In separate communications sent to their constituents, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society have once again failed to disclose the most important fact about the proposed FDA tobacco legislation: the fact that it is supported by Philip Morris, the nation's largest tobacco manufacturer.
Both communications deceive constituents by hiding the fact that they are being asked to support what is essentially a Philip Morris bill. Neither one reveals that the bill was negotiated with Philip Morris or even that it is supported by Philip Morris. In fact, the American Cancer Society actively deceives constituents by suggesting that all of Big Tobacco opposes the legislation.
In a February 25 email to its constituents, the American Cancer Society urges us to contact our Congressmembers to thank them for supporting the FDA legislation. However, the email is titled "Please thank your Congressmen for fighting Big Tobacco."
In an email sent yesterday by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to its youth advocacy constituents, it urges us to plan events for Kick Butts Day that will promote passage of the FDA legislation. The email is clearly aimed at the organization's youth constituents. However, nowhere in the email, or on the web pages referenced in the email, are youths informed that this is essentially a Philip Morris bill.
The Rest of the Story
In my opinion, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Cancer Society are acting unethically by asking their constituents to support the FDA legislation without disclosing the fact that the legislation is supported by Philip Morris. It is a dishonest tactic and it is unbefitting of a public health organization, especially one whose stated goal is to prevent the tobacco companies from misleading the public.
Is it not ironic that these groups - which are arguing that the legislation is necessary in order to stop tobacco companies from misleading Americans - are promoting the legislation by misleading Americans? And their own constituents, to boot?
While the actions of the American Cancer Society are bad enough, those of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are even worse. They are misleading and manipulating kids, which is even more troubling than deceiving adults.
What is most troubling to me is not that these organizations are acting unethically. We all make mistakes. What is most troubling is that they keep doing the same thing - over and over again - even after their mistakes are pointed out to them.
One would think that even if they were not interested in acting ethically, they would at least be interested in creating the perception that they care about acting ethically. But this doesn't even seem to reach their radar screen. What they are doing is apparently so important that if they have to use unethical tactics, including dishonesty, to achieve their goals, it is entirely acceptable.
I guess as long as the scientific integrity of the anti-smoking movement is deteriorating, the ethical integrity of the movement might as well go down with it.