Bennett Professor of Economics George Mason University Fairfax, VA

Document Sample
Bennett Professor of Economics George Mason University Fairfax, VA Powered By Docstoc
					        FEDERAL CANCER DOLLARS FOR POLITICS AND PROPAGANDA

                          James T . Bennett
                      Professor of Economics
                      George Mason University
                         Fairfax, VA 22030


INTRODUCTION



     Federal funds cannot legally be used for political purposes .

Despite this prohibition, the American Cancer Society (ACS), the

nation's largest and best-known heal=h charity, and the National

Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the federal government's National

Institutes of Health that is concerned with cancer, have colluded

to divert more than $100 million of congressional appropriations

for the nation's war on cancer to blatant political activi=y .

This advocacy is financed and carried out through the NCI'a

                 - the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study

for Cancer Prevention, which was formally announced by NCI in

October 1991 . The guise of promoting public health by reducing

smcking has been used as the "smokescreen" to hide the political

agenda of this program .

     This study exposes the political activities financed by

Project ASSIST and demonstrates that the true objective of this

federal program has little to do with public health . Rather, the

aim is to raise tobacco taxes at the state level of government

and "earmark" or target part of the increase in tax revenues to

fund the political activities of liberal grassroots activist

groups instigated by the ACS .


                                 1




                                                                  TI 1664-0198
THE PUBLIC FACE OF PROJECT ASSIST


     Although no public announcements were made about ASSIST

until late 1991, planning for this program had been going on for

years . The 1989 Annual Reoort of the ACS reveals that

          In November 1988, the Board of Directors ap-
          proved a collaboration with the National Can-
          cer Institute on the American Stop Smoking
          Intervention Study for Cancer Prevention
          (ASSIST) . National Society staff, with input
          from selected volunteers, has worked with NCI
          to develop a request for proposals for this
          demonstration project .

          ASSIST is designed to accelerate a reduction
          in tobacco use through the formation of to-
          bacco control coalitions in up to 20 states
          and/or major metropolitan areas .l


     On the surface, Project ASSIST is an innocuous undertaking :

Who, after all, could possibly object to yet another study or

"demonstration project" in the battle against cancer? The true

nature of ASSIST, however, is revealed in the three code words,

"tobacco control coalitions," that appear in the quote above .

Coalitions are built to engage in polit_ca1 advocacy and "tobacco

control', is the euphemism used by the ACS for raising taxes on

tobacco products and earmarking the increased revenues for self-

serving purposes . Elsewhere in its 1989 Annual Reoort, the ACS

was more candid about its political agenda :

          BUILDING AN ADVOCACY NETWORK
          The Public Affairs Office is building a
          strong network of political advocacy . . . by
          providing training and orientation for Divi-
          eions on the .Society's key issues requiring
          lecis'_ative attention . These efforts in-
          crease advocacy on a local and regional basis
          and help to create a uniform approach for


                                 2




                                                                  TI 1664-0199
              addressing cancer control issues .2

The ACS carefully avoided linking its efforts to build an "advo-

cacy network" on a local and regional basis to ASSIST, but the

record shows that these two initiatives were, in fact, one and

the same .'

     Project ASSIST is a mass of contradictions . The Journal of

the American Medical Association observed that "The American Stop

Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST) is not a study at all, but an

attempt to put into action findings from the National Cancer In-

stitute's research studies that have proven the efficacy of r.eth-

ods to help people quit or not start smoking .j4 Aside from the

project's misleading title, NCI and ACS officials have developed

a .i entirely new vocabulary to describe ASSIST activities and pro-

grams to the American public, a vocabulary that recalls the "New-

speak" language which Georce Orwell devised in his classic book,

1984 . Newspeak's purpose was to conceal lying and deceit by

politicians and to make unorthodox thoughts impossible .s

     In the press release which Louis Sullivan, then Secretary of

the Department of Health and Human Services, formally announced

Project ASSIST and the award of ASSIST contracts to 17 state

departments of health,b he stated that

              What sets ASSIST apart from other government
              smoking programs is its emphasis on the de-
              velopment of community-based coalitions
              throughout entire states . . . . UltimaCely, it
              will be our communities and inciividuai Ameri-
              cans that [sic] decide how best to tackle
              their tobacco nrcblems . ASSIST will emnower
              them by providing the information and help
              that they need to change attitudes about
              smoking and counter the sinister strategies

                                     3




                                                                  TI 1664-0200