Monday, July 03, 2006

Anti-Smoking Group Calls Smokers' Rights Supporters "Ninjas"

Regular readers of mine are well aware of the nature of my posts and my attempts to support and document my statements with careful scientific reasoning and analysis. So they are familiar with the kind of commentary which got me thrown off of a prominent tobacco control list-serve.

But perhaps readers are not so aware of the kind of "commentary" that passes as acceptable on the very same list-serve:

"XXX circulated the following document this week, which describes one of PM's [Philip Morris] efforts to recruit and train smokers rights groups and others to publicly oppose smokefree policies, tax hikes and smokefree hiring policies. RJ Reynolds had similar campaigns and smokers rights front groups. FORCES has basically replaced the American [?National] Smokers Alliance as the base group for these Ninjas... ."

The Rest of the Story

Before getting to the "substance" of the comment, I find it quite unfortunate that an anti-smoking group would decide to publicly call citizens who support smokers' rights "Ninjas." And it is even more despicable to me that such a comment would pass as perfectly acceptable on a public, tobacco control discussion forum of public health professionals. Perhaps you can now get a better sense of the relative benign nature of what led to my being thrown out of this professional forum in comparison to the nature of comments that are made day-in and day-out on the list-serve.

Frankly, it is completely inappropriate, I believe, for public health professionals to speak like this about anyone, much less about a group of private citizens who have banded together to oppose policies that they see as intruding upon their freedoms, liberties, and rights, even if we disagree with them.

After all, these citizens are indeed our constituents who we are charged with serving as our responsibility as public health practitioners. Calling our constituents "ninjas" is no way to practice public health.

As to the substance of the comment: it is simply untrue. There is no documentation that FORCES is a tobacco industry front group. The comparison with the National Smokers Alliance is completely inappropriate, because the NSA was a group formed by, and heavily funded by Philip Morris. FORCES is a group that has no tobacco industry affiliation and had received no tobacco industry funding at the time this comment was posted (as of now, FORCES has received a grand total of about $1,500 of tobacco company funds for a website banner ad).

Moreover, so what if FORCES is opposing tax hikes and smokefree hiring policies? I am a tobacco control advocate and I oppose certain cigarette tax hike proposals and virtually all smokefree hiring policies. I even oppose a number of smokefree policies. And I received a $1,000 check from an R.J. Reynolds law firm. So does that mean that I am a tobacco industry front group. Does that make me a "Ninja?"

It is blatantly false that FORCES has replaced the National Smokers Alliance as a base for tobacco industry front group activity. The truth is that FORCES is not a Big Tobacco front group and is completely different in its nature from the National Smokers Alliance. So not only is this comment despicable because of its derogatory slur against a huge number of private American citizens who are standing up for what they see as their freedom and rights, but it is based on a false and completely unsupported allegation.

If this is what tobacco control discussion groups are all about, then perhaps it's a good thing that I was thrown off of this and other similar list-serves. Because I don't think I could listen to this much longer before my blood started to boil.

And boiling blood is not good for your health. In fact, it's almost as bad as a brief exposure to secondhand smoke.

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