Writing on the Globalink international list-serve of tobacco control advocates, a Globalink member attacked me for expressing my disagreement with widespread outdoor smoking bans publicly, rather than keeping it private among the Globalink membership.
The advocate wrote: "It's certainly acceptable to disagree with other advocates on a Globalink forum, but to do so in a public forum, a national daily no less, is counterproductive at best."
The advocate also compared my opinion to that of a former R.J. Reynolds executive, writing about my op-ed: "The article also reminded me of the quote from R.J. Reynolds Chairman, Charles Harper: "If children don't like to be in a smoky room, they'll leave." When asked by a shareholder about infants, who can't leave a smoky room, Harper stated, "At some point, they begin to crawl." --Carrig, David, "RJR Wins Fight", USA Today: B1, April 18, 1996 The same could be said of outdoor public places such as parks and beaches, especially when there is hardly a breeze blowing."
The Rest of the Story
This story is important because it demonstrates the mentality within the anti-smoking movement these days. It is not acceptable to express disagreement with any aspect of the agenda of the movement publicly. If you do so, you will be attacked by your colleagues. All dissent must be kept internal.
It sounds more like a religion, than a science-based public health movement. In fact, it was a desire not to let criticism go public that spurred some leaders within the Catholic Church to cover up or ignore sexual assaults that had been perpetrated by some priests. Disallowing dissent is something that is done by religious movements; it should not be a part of public health movements.
It is interesting and instructive that rather than deal with the substance of my arguments, the writer has instead chosen to attack me personally and to criticize the fact that I expressed my opinion, rather than the substance of my opinion or the science and reasoning I used to back it up.
It is also interesting to see how when an anti-smoking advocate criticizes any aspect of the agenda, he is immediately equated with being a tobacco industry spokesperson. Comparing me to the former chief executive of R.J. Reynolds in terms of my position on secondhand smoke is like comparing granola bars to Vienna Fingers.
The purpose of such comments is clear. It is an attempt to quell any possible dissent by attacking the dissenter. This is an effective tactic (although not in my case) for silencing dissent. It works extremely well in religious movements, and it is working extremely well in tobacco control.
I should also note that the advocate's call for me to express my opinions on Globalink - where he or she says it would be appropriate to do so - is quite ironic, given that I was expelled from Globalink specifically for expressing dissenting opinions about issues like this one.