The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is preparing to post propaganda pictures in some 9,000 locations where tobacco is sold using a federal stimulus grant of $316,000 to at least partially pay to print them. That hardly contributes to job creation and economic recovery in the state, according to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
"First the federal government expands the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – SCHIP – and expects increased tobacco taxes to pay for it. Then it gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to support efforts to reduce smoking. Talk about mixed messages! Also, such propaganda against smoking will only hurt small businesses while reducing local, state and federal tax revenues," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.
The association represents some 2,000 professional tobacconists, most of whom are small business owners of mom-and-pop neighborhood cigar stores along with premium cigar manufacturers and distributors of related merchandise. Nearly 40 of those members reside, work and run their businesses in the state of Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts proposal requires that stores display images of human organs purportedly damaged by smoking. They will display graphic photographs of diseased lungs, damaged brains and stained teeth to show the dangers of tobacco use.
According to the Cambridge, Mass.-based civil rights activist Stephen Helfer, such propaganda would be blatantly misleading.
""Massachusetts plans to use images of lungs allegedly damaged by smoking. The message being, that a smoker’s lungs are invariably diseased. The public has no way of knowing, however, if the lungs in the images are from a smoker or a nonsmoker," Helfer wrote in an as-yet unpublished letter to the editor of The Boston Globe.
"I meet men and women in their seventies and eighties who have smoked two or three packs a day since adolescence and appear in better respiratory shape than some younger people who do not smoke," said Andre Weil, M.D., the so-called father of integrative medicine and author of several best-selling books promoting general health and healthy aging.
Helfer also cited evidence that cigarette smokers have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and that a similar effect has also been noticed in epidemiological studies of Alzheimer’s disease.
"If health officials wanted to educate, rather than only frighten, they could require that the image of a normal brain of a smoker be displayed next to one ravaged by either of these dread diseases," he noted.