Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Decries Use of Menthol to Recruit Youths, But Protects Menthol from Cigarette Flavoring Ban

In its Kick Butts Day activities guide (the same one in which it recommends that youths simulate physical violence against tobacco industry representatives), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids decries the use of menthol to recruit youth smokers. In particular, the Campaign blasted R.J. Reynolds for using a crushable menthol tablet in its new Camel Crush brand.

The Campaign states: "In May 2008, R.J. Reynolds launched a new cigarette, the Camel Crush. Inside each cigarette is a blue pellet that the user can crush to turn the regular cigarette into a menthol one. The cigarette is packaged in a sleek black and blue box and this new innovation can be seen as marketing to youth."

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that at the same time it is blasting R.J. Reynolds for using a crushable menthol pellet to recruit youth smokers, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is lobbying Congress to exempt menthol from a ban on cigarette flavorings which the Campaign itself has argued is necessary to prevent tobacco companies from marketing to youth.

The Campaign has now itself acknowledged that the menthol pellets are an example of marketing to youth which it says must be outlawed, but rather than call for a ban on the use of these pellets, the Campaign is actually working to protect these pellets from regulation.

If these were strawberry pellets, cherry pellets, or chocolate pellets, you can be sure the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids would be calling for a ban on their use. In fact, the FDA tobacco legislation would ban each of these flavorings (plus every other flavoring in existence). Except for menthol, and that is at the Campaign's insistence.

Am I arguing here that menthol should be banned in cigarettes? No. What I am arguing is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is full of hypocrisy and insincerity. It is clear to me that they don't really mean what they are saying. They say that tobacco companies must not be allowed to market to kids and they acknowledge that menthol flavoring in Camel Crush is marketing to kids, yet they then lobby to prevent Congress from banning the use of this flavoring.

What has become clear to me now - as suggested by a number of commenters - is that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is nothing more than a political, propaganda organization. It is not a legitimate public health organization. It has no sincerity, no regard for honesty and integrity, and it is playing a game of politics and deception with our nation's youth, and with its own constituents.

A large part of the reason for this blog in the first place is that my conscience could not live with the unethical, inappropriate, insincere, dishonest, and deceptive propaganda-based methods of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Their tactics have bothered me - and my conscience - for a long time. What I realize now is that the only way for me to rid myself of this blight on my conscience is to dismiss the Campaign as a public health organization. What troubles me is that a public health organization is using such techniques. But if I view the Campaign as a political propaganda organization that is not a legitimate part of public health, then it becomes possible to dismiss its behavior without bothering my conscience as much.

The good news - for the Campaign - is that it is now very much in the running for the 2008 Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Award, which will be announced at the end of the year.

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