Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh what a tangled web ...

I think it is great that New Brunswick is finally getting around to suing 14 tobacco companies for the healthcare costs we have paid for over the years. I suspect that the basis for this lawsuit is the half-truths told to us for a long time about the dangers of cigarette smoking - at least that has been the basis for state- and province-wide lawsuits elsewhere.

But, it is here that our story gets a bit twisted.

The public relations campaign for Big Tobacco was handled, at least in part, by Hill & Knowlton. This campaign included issuing The Frank Statement and helping to organize the Council for Tobacco Research which was used to cast doubt on the many scientific papers that raised health concerns about smoking. (The Council for Tobacco Research closed in 1999.)

While this ancient history is being rehashed in our province, we seem to be headed down a similar path.

One of Hill & Knowlton's more recent clients is the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) which has focused on marketing nuclear power as the new "green" energy. Interestingly, a 1998 ruling by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in the United States has issued a warning to the NEI recommending that "water and air pollution claims be carefully qualified to avoid any potential for customer confusion, and that the broad, unqualified claims that nuclear energy is 'Environmentally Clean' or produces electricity 'without polluting the environment' be discontinued."

It is also interesting to note that one of the members for the pro-nuclear front group established by Hill & Knowlton is none other than Patrick Moore who made a pro-nuclear presentation in Saint John in early 2008.

When will we ever learn?

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