The 10 Strategies: #3

I’ve been diving into the whereabouts of Alan Katzenstein, the Tobacco Institute consultant we came to know in strategy #2 and found footage of him in action. A skillful demonstration of strategy #3: convince the media to present both sides of a story. Remind journalists of the 1949 Fairness Doctrine, requiring them to present matters of public concern in a balanced matter, making sure each side of a topic is fairly represented. Don’t focus on how ›fair‹ or ›unfair‹ it is, even if 99% agrees on a certain issue, aim at equal representation, showing both sides of a story. The goal is to convince the public that there is debate – no consensus, no certainty – and that everyone is therefore free to make up their own mind.

On June 29, 1987, Alan Katzenstein appeared on TV6’s The 5 O’clock News to talk about secondhand smoke, during the Medical Report with Joanne Williams. She starts the item with the Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop’s goal – announced April 1986 – of making the country smoke free by the year 2000. The item reflects on the US House of Representatives vote to ban smoking on commercial airlines during trips of 2 hours or less. Williams announces that if the Senate passes the legislation, called the Durbin Amendment, airports would loose funding if they give service to planes that allow smoking.

Williams continues the item stating tobacco companies and smokers are not happy with the ban, their position being that smoking is a matter of personal choice. She then introduces Katzenstein: »Recently, a consultant to the Tobacco Institute was in Milwaukee to tell his side. Alan Katzenstein has reviewed all the studies on ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) and says the statistics don’t prove it’s harmful to non-smokers.«

AK: »In terms of your health there is no credible evidence, no convincing evidence, that your health is in jeopardy because people are smoking around you. It is true that smoke is readily recognized, readily detected, in very dilute concentrations. The amount of smoke that you inhale is extremely small in comparison to what a smoker inhales. Both the Surgeon General’s report and the report of the National Academy of Sciences state that they found no increased risk for cardiovascular disease or heart disease, they found no increased risk for, err, for err (clears throat) respiratory disease, meaning primarily looking for the possibility of causing emphysema in the non-smoker.«

JW: »Katzenstein even questions the perspective of the people who’ve done the studies.«

AK: »Three of the eleven members were physicians, the other 8 were mainly non-smokers who object to smoking. One even has to raise the question then, was this really an unbiased study?«

JW: »But Katzenstein admits this debate will go on until statistics will show one way or the other how second hand smoke affects non-smokers. It is a debate.«

Katzenstein was not telling the truth about the reports of both the National Academy of Sciences and the Surgeon General. The 1986 report »The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking« reached the conclusion that involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers. And that the children of parents who smoke, compared with the children of nonsmoking parents, have an increased frequency of respiratory infections, increased respiratory symptoms, and slightly smaller rates of increase in lung function as the lung matures. The Academy reached similar conclusions. One year after Katzenstein’s media tour, President Ronald Reagan signed the Federal Aviation Act, including the Durbin Amendment, into law.