Why Is Pfizer Still Aligning Itself With Heartland Institute On "Public Health" Record?

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The Heartland Institute has had a rough time the last couple of months. The climate denial shop has endured the release of embarrassing leaked documents. Then it launched a devastatingly ill-conceived billboard campaign associating climate science adherents with serial killers. That didn’t work out so well. So Heartland’s donors started pulling out. Its annual Denial-a-palooza festival was put out to pasture.

Despite the exodus of support for Heartland’s extremist views, one major health care company remains a financial supporter of the Heartland Institute.

Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical company, continues to support Heartland, although its competitors, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lily, have already pulled out. Now Forecast the Facts is issuing a call to medical professionals to sign a letter urging Pfizer to dissolve its relationship with Heartland.

According to Pfizer, while the company has publicly stated it disagrees with Heartland on its stance on climate, it still supports Heartland’s record on health care.

Here’s why that’s ironic.

It’s quite clear that there’s a link between the pollution that causes climate change and the pollution that causes health problems, specifically in the lungs. The emissions that come from sources like coal plants not only produce carbon pollution but also produce the particulates and toxics that infiltrate airways and cause respiratory problems and death.

Can you think of another pollution source that’s bad for your health and damages your lungs? Cigarettes.

Some of the medications Pfizer produces include tiotropium and varenecline. You may better know those as Spiriva and Chantix, pills that treat COPD (a major respiratory disease) and help stop tobacco/nicotene addiction, respectively.

Heartland is a staunch defender of cigarette smokers’ rights. Not only do they advocate against smoking bans and lower taxes for cigarettes (which, according to them, impinge on citizens’ freedoms and private property rights), but also flat out deride the well-documented health risks associated with smoking and second-hand smoke.

Apparently they like pollution across the board- whether it’s polluting the atmosphere or your lungs.

Here’s an excerpt from their webpage entitled, “The Smoker’s Lounge”, written by Heartland President, Joe Bast:

The public health community’s campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science.”

According to Heartland’s leaked financial documents, these Heartland pages are supported by tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, Altria, and RJ Reynolds. Specifically, the last two contributed $90,000 and $110,000 respectively, in the last two years.

The page goes on to produce other gems of scientific clarity such as, “The threat of secondhand smoke has been greatly exaggerated,” and, “Smoking in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects.”

To be fair, it does demonize smokers at one point, insinuating how they become dangerous criminals when ushered out to the sidewalks because of indoor smoking bans:

“Smoking bans can also move noisy and potentially dangerous crowds onto sidewalks, and divert police resources from battling more serious crime.”

Like the noisy and potentially dangerous crowds that are still inside the clubs?

Insane PR acrobatics aside, perhaps Pfizer is continuing its support of Heartland, which in recent years has summed up to as much as $130,000, because as a for-profit company, it knows that as long as there are people addicted to cigarettes, it can continue to peddle more medication to treat respiratory conditions.

Perhaps Pfizer should consider changing its mission statement from “Pfizer is committed to making the world a healthier place for future generations,” to “Pfizer is committed to supporting the organizations that use Big Tobacco money to promote habits and policies that harm public health so it can continue to sell the medication to remedy the ailments caused by said habits and policies it helped promote in the first place.”

I guess the second one isn’t quite as catchy.

Check out Forecast the Facts petition to Pfizer here.

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