Many workshop participants stressed the importance of physicians providing message support in policy campaigns. “It’s not just the messaging, but the messenger,” said McGoldrick, and pointed out that when physicians deliver ad messages, it tends to give the messages more credibility, as indicated by the tobacco company ads aimed at defeating California’s recent attempt to raise the cigarette tax (YouTube, 2012). In these ads, physicians were used to deliver their message.
Sneegas concurred, noting that “defining a comprehensive tobacco control program was made tolerable by the fact that I very frequently had a physician on either side of me, backing me up—it was harder to attack the clinician than the little woman. It was harder to ignore the physician who had a command in the room and whose presence cannot be overstated.” She added that New York has been effective in instituting tobacco control policies, not just because of its state tobacco control program, but because of the strong advocacy network, which includes many physicians.
Physicians and physician organizations can aid tobacco control efforts in many ways, Sneegas pointed out. Ideas include writing letters to the editor of local newspapers; submitting comments to FDA; testifying at hearings; educating relevant boards, councils, and commissions; and passing resolutions through their professional organizations. “Clinicians have a powerful voice and can make such an incredible difference if they testify for policy, taxes, or smoke-free ordinances,” Sneegas said. “The clinician’s voice is a pure voice that is not used nearly enough,” she added.
Many physicians focus their tobacco control efforts on trying to prevent teens from smoking, and Sneegas noted, “If they really want to prevent youth initiation of cigarette smoking or other tobacco product use, then they need to focus on raising the prices of tobacco products, making school campuses tobacco free, ensuring their community is smoke free, and restricting the sale and advertising of tobacco products to children. And of course there’s nothing better to help a kid not to start smoking than to help their family quit smoking.”
She also recommended that everyone monitor tobacco industry promotion and marketing of their products in their local communities. “The next time you buy gas, go inside and look at the array of tobacco products being sold at the station and think about it as if you were looking through the eyes of a child,” Sneegas said.
Sciandra also noted that the burden of lobbying for tobacco control policies tends to fall on organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, and