Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tobacco-Free Kids Admits It is More Interested in Changing Advocates' Negative Opinions on FDA Bill than Listening toThem and Discussing the Issues

Globalink is an international tobacco control list-serve that is intended to function as a discussion forum by which those of us working in tobacco control can engage in discussion of important science and policy issues. One of the issues that has been a major focus of discussion is the proposed FDA tobacco legislation that is currently being considered by Congress.

In an email sent to some of its staff members, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids revealed last week that it is more interested in using the Globalink discussion forum to spread its propaganda on the legislation than it is in actually listening to the widespread opinion of the international tobacco control community and engaging in a discussion of the merits of the legislation.

According to the email:

"Globalink is dominated by the naysayers on our FDA bill - thus the only articles that have gotten posted are the most negative. Could I ask that we do a better job (quickly) of beginning to be sure that the positive articles get posted as well. It doesn't impact the vote in Congress but it certainly impacts opinion within the international tobacco control community."

The Rest of the Story

From the beginning, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has shown no interest in engaging in a discussion with the rest of the tobacco control community on the merits of the FDA tobacco legislation. Instead, the Campaign has run a long campaign of deception, dishonesty, and propaganda intended to jam the legislation down the throats of the tobacco control community, despite the widespread opposition to the approach taken by the bill.

This email confirms that the Campaign continues to have no interest in engaging the tobacco control community in a discussion of the merits of the legislation and no interest in considering the widespread opinion of the tobacco control community. Instead, the Campaign is committed to its pre-determined messianic mission of saving the world through the FDA legislation that it negotiated with Philip Morris.

Of course, as the widespread opinion of the "naysayers" reveals, the rest of the tobacco control community is not convinced that this FDA bill will save the world. Instead, there is widespread agreement that this bill represents little more than a huge favor to Philip Morris. The bill, it is recognized, is essentially the "Marlboro Preservation Act." It protects the financial profits of the nation's largest tobacco company at the expense of the public's health. It provides unprecedented special protections to Big Tobacco. It ends the prospect for harm reduction in tobacco control. It institutionalizes the defrauding of the American consumer. It ends any liability threat for the tobacco industry. And it will almost certainly increase smoking prevalence by deceiving smokers into thinking that cigarettes have been made safer.

The fact that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids refers to the worldwide community of tobacco activists - which largely opposes the legislation - as "naysayers" is extremely revealing. A naysayer is defined not as someone who has a differing opinion, but as someone who has "an aggressively negative attitude." In other words, a naysayer is an obstructionist - someone who is merely obstructing an action that someone else wants to take.

Thus, the Campaign reveals here that it views the widespread negative opinion of many advocates about the FDA legislation not as legitimate, evidence-based opposition to the proposed policy, but as annoying, destructive obstruction to its own favored policy.

This is how the Campaign apparently views anyone who disagrees with its opinion: as an obstructionist.

It is clear to me that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has no interest in considering anyone else's opinion about the legislation and no interest in actually engaging in a discussion about the merits (or lack thereof) of the legislation.

The Campaign made a deal with Philip Morris and it has no interest in re-considering the merits of that agreement, no matter how much dissent there is in the tobacco control community.

This is not the way a leadership organization in public health should behave.

Frankly, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is operating purely as a political propaganda machine, not as a legitimate public health organization that actually has an interest in considering the views of its constituents.

The Campaign's actions remind me of the anti-smoking commercial in which a crying, coughing baby is heard over a baby monitor and then a tobacco industry executive turns off the monitor because he isn't interested in hearing the effects of secondhand smoke. Essentially, this is what the Campaign is doing. They are turning off the sound to the rest of the tobacco control movement. They simply don't want to hear the opposition.

The Campaign has already shown a disdain and disrespect for the rest of the tobacco control community by consistently trying to deceive them about the legislation. Now, it has added to that disrespect by acknowledging that it has no interest in engaging in a discussion, but merely wants to use our discussion forum to promote its own agenda -- an agenda, which I might add, is perceived by many in tobacco control as being decidedly pro-tobacco.

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