Continuing our countdown of the top anti-THR liars of 2013, we have a last-minute entrant, Cheryl Healton, who seems to be the perfect representative of the stone age (i.e., c.2003) faction of the tobacco control industry. Even as the post-Healton leadership of the American Legacy Foundation seems to be moving toward realizing the value of THR (though they continue Healton’s tradition of just hoarding the Foundation’s money, not actually doing much other than paying extravagant salaries), she writes anti-THR lies with the simple-mindedness of a past era.
Of course, she is not alone in this, and thus is symbolic in the #7 spot for thousands of people in local health departments, schools of public health, and the media who also traffic in the simple-minded lies (another recent example). For years the tobacco control industry did not need to say anything other than “we think this is bad” to win over a gullible public. But the public has become much more sophisticated about this topic and about mass communication in general, and of course have betters sources of information than whatever some county health official told the clueless local newspaper. The better liars have learned how to deploy sciencey lies rather than just assertions and innuendo, which is more effective at tricking people, and also at not making the speaker look like an idiot. But there is still a large paleo contingent — a far larger headcount than those who have gotten more sophisticated — who are not really part of the debate and thus have never been schooled that they cannot just lie like it is 1999, a time when there was little organized opposition to their lies.
My favorite example in this case is Healton, in urging New York City to ban the use of e-cigarettes anywhere that smoking is banned (see above link), deployed the paleo-tobacco-control tactic of calling for extreme restrictions on freedom — and the resulting damage to public health — in order to solve a simple problem. Perhaps she is right that not allowing vaping on packed subway trains is reasonable, but what, exactly, does this have to do with not allowing bars to choose for themselves whether to allow vaping and how does it justify banning it throughout Central Park. The one other specific place she cited, in terms of suggesting that upstanding citizens like herself should oppose e-cigarette use there, was walking down the street. Of course, this is about the only place left where people can vape (or smoke) given the restrictions. That is just classic tobacco control: imposing restrictions that do not even address their own stated goals.
An important distinction needs to be drawn between Healton (and others like her who are getting rich off of anti-THR) and the workaday health department bureaucrats and clinicians who act as the footsoldiers for paleo tobacco control. The latter are merely useful idiots who Healton and company manipulate. They tend to be non-specialists and do not even pretend to be scientists, and are victims of the lies that are crafted by the actively dishonest puppet masters. The knowing liars are clearly the most guilty. Still, this does not let the ignorant liars off the hook — they may not pretend to be scientists but they do pretend to be experts on the topic when talking to the press, the public, politicians, or clinical patients. They repeat the lies that they have been told as if they have assessed them to be true, when really they have no clue about the truth — and know it — and are merely transcribing what they have been told. People living in the information age have no excuse for allowing themselves to be brainwashed by widely-debunked lies.