Friday, June 26, 2009

Another Day, Another Lie: American Cancer Society Deceives Constituents Into Thinking Big Tobacco Lobbyists Were All Fighting the FDA Tobacco Bill

Moving now at a pace of a lie a day, the American Cancer Society sent out a communication to its constituents implying that the FDA tobacco legislation was enacted because the voices of slick tobacco lobbyists were ignored.

The communication states: "It wasn't easy, but Congress and the President are standing up to Big Tobacco with an exceptional new law that makes it harder for tobacco companies to push their product. It's a monumental victory in our fight against cancer. As it turns out, there's one thing more powerful than slick cigarette lobbyists -- the voices of real people from all across the country fighting for change. Please take a moment to thank Congress and President Obama for enacting the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act."

The Rest of the Story

This communication clearly implies that slick tobacco lobbyists were fighting the FDA tobacco legislation. It suggests uniform opposition by Big Tobacco to the FDA bill and an effort by the tobacco lobbyists to kill the bill.

As we know, the truth is that Philip Morris - the largest company within Big Tobacco and the company with the overwhelmingly highest amount of lobbying expenditures in Congress - supported the bill and lobbied for its passage. Thus, the "slick cigarette lobbyists" from Philip Morris were promoting the bill and any Congressperson who voted for this legislation was supporting, not opposing, the interests of these "slick cigarette lobbyists."

Timothy Carney picked up on this type of act of deception in his Washington Examiner column on Wednesday, when he wrote that: "it’s misleading to claim you’re battling the “tobacco industry” when you’re siding with the industry’s 900-pound gorilla."

What the American Cancer Society is claiming here is more than just deceptive, in my opinion. It's not merely that the ACS is claiming that they were fighting Big Tobacco. They are making a specific claim that the "slick cigarette lobbyists" were opposing the bill and that it was the public's expression of support for the bill which overcame the work of these lobbyists.

I would opine that this is outright false. The largest chunk of Big Tobacco lobbyists and Big Tobacco lobbying money went into supporting this legislation. If anything, the legislation passed because of the work of "slick tobacco lobbyists."

And no, I do not believe for a minute that the power of the smaller companies' lobbyists could outweigh the impact of Philip Morris' lobbyists given the companies market dominance, Congressional influence, and dominance in terms of campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures.

Let me also just add that the slickest lobbyists involved with this bill were not from the tobacco companies, but from the health groups. It was those lobbyists who were able to sell a bill of goods to the Congress and convince legislators that this legislation was a strong public health measure that would save lives by mandating safer cigarettes, eliminating cigarette flavorings, eliminating cigarette advertising directed at kids, and reducing youth smoking.

The rest of the story is that the rhetoric of the leading anti-smoking organizations - including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association - is really no better than that of the tobacco companies. Both have lied to, and deceived the public.

And frankly, a lie is a lie. Just because the lie is coming from a "good guy" doesn't make it any more excusable. It's still a lie. It's still unethical. It's still unprofessional. And it's still inappropriate.

And in some ways, it's even worse coming from public health groups, because they are bound by an ethical code of conduct.

These health groups are destroying not only the public health practice of tobacco control and the federal framework for tobacco control practice in the United States, but they are also destroying the entire ethical integrity of the national tobacco control movement.

If you take the time to re-read the posts I've written during this week, I think you'll see the extent to which the behavior of these organizations is unethical and inappropriate and the extent of the damage that these groups are doing to the practice of tobacco control and the protection of the public's health.

No comments: