The American Cancer Society lies and lies and lies and…, Illinois edition

by Carl V Phillips

Today, a government committee in the state if Illinois is holding a hearing on THR.  We should not expect anything to come from this since it is part of a series sponsored by RJR, with one expert testifying to a closed meeting which has demonstrated little traction in the past.  They have failed to bring in the consumer perspective that a decade of failure coupled with CASAA’s successes has demonstrated is needed to turn the science into effective persuasion.  (This is especially a shame since hundreds of vapers — living proof of the effectiveness of THR — are currently gathering in Chicago for VapeBash and would have been happy to drop by.)

One thing that these meetings do, however, is act as flypaper for the liars.  In today’s case, Heather Eagleton, Illinois Director of Public Policy and Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) laid on the lies so thick that it could have been a parody of the ANTZ position.  Here are some excerpts:

The tobacco industry has marketed this new generation of smokeless tobacco products as a temporary way to deal with increasing cigarette taxes and smoke-free policies in public places. Despite the risks, these products, which include snus and dissolvables such as strips, orbs, and sticks, are being promoted by the tobacco industry as less harmful, more convenient, and more socially acceptable alternatives to traditional cigarettes. There is no scientific evidence that these products are safe, may be considered a safe substitute for, or are an effective means of quitting tobacco use.

Wow, where to even start?

Promoted by the industry as less harmful?  If this were really true, these ANTZ would be filing lawsuits, not issuing lie-filled proclamations, since the industry is forbidden from making that claim no matter how obviously true it is.  So the manufacturers are stuck with other messages, like “more convenient” and that it can be used anywhere, as their only ways to try to persuade smokers to switch to low-risk alternatives.  As for objecting to “more socially acceptable”, apparently the ACS is now claiming that producing environmental tobacco smoke is socially acceptable — a bold move!

And, oh look, the classic strawman game of suggesting that someone is claiming that the products are perfectly safe, as an attempt to hide the clear evidence that they are about 99% safer.  Some lies just never go out of style.  This is naturally accompanied by the out-and-out lie that there is not overwhelming evidence that switching to these products is a proven very effective method of smoking cessation.  With all of these lies, it seems hardly worth bringing up the absurd characterization of “new” for such products as snus, or even dissolvables (which ACS’s patrons in pharma have been selling for decades).

My favorite from this paragraph, though, just because it is not the usual lies, but a novel bit of stupidity, is the suggestion that these products are a “temporary way to deal with increasing cigarette taxes”.  Huh?  Is she claiming that cigarette taxes are expected to drop, so only a temporary response is needed?  What she is definitely admitting is that cigarette taxes are not actually intended to incentivize smokers to reduce their risks, since otherwise switching products would be considered a success and not a failure.

There is research, however, to show these products cause cancer of the mouth, pancreas and esophagus, as well as other serious health conditions.

There is just one problem with that claim: the research actually shows that there is no such risk (nothing large enough to be measurable).  You might think that the ACS had a competent scientist or two on staff who could actually understand the scientific literature.  I wonder what they are doing with all that money that people give them?

So long as tobacco products continue to be responsible for nearly one out of every five deaths in America today, tobacco product manufacturers cannot pose as being the solution.

To paraphrase, so long as automobiles continue to be responsible for almost all roadway deaths in America today, auto manufacturers’ efforts to improve safety features cannot pose as being the solution.

This is a new twist on the old tobacco marketing campaigns of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that falsely promised health benefits to be derived from filtered, “light”, and “less tar” tobacco product alternatives that were “more safe” versus “less safe.” These “harm reduction” messages were false then and are false now.

Ah, now there is a classic.  Never mind that the public health community was the primary driver behind the light cigarettes failure.  The current “public health” community wants to memory-hole that inconvenient fact.  Just consider how faulty the parallel is:  Light cigarettes were a speculative intervention, based on little more than guesswork, and turned out to be a failure.  Smokeless tobacco products have been shown, after centuries of use and decades of research, to be low risk.  Exactly how are these similar?

So the harm reduction messages, coming from both public health and the cigarette industry, were wrong in the 1970s, and therefore …um… no harm reduction message, no matter how overwhelmingly evidenced-based, can ever again be correct?  Frankly, it might be a good tradeoff to use that as a basis for disregarding messages from the industry today, so long as we could also use it as a reason for disregarding every message from “public health” today.  New rule:  Anyone who has ever aggressively pushed a health message that turned out to be wrong is not allowed to talk anymore.  And, yes, I am talking to you, ACS and Ms. Eagleton.

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10 responses to “The American Cancer Society lies and lies and lies and…, Illinois edition

  1. Well stated and all true. The “light cigarettes” thing has always particularly annoyed me because it was SOOOO heavily pushed by the governments, with the UK (?) even suggesting or experimenting with (?) graduated taxation based on tar/nicotine, and they they somehow managed to convict the tobacco companies of encouraging people to smoke lights. To make the claim even more Orwellian, I ran across an article earlier this week about the tobacco companies being found guilty of making a “secret agreement not to suggest that some types of cigarettes might be safer than others.”

    So on the one hand they’re guilty of doing so, and on the other hand they’re guilty of conspiring together NOT to do so.

    One additional note: You say, “Huh? Is she claiming that cigarette taxes are expected to drop, so only a temporary response is needed? ” Unfortunately, I think what she’s claiming is that the government will only wait for about three blinks of an eye before they tax the e-cig liquids at the same price as cigarettes, thereby showing the truth of the fact that criminal levels of cigarette taxation really never had anything to do with public health at all: it was all simply an excuse to extract money from a vulnerable minority.

    – MJM

  2. Thank you for another excellent article.

  3. It’s difficult knowing how to respond in the face of feigned earnestness.

    In these particular circumstances it is probably enough to know that they are failing and that most anyone can and will see that smokeless nicotine is the way of the better future.

  4. Tobacco Prevention in a Fly Over State

    Yet again, another “public health” advocate saying ridiculous things. It’s difficult enough to work in public health (for a state tobacco agency) without having “spokespersons” continue the misinformation that others, then, pick up, tweet and spread among the less informed. My job is hard enough as it is here in Tobacco Prevention and Control and people like Eggleton sure aren’t helping matters any. Not all tobacco prevention folks want to be known as liars. Sigh.

    • Carl V Phillips

      Thanks for the perspective. It is always good to be reminded that there is a lot of good sense out there at the rank-and-file level. Unfortunately most such individuals (not making presumptions about you personally) are also victims — at least at the level of conscience — of the tobacco control industry power structure, with is ferocious punishment of any dissent and total lack of self-policing.

      • Tobacco Prevention in a Fly Over State

        Yes, we’re funded by people who perpetuate the myths and untruths. It’s difficult to take a more vocal, honest stance. What a lousy predicament to be in. I do my part to try to never retweet or repost anything that just repeats the same lies and exaggerations. And I often call out colleagues who parrot those things (as graciously as I can).

  5. Paul Kendrick

    I can’t believe what they get away with saying! Can they be taken to court over this?

    • Carl V Phillips

      An interesting question. Probably if a government-employed spokesperson lied like this we could eventually force them to stop doing it (though probably never to recant or apologize). We have done that and a couple of people were doing it in THR about a decade ago. When someone is employed by a private corporation and is lying on behalf of them, it is a lot more difficult. Most lies are not actually against the law when someone does not work for government and is not selling a product.

  6. Pingback: CASAA sends letter to Illinois House Consumer Protection Committee

  7. vapersagainsttheban

    Reblogged this on Vapers Against The Ban and commented:
    Carl Phillips is one of the great THR lie busters out there, deffo worth a follow by anyone who vapes!

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