Tuesday, October 04, 2005

RETRACTION: Error in August 5 Post on American Legacy Foundation's Hypocrisy

Today, for the first time, I need to retract a statement I made in a previous post regarding the American Legacy Foundation's hypocrisy in bemoaning the high exposure of youths to cigarette advertising in magazines and then partnering with (and giving an award to) an organization (Time Inc.) that is one of the chief sources of youth exposure to cigarette advertising.

In my August 5 post, I stated that this action by the American Legacy Foundation was "hypocrisy at its worst."

Today, I must stand corrected. Because I honestly feel that the hypocrisy of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in attacking Philip Morris for lobbying Congress, largely to promote passage of the FDA tobacco legislation, while at the same time lobbying itself for the same legislation, trumps the hypocrisy of the American Legacy Foundation. That action no longer stands as hypocrisy at its worst. It is now hypocrisy at its second worst. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has, I think, now moved into first place in the hypocrisy standings.

I also need to retract a statement I made in my June 7 post about the American Legacy Foundation having the gall to issue recommendations for how to reduce youth exposure to smoking in the movies while at the same time partnering with Time Warner - the company responsible for the most movies depicting smoking.

In that post, I stated that "The Legacy Foundation's hypocrisy is almost too much to believe." But seeing now how the two major (this is based on my conjecture about the magnitude of funding of anti-smoking groups - I don't have actual data to support this opinion that these are the two most heavily funded groups) anti-smoking organizations in the country seem to operate, I really am starting to see that this hypocrisy is not too much to believe.

Rather than being isolated examples, this truly appears to now be the norm. So for me, this is starting to become very believable, and unfortunately, very real and I think, very damaging.

The Rest of the Story

Despite the sarcasm of this post, I truly believe that this is a very serious issue, not to be joked about too heavily. After all, what is really at stake is a lot more than just the credibility of these two particular anti-smoking organizations.

Instead, I think because of the size and nature of these groups, the credibility of the entire anti-smoking movement is on the line. If we are not viewed as being sincere, as being honest, as being forthright, and as being consistent in our opinions, actions, and public statements, then I simply don't see how we can expect to have the credibility necessary to affect public opinion and to successfully promote the interests of the public's health.

Thus, I see this not just as an unfortunate attribute of the two major anti-smoking groups, but as a serious threat to the very credibility and ultimately the success of the entire anti-smoking movement, and of public health as a whole (since tobacco control is obviously one of the most critical issues in all of public health).

And frankly, as someone who has been in the anti-smoking movement, my credibility is on the line here as well. When you have such a small number of leading (well-funded) organizations in the movement, I think that in many ways their actions speak for all of us. And so I can't just sit here and allow my own credibility as a public health and tobacco control practitioner to go down the tubes due to the insincerity, hypocrisy, and continued doublespeak of the leading anti-smoking organizations. I need to speak out. If only to save my own credibility, I think that's my right and my responsibility. But I suspect it can do far more than that. I think the reputation of the entire tobacco control movement is at stake. But I don't think it's too late to save it.

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