23/12/08 Anti-Tobacco Group Encourages Violence in Children Towards Tobacco Executives

On Monday 15th December anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released its recommended activities for Kick Butts Day 2009 – http://www.kickbuttsday.net and one such activity is a boxing match where a child can punch a mock tobacco industry executive: “On Kick Butts Day we all help empower youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco with fun, educational activities and events.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but violence – simulated or otherwise – is not the correct way to deter children from smoking.  This is one step away from encouraging children to physically assault smokers themselves.  Let us remember one thing: tobacco industry executives are not killers, they are not responsible for smokers, and they are not responsible for any smoker getting cancer.  Even if we accept that smoking kills as many as we are told, the responsibility still lies – and always will lie – with the smoker themselves.  Just as Smith & Wesson cannot be held accountable each time someone dies as a result of their brand of firearm shooting a person, Philip Morris (or any other tobacco company) is not responsible for a smoker either smoking or dying from lung cancer.

Personal responsibility is something that seems to be becoming more and more elusive these days, with people wanting to be practically spoon-fed all day.  Yet the fact remains we all have personal responsibility and we are each accountable for that.  Therefore, if i choose to get into a car and drive 140mph and resultingly crash, provided I survive I cannot sue the car company for making the vehicle capable of such speeds.  Nor can I sue the council for erecting the lamppost that I smashed into.  No, the fault of the accident would be mine, for driving recklessly.  Back on topic then, if we discourage children from smoking (which, by the way, I am by no means against) why must it be by simulating violence towards a tobacco executive? Child smoking rates have been declining steadily and now rest at 6%, so the problem is not of massive proportions

I wonder how these people would feel if children were also told to attack a mock fast food industry executive – would that be acceptable, or would it be unacceptable because they like to eat a burger now and then?  Dissuading children from smoking comes from education. There, I said it, the ‘e’ word which people are forgetting about.  “Education you say?  What is that again?”  The sole reason I do not partake in the activity of injecting heroin into my veins (or, indeed, run on the edge of a swimming pool) is because I was adequately educated that such an action has potentially disastrous consequences with the high possibility of death.

Education. Not fear.  Educating children to not smoke does not mean saying ridiculous numbers and holding cigarettes responsible for each disease known to mankind.  No, it means telling them the truth – and that does not mean if the truth cannot be found then make it up.  The truth means explaining that smokers are statistically more likely to contract lung cancer – but then being honest and following it up with the fact that correlation does not mean causation.  I know this isn’t quite as exciting and dramatic as “if you smoke, you will die as a result” but the truth can be rather dull.

I would like someone to tell me what, exactly, the tobacco industry executives are doing that is so wrong anyway.  On the one hand the alcohol industry is luring people in to try their products with enticing advertising, fast food is advertised at every turn, but tobacco advertising is completely banned.  Thus, no tobacco company is able to tempt people to try smoking.  All tobacco and tobacco related products – including rolling papers – are age restricted to those aged 18 or older, so no child can get them legally.  If people are swayed to start smoking because a ‘cool’ character in a film smokes, or a real life idol is a smoker, then nothing can be said or done to prevent that other than common sense of not imitating others for no good reason.

As I have already stated, violence is never the answer.  Anti-smokers should not be assaulted, neither should smokers, obese people or anyone else with lifestyle choices that challenge our own.  The key is tolerance and education.

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