Friday, August 26, 2011

Tobacco and climate change

            'Propaganda mills' are putting out warnings that ignore other research. Agencies are using a scare campaign to raise revenue. There is an 'unfair attempt to destroy' industry and affect 'the livelihood of millions of people'.
            Sound familiar?
            But I'm not paraphrasing climate change denialists. I'm paraphrasing a tobacco ad from the 1960s. Here's the full thing.

Tobacco Ad from the 1960s
"100 years ago the tomato was considered 'poison'"
            In the 19th Century the tomato was considered poisonous … children were warned to enjoy its beauty but not to taste it. Today we know the tomato is not only delicious but an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
            Now we are being told that tobacco is poison. The propaganda mills grind out dire warnings based on "research." These warnings simply ignore other bodies of research which flatly state "no proved link" between tobacco and diseases of the lungs and heart. Several independent health agencies use the tobacco scare to raise huge sums of money.
            There is good reason to think that within a few years we will look back and laugh about "the great tobacco scare of the 1960s." In the meantime, there is a vicious, unfair attempt to destroy a great American agricultural industry, affecting the livelihood of millions of people.
            Think about it!
            (From Ending the Tobacco Holocaust: How big tobacco affects our health, pocketbook, and political freedom - and what we can do about it, by Dr Michael Rabinoff).

            There was a time when an ad like this from the past would have shocked me. I may have even laughed. I know I laughed at Back to the Future where Marty gets told the links between smoking and cancer haven't been proven. But despite the ad's predictions, no-one is seriously looking back and laughing at "the great tobacco scare of the 1960s".
            But the reason this ad doesn't shock me today is that it's very similar to what we're hearing about climate change. I've heard all these arguments by different people at one time or another - that the link isn't proven between man-made carbon emissions and global warming, that agencies are using climate change to raise revenue and that our response to it will affect industry and people's livelihoods.
            Of course, just because climate change sceptics use the same arguments as this ad doesn't mean they are necessarily wrong, any more than the erroneous health scare against tomatoes proved the health scare against tobacco was wrong. But it should make us realise that just because people label something a 'scare' and claim that the science is not proven does not mean there is no cause for concern.
            And I think it is fair to say that if the 'tobacco scare' had been taken a lot more seriously (and I say this as a smoker, albeit it one that is trying to quit), then a lot of lives may have been saved. Will we say the same about climate change one day? Instead of looking back and laughing at the "great climate change scare of the early twenty-first century" will we be looking back and wishing that we paid more attention?
            As the ad says - Think about it!

No comments:

Post a Comment