Monday, August 21, 2006

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Again Suggests that Big Tobacco Opposes FDA Tobacco Legislation; Misleading and Deceptive Propaganda is Unethical

In a press release issued Monday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK) publicly implies that Big Tobacco is blocking the FDA tobacco legislation (and therefore, that Big Tobacco opposes this legislation), when in fact, the largest company of Big Tobacco - Philip Morris - supports the legislation and is putting its lobbying resources behind the promotion of the passage of these bills currently before Congress.

According to the TFK press release: "It is mind-boggling that the rogue industry described by Judge Kessler and its deadly and addictive products are exempt from basic health and safety regulations that apply to other consumable products and their manufacturers. The main reason is the millions of dollars the industry spends every year on campaign contributions and lobbying. It is time for Congress to finally end the special protection accorded the tobacco industry and pass this legislation... ."

The Rest of the Story

At least part of the rogue industry described by TFK above supports the legislation that, according to TFK, has not been enacted by Congress because of "the millions of dollars the industry spends every year on campaign contributions and lobbying."

The rest of the story is that the bulk of that tobacco industry money spent on campaign contributions and Congressional lobbying is being spent to support enactment of the FDA tobacco legislation. This is because Philip Morris is by far the greatest source of campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures and Philip Morris is lobbying in support of the legislation.

It is, in my opinion, grossly deceptive to suggest to the American public that the main reason why FDA tobacco legislation was not enacted is that the tobacco companies spent millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation. The truth is that most of the money spent by the industry was spent in support of this legislation. Philip Morris, which dominates the campaign contributions and lobbying, obviously was not successful in promoting the FDA tobacco legislation. So obviously, it is despite the tobacco industry campaign contributions and lobbying, not because of it, that the FDA tobacco legislation failed to be enacted by Congress.

TFK's statement is misleading and deceptive because it implies that Big Tobacco, as a whole, is opposed to legislation giving FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. But the truth is that the largest and most dominant company - Philip Morris (which controls about half of the domestic cigarette market) - supports and is in fact behind the FDA legislation.

What I believe is happening here is that TFK is using this misleading and deceptive propaganda in an effort to promote the FDA legislation. In other words, this is a public relations lobbying ploy on the part of TFK. And in my opinion, to be deceptive on a critical point like this with the public relating to a federal policy initiative with huge public health implications is unethical.

What I find particularly ironic is that in the press release, TFK spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing the tobacco companies for all of their deception of the public over the years. But apparently, while it's wrong for the tobacco industry to deceive the public, there's nothing wrong with one of the nation's leading anti-smoking groups doing the same thing, as long as it's in the support of a policy that this group thinks is a good one.

I hate to tell my friends at TFK this, but deception is wrong in my opinion, no matter who is doing the deception. What makes it wrong is not that the tobacco industry - apparently a "rogue" industry - is doing it. What makes it wrong is that it is wrong to deceive the public, period. It is no more justified to deceive the public when you are working to protect the children then when your products are killing them.

OK - well maybe it's not quite so sinister. But it's still wrong. And that's the basis for my opinion that what the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is doing here, and throughout its campaign of deception on the FDA tobacco legislation, is unethical.

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