Friday, April 07, 2006

Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation Accuses Ohio Licensed Beverage Association of Working Directly with Big Tobacco

According to an article in The Toledo Blade, the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation has apparently accused the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association of working directly with Big Tobacco. Presumably, this is part of an effort by the anti-smoking group to discredit the Beverage Association by tying it directly to tobacco companies and thus undermining its attempts to persuade legislators to oppose a proposed statewide smoking ban.

The article quotes a Foundation official as stating: "I don'’t have memos. I don'’t have canceled checks, but there'’s no doubt in my mind that the tobacco industry is supportive of the licensed beverage organization or the hospitality industry people. I'’m certain there are discussions in which the tobacco industry'’s expertise is being shared with the beverage association."”

The Rest of the Story

This is yet another example of an unsubstantiated attack being made by an anti-smoking group. Here, the group readily admits that it has no evidence to support its attack. It readily admits that it is pure speculation. Nevertheless, the lack of documentation to support its claims apparently fails to stop the anti-smoking group from making this public attack.

If the Foundation does not have memos, if the Foundation does not have canceled checks, and if the Foundation has no other similar documentation to support its contention that the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association is funded by, or working close with Big Tobacco, then it simply shouldn't be making such an accusation. If you're going to make an accusation like that publicly, you ought to have appropriate documentation to support it.

I view anything short of that as being not only inappropriate, but unethical for a public health organization.

I don't exactly know why, but it seems to me that the anti-smoking groups in Ohio are getting a bit desperate in their attempts to promote smoke-free legislation. They are resorting to questionable, irresponsible, and unethical tactics. First, SmokeFreeOhio puts out completely erroneous scientific claims to support the push for a statewide smoking ban. Now, the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation makes an undocumented attack on a business group to try to discredit it.

Can't anti-smoking groups behave ethically anymore? Back "in my day," we made our share of attacks against business groups that were fronting for Big Tobacco. But we made those attacks only when we had appropriate documentation of their relationship with the tobacco companies. We didn't just throw these accusations out there knowing that the public would assume that we were correct. We viewed that as not acting responsibly.

And we also made our fair share of scientific claims about the hazards of secondhand smoke. But at least we had some scientific documentation to back up our claims. We didn't spread completely erroneous and scientifically implausible information in order to support our agenda.

Why this desperation? Especially when efforts to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke are going so well. It's not like there aren't any smoking bans being enacted. Two major cities and several states have enacted bar and restaurant smoking bans in just the past few months. There's no need for desperate measures.

Of course, I would oppose these desperate and irresponsible measures no matter how poorly advocates were doing in promoting smoking bans. I think they're simply inappropriate tactics. But what gets me is why the groups are using these tactics at a time when there is no desperation in the first place.

As I've said before, if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you have the evidence to support your claims, fine. But if not, then don't make public scientific claims and accusations. Keep it to yourself. Or take it somewhere else. I've had enough of this.

No comments: