Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Misusing Kids and Violating Informed Consent Principles

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has released its Kick Butts Day 2008 youth advocacy manual. The manual presents a number of suggested activities for youth anti-smoking advocacy groups to organize for April 2, which is Kick Butts Day. Among the four initiatives that the Campaign is asking youths to rally around is passage of the Philip Morris-supported FDA tobacco legislation that will be considered in Congress during the upcoming legislative session. Specifically, the Campaign is asking youths to organize events to promote passage of this legislation, which is strongly supported by the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer.

The Campaign is using Kick Butts Day to try to get youths to write letters to Congress in support of the FDA legislation and to organize activities that will recruit members of the public to do the same. The Campaign is also encouraging youths to write letters to the editor and op-eds in support of the proposed FDA tobacco legislation, and to generate media attention in support of the bill.

The Rest of the Story

There's just one problem. Nowhere in the Kick Butts Day manual does it inform youths that the proposed FDA tobacco legislation is the chief legislative priority of the nation's leading cigarette manufacturer. Nowhere does it inform youths that Philip Morris supports and is vigorously lobbying for this legislation.

So while "Kick Butts" Day implies activities to fight Big Tobacco, it is actually highlighting as its chief component an activity that will help the largest company within Big Tobacco: Philip Morris.

In other words, Kick Butts Day is little other than a thinly veiled attempt by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to take advantage of youths by exploiting their services in lobbying for the FDA tobacco legislation, and without their knowledge or consent.

Kick Butts Day is essentially a part of the Campaign's lobbying efforts for the FDA legislation. It is a way to garner youth support for the legislation and to make it appear that youths are behind the legislation, when in reality, these youths don't have a clue what the legislation is all about, who supports it, and what effect it would have on the tobacco companies.

I find it highly unethical for the Campaign to be misusing kids in this way. It is a basic ethical violation to exploit children by using them as pawns in a political game without their informed consent. And there is no way that youths can be said to be informed about the FDA legislation if they are not told that Philip Morris supports it. This is especially true since the Campaign is implying that the legislation is a method of fighting Big Tobacco and kicking their butts. That's hardly the case if the nation's largest cigarette company desperately wants the legislation to pass.

I am feeling ashamed to be working alongside an organization that is exploiting young people in this way. Kick Butts Day 2008 is a violation of basic ethical principles of public health conduct and should have no place in the tobacco control movement.

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