COVID Is Like Secondhand Smoke - Let's Use Lessons From Winning That War
To Combat Big Tobacco's Massive Disinformation Campaign, Businesses Mandated
Banzhaf reminds us that the tobacco industry's truly colossal, well coordinated, and massively funded disinformation campaigns easily undercut, overwhelmed, and emasculated the combined warnings and persuasion campaigns of governments and large public health organizations.
Compared to that, today's COVID disinformation campaign is far weaker, and should be even easier to overcome, he argues.
The first breakthrough came when I was able to persuade government and many private companies to ban smoking in their workplaces, says Banzhaf.
Although this only made it somewhat inconvenient and annoying to not quit - e.g., by forcing smokers to refrain for long periods, use up their break time just to satisfy their craving, to stand outside in inclement weather to smoke, etc. - it nevertheless was very effective in persuading many smokers to quit despite the misinformation they had received. In short, inconvenience trumped disinformation.
So it seems clear that a similar move - one likewise designed primarily to protect the innocent - by requiring masking and frequent testing from those who remain unvaccinated will likewise help persuade many to finally get vaccinated, simply to avoid the inconvenience and annoyance, and despite the disinformation campaign. After all, notes Banzhaf, it's much easier to get vaccinated than to break an addiction to nicotine and quit smoking.
But the most effective means of getting people to quit came when companies - armed with legal victories making it legal to do so - began insisting that their employees be nonsmokers. Despite strong resistance, as a result of disinformation campaigns or otherwise, most if not virtually all workers at such companies finally had to quit, says Banzhaf, who helped achieve rulings which made such policies legal.
Today, now that the Department of Justice and two court rulings have made it clear that employers can similarly require their workers to be vaccinated, and many leading companies are beginning to do so, we should find that this is the most effective way to fight the COVID disinformation campaign, argues Banzhaf, since making employment contingent upon taking reasonable steps to protect the health of fellow workers - first regarding smoking, now regarding vaccination - is so effective.
Trying to fight the COVID disinformation campaign and entrenched beliefs simply by improving the messaging has proven to be even less effective than relying solely upon health warnings to get people to quit smoking,