don't think it's possible to be any more hypocritical than this.

Essentially, what Legacy is saying is that what Legacy is doing is so valuable that taking tobacco company money is justifiable, but no matter what anybody else is doing, taking tobacco money is completely unacceptable.

When the corrupt, filthy, criminal tobacco money hits anyone else's hands, it stays corrupt, filthy, and criminal, but when it hits Legacy's hands, it is immediately purified.

Maybe they run it through some sort of Holy Water, or something. Or have a Rabbi perform a special blessing?

Notice, by the way, that no where on the Commission's home page does it notify the public that the Commission is not some sort of independent group. Instead, it is funded by the American Legacy Foundation! Isn't that special? Funding a so-called citizens' group to support funding for... you! Sounds exactly like something the tobacco companies would do. But if you don't read the fine print on an entirely separate web page, you'll miss that small detail.

Under these circumstances, I do not find it acceptable for Schools to accept funding from the American Legacy Foundation. So like its benefactors, I would add Legacy to the short list of companies and organizations from which I would argue that universities should not accept research funding.

Third, despite calling smoking in movies one of the gravest threats to children's health, and despite making a big fuss to Congress about how an R-rating is needed for any movie that depicts any smoking in order to protect children from seeing smoking and starting to smoke because of it (which 390,000 of them apparently do every year), Legacy is calling for an exception to be made for any movie that depicts smoking in a historically correct manner.

If it is indeed true that depiction of smoking in movies is going to result in killing people (as the American Legacy Foundation has put it), then what possible justification is there for allowing kids to be exposed to any depiction of smoking, whether it is historically correct or not?

Who cares if a smoking depiction is historically correct if it is going to cause kids to become addicted to smoking and ultimately, for many of them to die because of it? If a depiction of smoking in a movie is going to result in disease and premature death among many of those in the audience, then how can we possibly allow an exemption for movies that depict smoking in a historically correct manner? Who cares if the person actually smoked or not? It is the smoking depiction that is killing kids, not the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of that depiction.

I find it extremely hypocritical for anti-smoking groups to suggest that smoking in movies is so bad that we need to remove any shred of it from any movies which kids may view, but that it is not so bad that we need to remove the historical depiction of smoking.

Finally, despite calling its youth anti-smoking media campaign "truth," Legacy repeatedly fails to disclose the truth about the research which it alleges demonstrates the effectiveness of this campaign in greatly reducing youth smoking in the nation: that the research was funded by, and authored by, the American Legacy Foundation itself. Legacy continues to fail to disclose this inherent conflict of interest, which in my view is an ethical violation. Even in its recent testimony before Congress, Legacy represented this research simply as being "peer-reviewed research," failing to disclose that the chief executive officer of Legacy was a senior author of the paper, the research behind which Legacy funded.

For these many examples of hypocrisy, I award the American Legacy Foundation the highest possible honor: #1 in the Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards for July 2007.

For more details and documentation on Legacy hypocrisy, see the following posts:
post 1
post 2
post 3
post 4
post 5
post 6

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