Here are two facts that I want to share that I believe are accurate based on my impression of discussions I have had with tobacco control groups and advocates and based on my best knowledge of public statements made by these groups and advocates:
1. There are a substantial number of people in the tobacco control movement who oppose policies by which employers refuse to hire smokers (including the action by the World Health Organization [WHO]) to no longer hire smokers.
2. To date, not a single U.S. anti-smoking group or advocate (other than me) I am aware of has publicly spoken out against the WHO's policy (or any similar policy that discriminates against smokers in hiring decisions).
The Rest of the Story
It just doesn't make sense to me. Facts #1 and #2 do not seem compatible. If there are a substantial number of anti-smoking groups and advocates in the U.S. who oppose policies by which employers refuse to hire smokers (or fire existing workers), then why is it that I am not aware of any U.S. anti-smoking group or advocate (other than me) who has publicly opposed such policies.
I think it's fair to say that we can eliminate as an explanation that there is no other anti-smoking advocate or group that opposes such policies. I refuse to believe that I'm the only one, and as a matter of fact, I'm aware of there being some opposition to these policies in the tobacco control community.
A second possibility, I guess, is that groups that oppose what companies like Weyco or Scotts Miracle-Gro or groups like the World Health Organization are doing do not feel it is their responsibility to publicly speak out against it. I find this hard to believe, but if it's true, then I think it's a shame because as organizations and advocates that are largely responsible for generating the social movement that is resulting in such policies, I think we have an obligation to speak out against them.
A third possibility is that some tobacco control groups and advocates are afraid that if they speak out publicly against these policies, they will be giving the tobacco companies and their "supporters" ammunition to use in promoting laws to protect smokers from discrimination. If that is true, I think it's unfortunate because if something is wrong, it's wrong. And perhaps we should not therefore be so reluctant to see the enactment of laws that prohibit this kind of discrimination from occurring.
A fourth possibility is that some tobacco control groups and advocates are afraid that if they speak out publicly against these policies, they will face the kind of scorn, attack, ridicule, and perhaps censorship or blacklisting that I have faced since being willing to express public dissent with some aspects of the anti-smoking agenda and with some of its organizations' tactics.
And frankly, it's this last possibility that frightens me the most. Because it is becoming apparent to me that there is indeed an element of McCarthyism in this (my) movement. There is a kind of censorship and blacklisting of individuals who express dissent with the established dogma, agenda, and even claims of the movement.
Five years ago, if I was told that I was going to be publicly attacked, insulted, accused of lying, my motives questioned, and an attempt made to discredit me, and I had to guess which group would be responsible: A) the tobacco companies; or B) the tobacco control movement, I would have answered A - the tobacco companies - FINAL ANSWER. No lifeline would have been needed.
But I would have been booted off the show because the correct answer turns out to have been B - the tobacco control movement.
I have to admit that despite years of testifying in trials that threatened to deprive the tobacco industry of billions of dollars, I have always been treated with far greater respect, decency, and integrity by the tobacco companies and their attorneys than by the tobacco control community in the past six months.
There is a McCarthyistic element to the tobacco control movement that is alive and well, and I think it is now threatening to bring the whole thing toppling down.
So I issue a challenge to all anti-smoking groups and advocates reading this commentary to come forward and publicly take a stand against the World Health Organization for refusing to hire smokers. You can do it in the safety and comfort of the comments section of this blog entry, and I'll then prepare a blog post with the names of those individuals and organizations which have come forward in opposition to the WHO's policy.
I'd love to be able to dispel my own notion that people are afraid to publicly speak out against something they view as wrong.
Let's see if it happens - here or in any public forum in the next week.