Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards - February 2006

A new monthly feature of The Rest of the Story will be awards that will be given out for the best examples of hypocrisy in the anti-smoking movement. This month's winners are:

#5 - Ignite (Tobacco-Free Kids, Jr.)

Making a respectable fifth-placed finish in the first edition of the anti-smoking hypocrisy awards is a new anti-smoking organization run by youths and young people that I have nicknamed "Tobacco-Free Kids, Jr.," since the group is obviously heavily influenced by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and has received funding to start the group from this organization, as well as training and hands-on lobbying experience.

Ignite views the tobacco companies as terrorists and specifically defends its characterization of these companies in that way. According to Ignite: "Terrorists killed approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Those attacks were horrific. Tobacco is responsible for more than 3,000 people dying every three days. This is also horrific. Because Big Tobacco targets youth to use tobacco products through marketing campaigns, and because tobacco products are chemically addictive, people who die due to tobacco-related deaths do not die by choice, just as those who died in the September 11 attacks did not die by choice. ... To those who may be offended by the comparison: we're offended too. How dare our public officials allow an industry to cause over 400,000 U.S. deaths each year!"

Ignite also feels that there is no excuse for tobacco companies to have any influence on the policy-making process, and that public policies should be made solely on the basis of public health needs, not politics influenced by tobacco industry campaign donations: "The tobacco industry is just not accountable to the public. Citizens cannot force tobacco companies to change ... But our public officials do hold this power. They have the responsibility of protecting public health and regulating businesses, specifically, to ensure they do not harm consumers. ... Why does Big Tobacco get special treatment from our government? It shouldn't. ... It's time for members of Congress to stop giving tobacco companies special protection. We call on our public officials to step up to the plate."

However, despite its view of tobacco companies as being terrorists and despite its contention that Big Tobacco should get no special treatment from our government, Ignite is supporting FDA legislation that was prepared in order to appease Philip Morris' concerns, that contains most of the major provisions that Philip Morris deemed essential to include in the bill, that was negotiated with Philip Morris, and which contains numerous loopholes designed to protect the financial interests of Philip Morris.

These loopholes in the bill ensure that any major regulatory decisions made by the FDA will be subject to political influence, rather than made based on public health considerations.

If Ignite truly believes that Big Tobacco should not get "special treatment from our government," then they most certainly would agree that there is no reason why Big Tobacco should enjoy a huge number of special protections that manufacturers of drugs currently regulated by FDA do not enjoy, including ensuring that politics, and not science and public health, is the ultimate arbiter of the regulation of this deadly product.

#4 - Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (Sr.)

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids comes in just slightly ahead of Ignite, its "daughter" organization, for the same reasons. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' web site, it believes that "special protection" for the tobacco companies should be ended. If the Campaign were really serious about ending special protections for Big Tobacco and providing for the regulation of tobacco products in the same way that other drugs are regulated by FDA, as it claims, then it would certainly have demanded that the special protections for Big Tobacco contained in the proposed legislation be eliminated. Despite numerous opportunities, the Campaign has refused to demand the elimination of the special protections for Big Tobacco contained in the bill solely for political reasons. The Campaign places slightly ahead of The Campaign, Jr., because it is an experienced adult-run organization and has less of an excuse for this hypocrisy.

#3 - Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR)

In action alerts released just one month apart, ANR first emphasized the need to include protection for all casino workers from secondhand smoke in the New Jersey smoking legislation and then conveniently forgot to mention that casino workers existed after the legislature sent forward a bill that exempted casinos from regulation.

In its December 7 action alert, ANR emphasized to its constituents how important it was to protect all workers from secondhand smoke, and therefore urged them to write New Jersey elected officials in support of a 100% smoke-free workplace law that would cover all casinos in the state. ANR emphasized the need to include casinos in this legislation, apparently anticipating political efforts to exempt the casinos:

"Senate Bill 1926 would protect all New Jersey workers from secondhand smoke by making all indoor public places and workplaces smokefree, including restaurants, bars, and casinos. ...Contact Acting Governor and Senate President Richard Codey, who has expressed support for a smokefree law, but prefers to exclude casinos. Let him know that you support a strong 100% smokefree law that includes casinos and will protect all workers, patrons, and visitors in New Jersey. ... If bars or casinos are exempted from the law, employees and guests in these workplaces will still have to breathe the toxic, smoke-filled air. Smokefree air is good for health and good for business, including casinos."

On January 5, ANR issued an action alert which claimed that Senate Bill 1926, which had been amended to exempt casinos, would protect all workers from secondhand smoke, but it left off the word "casinos" that had been included in the December action alert. It also omitted any reference to the need to protect casino workers and the fact that employees and guests in these workplaces would still have to breathe the "toxic," smoke-filled air:

"Today, New Jersey took one step closer to becoming a smokefree state! The New Jersey Assembly Health Committee voted 10-1 to pass Senate Bill 1926, which would make all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, 100% smokefree throughout the state."

ANR's massive deception in ignoring the 48,000 casino workers and suggesting to its constituents, incorrectly, that the bill protected all workers, and for expressing and then conveniently dropping its emphasis on the fact that "If bars or casinos are exempted from the law, employees and guests in these workplaces will still have to breathe the toxic, smoke-filled air. Smokefree air is good for health and good for business, including casinos," ANR is awarded a solid 3rd place finish in the inaugural anti-smoking hypocrisy awards.

#2 - American Legacy Foundation

According to the American Legacy Foundation, which reports to be trying to "build a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit," the Foundation is concerned about tobacco industry methods "of attracting new smokers" because this "will undermine the significant achievements the public health community has made in reducing smoking rates among young people."

Legacy also specifically bemoans the fact that "teens are still exposed to tobacco ads nearly as often as young adults are, and awareness levels among all groups are still considerable" and concludes that "Given the strong, accumulated evidence documenting the effect of cigarette advertising on youth smoking behavior, these data are cause for concern. ... Our results highlight the inadequacy of current advertising restrictions to protect youth from persuasive messages that may cause them to experiment with cigarette smoking. ... these findings warrant a heightened level of vigilance over the channels through which the tobacco industry targets teens and young adults."

One of the major methods by which "the tobacco industry targets teens and young adults" is through advertising in magazines with high numbers of youth and young adult readers. And some of the most important magazines which carry those ads to youths and young adults are Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, and Cosmopolitan.

These magazines are published by Time Inc. and by the Hearst Corporation.

The American Legacy Foundation takes 2nd place in the anti-smoking hypocrisy awards because it has established a series of corporate partnerships with Time Inc. and the Hearst Corporation, which it claims are "standing as leaders in this important movement."

As I asked earlier: How can Legacy on the one hand, partner with an organization that is teaching girls how to be bold and resist tobacco advertising and on the other hand, partner with an organization that is carrying messages to teach girls that smoking Kool cigarettes is the way to "Be Bold and Be True" that smoking Kools is the way to "Be Authentic and Be True" and that smoking Camels is jazzy, sexy, glamorous, and fashionable?

I don't know how it can, but because it did, it takes 2nd place.

1. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

I think that any organization bold enough to publicly claim that 30 minutes of exposure to even small levels of secondhand smoke can cause a heart attack in an otherwise healthy nonsmoker and not only can cause a heart attack but raises the risk of a heart attack to that of a smoker, and which then goes on to support a law that allows smoking at crowded shopping malls, deserves a first place finish - hands down.

Congratulations to ASH on its first-place finish in the inaugural anti-smoking hypocrisy awards for February 2006!

No comments: