Yesterday, the CASAA leadership had the enormous displeasure to listen to a webcast about state and local regulation of e-cigarettes, hosted by the Tobacco Control Network (we listened so you did not have to – you’re welcome).
Actually we almost did not get to listen to it: every one of us was bounced off the call except one of us who registered using a non-CASAA affiliation. We are assuming that was totally a matter of coincidence and technical difficulty. We certainly hope it was, because not letting us attend a CDC-sponsored public call would certainly be a no-no. However, if it was intentional, it would not be out of character for the ANTZ, who consistently try to keep anyone who does not agree with them from even observing their meetings. Also, the (lack of) ethics of such a move are not much different from using CDC funding to engage in what is basically an effort to lobby for state and local regulation; that is explicitly forbidden by law, but this CDC-funded webcast was definitely doing just that.
The reaction to this by CASAA was kind of interesting in itself. The one of us (CVP) who has been dealing with ANTZ activism against THR for more than a decade (indeed, for more than a decade before the term “ANTZ” was even coined by CASAA) found it to be rather routine. Others, who had come to THR only after e-cigarettes enabled them to quit smoking, offered quite a few comments that we will not repeat here (out of concern for the chiiiiildren). One of the more printable comments was simply “do these people really get paid for this?” (Answer: yes — your tax dollars at work.)
If we tried to respond to every detail, this broadcast would give us a month worth of Lies posts, so we are just going to hit a few highlights. As a summary, most of the content, other than a few specific points that we will highlight, was an embarrassing primer about e-cigarettes (most any reader of this blog could have done it better), along with the usual attacks that this is all some industry plot and is all about the advertising. The ANTZ’s guiding mythology makes it impossible to admit that people use e-cigarettes (or smoke or whatever) because they want to, and thus they have to concoct this crazy (as in: as certifiably out of touch with reality as believing your garden gnomes are talking you) story about how a smattering of e-cigarette ads controls people’s when they make one of their most important life choices.
Since the anti-e-cigarette people are basically just the anti-smoking people with no additional education, they of course used the same old ANTZ playbook: They talked about the importance years-old ads that ran briefly in such consumer-manipulation powerhouses as Convenience Store News. They talked trash about specific companies, quite a few of which no longer exist. Our favorite was their breathless concern about one e-cigarette merchant using women mimicking the old “cigarette girls” to sell e-cigarettes in a casino, which they seemed to think would appeal to young people. Yes, it appeals to all of those young people who remember cigarette girls from c.1970 and who were in the casino.
The speakers from Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (whose Orwellian name belies the fact that they were opposing rights for nonsmokers who want to use e-cigarettes instead, and who are really just anti-tobacco/nicotine extremists) took the lead on the ad hominem attack. We were initially a bit disappointed to not be mentioned, because the first page of that presentation was devoted to business groups and think tanks. They were obsessed about corporate connections and the e-cigarette industry’s new-found access to lobbying. They singled out a few organizations, including ALEC (for those who do not know, a networking group that is described as either “pro-business” or “right-wing” depending on who you ask) who is such an important player that they might have penned two pro-THR and pro-e-cigarette missives (though only one comes to mind). You could tell that what they really wanted to do was to complain that THR must be bad because, politically, people associated with the Republican Party tend to support it, but they probably did not want to threaten their CDC funding quite that aggressively.
(For those who might not know, e-cigarette users and THR supporters are pretty much randomly distributed across other political beliefs and affiliations, though they skew libertarian for obvious reasons. By contrast, almost all of the attacks on THR in the US come from the “public health” political faction which is almost entirely affiliated with the Democrat Party — and which is starting to erode that party’s support — and thus for this particular issue, support of the public’s interest by politicians comes primarily from Republicans.)
CASAA did appear on the second page of ad hominem attacks, rather annoyingly in the context of RJR’s efforts to promote THR to politicians (something we are no happier about than the ANTZ are). CASAA was identified as being Bill Godshall and Gregory Conley, though when mentioning those two they failed to acknowledge that it is they, and not the corporate lobbyists that they fixated on, who have done the most to protect e-cigarettes from anti-THR efforts. Kudos to Greg for getting in their crosshairs; the rest of us are happy to toil in ANTZ anonymity. Bill, however, works alongside us a lot but is independent of CASAA. It is truly remarkable that the people who are chosen to be the experts who inform other ANTZ cannot even get that straight. They are all about ad hominem attacks – because the science and true public opinion are not on their side – but they cannot even figure out who the hominems are.
They described CASAA as “theoretically a consumer advocacy organization”. Cute, huh. There was nothing presented to suggest that we are anything but that, of course, since it is an undeniable fact. But by saying “theoretically”, they were able to insinuate it was not true without actually stating the lie they want to plant in the audience’s mind. That remark was delivered by Bronson Frick and Cynthia Hallett, who theoretically have never even once hired a hooker for a threesome and then killed her and buried her in the basement. See how that works?
(Oops. So much for protecting all those chiiiildren who read this blog.)
The ad hominem attacks and emphasis on advertising really served to illustrate the question-begging circular “logic” that dominates the ANTZ approach. It goes something like this:
Start with the assumption that e-cigarettes and THR are bad for the world and the public does not really like them. Based on that, it is apparent that any company, advocacy group, or individual who acts out in support of the products or cause must be bad. Having established that these people are bad, we will now tell you about their support THR and e-cigarettes. With all those bad people supporting e-cigarettes and encouraging their use, it is obvious that they are bad for the world and that people only use them because they are being manipulated by bad people. This proves our original point that e-cigarettes and THR are bad.
From the perspective of this blog, the biggest highlight of the presentation was a remarkable coincidence with the most recent two posts, which were about the American Cancer Society’s efforts to block regulations that would prevent sales of e-cigarettes to minors. Joelle Lester from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium informed the audience of what this blog already pointed out to our readers: No action taken by a state or locality can weaken whatever action FDA or other federal regulators might take about e-cigarettes. This was not a minor aside; it was pretty much the highlighted point of her talk, that everyone should be pursuing state and local restrictions without hesitation.
Readers will recall that the claim by ACS et al. was that they opposed bans on sales to minors because this would somehow undermine the pending FDA legislation. We pointed out that this is obviously wrong, and that the ACS decision-makers undoubtedly know it. Thus, the claim was a transparently false rationalization for hidden motives, which we went on to divine. The presentation yesterday made it clear that not only is this obvious to anyone with even a casual understanding of US law, but that the group that is effectively the legal department for the US tobacco control industry is actively communicating that information. Not a very clever rationalization for ACS to hide behind, then.
That is enough for today. In the next post we will tell you about the highlight of that broadcast, a remarkable bit of honesty from a county health department that tried to restrict e-cigarette use, along with some of the other lowlights.