Thursday, March 09, 2006

National Anti-Smoking Group Claims to be Only National Anti-Smoking Group

According to a prominent anti-smoking researcher and advocate, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids - a national anti-smoking advocacy organization - has sent out a communication to its constituents claiming to be the only national purely anti-smoking organization.

The communication reportedly stated: "As the only national advocacy organization that works just on tobacco issues, it's critical that we team up with other organizations and individuals to be successful." [emphasis mine]

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is quite simple. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is not the only national anti-smoking advocacy organization that works just on tobacco issues.

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR), without question, is a national anti-smoking advocacy organization. And from what I can tell, they work only on tobacco issues. I was on the Executive Board of this organization for several years, and I can vouch for the fact that we never dealt with any non-tobacco issues.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is clearly a national anti-smoking advocacy organization. And ASH also works only on tobacco issues.

And the American Legacy Foundation is another national anti-smoking advocacy organization. By charter, it only works on tobacco issues.

So it certainly appears to me that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' statement is false, or at very least, terribly misleading.

I guess we can add this to the list of inaccurate and misleading statements made by anti-smoking groups to try to raise money and advance their cause.

This time, what troubles me is not only the lack of accuracy in public communication, but also the lack of humility and the disregard for the other work being done by other anti-smoking groups (as much as I disapprove of much of what these other groups are doing - it's hard to deny that they are indeed national anti-smoking advocacy organizations).

I remember a time when the tobacco control movement did not have a lot of money, and we consisted mainly of grassroots local advocates - largely volunteers or very low-paid workers - who were involved in the field simply because we cared about the issues. Achieving national recognition and taking credit for victories was not part of our plan. It just wasn't of interest to us.

But now, with the infusion of huge amounts of money into the movement, the true grassroots social movement that was, and should still be, tobacco control, has been overtaken and co-opted, I believe, by a few large national organizations. And I think their desire for money and recognition is practically destroying the tobacco control movement.

Today alone, we see self-congratulatory, boastful, yet inaccurate hot air emanating from two of the largest anti-smoking groups (see my earlier post today about the National Association of Attorneys General and American Legacy Foundation taking credit for a reduction in cigarette consumption that likely would have occurred anyway [in the absence of the MSA] and in my opinion, would have been greater had the MSA not been signed).

Where has honesty and humility, accuracy and scientific integrity gone in the tobacco control movement?

It seems to have been sucked into the black hole of money, desire for recognition, and fanaticism.

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