An article in the Winston-Salem Journal highlights a new book by Patrick Basham, entitled "Butt Out! How Philip Morris Burned Ted Kennedy, the FDA & the Anti-Tobacco Movement." In this book, Basham provides a detailed, extensive, and well-documented treatment of the origins of the FDA tobacco legislation. He describes, in no uncertain terms, how that legislation was the result of an unholy alliance between the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris.
According to the article: "Patrick Basham argues that Philip Morris is teaming with anti-tobacco groups to write legislation beneficial to its business. Patrick Basham has taken on one of the most intriguing deals in Washington -- how Philip Morris USA came to support Food and Drug Administration oversight -- in a new book titled Butt Out! How Philip Morris Burned Ted Kennedy, the FDA & the Anti-Tobacco Movement. ... Basham's book focuses on how Philip Morris has worked with anti-tobacco groups to create potential FDA regulations that would cement it as the dominant U.S. manufacturer and stifle smokeless innovation being developed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Both Philip Morris and the anti-tobacco groups, mostly prominently the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have denied those allegations for years."
In the article, Basham states: "Though the alliance between anti-tobacco activists and the nation's largest tobacco company has been probed by some journalists, the public denials have tended to convince those who have not dug deeply enough. As I provide chapter and verse on how this unholy alliance has developed and worked, perhaps this will galvanize opposition to this travesty of public-health legislation."
In response to a question about the biggest revelation in his book, Basham responds: "That Philip Morris is really smart at pursuing its corporate interest and that Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. Henry Waxman, and their anti-tobacco partners are really dumb at pursuing the public's interest. As I show in my "scorecard of who won and lost," Philip Morris got virtually everything it wanted, while the anti-tobacco leadership in Washington struck out."
The Rest of the Story
As recently as last week, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids publicly denied that there is any truth to the allegation that it teamed up with Philip Morris in negotiating and crafting this legislation. But we now have evidence from numerous sources that the Campaign is being dishonest: there seems to be no question that the bill is the result of a negotiation between the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Philip Morris. There seems to be no question that the bill was crafted, in part, by the nation's leading tobacco company.
While I will have plenty to say in the next two days about the public health merits (i.e., lack of merits) of this legislation, I think we need to take at least a moment to consider the implications and consequences of this unethical behavior by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Dishonesty and deception is unethical, and in my view, it violates the basic code of ethical conduct that we adhere to in public health. It is especially egregious because the entire premise of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' support for the FDA legislation is that the tobacco companies are lying to and deceiving the American public and that their misrepresentation of the truth needs to be reigned in.
I find it difficult to find any credibility in the Campaign's position to issue these complaints when they are themselves engaging in massive deception of the public.
If we want to be the organizations that uphold ethical integrity in terms of honesty in communications to the public, then should we not first and foremost be beyond reproach in our own communications to the public. And at very least, should we not be expected to be honest, truthful, and forthright in our communications? Should we not be expected to be honest in our communications to our own constituents? Should we not expect anti-smoking groups to tell the truth to each other?
That the overwhelming majority of health and anti-smoking groups have jumped onto the Philip Morris-crafted deal to institutionalize tobacco use, give it the government's approval, and provide unprecedented special protection to Big Tobacco (and especially Philip Morris) is a testament to the degree to which these organizations were deceived by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
And not only has the wool been pulled over the eyes of anti-smoking groups, it has been pulled over the eyes of the leading policy makers who previously had a history of actually supporting the protection of the public's health from tobacco.
Clearly, a huge act of deception was necessary, because to tell the truth and reveal that Philip Morris helped craft the bill would have been devastating to its support. The bill would never have made it this far without that massive act of deception.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids pulled off this massive act of deception, but I will note that it comes at a huge price. That price is the destruction of the ethical integrity of the tobacco control movement.