Monday, December 15, 2008

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Urges Kids to Simulate Physical Violence on Tobacco Industry Representatives

Today, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released its recommended activities for Kick Butts Day 2009. According to the web site: "On Kick Butts Day we all help empower youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco with fun, educational activities and events." One of the activities being promoted by the Campaign is a boxing match where youths simulate committing physical violence on a mock tobacco industry representative.

Specifically, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is calling for kids to set up a boxing match. They are to set up a boxing ring and have a mock tobacco industry representative wearing a suit or cigarette costume. An announcer is to stand in the ring and attract passersby to the ring. They put on inflatable gloves and punch the tobacco industry representative. This activity is recommended for middle school and high school groups.

The centerpiece to the activity is described, word for word, as follows: "Have passersby put on the inflatable gloves and let them punch the tobacco industry representative."

The Rest of the Story

Is it just me, or is this despicable for a public health group? It seems to me that it is completely inappropriate for a public health group to be promoting physical violence - albeit simulated - against individuals.

We should be teaching youths that if they find fault with a corporation's practices and policies, they should use legal advocacy mechanisms - such as the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government - to try to effect change in society. Simulating the commission of physical violence against the executives of that corporation is not only inappropriate, but undermines the very message we are supposed to be sending to our children.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will apparently stoop as low as it needs to in order to misuse kids to serve the organization's own political purposes. Last week, I highlighted how the Campaign is misusing young people, through its bogus Youth Advocates of the Year awards, to serve its pet political goal of passing the FDA tobacco legislation. The Campaign is hiding the truth from youths, hoping to recruit them to its political goals by deceiving them about the facts behind the FDA legislation.

Now, the Campaign has stooped to a new low: promoting the idea of physical violence as a means of reacting to corporate wrongdoing and teaching this to our youths.

I think the Campaign has an obligation to not only delete the boxing match from its activity guide for Kick Butts Day, but to send out a message apologizing to youths throughout the country for suggesting and incorporating physical violence against identified individuals into a public health activity.

One of the most effective television advertisements from California's anti-smoking media campaign contained the tagline: "The tobacco industry: how low will they go to make a profit?"

I think we should put out a new ad with the tagline: The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: how low will they go to pass the FDA tobacco legislation?"

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