Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anti-Smoking Groups and Advocates Now Going Off the Deep End in Full Force; Movement is Rapidly Losing Its Credibility; ASH Calls Smokers "Killers"

In a proposal presented at the Fifth World Conference on Nonsmokers' Rights sponsored by Action on Smoking and Health in 2008, an anti-smoking advocate called for statewide campaigns to change the law so that smoking becomes a controlling factor in child custody cases.

Randall Richardson of the Florida Coastal School of Law wrote: "In recent years, courts have begun to take into account second hand smoke issues in child custody proceedings. The courts, using the broad standard “best interest of the child”, have started to use smoking as a factor in determining custody issues. While not deeming it a controlling factor, some courts have used it to determine issue when all other factors were equal. ... What seems to be missing in each of the state family law statutes, is whether the statute specifically states whether the parent smokes or not is a controlling factor in determining child custody. Therefore, what I purpose is to amend through grass-root state campaigns, state family law statutes that make whether or not a parents smokes a controlling factor in determining child custody cases. This can be accomplished by either putting the issue on the ballot in the form of a referendum or by supporting candidates that will vote to change the statutes."

Last week, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) issued a press release in which it boasted about how the public is growing increasingly "hostile" to smokers. It calls for "no more privileges and toleration" for smokers, which it terms "polluters and killers."

One of the policies for which ASH expresses support is banning smoking by people with children. Other policies which ASH cites as being appropriate ways to treat these "killers" include:
  • not hiring them and firing them if they are already employed;
  • not allowing them to adopt children;
  • refusing to perform certain operations on them;
  • banning smoking on sidewalks; and
  • taking their children from them in custody battles.
According to ASH, smokers "kill thousands of their own children every year."

ASH also equates smokers who smoke in a home or car with children with "child abusers."

And in supporting the denial of surgery to smokers, ASH writes: "Patients seeking a liver transplant may be denied one if they are going to continue drinking alcohol, so why should smokers expect to get all the operations they wish if they are going to continue to smoke and thereby endanger the success of the operation."

The Rest of the Story

If it wasn't clear before, it is now: the anti-smoking movement has completely gone off the deep end.

This is really disgusting. To call smokers "killers" and to say that they "kill thousands of their own children every year" has no place in public health. That is disgusting, hateful, inappropriate, bigoted, and intolerant rhetoric which I unreservedly condemn.

The idea of denying surgery to addicted smokers is also despicable, and it runs contrary to the basic principles of medicine. It clearly violates the Hippocratic oath as well as the principle of "to do no harm." Value judgments regarding lifestyle must absolutely not enter the realm of medical decisions.

Banning smoking on sidewalks, as I have argued, is unsupported by any science and is demonstrative of an extremist, moral-based crusade.

Not allowing smokers to adopt children, even if they agree not to smoke in the presence of the child, is cruel and nothing more than an attempt to punish those individuals for having made an unhealthful decision to smoke.

Denying employment to smokers categorically and when the smoking has no bearing on the qualifications or duties of employment is discrimination and even worse, it represents a manifestation of bigotry.

Finally, while smoking by a parent could certainly be one of a multitude of considerations in child custody decisions, to make it a controlling factor is disgusting, and it is clearly not in the best interest of the child. Whose interest is really being served by making smoking by a parent a controlling factor in child custody? The child's, or the interests of an anti-smoking group that aims to punish smokers by denying them the joy of raising children?

By making smoking a controlling factor, it would actually come above whether or not the parent loves the child and how the child is treated. It would certainly come before the desires of the child himself. This is so narrow-minded that it is clear that some anti-smoking groups and advocates are willing to punish smokers at the expense of the welfare of children.

I condemn these views in the strongest terms possible.

It is quite sad to me to see that the tobacco control movement has gone off the deep end like this. I believe that the jump off the diving board is into such deep water that the reputation and credibility of the movement are all but irretrievable.

Some might argue that the views of several anti-smoking groups and advocates do not represent the entire movement. While technically true, it is also the case that if other anti-smoking groups do not publicly speak out to condemn these views, then they carry the day and are de facto representations of the agenda of the anti-smoking movement. Moreover, it is becoming clear that the views expressed by groups like ASH are not extremist positions, but that they represent the views of many anti-smoking groups. Having ASH speak up has apparently given ammunition and backup to many of these groups to start pursuing these radical policy goals.

The failure to speak out publicly against policies and views like these is tantamount to supporting those policies. When a group talks about smokers as being "killers" and "child abusers" and actively promotes intolerance, hatred, and punishment against this group in the tangible form of denying them basic rights and privileges, such as employment and raising children, then it is imperative that anti-smoking groups and advocates publicly condemn these statements. Silence is not an option. Silence means passive acceptance and passive endorsement of that agenda.

Thus, I argue, by its silence on the matter, the anti-smoking movement as a whole has indeed passively (and in some cases actively) accepted this extremist agenda.

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