Monday, November 09, 2009

American Cancer Society Lying to Public While Playing Politics; Does the Truth No Longer Matter?

On its web site, the American Cancer Society (ACS) states that it is supporting a ban on flavored cigarettes, which it asserts have long been used by tobacco companies to lure kids into smoking.

According to the ACS: "Candy, fruit and liquor-flavored cigarettes are smoked by school children in much higher numbers than adults. Cigarette makers have long seen sweetened cigarettes as a lure for catching young customers. The American Cancer Society supports a ban on these dangerous products."

The ACS also states: "A bill to eliminate flavored cigarettes passed the [New York] State Assembly in early 2009 and awaits action. We are hopeful this bill can become law this year."

The Rest of the Story

The bill passed by the New York State Assembly does not ban flavored cigarettes. It does not, for example, ban menthol-flavored cigarettes. It does not ban clove cigarettes. What it bans are a number of types of cigarettes that were already taken off the market several years ago. There is not a single brand of flavored cigarettes produced by Big Tobacco which is covered by this legislation. But what the bill does is specifically allow the most common flavored cigarettes - menthol and clove cigarettes - to remain on the market.

Thus, it is not true that the ACS is supporting a bill that would ban flavored cigarettes. It wouldn't ban flavored cigarettes. It would continue to allow menthol cigarettes. And it would continue to allow clove cigarettes. Thus, the supposed "ban" on flavored cigarettes turns out not to be a ban at all.

It's like stating that you support a ban on flavored toothpaste but that you are actually supporting a bill that exempts mint flavors and bubble gum. That's hardly a ban on flavored toothpaste.

It is also not true that the tobacco companies have long used the flavors banned by this legislation to lure kids to start smoking. There was one episode in which R.J. Reynolds introduced a few candy-flavored cigarette varieties but these were removed from the market. Other than that, the only flavor that has long been used by tobacco companies to lure kids to smoking is menthol. An that's not covered by the ban. So the American Cancer Society is full of crap when they assert that the cigarette flavors they seek to ban have long been used to lure children to start smoking.

It is also untrue that flavored cigarettes are currently smoked by youths in much higher numbers than among adults. If you don't count menthol, the overwhelming majority of youths are smoking non-flavored cigarettes, specifically: Marlboros, Camels, and Newports.

Finally, it is not true that the ACS is supporting a ban on these "dangerous," "flavored" tobacco products. The ACS is not supporting a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes, the one type of flavored cigarette which is actually smoked by hundreds of thousands of youths. The ACS is supporting a ban on exactly zero products that are produced by Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, or Lorillard.

I challenge the ACS to name a single brand of cigarettes produced by Big Tobacco and smoked by any substantial proportion of youths that will be taken off the market as a result of the legislation it is supporting (even setting aside the fact that federal legislation has already removed these products from the market).

In contrast, I can list a host of flavored cigarette brands produced by Big Tobacco which are smoked by a huge proportion of youths and which will not be removed from the market by this legislation.

The issue here is not whether flavored cigarettes should or should not be removed from the market. The issue is why it is necessary for anti-smoking groups like the American Cancer Society to lie to the public and imply that legislation will remove flavored cigarettes when that legislation will do nothing of the sort.

Why is it necessary for groups like the American Cancer Society to deceive the public into thinking that they are doing something to protect our nation's youths when they are actually supporting a bill that fails to affect even a single Big Tobacco product? Why is it necessary for these groups to make false claims to the public in support of these policies?

How ironic it is that these anti-smoking groups are calling on the need for legislation specifically because they claim the tobacco companies have lied to, and are deceiving the American public, but that these groups are themselves lying to the public to support their meaningless policies?

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