Monday, March 06, 2006

Punishing Smokers is Now an Official Declared Goal of Anti-Smoking Movement

According to a press release issued by a prominent anti-smoking organization, punishing smokers is now a recognized tactic in the effort to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

The press release, entitled "Punishing Smokers Becoming Major Tactic; Poor Smokers May Be Targeted in Minnesota," states that punishing smokers is a major goal of the tobacco control movement:

"As part of a growing movement to deter smoking by punishing smokers, Minnesota may impose higher premiums, co-payments or economic sanctions for people getting state assistance who don't quit smoking."

The anti-smoking organization lists as other examples of the punishment of smokers to try to save money or induce quitting:
  • charging smokers more for health insurance;
  • refusing to hire smokers;
  • raising tobacco taxes;
  • making smoking an issue in child custody disputes; and
  • banning smoking by foster parents in their private homes.
The Rest of the Story

This December 2004 press release by a major national anti-smoking organization is very telling. In a post last month, I opined that based on the activities of this organization, one of its goals appeared to be to punish smokers. Now, it turns out that group has itself acknowledged, in its own words, that my perception was an accurate one. Punishing smokers is, indeed, a major tactic that is apparently being used and promoted to advance the anti-smoking cause.

This is completely inappropriate. I simply do not think that punishing people for poor health behaviors is an appropriate goal or tactic in public health. We don't punish people because they are fat. We don't punish people because they eat too many tater tots. We don't punish people because their blood pressure is out of control. We don't punish people because they don't get enough exercise. We don't punish people because they don't wear sunscreen. We don't punish people because they don't use condoms. We shouldn't punish people because they smoke.

Unfortunately, the actions of one anti-smoking group do affect the perception of, and perhaps the agenda for the entire movement. It is imperative that other anti-smoking groups speak out publicly to let it be known that they reject this goal. I'll be the first to report it when any U.S. anti-smoking group publicly distances itself from the idea that punishing smokers is an appropriate goal or tactic of the tobacco control movement.

So far, I have nothing to report.

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