Monday, July 25, 2005

Welcome Readers from Reason Online, Forces International, and the Smoker's Club

Welcome readers from Reason Online's Hit & Run blog, from Forces International, and from The Smoker's Club.

As I mentioned in my second Challenging Dogma post, the anti-smoking movement has a tendency to lump together anyone and everyone who disagrees with its positions as being affiliated with the tobacco industry, and to attack these groups and individuals rather than address their arguments on their merits. But not everyone who takes a different view on these issues is part of the tobacco industry.

Forces International is in fact one organization that I had been led to believe was simply a tobacco industry front group. The Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) website lists FORCES under the category "Front Groups and Allies." And it states that "Even though the National Smokers' Alliance is now (sort of) defunct, the background information from this document is still relevant to other smokers' rights groups such as FORCES." Since that document states that the National Smokers' Alliance was created by and heavily funded by the tobacco industry funding, I would assume ANR is implying that FORCES was also created by the tobacco industry and is heavily funded by the tobacco companies.

The Rest of the Story

In fact, ANR itself reveals that FORCES was offered and did not accept tobacco industry funding. A 1999 Philip Morris document stated that: "The most prominent of the smokers' rights organizations is FORCES (Fight Ordinances & Restrictions to Control and & Eliminate Smoking). FORCES does not accept tobacco industry funding."

Just because ANR disagrees with FORCES on issues does not justify misleading the public into thinking that this organization is merely a tobacco industry front group (and if I was misled, it is likely that many in the public who read this site are being misled).

I suppose ANR could defend itself by arguing that FORCES is listed under "Front Groups & Allies" rather than just "Front Groups." But you know what: that's exactly the point. In ANR's view, there's no difference between the two. They can just lump them together because they essentially represent the same thing - groups that disagree with ANR's views on the issues and therefore need to be attacked.

Individuals who are not part of the tobacco industry but who disagree with certain policies related to the regulation of smoking are not, in my view, merely promoting tobacco industry interests. In fact, there are a number of interests - including privacy rights, the need for evidence-based policy formation, and concerns about unfair and discriminatory policies - that anti-smoking organizations would be wise to consider. While I disagree with some of these groups' arguments, I agree with some of them, and will be continuing to comment on these over the next few weeks in my Challenging Dogma posts.

Ultimately, I view smokers not as the enemy, but as the very population that led me to this field in the first place. I am in public health and focusing on the smoking issue because as a physician, I saw first-hand the devastating health effects that smoking can have on individuals and their families, and I wanted to do something about it.

But attacking the smokers, tying them to the tobacco industry whenever they argue against tobacco control policies, and taxing them whenever we need more money for underfunded government programs just doesn't seem like the most reasonable approach to me.

Thus, welcome again to my new readers from Reason Online's Hit & Run blog, from Forces International, and from The Smoker's Club.

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