Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trifecta: Three Anti-Smoking Groups Fail to Correct Their Misleading, Inaccurate, and Defamatory Claims

Three anti-smoking groups that have made public claims which I believe are defamatory, misleading, or false have failed to retract, correct, or modify their claims, despite having been informed about the untruthfulness of their public statements.

Here are the three claims:

1. In a document entitled "Exposing Recent Tobacco Industry Front Groups and Alliances," the Canadian Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSRA) accused Citizens Against Government Encroachment (CAGE) of being a Big Tobacco front group. NRSA has made an unwarranted and undocumented accusation that CAGE is a tobacco industry front group. The charge is unwarranted because NRSA provides not a shred of evidence that CAGE receives tobacco industry funding or is in any way associated with the tobacco industry. (see original story)

2. On a "frequently asked questions" web page designed to provide factual information to the public about Pennsylvania's new smoking ban, the Pennsylvania Department of Health claims that "between 1 and 3 million adults non smokers die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke." All of the other statistics provided on this page refer to the state of Pennsylvania. The answer to the question is headlined by a smoking statistic from the state of Pennsylvania. Therefore, I think that most readers viewing this statistic would naturally assume that it relates to Pennsylvania. (see original story)

3. According to the SceneSmoking.org web site, 340 young people die every day from seeing smoking in movies. SceneSmoking.org is a web site dedicated to the effort to get smoking out of movies seen by young people, and is run by Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails. (see original story)

As of the writing of this post, all three of these claims remain unchanged on the organizations' web site.

The most surprising is perhaps the NRSA claim, since it is potentially defamatory and one would think that the organization would want to get this off its web site right away. Second most surprising is the Pennsylvania Department of Health. One would think that the Department would want to clarify its claim that 1-3 million people each year die from secondhand smoke exposure, especially when that claim is provided in a way that leads readers to think it is referring only to the state of Pennsylvania. Least surprising is Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, which we all know employs a web master who has been on a sustained vacation on a remote island in the South Pacific.

The Rest of the Story

This is exactly the type of thing which makes me crazy. I can certainly understand that an organization could make a mistake, be careless, make assumptions that are not true, and so forth. However, I cannot understand how, once the mistake is pointed out to them, they would fail to immediately correct or clarify the claim.

If I had a web site and someone pointed out to me that it contained a false, inaccurate, misleading, or defamatory claim, I would immediately remove, correct, or clarify the claim. It wouldn't take a day. It wouldn't take a week. It wouldn't take 10 months. It would take all of a few minutes.

I'm dealing with a phenomenon that I just don't understand. Do these groups all employ the same web master, who is vacationing? Do they not care? Have they formed committees to study the problem? Do they actually believe that what they're saying is true? Do they understand that what they are claiming is false, but justify their actions because it is for the greater good? Is communicating truthfully and accurately simply not a priority for these groups?

I need my readers' help to understand this. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

No comments: