Friday, April 07, 2006

IN MY VIEW: Anti-Smoking Movement Heading Down the Tubes; It's Time to Turn Back

If we were a basketball team, I'd say it's time to look for a new coach: someone who could take the program in another direction. Someone who could take a program that is in a mess and find a way to straighten things out. A Roy Williams kind of guy. Someone with character and integrity. Someone who cared about getting results, but also cared about the way that one gets results. Someone who understood the importance of credibility, character, and reputation.

The anti-smoking movement, I believe, is in a real mess. The highlight of that mess of course is the completely fallacious claims that are being made nationally by many anti-smoking groups. Thirty minutes of secondhand smoke exposure, according to us, causes hardening of the arteries, clogged coronary arteries, heart attacks, and death. Not only that, but it presents a risk for those adverse outcomes that is no different than that of actively smoking for 20-30 years.

We're also in a mess because we continue to make undocumented accusations and claims, attacking individuals and groups of being allied with or fronting for Big Tobacco without having evidence to back up our assertions.

We're in a mess because we are completely misusuing kids to promote our agenda. We are tricking and deceiving kids in order to get them to take an action which is quite possibly not in line with the values that the kids themselves would support. We are using kids to promote our own pet policies without providing adequate information and without informed consent being achieved.

We're in a mess because we're supporting absurd and over-reaching public policies that are neither supported by scientific data or by any reasonable policy analysis.

We're in a mess because instead of trying to help smokers, we have become committed to punishing them, trying to find as many ways as we can to discriminate against them and turn them into second class citizens. And we're rubbing their faces in the dirt by attacking them as being child abusers.

We've become obsessed with our own merit and are going to great pains (including being dishonest) to make our merit known.

We're scheming with Big Tobacco and promoting Philip Morris' legislative agenda.

We've become dominated by bigotry, and laden with hypocrisy.

And this is all in the past two months alone.

Worst of all, we're doing nothing to fix the problem. No one seems to care. No one seems to even acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. We are simply unable of looking inwards. We are only capable of looking outside and attacking and criticizing others. For ourselves, we can have nothing but self-congratulations, even when it is completely unwarranted. We defend ourselves by attacking others. Or attacking those who are levying the criticism.

Yet the ugly truth is that we are willing to make scientific claims that are so fallacious on their face that even the tobacco companies are unwilling to make similar claims in a situation where they could profit immensely by doing so.

Unfortunately, we don't have a general manager or an athletic director overseeing the situation. Someone who could pull the plug, bring in a new coach, and turn the program around by moving it in a different direction. Nor do we have voting shareholders who could themselves demand a change in the organization and the way it is being run.

There's simply no way to change things that I can see. And so, for now, I have to sit back and watch sadly as the movement goes down the tubes. But not for lack of trying. I have written a total of 427 posts in the 12 months that this blog has been in existence.

My one-year anniversary should be a time to celebrate accomplishments. But instead, it seems more of a time to mourn the near death of what once was a real, grassroots, social movement, rooted in the principles of public health, committed to scientific integrity, honesty, compassion for smokers, and service of the public's trust.

I'm not suggesting that the movement has been perfect. But its flaws were ones that I could live with. For the most part, I could be proud of what we accomplished and the way in which we did it. But not any longer.

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