Stigmatize, Don’t Educate, Smokers – “Suing the Bastards” Is More Effective

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Stigmatize, Don’t Educate, Smokers – Intl Conference Told
Suing the Bastards Is More Effective Than Public Health Messages
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 16, 2016): Public health campaigns and messages are ineffective in getting smokers to quit, and legal action as well as stigmatization is far more effective and efficient, the International Congress on Law and Mental Health in Vienna was told, according to a paper just being published.

The Surgeon General’s report on smoking in 1964, which triggered a major public health campaign, was unable to reduce smoking in the U.S. at all, noted public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who virtually by himself was able to cause the first drop in cigarette consumption through legal action.

He also noted that a recent plan to require large dramatic health warning pictures on cigarette packs and in cigarette ads had to be abandoned when the government was forced to admit – after spending many millions of taxpayer dollars – that there was no evidence that it would actually reduce smoking.

In contrast, Banzhaf – who has been called “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” “The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation against the Tobacco Industry,” and “A Driving Force behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars” – explained how he and others were able to use legal action to ban cigarette commercials; help kill off cigarette billboards, Joe Camel, and the Tobacco Institute; force cigarette makers to raise prices to pay out over a quarter of a trillion dollars; and include a 50% surcharge on smokers under Obamacare.

He also explained how he started the very successful movement to ban smoking in workplaces and public places both here and abroad; a movement which has been found to be the most effective way to reduce smoking, thereby saving millions of lives and billions of dollars.

When another panelist at the conference tried to raise ethical concerns about stigmatization as a tool to fight smoking or obesity, Banzhaf noted how effective it has been in the real world.

He also argued that “shaming and stigmatizing smoking is just poetic justice; as they say, ‘Turnabout is Fair Play,’ for decades of ads seeking to link smoking to sex and sociability” – which, Banzhaf says, is the way that most children are lured into taking up this deadly habit.

Smokers – best method to stop tobacco

“This new way of looking at smoking,” he said, “is very effective in the real world in helping real smokers – the great majority of whom already want to quit – to do so; thereby saving millions of lives and billions of dollars. And the author is not alone here; even the U.S. Surgeon General agreed,” he noted.

Banzhaf concluded that “some smokers have said such messages make them feel like “social pariahs” – their term – someone other people shun and avoid.” But, he noted that this stigmatization “is a major factor in persuading them to quit smoking, just as the glamorous images were a major factor in persuading them as kids to take up smoking in the first place.”

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418 [email protected] @profbanzhaf

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