SCOOP! Leaked UPA Guidelines for Tobacco Reporting

-The following inadvertently ended up in my inbox via a BCC re a starting writer at a major newspaper who probably was not aware that it was intended to be confidential. There is little need to comment on this since it pretty well speaks for itself.-PLB.

United Press Association Guidelines for Tobacco Reporting

As a new reporter or perhaps as a more seasoned journalist considering taking on tobacco news, this field may at first glance seem daunting. After all, tobacco is not only a major global agricultural product and business concern but also has come to be a focus of both governments and health agencies as a major negative influence on public health. There is a great deal of research being done on and journals devoted to all aspects of tobacco.

But have no fear.

This guide will show you how to master tobacco issues with a few easy steps and create articles any editor will accept (as long as you remember to use that spell checker!) and you will find that in practice, this seemingly complicated area, requires no background knowledge or experience to adequately manage.

Included in this package you will find examples of actual articles that were accepted as well as verbatim passages which need to be included in almost every tobacco relating article to pass editorial muster and to qualify for eventual publication. These passages might seem inappropriate for some articles but history has shown that in almost every case including these passages greatly increases the likelihood that an article will be printed and just as importantly also sends a clear message to the reader that you are a trustworthy writer. As an added bonus, these passages will without any effort on your part other than cutting and pasting, add up to 150 words, and if you are being paid by the word, that is money for next to nothing.

The basic article template is as follows:

1. Don’t worry about the headline: that is not under your control.

2. In your first paragraph have some sort of generic lead into the theme which includes the phrase “tobacco use (or smoking) is the leading preventable cause of death (or disease)”. Though this is ubiquitous in tobacco related articles, paradoxically, it signals that you have done original research and that you are well versed in the topic at hand. (Including this phrase is not optional: you will have some freedom in the body of the article but if you omit this phrase, chances are good that an editor will simply refuse to read further.)

3. In the body, you can simply use your reportage skills and describe the events or issues. As already mentioned, the area of tobacco covers many aspects and oddly enough as long as you refer to death and disease, or express concerns about the motives of producers, it will be interpreted as thoughtful criticism. Even if the concern is for instance about a shortage of water affecting tobacco crops, a collection of historical corncob pipes or whether cigarette butts are a major source of litter, it will only help you to add something about the impact of tobacco use on public health.

This might now seem an over simplification when you will encounter lesser known aspects of the world of tobacco and tobacco use but through experience you will find that when it comes to tobacco, less is always more. If you have explored scientific or health issues in the past you will have had to interview experts for quotes and insight into topics you are new to. You may remember hours spent trolling through expert databases at universities trying to find out who knows anything about nanotechnology, or walking through endless buildings trying to find the professor or scientist everyone is pointing you toward. You will be relieved to find that when it comes to any tobacco issues, any person you use will be accepted as an expert if they happen to be employed in the anti-smoking industry. These people are capable and ready to comment on any tobacco related issues and do not exhibit any fear of helping you in areas that they have no background knowledge in.

One other note on sources. Tobacco issues are also unique in that it is the only area in which you can not only report the opinions of children and teenagers about something that has some factual basis but those opinions can be considered the equal of any evidence. In fact, in this area they are better than evidence, and add that needed human touch to the story. (For example, if you get quotes from children saying they are being targeted by tobacco companies, it means that tobacco companies are targeting them –if you have some background in science reporting this may seem odd but consider that federal agencies and renowned health organizations will use this as evidence).

4. Finally, the summarizing paragraph(s) should contain the phrase “every year over 400,000 people die as a result of tobacco use”. (The only acceptable substitution for this phrase is one which has a global rather than national figure).

The above holds true for all tobacco related articles but if you happen to be writing about any issue that encompasses or refers to second hand smoke in any way, you will need to include, not instead of but in addition to the above, the phrase “there is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke”. As with the other phrases, there is no need to cite any source since, technically, they fall into the category of self evident truths.

A few general points about writing the article

Back in journalism school, no doubt you were told to show both sides of every story and while that is quite true in most areas, here it has a specific manifestation. If you are reporting anything that is optimistic (let’s say a decline in smoking rates) always follow up with a cautionary note of some kind (but smokeless tobacco use is up). The opposite however is not required. In tobacco, all news is bad news, even the good news.

Some writers have taken the position that as with other areas of journalism, changing the pattern will make them stand out, and they have written tobacco related articles and deliberately omitted the “leading preventable..” and “over 400,000…” phrases. Some of them have even written articles that suggest there may be some benefits to tobacco use or that there might be some downside to higher tobacco taxes. Some have written about the lucrative anti-smoking industry or how current policies actually work against public health. These seem like worthwhile areas for investigative journalism but be wary. Those writers have stood out but where they have stood out is on the unemployment line. Be creative if you like but follow the basic template because even if you get your unique approach by your editor, you will cause confusion in readers who have come to expect these touches no less than they expect good grammar.

Follow these basic guidelines and you will find tobacco reporting easy and quite remunerative. With every state and municipality wanting to report on their individual wars against smoking, and the continual growth in regulations (and even some of the challenges to those regulations, as well as the new products coming out, and the growing awareness of tobacco markets abroad, there is no end to things to write about. Big area, no end of stories, no research required, and this ready template – there is no better area to cover than tobacco.

-and here is one of the articles that was attached to the e-package (PLB).

Article example 1: Insulin produced in genetically modified tobacco plants

Despite tobacco use being the leading preventable cause of death, US researchers have successfully expressed the precursor protein of insulin in lettuce and tobacco plants. Moreover, feeding these genetically modified plants to mice that have a tendency to become diabetic protected the animals against inflammation of the pancreas.

Generating the proinsulin protein in plants is a low-cost alternative to standard production methods, Dr. Lendl Trott, from the University of Florida in Palmetto, and colleagues note in their report in the Plants and Biotechnology Review.

In the study, the scientists describe the creation of lettuce and tobacco chloroplast lines that produce a fusion protein consisting of a subunit of cholera toxin joined to human proinsulin. Giving powered tobacco leaf to diabetic mice helped preserve insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas, Trott’s team reports, and this was associated with lower levels of glucose in their urine and blood.

Children who saw the tobacco plants said that “they are scary looking” and “I think they want to hurt me”. The children’s conclusions indicated that the tobacco industry was taking advantage of an unforeseen loophole in marketing regulations so researchers are moving on to using genetically engineered lettuce instead. They add that in light of the encouraging results in animals, testing in humans is now underway.

Despite the potential for helping millions of diabetics, tobacco use is responsible for over 400,000 deaths every year in the United States alone. It is the main cause of lung cancer and a major cause of many more. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 different chemicals. Deb MacIntosh, the receptionist at the Ohio Freedom for Non-smokers Association said that these scientists have offered no assurance that these plants cannot be cured and smoked. “They might help a few diabetics but just one of these plants if smoked could cause the deaths of many non-smokers. Everybody knows there is no safe level of second hand smoke. We know that stopping tobacco will stop those deaths so it is utterly irresponsible that anyone would engage in this kind of research”.

Another concerned expert, John Banzhaf at ASH-US offered to represent any relatives of diabetics who might have been exposed to this new threat. In the meanwhile, despite the children, scientists continue to research manufacturing proinsulin.

-Paul L. Bergen

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  • Treece  On August 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I’m framing this.

  • Kate  On August 26, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I think it’s us who have been framed Treece.

    Corporate media certainly has this issue wrapped up, that’s for sure.

  • Anon1  On August 26, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Very disturbing. Yet this is the reporting “formula” that has been seen in the media for the last few decades.

  • jredheadgirl  On August 26, 2010 at 7:56 pm


    I’m saving this. Thanks for posting.

  • Colonist  On August 26, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    What is ‘United Press Association’?
    I’m not finding it anywhere.
    This could tread into ‘climategate’ territory quite quickly.

  • Specky  On August 27, 2010 at 4:18 am

    This has got to go viral.

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 6:48 am

    What is ‘United Press Association’?

    United Press International (UPI) is a news agency headquartered in the United States with roots dating back to 1907. Once a mainstay in the newswire service along with Associated Press (AP) and Reuters, it began to decline as afternoon newspapers, its chief client category, began to fail with the rising popularity of television news. This decline accelerated after the sale of UPI by the founding Scripps family culminating in two bankruptcies.

    In 2000, UPI was purchased by News World Communications, an international media company owned by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.[1][2] Shortly after this sale, UPI greatly downsized, eliminating many of its departments such as its Science Writing department. The news wire’s daily coverage today includes domestic and international top news, business, entertainment, sports, science, health and “Quirks in the News” through its traditional NewsTrack newswire, as well as coverage and analysis of emerging threats, the security industry and energy resources through its “premium” service. UPI’s content is presented in text, video and photo formats. Its news stories are filed in English, Spanish and Arabic. Readers on its Web site can also listen to the English- and Spanish-language news stories by clicking a small icon at the top of each article.

  • Colonist  On August 27, 2010 at 7:00 am

    That’s UPI- this post is about UPA(association) and I see no such entity – anyone?

    Also, what date/year did this BCC e-mail get sent?

    This could be ‘climategate’ huge but it needs to be verified.

  • Anon1  On August 27, 2010 at 7:22 am

    The “scoop” appears to be a “send up”. However, if you peruse Tobacco Control media-advocacy manuals (e.g., as in the Godber Blueprint) they are an exercise in the manufacture of inflammatory propaganda. These manuals advise in the use of the most inflammatory terms possible that go far beyond the implications of fact. A scrutiny of [antismoking] articles appearing in newspapers over the last many years certainly highlights a “formula”. The formula is to include a number of successful, albeit fraudulent, slogans – even if disjointed to the story at hand – such as “the leading cause of preventable death”, the “4000 carcinogenic/toxic chemicals”, the “great financial cost to society”, the “chemicals that are also found in lead batteries and rat poison, etc”. Also included should be comments from a few nonsmokers that believe that antismoking policies are wonderful and comments from smokers who believe that their denormalization is also wonderful. The impression must always be that smoking should “justifiably” be eradicated from public and that everyone, smokers and nonsmokers alike, think it’s a grand, noble quest. The “formula”, however, is most probably not with the journalists, but with the TC advocates. Journalists simply print what they are fed by TC advocates.

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 8:07 am

    After the Associated Press of Illinois signed exchange contracts with the worldwide networks, the United Press went under (1897). In 1900 the Associated Press of Illinois, desiring to restrict its membership, reincorporated in New York state and was thereafter known as the Associated Press (AP); in 1915 the United States forbade the agency to restrict its members’ use of other services. A Supreme Court decision in 1945 ended the exclusion of members’ competitors. In 1906 William Randolph Hearst Hearst, William Randolph, 1863–1951, American journalist and publisher, b. San Francisco. A flamboyant, highly controversial figure, Hearst was nonetheless an intelligent and extremely competent newspaperman.
    founded the International News Service (INS), available to papers of other publishers as well as his own.

    The United Press Association, usually called United Press (UP) although there was no connection with the earlier organization, became an affiliate of the Scripps-Howard newspapers and sold reports to others.

    The AP, UP, and INS grew steadily, and by the 1930s their foreign operations freed them of dependence on the European agencies, which tended to reflect national viewpoints in political news.

    In 1958 INS was merged with UP, forming United Press International (UPI). After a string of owners in the 1980s, UPI’s assets were acquired in 1992 by Middle East Broadcasting Limited. After World War II many agencies, including Reuters, AP, and Agence France-Presse (the renamed Agence Havas) became cooperatives owned by their member publishers. Notable cooperatives allied with Reuters include the Canadian Press, the Australian Associated Press, and the Press Trust of India.

  • Iro Cyr  On August 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Albeit it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least and I have no doubt that the general idea about tobacco reporting is well depicted in this parody, this is no doubt either a set up or a tongue in cheek article.

    Here’s the original of the attached article. Please take note of how they have changed the name of the researcher and the name of the University:

  • thomas  On August 27, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I think the first step would be to see the full mail headers. This would give a little better idea of the authenticity. The more names, times, and servers known will help with outside research to confirm this.

  • Paul  On August 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I’ll save you some time and point you toward the tags on the post.

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

    “No fool like an old fool.”

    I hope Paul takes some satisfaction in how a lot of good hard working people’s reputation and reliability has been tainted with his little joke!!!

  • Iro Cyr  On August 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I don’t find it neither funny nor adding anything of substance to the debate. Sorry !

  • Janet Andersen  On August 27, 2010 at 10:03 am

    When I read this yesterday it brightened my day. I thought it was funny as hell and thoroughly enjoyed the delivery and understood the message. There is no reason everything written on the subject has to be deadly serious. If you can make your point and make me smile at the same time, all the better!

  • Iro Cyr  On August 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I usually have a good sense of humour and yes if it was clearly indicated that this was a parody I would have had a good laugh at it. But we are so used to one-sided media this wasn’t too far fetched to have been authentic.

    Those of us who have been involved extensively in the anti-tobacco campaigns, are not surprised by anything that has to do with the corruption in tobacco control anymore.

    I guess that will teach me to triple check anything I read even if it comes from traditionally reliable sources such as this site before spreading it around as the ”truth” and put my own credibility in jeopardy. There is no room for any wrong move in this issue otherwise one has to start rebuilding their credibility from scratch. You’re of course entitled to post whatever you want in your site whichever way you like, but I will have learnt a lesson not to trust anything without having done my own research first.

  • Anon1  On August 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Fair point.

    • jredheadgirl  On August 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm

      I’m with you as well Iro-

  • Paul L. Bergen  On August 27, 2010 at 10:45 am

    While I won’t apologize for writing this which I meant as most are taking it, as an indictment of the shoddy way in which tobacco issues are reported and what is considered evidence in this area, I thought I had included enough information to show it was a parody (1. it was tagged as such 2. there is no United Press Association 3. all names in the article were false and 4. though articles much like the above get written it would be insane for an agency to have actual guidelines to produce such an article.)

    The main reason I did not make it more obvious was because though it was a critique of the situation it was also a joke and the last thing you want to hear after someone tells you one is “its a joke!!”. Kind of takes the effect away.

    But yes, as Janet commented, you do have to have fun in this area because working in tobacco harm reduction though rewarding in its intentions is often rather depressing in the slow progress against seeming insurmountable opposition.

    • jredheadgirl  On August 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

      “…………..I did not make it more obvious ….”

      Well, that about sums it up. You intended to fool people.

      Here is an example of something that is meant to be satirical without the aim of deception. In other words, it is clear as day that this is satire. Had you done the same Paul, we would have never had this conversation in the 1st place :

      • Paul  On August 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

        You are right…I intended to fool people to a point. And had I not done so, we would not have had this interesting exchange.

      • jredheadgirl  On August 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm


        What did you intend to achieve from this? Be specific please:-)

      • Paul  On August 30, 2010 at 8:26 am

        See first and last paragraphs of the posting about this posting…This is not a parody post…

      • jredheadgirl  On August 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm


        Ok, I’ll have to go read “It’s not a parody post” again….

  • harleyrider1978  On August 27, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I would feel safe to say its legit,its passages are atypical anti-tobacco propaganda in reporting…….and even if it isnt legit the same fact still applies…….We may if it can be verified put this in the first installment of the anti-tobacco files as gene borio does for……….

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 11:19 am

    As Iro stated, “You’re of course entitled to post whatever you want in your site whichever way you like,” even if it’s irresponsible and may have cost people their creditability.

    Sorry but I find no place for “this” type of humour when people are losing their jobs, housing and families and have been shut out of civil society.

  • harleyrider1978  On August 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

    ANNE YOU ARE CORECT about smoking bans causing losses and unemployment……..

    • jredheadgirl  On August 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      I’d like to second that.

  • Colonist  On August 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

    These are your current tags:
    under 2nd hand smoke, anti-smoking movement, fun, policy, popular culture, research, smokeless tobacco, tobacco marketing. Tags:john banzhaf, parodies, press guidelines, tobacco and insulin.
    And if I’m mistaken, I do not believe you had ‘fun’ and ‘parodies’ listed when this story was originally posted.

    Please, in the future, if you are going to dabble in things such as this – submit it to ‘The Onion’ or something….

    This almost went viral and we would have been laughing stocks – for now we just have to clean up little messes here and there…Quit it, we don’t like cleaning Windows.

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

    harleyrider1978, my comment has nothing to do with “smoking bans” but everything to do with someone that is given the label “smoker”.

    And to Paul, from this day forward, I too will have some fun and officially declare myself a “non smoker”. Won’t my physician and dentist be so pleased?….Now that’s funny…..

  • harleyrider1978  On August 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

    anne smokers smoke non-smokers dont.Now the radical nazi type non-smokers are the ones we are fighting…..They are the enemy not anyone else. I have no problem being labeled a smoker…….today its a badge of freedom against oppression.

  • Iro Cyr  On August 27, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Your inability to see any wrong in this and your refusal to apologize makes me wonder what else will be posted in this site in the future as a ”joke” and as a stress reliever. Whether you realize it or not, you have just voluntarily sacrificed all the credibility this site enjoyed. Your site, your call!

  • Paul  On August 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Don’t worry…I will be replying in detail in a forthcoming post but don’t hold your breath for any apology given that one of the critical issues addressed in this posting, and often on this site, is about reading critically in an area where so much nonsense makes it into print. If anything, this illustrates exactly what we are about.

    But in the meanwhile, I will wait what some other readers have to say about it. But stay posted….follow up in a day or so.

    BTW I quite enjoy being fooled every now and then. Keeps me on my toes. Will probably write about that tomorrow as well.

  • Colonist  On August 27, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    As an apparent described Parody it wasn’t very good.

    No cheeky writing, no slam dunks, no spin for the drone readers out there…it was very ‘matter of fact’ and dry. It wasn’t a Parody, it was Fictitious.

    Hopefully no great harm has been done with this little dabbling in fiction writing.
    And hopefully anti-tobacco grant writers don’t see this and write their own fictional tale about and get a write up in USAToday with a blurb in the sports page a day later stating they made it up.
    August Fools Day to you too…

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    @ Colonist, maybe this is the latest form of harm reduction, remove all credibility to those who are in opposition to tobacco control?

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    you see Paul, had you omitted this:

    “-The following inadvertently ended up in my inbox via a BCC re a starting writer at a major newspaper who probably was not aware that it was intended to be confidential. There is little need to comment on this since it pretty well speaks for itself.-PLB.”

    on top of your little parody, then maybe, just maybe I could give you a pass.

    You abused your credibility…………

    • Colonist  On August 27, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      “”you see Paul, had you omitted this:””
      Great observation Ann!

    • jredheadgirl  On August 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      Spot on Anne!

  • Iro Cyr  On August 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Sorry but I will critically read an article that doesn’t make sense to me and when it comes from our foes and the manipulators, not an article that confirms just about everything we have been suspecting and it comes from friends! If this was obvious parody to you Paul, then you know nothing about how tobacco control operates and their close relationship with the media.

  • CMNissen  On August 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Perhaps it’s worth pointing out to our not-so-regular readers that parodies have been, and will continue to be, a part of this blog ( The success of our Health Canada parody on graphic warnings was what spurred us to keep this going. And there will always be some indication (in nonexistent names/places and parody tags) that it is indeed a parody.

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    @ CMNissen, Unless I missed something, I don’t see anywhere in the Health Canada parody that it states that the press release inadvertently ended up in someone’s inbox via a BCC

  • Ann Welch  On August 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Paul, I think it would be a good idea if you read this

    We are reproducing Mr. Diotte’s article below that needs no comment from our part except for commending Mr. Diotte for his courage in exposing a very disturbing trend in journalists: Political correctness that stifles freedom of speech. Having experienced this type of journalistic attitude first hand, we can only full heartedly agree with Mr. Diotte’s column.

    Smokin’ mad at hypocrisy

  • Treece  On August 27, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I’m more than a little surprised to come back here and read these comments. The first one (mine), “I’m framing this,” was because I think it’s an absolute masterpiece of parody!

    If nothing else (and there was plenty else): “Children who saw the tobacco plants said that ‘they are scary looking’ and ‘I think they want to hurt me'” … really? This wasn’t a tip-off?

    Don’t blame the writer because you didn’t read closely enough.

    Wow, there are some points this makes beyond its intention, it seems, but I’m too tired to make any right now. If I’m sounding testy, it’s mostly because I don’t want this sort of thing discouraged.

    For those taking such offense, I suggest you read it again. It’s hilarious and pointed and chock-full of the right kind of truth. It’s funny, dammit. Seriously funny. 😉

    • jredheadgirl  On August 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      “If nothing else (and there was plenty else): “Children who saw the tobacco plants said that ‘they are scary looking’ and ‘I think they want to hurt me’” … really? This wasn’t a tip-off?”

      It’s only a partial tip off on the one hand and “almost” believable to many of us on the other hand…Given some of the hysterical claims that have been put forth by the anti-tobacco folks (3rd hand smoke being a danger to children,…and actual tax payer $$$-in California- going into the funding of such stories….NHS and ASH folks trying to put forth the idea that smokers should be denied the privilege of adopting children, safe level to ETS…even outdoors…, smokers should be evicted from public housing….smoker’s closes are a hazard at the workplace and thus, should not be employable,etc..), you have to understand that from our window view, there is almost nothing that tobacco control will abstain from spewing about the media and the internet in order to achieve their objective. To many of us, these threats (and exaggerations)to our liberty are all too real because we see real action taken against us every day in the tangible world. So maybe you can understand our reaction.

      I am willing to be open minded; that’s why I’m here. I hope that you will do the same. We are all just looking for the truth here and all that we ask is that if you’re (or anyone else) going to make a joke about an issue that is so serious, please state so outright or send it to Stephen Colbert instead; this is the kind of thing that we’d expect from him as a comedian, not from what’s supposed to be a serious and well-respected source that is supposed to be about tobacco harm reduction. The two just don’t mix.

      • jredheadgirl  On August 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

        Pardon the typos….I type fast….I meant $$$ into such studies, not stories….although that is what they actually are…stories & smoker’s clothes….not closes….Just so it’s understood that I know how to spell:-)

    • Colonist  On August 28, 2010 at 5:47 am

      “If nothing else (and there was plenty else): “Children who saw the tobacco plants said that ‘they are scary looking’ and ‘I think they want to hurt me’” … really? This wasn’t a tip-off?”

      Not in this day and age. We are inundated with anti smoking advertisements – this one here is a doozy: Nowadays there is nothing worse than 3rd hand smoke, haven’t you read the memo?

      Children are afraid of Santa Claus, clowns, dying in massive floods because of the lessons taught of manmade glowball warming – it is no stretch of the imagination that they would be afraid of the tobacco plant. Heck, many kids are afraid to eat fish and think it’s murder, remember the PETA campaign where they label fish as cute Sea Kittens? It’s still on their website.

      If a Parody is to be written, write it well, don’t spew out this drivel that looks like something Banzhaf would write in his press releases. This looked as real as any Banzhaf or Glantz memo.

      Real life is a Parody, don’t introduce poorly written satire to the thousands of lies that already exist in the world as truth.

  • Janet Andersen  On August 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t immediately know that this was a parody. It’s just so obvious (to me). Maybe some of us are taking everything tobacco control does so personally that we’ve lost all perspective. I know that for many us, some of the things we see or hear about smoking, tobacco or harm reduction may seem so idiotic that we may start to see everything through a lens of complete outrage. But there’s a real danger when you start taking things that you don’t agree with so personally. Not only have you stopped looking at things with a critical eye, but you’ve also stopped being open to new thought.

    Perhaps it’s even more likely the problem is that some of us aren’t concerned with critical thinking at all. Maybe we just mine blogs such as this for anything that might support our own personal views. We’re not here to learn anything, we just want ammunition.

    Either way, this was a parody and it was funny. If you saw it as anything else, it might be time to back up, regroup and relax a little. The whole world is not out to get us – even if it feels that way sometimes.

    • jredheadgirl  On August 28, 2010 at 12:31 am

      “Not only have you stopped looking at things with a critical eye, but you’ve also stopped being open to new thought. ”

      You shouldn’t assume things about people that you know nothing about.

  • Kate  On August 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Well, I was seeing red from half way through the article so couldn’t finish it with a critical eye and thought it was real. I posted the link on ASH UK’s Facebook wall I was so outraged, lol. Then it sunk in a bit more and I managed to delete my links before they realised what a plonker I am.

    Personally, I think it’s a great article and I love the stuff on this blog because it makes me think and laugh at myself. I know it’s a serious subject but a bit of mental gymnastics can help to relieve the agony.

    I also understand why some folks are annoyed and agree to some extent that we do have to be careful, the last thing we need is for us to turn into the unreliable sources that we’re against (that’s what I think has happened with tobacco control, they’re pushing the same agendas they say the tobacco industry push). It’s probably about balance in the end – supporting each other with serious stuff but being able to have some light relief and taking the piss a bit sometimes.

  • jredheadgirl  On August 28, 2010 at 1:44 am

    I apologize for the onslaught of e-mails, but please check out this blog….then please read the comments.

    Quote from commentary:

    “Of course not, they are too busy looking for problems relating to tobacco. Get a life people.”

    …Point being relative to one of the comments above with regards to those of us who are in opposition to tobacco control being accused of searching sites to further our own cause indiscriminately. Well,if this is indeed true, it would seem to me that the shoe is more than fitting to the other side (ie., tobacco control), when it comes to a willingness to stoop to unsavory practices in order to achieve the “ultimate” objective: a smoke(er) free world. One could easily take (like I said, if indeed proven to be true) from this that there is a very real possibility that TC would like to set a the precedent of the outright abolition of freedom of speech (and expression), with regards to their opposition. It is not conspiratory to think such things; look at what has just happened to Kabat after 34 years of employment at UCLA.

    Take from it what you will…look up and verify the references, but do be sure to read the whole thing in its entirety.

    If anything good can come from this post (meaning the parody in its entirety and all of the following comments), it’s that it should make us all pause for a moment to think about what it’s going to take to really get to the truth.

    If true, an investigation in the appropriate jurisdiction/country (assuming it to be a free country that holds true to the precedent of ethics)would be warranted.

    • jredheadgirl  On August 28, 2010 at 1:47 am

      The parody being Paul’s post (that started this whole discussion in the 1st place)-just to clarify-

  • Iro Cyr  On August 28, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I don’t want to go about this forever as I have better things to do than fighting my allies, but those who had a good laugh at this parody base their reasons on whatever was written in the article example itself. My interpretation of this article was that it was only a made up example of what an anti-tobacco article should look like and anything written in it was purely fictitious, not that it was a real article. I skimmed through the article very fast and albeit I did spot the incoherencies, in my mind they didn’t reflect a real article and just a made up example, until of course I started looking more closely and looking things up. I feel I shouldn’t have to do that when I get my information from a usually reliable source otherwise we are just wasting time double checking each other!

    Like I said, what disturbs me the most is that you see no wrong in this which doesn’t make me feel safe at all about anything else I get from this site in the future and if I have to go through the whole process of research to make sure that it’s not a spoof, then to me it’s not worth it.

  • Dick Puddlecote  On August 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Iro: However reliable the source, research is a must before firing off about anything at all IMO.

  • Iro Cyr  On August 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Respectfully, being individualists and working each on our own, is exactly what is losing us over the antis who have learnt to work together, but then again they have a collectivist mind. IMHO, each one of us reasearching on our own or checking each other is a waste of precious time we could be using for other actions. I really don’t want to make a stink out of this nor go on forever as I said. I just wish we can learn a lesson from this unfortunate experience some of us had and find ways to avoid it in the future, and IMO verifying each other’s ”facts” is hardly productive. I want to be able to go into Dick’s blog, or jurheadgirl blog and be absolutely certain that what has been written has been verified and researched properly so that I can rely on it. Likewise, I want you all to feel comfortable that when you come into CAGE’s blog, what you will read has been thoroughly verified that you don’t have to do the work all over.
    My opinion, and I hope it is received as it is intended – constructive criticism

  • James M  On August 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Just finished reading the article and realized it was a parody. I should have finished reading before I jumped in to comment after the first few paragraphs. Still, there are many people out there who wish to see all forms of reduced harm alternatives stamped out, with no basis to their argument except that “tobacco causes cancer” or some variant of this. I still advise those who wish to get involved to take a look at the CASAA website and see what you can do to help spread information about reduced harm alternatives to cigarette smoking. Together we can make a difference.

    James M.

  • Paul  On August 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    See next post for a fuller response to these comments and more.

    In summary, writing this was a lot of fun and there was of course no aim to alienate any readers (all who are of course still welcome to comment, criticize, etc…). Some have found this too flippant for their tastes but it is impossible for me to stay serious 24 hours a day. And I expect that any expressions that have any importance at all will generate some dissent esp as one reader pointed out, we are not a formal agreed group and despite that being the strength of tobacco control, it will also be their downfall.

    So, you can keep running this thread but I hope you will read the next page as well.

    Thanks to each and every responder…

  • Iro Cyr  On August 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Paul, since you’re inviting criticism, let me go on.

    Had I been the only one that had fallen for this I would have taken my pill, told myself that I am a gullible fool and lived with the consequences of my foolishness. But I am not. Like someone here said this almost went viral. I personally read in at least 4 or 5 different places within the hour that it was discovered. Paul, this was too close to reality to have been as obvious as you think it was. You seem to be taking great satisfaction in having fooled people with this and you’re trying to pass it off as giving us lessons in critical reading. I feel confident when I say that we have all learnt to read critically ever since we embarked in this anti-tobacco venture. But the reliability of the author, the sources and how plausible an article is are all factors that weigh in on how critically one reads and I had no reason to suspect that a source I usually trust would be lying and it seems so have many others.

    We can’t all be idiots Paul. If you don’t see the need to apologize, I can live with that. But to add insult to injury by telling us in hardly disguised terms that we are gullible and we should have all realized that this was a spoof, is not something I particularly appreciate from an ally organization. I have enough of being called all kind of derogatory terms from my enemies.

    • Paul  On August 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm

      Dear Iro,

      While I am quite adamant in not apologizing for my creation I do apologize if I am giving the impression that I consider you or other readers as lacking. As I confess in the follow up, I have let my guard down myself when I did not read something carefully. It happens to all of us. Being fooled sometime is not quite the same thing as being an idiot otherwise we would all be idiots.

      If it seems like I am calling anyone an idiot, I am sorry for that.

      I still think that this sort of humor, and this sort of disagreement, is what puts us ahead of those opposing folks.

  • Elaine Keller  On September 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I guffawed aloud when I got to “Deb MacIntosh, the receptionist at the Ohio Freedom for Non-smokers Association…” After all, the instructions to the journalist were to find anyone at all to serve as the expert to be quoted.

    Judging from the comments, Paul outdid himself in achieving the ultimate level of verisimilitude. Perhaps if he had made Ms. MacIntosh the janitor at the Ohio Federation of Fighters for Non-smokers United for Tyranny (OFFNUT) the joke would have been more obvious.

    My husband says, “The best humor has at least an element of truth to it.” Instead of being outraged at Paul, save the outrage for those whose shenanigans have led us to mistrust the honesty of scientists and distrust the honesty of journalists.


%d bloggers like this: