Friday, March 17, 2006

ANR Once Again Deceives Its Constituents

In an electronic communication sent to its constituents, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) has once again presented deceptive and misleading information about the smoking ban enacted in New Jersey (click here to see post on first deceptive campaign to promote the New Jersey smoking ban).

According to the communication: "New Jersey's new smokefree law passed in January, and will cover all workplaces and public places (including restaurants and bars). New Jersey's law will go into effect on April 15th. Enjoy the smokefree air, New Jersey!"

This follows a previous communication to ANR's constituents which stated: "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."

The communication closes by stating: "Thank you for protecting everyone's right to breathe smokefree air indoors!"

The Rest of the Story

There's only one problem with today's communication: it is false (or at very least, misleading).

The New Jersey smokefree law which passed in January does not cover all workplaces and public places. It specifically excludes casinos (at least casino floors). And this is no small exception, as there are approximately 48,000 casino workers in New Jersey and the problem of secondhand smoke exposure among casino workers in that state is a huge one.

ANR exclaims: "Enjoy the smokefree air, New Jersey!" Somehow I don't get the feeling that the casino workers in New Jersey are going to be enjoying the extremely smoky and very hazardous conditions to which they are being subjected. And it's only going to get worse from the law that was enacted, as some smokers from Atlantic City bars switch over to casinos where they are still allowed to smoke. ANR might as well have declared: "Enjoy the heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma, New Jersey casino workers!"

ANR's communication congratulates advocates on protecting everyone's right to breathe smokefree air indoors. Apparently they don't consider casino workers to be included as being in the population of people who have a right to breathe smokefree air indoors, because these individuals were denied protection by the law supported by advocates in New Jersey (and will most likely be denied protection by the Colorado legislature as well).

It's not clear to me why ANR would choose to omit this important piece of information. Perhaps they are trying to make the accomplishment seem greater than it was. Or perhaps they think that the more momentum they can convince the public is occurring in support of smoke-free air, the more likely laws are to be passed in the future. Or perhaps they are simply trying to draw attention away from the inaccuracy of their previous communication. Or perhaps this was just a careless mistake (but if that's the case, I expect it will be corrected promptly and I'll let readers know if that happens).

For now, we are left with another deceptive communication from an anti-smoking group. Ironically, it comes just as I posted about the ethical principle of accurate health communications and the basis for this principle in public health practice.

Is it a coincidence that ANR has failed twice now to be honest and forthright about the massive exemption in the New Jersey smoke-free law? Or is there something they are trying to hide, whether consciously or unconsciously? I don't know, but I can tell you that ANR is an organization that prides itself on the provision of accurate information about smoke-free laws throughout the country. And it is the chief source for this information. So when it is providing deceptive information, you know the anti-smoking movement is in trouble. You know that we are having problems with the honesty and accuracy in our communications.

I apologize for that. I'm doing everything I can to try to restore some accuracy and scientific integrity and truthfulness to the movement, but I can't even finish a post on scientific accuracy before yet another public communication comes through that is grossly misleading if not inaccurate.

My bad. I'll see if I can do a better job getting my house in order. In other words: "We are aware of the problem, and we are doing everything we can to correct it. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

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