Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Former "Winston Man" Speaks Out Against Hypocrisy in Anti-Smoking Movement

The man who was the face on Winston cigarette advertisements for six years - David Goerlitz - (who we are fortunate to have as a reader and commenter on the Rest of the Story) speaks out against what he sees as the hypocrisy in the anti-smoking movement, in an article that appeared Sunday in the Winston-Salem Journal.

According to the article: "David Goerlitz, the face of Winston cigarette advertisements for six years, is going through his second bout of disillusionment with the tobacco sector. The first came in November 1988 -- after Goerlitz served as the "Winston Man" for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. from 1981 to 1987. That's when he spoke out against the industry and what he considered as manufacturers' practice of targeting youth worldwide with their products. Goerlitz has offered thousands of testimonial speeches to business and civic groups, as well as educational programs to as young an audience as elementary-school students. ...

"Recently, Goerlitz began speaking out about how politics within the anti-tobacco and health-advocacy fields has affected their message, and how the groups have marginalized his services with their own agendas ... : 'I became disillusioned when no one in power did anything about what could have been a wonderful opportunity to put health and welfare above politics. I guess it's true that greed always will outweigh fear. We got the tobacco industry to admit they would stop marketing to kids, after they had denied it for 50 years. My work was done, and my story was no longer relative. The manufacturers were going to be punished. Let the suits and experts and politicians sort the mess out, all the while being guaranteed an income for the next 25 years, including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the American Legacy Foundation. People like me were no longer needed to do programs. I was told, in many states I previously had worked in their schools, that studies had been done and research showed that it was not effective to have speakers who were former "addicts." When I was deposed as a fact witness in the early lawsuits, it was calculated that I had done more than 1,000 programs. Since 1998 (when the Master Settlement Agreement was established), I've done only about 250-300, which were repeat clients and schools that I had established a relationship with. Less than 5 percent of the MSA monies went to what it was originally intended for. The public is not aware of this. They seem clueless as to what you and I know about what this is really all about. In my opinion, the MSA should be overturned and ruled unconstitutional.'"

Goerlitz also lamented the loss of the grassroots nature of the tobacco control movement: "The grass-roots tobacco-control agencies, who had the same expectations that I had, no longer exist and they were bullied. My programs usually were/are covered by those agencies through grants. Even the small tobacco companies that were forced to pay the same amount to the states had no say in the negotiations. No one could grasp the enormity of the situation. It was simple -- keep making the little guy pay, keep the smokers arguing for their right to smoke and tax the hell out of them with illegal increases. All the while not realizing the tobacco companies were in cahoots with tobacco control."

The Rest of the Story

This is a very important perspective that David Goerlitz presents. It certainly supports my own perspective, presented through a large number of blog entries, that the tobacco control movement is filled with hypocrisy, has consorted with Big Tobacco in a sell out of the public's health, has created a financial partnership with the tobacco companies, and has destroyed its own grassroots base because of an overriding concern with seeking massive funding for a few national organizations that control all the power in the movement.

I can't possibly highlight all aspects of what David talked about, but let me mention just a few.

First, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is running a massive campaign of deception to promote the deal it negotiated with Philip Morris, which sells out the health of the American public (especially smokers and the African American community) in order to institutionalize tobacco use and nicotine addiction and protect the profits of the nation's largest tobacco company. The hypocrisy in the Campaign's actions is enormous, as it has criticized the companies for their own deception, but the Campaign is now itself massively deceiving the American public.

Moreover, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has coopted the entire tobacco control movement. It has taken everything into its own hands, going as far as putting itself out as the sole representative of the tobacco control movement and secretly negotiating with Philip Morris and making decisions regarding what sellouts would be acceptable in order to appease the interests of the nation's largest tobacco company. It didn't consult with the groups affected before selling out their rights and interests. In essence, the grassroots nature of the tobacco control movement has largely been destroyed.

Second, the American Legacy Foundation, while running an effective "truth" anti-smoking campaign, has had a difficult time telling the "truth." It has repeatedly failed to disclose the truth to the American public, and its front group - the Citizens Commission to Protect the Truth - also ran a campaign of deception, failing to disclose its funding from the American Legacy Foundation in a number of court cases. Legacy has also exhibited enormous hypocrisy, from its award given to companies that advertise tobacco to kids - which Legacy bemoans - to its refusal to give money to schools that take tobacco money while at the same time trying to get the tobacco companies to fund its own "truth" campaign.

In the shadow of these huge organizations, the grassroots nature of the tobacco control movement has already largely been lost. The FDA tobacco legislation threatens to completely undermine, if not altogether destroy, the grassroots tobacco control movement.

The Master Settlement Agreement, which created the American Legacy Foundation in the first place, is a huge public health disaster, as David notes. It created a permanent financial partnership between the states and the tobacco companies. There was never any real intention to allocate the money to tobacco control or do anything to protect kids. The true motivating factor was the desire to bring money into the states and to achieve political gains. The citizens of each state were used (I could think of other terms for it) by the Attorneys General to achieve their own selfish political gains.

I congratulate David Goerlitz for speaking out publicly. Hopefully, his perspectives will be seriously considered by leaders of the tobacco control movement and will result in serious change.

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