Anti-tobacco activists admit politics more important than science

Americans for Nonsmokers Rights has had the courtesy (unwitting) to acknowledge that politics is more important to its cause than science. How did ANR come to make this confession?

It started with the article "Responding to Tobacco Industry Attacks on the Scientific Evidence Linking Secondhand Smoke to Disease and Death," authored by Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health and posted on the ANR web page.

In the article, Siegel advises anti-tobacco activists "Do not get into arguments with the industry about scientific evidence... Instead, the best approach is to expose the tobacco industry ties of the so-called scientists making the arguments."

In enumerating scientists allegedly on the payroll of the tobacco industry, Siegel wrote "Robert Levy and Rosalind Marimont released a report (issued by the CATO Institute) attacking the CDC and its estimate that smoking causes 400,000 deaths each year. All of these authors have strong connections to the tobacco industry... Robert Levy works for the Cato Institute, which receives financial support from the tobacco industry and Rosalind Marimont is with the National Smokers Alliance which also receives tobacco industry financial support. . (Note: Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights can provide copies of tobacco industry documents which reveal the details of these authors' ties to the tobacco industry.)"

In response to Siegel's allegation, Robert Levy challenged Siegel to provide supporting documentation.

Siegel's response indicated he would correct any misstatements, but he didn't think he made any.

Levy responded by pointing to Siegel's statement "Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights can provide copies of tobacco industry documents which reveal the details of these authors' ties to the tobacco industry." Levy asked for a retraction.

Siegel admitted the article was misleading the way it was written and indicated that he asked ANR to post a retraction and apology.

Levy accepted Siegel's retraction and apology provided it was posted on the ANR web site.

Rosalind Marimont also took exception with Siegel's article and he apologized.

Everybody happy? Not quite.

ANR refused to post Siegel's retraction and apology stating, "After further discussion...[and] input from other [ANR] Board members, we have concluded that the possible 'clarification' that you and I discussed is simply not feasible... I realize that your views on the matter are heart-felt and sincere, and that mere removal of your name from the paper, without more, will not be entirely satisfactory to you. But at this point ANR must put its political credibility ahead of what you consider to be your scientific credibility." [emphasis added]

And there you have it, the anti-smoking industry mentality in a nutshell -- or is what where it belongs?

UPDATE: As of about noon on September 2, 1999, ANR modified its article by striking Siegel as the author and adding the following language before the article:

Robert Levy, one of the authors mentioned in the article below, has attempted to censor this article by making a veiled threat of legal action against the original author. While we have acceded to the author's request to have his name removed from the article, ANR stands by the full content of this article, which remains as originally written.

We have the utmost respect for the truth and no respect for bullies, and will not stop speaking one to appease the other.

[Note: All correspondence posted occurred via e-mail.]

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