- Anti-THR liar of the year Runner-up (#2): American Cancer Society (ACS)
- Anti-THR Liar of the Year (#1): American Lung Association (ALA)
While neither the most aggressive liar (that was the apparently conscience-free Glantz at #8) nor the one causing the most harm with their lies (the WHO, at #3, has that homicidal distinction), these organizations top the list because of a combination of aggressive lying, influence, the particular policies they advanced with the lying and influence, and the baldness of the contradiction between their stated missions and their anti-THR efforts. Their little friend, the American Heart Association, often signs off on the same lies, but has been relatively quiet this year so is not specifically ranked. But AHA should be considered to be part of this, along with the American Cancer Society Action Network, ACS’s dirty-work non-charity (almost entirely pharma-funded) corporation that, unfortunately, no one other than the tax authorities distinguishes from the actual ACS. ALA edges out ACS for first place because ACS started quieting down toward the end of the year, with ALA picking up the slack (though perhaps they were taking marching orders from ACS to run point — there are some reasons to suspect that).
The lies from ALA and ACS are particularly influential because they have a lot of foot soldiers. With offices across the country, they can easily send local people to regulatory hearings for some astroturfed lying (i.e., it gives the illusion of being local grassroots-ish activism, even though they are paid flacks and their salaries and orders are coming from a giant corporation’s headquarters). In 2013, they used this in particular to try to block laws and regulations that would have forbidden sales of e-cigarettes to minors. (If you find that shocking or do not understand why they would do it, you really need to read the archives of this blog — there is a lot of good stuff there, if we do say so ourselves.) To do this, they deployed a random assortment of the usual lies, along with some unusual and particularly bald lies like “if you do this, it will interfere with the FDA’s ability to regulate them” or “we need to learn more about the harms from e-cigarettes before we take any action”.
Of course, they also showed up to offer lies in support of proposed state and local regulations that would restrict adult access to or use of e-cigarettes. They were the go-to ANTZ for the local media in many cases, which almost always just transcribed their lies. And they appear to have had substantial influence on many of those fights. Before 2013, CASAA et al. won most of the fights over anti-e-cigarette regulations. In 2013 the tide turned, and the forces of darkness were more often successful. These organizations seemed to have played a critical role in that. Fights over smokeless tobacco (mostly taxation, since bans are off the table) were relatively less prominent than e-cigarettes, but they also continued to bring their lies to those as well (as they have been doing for many years).
We admit that putting these two at the top of the list reflects our focus on the USA, though we suspect that these groups have more global influence than their counterparts in other countries. Ranking them above the WHO did give us pause, given how much more damage the latter has caused. But this list is about the lies, not about ranking the damage inflicted through other anti-THR actions. (The government of China would top such a ranking since it could use its autocratic powers to encourage the use of e-cigarettes by about a third of the world’s smokers — with low shipping cost too! — but instead blocks their use and remains the world’s largest cigarette merchant. Of course, they do not really have to bother to lie in order to do that.)
What really tipped the scales, though, are the issues of mission and credibility. Few people who are not in thrall to the WHO are influenced by them. In particular, Westerners who are, at least for the immediate future, the primary audience for THR, tend to completely ignore the WHO, to the point of barely even knowing it exists. People who are aware of the WHO seem to recognize it as a “public health” advocacy special interest. But most Americans tend to hear and trust the ALA and ACS and to believe that their missions really are to fight lung disease and cancer. They have no idea that these organizations are actually anti-tobacco extremists and that they allow that goal to trump their titular missions. So when they speak out against a THR product, they are abusing people’s faith in them and sending the message that their opinion is based on lung or cancer risk, not on the goal of eliminating all tobacco use regardless of risk.
Mission is also the ultimate reason that ALA beats out ACS for the #1 spot. While anti-THR is a hypocritical position for both of those corporations, clearly contrary to their stated mission, this is more the case for ALA. Smoking is a major contributor to cancer, of course, but there are a lot of other causes. But lung diseases, in modern rich countries, are overwhelmingly caused by smoking. Yes, e-cigarettes might adversely affect the lungs (though the risk is trivial compared to smoking, so this is no excuse for them opposing e-cigarette-based THR), but smokeless tobacco clearly poses no threat to the lungs. And despite this, ALA actively opposes smokeless tobacco use for THR also. It is difficult to imagine a more blatant misrepresentation of an organization’s mission than ALA opposing smoke-free alternatives.
We wish all the readers of this blog a happy and healthy 2014. As for those who made our countdown list (who undoubtedly do not read this blog for fear of accidental enlightenment), we wish them the development of a conscience, lawsuits, boycotts, and maybe even a little enlightenment — and, most of all, a continuing erosion of their undeserved credibility.