Thursday, February 13, 2014

Op-Ed: Anti-Smoking Movement More Concerned with Money than Saving Lives

In an op-ed piece published in BU Today, I argue that the tobacco control movement has been co-opted by a bureaucracy of large national organizations that are more interested in putting feathers in their cap than actually saving lives from smoking.

I summarize my argument as follows: "In recent years, the tobacco control movement has squandered the opportunity to reduce smoking-related disease and death. Instead of continued progress, the tobacco control movement has largely been co-opted by a bureaucracy of national organizations that seem more concerned about bolstering their funding streams than fighting the tobacco industry. Both the government and the national tobacco control organizations have largely abandoned the fight against the tobacco industry and smoking, and instead have dedicated themselves to seeking funding for research or policy that makes little or no further contribution to the protection of the public’s health."

The piece highlights Dr. Alan Blum's documentary which reveals that the tobacco control movement has degraded into a fight for prestige and money rather than a fight against tobacco-related morbidity and mortality: "On the 50th anniversary of the 1964 report, Alan Blum, director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society at the University of Alabama, released a documentary that highlights what he calls “the persistent foot-dragging, fear, and squandering of funds by public health agencies, universities, and medical associations alike in ending the smoking pandemic.” This is the real story of the modern-day tobacco control movement. It demonstrates that the tobacco problem is far from over, and that today’s leading antismoking groups have squandered the opportunity to continue Terry’s legacy."

I conclude: "While the tremendous decline in smoking since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report is worthy of celebration, the actual number of smokers has declined only from 53 million to 45 million. Clearly, the problem of cigarette smoking remains one of the most critical public health issues of our time. But to succeed, we need to rebuild a tobacco control movement that, unlike the current one, cares more about saving lives than gaining dollars."

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