Extremism has taken over public health and tobacco control groups. The exploitation of children to push agendas is completely unethical and has to stop. The War on Vaping just got a lot uglier. It’s TIME someone spoke up for the kids – because their parents seemingly won’t!
World War II (1939-45) was so long ago the men and women who fought and nursed and labored and survived will soon have all passed on.
Four generations have been born since then.
Many of whom have only known peacetime.
One of the first anti-smoking advertisements in New Zealand was printed in 1945.
You’d think Governments recovering from participating in WWII would have had more important things to do.
The End of One War & The Start of Another…
Perhaps it was an effort to signal a return to normal life?
Certainly, Government campaigns trying to direct our behaviors have become normal over the succeeding 73 years since that first ad.
We are bombarded with anti-fat, anti-alcohol, anti-sugar, sitting-is-the-new-smoking messages everywhere we go.
Thankfully, TV viewing has been transformed and we can now mute the ads, fast forward through them or abandon broadcast television altogether and just watch Netflix.
Anti-Smoking Campaigners Arrive On The Scene
Anti-smoking campaigning really took off after the publication of the US Surgeon General’s report in 1964.
The report presented convincing scientific evidence that smoking kills.
This was BIG news and coverage of the launch of the report appeared in newspapers and on people’s new black and white television sets around the world.
It’s hard to pinpoint the genesis of tobacco control as a sector, but this event was probably it.
The US Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry, dropped a bomb on smoking and with it began a new world war.
The World Conference on Tobacco Control
The term “war” should never be used lightly, but it was the language used by the tobacco control community who rallied and began the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in 1967.
Held every four, and later three, years ever since, these meetings have been key for sharing war stories, tactical moves and for anointing heroes and revving up the troops.
Rarely, arguments broke out.
I remember one, the purpose of which was to exile a prominent member for traitorously working with a tobacco company in some way.
Using the language of war, in a time still shadowed by WWII, was very effective for whipping up panic, fear and of course funding.
This war mentality encouraged the now embedded us versus them, good versus evil paradigm that frames the tobacco industry as the enemy, smokers as hapless victims and public health as the saviours.
Media Fatigue Lead To More Dramatic Rhetoric
A huge problem arose for public health crusaders, however, when the media got sick of us bleating the same boring message on and on, decade after decade.
We call this media fatigue.
They wouldn’t cover our events or print our press releases unless there was something new, controversial or shocking in it.
All public health campaigns, about alcohol, fat, safe sex or smoking were being undermined by this.
To get airtime, we had to up the ante.
We had to stage dramatic protests. We had to create a fight.
We had to exaggerate the implications of our research, or at least let the media do that for us.
Breaking The Law To Change The Law
In the early 1980s, Dr. Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a medical doctor and politician in Australia pioneered a new strategy for getting media attention when he graffitied billboards advertising cigarettes.
His BUGA-UP efforts involved him breaking the law to change the tag-lines on smoking ads to something more truthful.
This won him notoriety, and as he said: “It formed the extreme pole of anti-tobacco action, and so made all legal activities moderate by comparison.”
Tobacco Control Groups Using Kids Is Just… Awful
Skip forward 20 years and colleagues in New Zealand were using school kids to populate a street rally against smoking.
Another smoke-free advocate got school students to lie in body bags outside a tobacco factory.
Even with school children involved these stunts drew a disappointing amount of media attention.
As the years have marched on, tobacco control has become increasingly extreme, saying shocking things about people who smoke, pushing prices up to painful levels, demanding prohibition – anything the media will think is hard-hitting enough to report on.
Everything is a threat to the children these days. Just twist your message into a threat to the children and anyone who has had kids will have their protect-the-children instinct activated, and wallets will open.
To be fair, children have been exploited by marketers, the media and lobbyists forever.
It’s standard business practice, why shouldn’t public health do it too?
Has Tobacco Control Has Gone Too Far In Its War on Vaping?
No one in tobacco control thinks of the damage that might be done to the poster child de jour.
It’s probably time some guidelines were put in place to prohibit the use of children as mouthpieces for bizarre codswallop some wacko adults believe.
The case in point is a video from last week (6 Nov 18) showing a young girl reading out a list of totally fictional dangers of vaping, including that “vaping can lead to poor decisions such as going homeless, dropping out of school, child abuse…
Child abuse!? Whoa!
The video has gone viral.
The girl has been made a laughing stock.
It’s uncomfortable to watch it, to see a child so obviously being exploited.
Dr. Carrie Wade, Director of Harm Reduction Policy at R Street Institute made some good points when she called for us to not retweet or spread the video even further.
As she said, it’s not the girl’s fault, it’s her parents and the organization (Children4Change) that deserve the anger and disgust we feel at what they’re making those kids do for them.
As Carrie said, “videos last forever.”
How is that girl going to feel when she’s older and can comprehend what her parents made her do, the reaction she sparked, and the negative consequences for smokers and vapers?
Extremism Has Taken Over Public Health
This incident is an exemplar of the extremism that has taken over public health.
Anything goes no matter how absurd, no matter the lack of evidence (e.g. taxing sugar, banning vaping, minimum pricing on alcohol).
Hurting a few to save the many, that’s the mantra of public health today.
The children they exploit are just collateral damage in a war that’s gone way beyond preventing injury and disease.