Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Despite Lack of Evidence, ANR Again Accuses FORCES of Being A Big Tobacco Front Group

In a radio talk show yesterday on San Francisco's KGO station regarding the city's proposed ban on smoking at bus stops and on golf courses, ANR again suggested that FORCES is a front for Big Tobacco.

The executive director of ANR, in a debate with Maryetta Ables of FORCES International, questioned whether there is a relationship between FORCES and Philip Morris:

What I would then ask of you is whether or not Peter Bagatelos, who is a lawyer at a law firm in San Francisco who also has Philip Morris as a client, if maybe then there's a relationship between Philip Morris and FORCES?"

To which the FORCES representative replied: "No there isn't."

The Rest of the Story

It seems clear to me that ANR was attempting to discredit FORCES by suggesting to the public that FORCES is a front for Philip Morris and that this relationship therefore casts into serious doubt any opinion or information that FORCES might be providing.

There's just one problem.

ANR has admitted that there is no evidence that FORCES obtains funding from Philip Morris and therefore is standing on thin ice in suggesting such a relationship. According to ANR's web site: "a 1999 Philip Morris (PM) memo indicated that FORCES did not accept tobacco industry funding." And "For years FORCES has claimed to be a membership organization that did not receive tobacco funding. Internal tobacco industry documents are inconclusive on this point...".

In other words, ANR doesn't have evidence that FORCES is fronting for Philip Morris or that it is doing anything other than representing the interests of its members.

If you don't have the goods, then you can't deliver them. Or to put it another way, "If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk."

I have no problem with exposing tobacco industry ties of organizations that appear to be representing the interests of their members but are really not doing so. But you can't expose tobacco industry ties unless you have documentation of those ties. And if you don't have the documentation, then you shouldn't be tossing around accusations like that in front of the public. At least not if you are a responsible public health organization.

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