Today I announce the 3rd place finisher in my annual Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award for the worst public lie in the tobacco control field in 2011 (the Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award name is borrowed from PolitiFact, which uses the term in its truth-o-meter). The runner-up and winner will be announced in subsequent days.
Third Place - 2011 Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award: The World Medical Association
On October 4, 2011, the World Medical Association issued a press release in which it claimed that the tobacco industry was promoting electronic cigarettes in shops and on the internet in an effort to recruit young people.
According to the press release: "The World Medical Association will step up its fight against smoking with proposals to ban the production, distribution and sale of candy products that depict or resemble tobacco products. At their three-day Council meeting in Sydney, Australia, (April 7-9) WMA delegates agreed to recommend to their annual Assembly in October plans to strengthen the organisation's anti tobacco policy to combat moves by the tobacco industry to make their products more appealing to young people. Delegates argued that the WMA should extend its policy to include restrictions on smokeless tobacco and tobacco-derived products, including prohibiting all government subsidies for tobacco-derived products. Dr. Ardis Hoven, chair of the Board of the American Medical Association, said the tobacco industry was now involved in aggressively promoting new forms of cigarettes, such as smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes in shops and on the internet to attract and appeal to young people, and the WMA needed to respond strongly."
The Rest of the Story
The claim that the tobacco industry is promoting electronic cigarettes is a lie.
Tobacco companies have nothing to do with electronic cigarettes. They neither produce nor market these products.
The rest of the story, then, is that the Medical Association is lying. The problem is, it's not clear exactly which Medical Association is lying.
Either the American Medical Association is lying, or the World Medical Association is lying.
The Western Medical Association claims that the American Medical Association chair told the audience that tobacco companies are aggressively marketing electronic cigarettes. So there are two possibilities:
1. The American Medical Association is lying about tobacco companies marketing electronic cigarettes. This is the case if the AMA chair did actually make this claim.
2. The Western Medical Association is lying about tobacco companies marketing electronic cigarettes. This is the case if the AMA chair did not actually make this claim.
Either way, a physician's organization is lying to the public in order to cast electronic cigarettes in a negative light, and thus encourage smokers to stick with regular cigarettes and ex-smokers who have quit by virtue of e-cigs to return to tobacco cigarettes.
Moreover, it appears that both the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association are trying to eliminate the safer alternatives to cigarette smoking, while protecting existing cigarettes from any serious competition and ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of people who are using electronic cigarettes to help quit smoking will be forced to return to their Marlboros, Camels, Newports, Kools, and Salems.
Why are these physician organizations acting to protect the profits of cigarette companies at the expense of the public's health?
And why are they lying to the public in order to achieve that result?
While blatantly lying to the public would be bad enough, lying in a way that is going to encourage people to use a far more harmful product than a safer one is particularly egregious. That makes this lie deserving of recognition as the third place finisher in the Rest of the Story's 2011 Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award competition.