WHO's Afraid of Virginia Burley

The World Health Organization today announced that it will no longer hire anyone who consumes tobacco products. "WHO has taken a very public lead in the fight against tobacco use," WHO spokesman Iain Simpson told the Associated Press. "As a matter of principle, WHO does not want to recruit smokers." To his credit, A.P. reporter Sam Cage pressed WHO to elucidate this principle:

When asked whether WHO would soon stop hiring obese people or those drinking alcohol, spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency was aware that its new rules "may seem discriminatory or even politically incorrect" to some. But she stressed that WHO needs to align its own employment practices with its principles.

"WHO tries to encourage people to try and lead a healthy life. There is safe sex, one can drink alcohol in a reasonable way and one can attempt eating in a balanced fashion," Chaib said. "But with tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and it kills half of those consuming it."

WHO's desire to impose ideologically dictated lifestyle choices on its employees may be many things, but "politically incorrect" is not one of them. And the assertion that "with tobacco, there is no middle ground" has no scientific basis. According to A.P., WHO's ban covers anyone who admits to using tobacco, which would include pipe and cigar smokers, users of oral snuff, and anyone who has the occasional cigarette in a bar. These people face health risks ranging from negligible to slight. So exactly what "principle" is at stake here, other than blind hatred of a particular psychoactive plant?

[Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance's Nikos Leverenz for the link.]

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  • ||

    "But with tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and it kills half of those consuming it."

    Spoken like a true fascist.

    "But with ______, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and it kills half of those consuming it."

    Fill in the blank! You too can sound like a bloviating, mush-brained bureaucrat.

    Live free, fight or fall!

  • ||

    Sullum's conclusion is correct: A moral crusade in the sheep's clothing of a public health issue.

    You can still have an occasional cigarette in a bar? Where?

    Speaking of cigars, any cigar smokers reading this: La Flor Dominicana factory press: Don't fuck around, just find one and smoke it.

  • ||

    "But with tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white..."

    That's retarded (oops, was that politically incorrect)... Another reason for the U.N. and its affiliated-agencies to disappear into irrelevance.

    Are they going to start random condom-checks, body fat percentages, and breathalizers to be sure everyone is being "moderate" in those nasty habits?

  • ||

    Wait, wait, wait -- we all support this, right? This is a private organization making decisions about who it will and won't hire, right? Even if it's a dumb decision, it's all good, right?

  • ||

    Wait, wait, wait -- we all support this, right? This is a private organization making decisions about who it will and won't hire, right? Even if it's a dumb decision, it's all good, right?

    To the best of my knowledge, they are not private. I believe they are a specialized agency of the United Nations.

  • Baylen||

    Yep to Phil. Bad decision. Very much within their rights. (Though are they actually private?)

  • ||

    The United Nations, K. Toishi, is not the government, as many people are quite fond of pointing out; and receiving funding from the US doesn't make it "public" any more than sugar price supports make ADM public. It's an NGO.

  • ||

    Private org? The one my tax dollars helps to support? Or did the US never pay its dues to the UN? I thought the UN paid the bills for WHO?

  • ||

    Phil,

    I'm not even as legally experienced as Harriet Miers, but if the best candidate for a position was rejected due to what can be reasonably called an addiction, then under US law I could see a discrimination suit being filed if the WHO did not make a good faith effort to hire the guy and encourage/enroll him in a nicotine addiction program.

  • ||

    Posted without further comment:

    �(Ald.) Smith, who has lost family members to cancer, said Tuesday, �I simply want to stop people from going to the graveyard. I think we have a responsibility in this council to try to find ways to protect citizens of this city.�

    �I am a smoker,� countered Ald. William Beavers (7th). �I don�t see anybody here going to save my life.�

    - Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 2005.

  • ||

    Wait, wait, wait -- we all support this, right? This is a private organization making decisions about who it will and won't hire, right? Even if it's a dumb decision, it's all good, right?

    That's an interesting question. WHO is run by the UN, so I hardly say it's private. However, since the UN and ergo WHO is an international agency, what sort of rules does it has the right to impose on its employees. As much as I don't like this decision, we might not have any real say about it.

    Moving right along to the stupidity of their statement:

    "But with tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and it kills half of those consuming it."

    Yeah, my maternal grandfather smoked his lungs out with three packs a Camels each day, dying horribly at 68. For him, there was no "middle ground." He's dead from his own abuse of cigarettes.

    HOWEVER, I have a cigar or two every couple of months or so. Am I destined to share my grandfather's fate? If not, I guess there is a "middle ground" after all.

    How myopic can these medical ideologues be, anyway?

  • ||

    ...I simply want to stop people from going to the graveyard..."

    Unless the life extension technolgy Ron Bailey talks about comes to pass, I don't think banning smoking is going to stop that. You're all gong to die of something. Get over it.

  • ||

    The United Nations, K. Toishi, is not the government, as many people are quite fond of pointing out; and receiving funding from the US doesn't make it "public" any more than sugar price supports make ADM public. It's an NGO.

    Good point... although I'll generally jump at any chance to bash the U.N. Interestingly enough, Wikipedia notes "many NGOs now prefer the term private voluntary organization (PVO)."

    Funny how an organization that receives the vast majority of its funding from governments/taxes/assessments can be considered private... yet, many public entities - some which receive as little as 8% from taxes are considered public. It's in the legal structure, I know, but interesting nonetheless.

  • ||

    Touchy subject, I know, but I'm serious: is WHO also going to block gay men who practice unprotected sex? Or better still, any person who has sex with strangers without a condom?
    Sure, smoking is a big target for WHO but AIDS is the biggie. Shouldn't they also be setting an example in that arena?

  • TallDave||

    In related news, the company fired several employees who had reportedly been washing their hands only once per day.

    Spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency was aware that its new rules "may seem discriminatory or even politically incorrect" to some. But she stressed that WHO needs to align its own employment practices with its principles.

    "WHO tries to encourage people to try and lead a healthy life. There is safe sex, one can drink alcohol in a reasonable way and one can attempt eating in a balanced fashion," Chaib said. "But with washing your hands, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and diseases from unwashed hands kill millions."

  • ||

    AIDS is the biggie. Shouldn't they also be setting an example in that arena?

    My guess is that their answer would be that they promote "safe-sex" but that's not always foolproof so it seems pretty "black and white" that to prevents AIDS, an AIDS patient should stop having sex.

  • ||

    Just because I don't know if I have seen it yet here on H&R, and because it's one of my all time favorite quotes from a movie, I'd like to drop this in to the thread. This predates my libertarian flowering (I think I first saw this when I was 10), but damn it's funny and it still works. From the movie Clue.

    Wadsworth: "Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur."
    Profeser Plum: "Yes, but now I work for the United Nations."
    Wadsworth: "So your work has not changed."

    (My apologies if this is old news)

  • ||

    I think this is great.

    There are a lot of places much more smoke friendly than the US, I believe China is one, I know lots of people smoke in France, etc.

    So the WHO, and it's parent company the UN,is going to look like idiots to folks who may normally be UN supporters.

    This is a good thing. They should come out with workplace directives on vegitarianism next.

  • ||

    From the movie Clue.

    Wadsworth: Well, to make a long story short...
    Col. Mustard: Too late.

  • ||

    Jacob,
    This is another knee-slapper of a headline.

  • ||

    "...one can drink alcohol in a reasonable way..." Chaib said.
    Perhaps, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the WHO, has declared alcohol drinking a Group I carcinogen. The language is clear: "The occurrence of malignant tumours of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver is causally related to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
    Alcoholic beverages are carcinogenic to humans."
    (http://www-cie.iarc.fr/htdocs/monographs/vol44/44.htm ).
    Perhaps the WHO will continue to align (or malign) its employment practices with its principles and ban alcoholic beverages next.

  • ||

    many NGOs now prefer the term private voluntary organization (PVO)

    And Hillbillies prefer to be called "sons of the soil". But it ain't gonna happen.


    This was funnier to me 15 minutes ago when I first tried to post it.

  • ||

    Wait, wait, wait -- we all support this, right? This is a private organization making decisions about who it will and won't hire, right? Even if it's a dumb decision, it's all good, right?

    Wait wait wait what? That makes no sense Phil; we don't all support this. It only makes sense if you conflate criticism of a dumb decision with a call for government action - a decidedly non-libertarian view I should think.

  • ||

    At the moment, each U.N. agency has its own separate policy on smoking. Kiosks at the main United Nations building in Geneva continue to sell tobacco.

    ...and shifty WHO empolyees are hanging around the kiosk begging UNICEF workers to buy them a pack.

  • ||

    "may seem discriminatory or even politically incorrect"

    Wait a second. I thought I was being politically incorrect by supporting smokers, and now I find out it's the other way around? Shit, it looks like I'm going to have to quit now if I want to continue railing against the Man.

  • ||

    anomdebus: Well, it's funny to me... LOL

  • ||

    There are no "social smokers" at WHO? Nonsense. My wife used to smoke once every month or so. Hardly a life-threatening habit.

  • ||

    There are no "social smokers" at WHO? Nonsense. My wife used to smoke once every month or so. Hardly a life-threatening habit.

  • Viking Moose||

    Daniel:

    awesome quote!

    great movie!

  • ||

    "The United Nations, K. Toishi, is not the government, as many people are quite fond of pointing out; and receiving funding from the US doesn't make it 'public' any more than sugar price supports make ADM public. It's an NGO."

    No, it isn't. The United Nations is an association of, uh, nations (which is to say, of their governments). It's no more a private organization than the United States was under the Articles of Confederation.

  • ||

    That makes no sense Phil; we don't all support this. It only makes sense if you conflate criticism of a dumb decision with a call for government action - a decidedly non-libertarian view I should think.

    So, you don't support the right of WHO to set its own policies concerning who it will and won't hire? Is that what I'm getting here? That's what everyone seems to be dancing around. If not, well, then hooray and consistency points for everyone else and boo for me.

    No, it isn't. The United Nations is an association of, uh, nations (which is to say, of their governments). It's no more a private organization than the United States was under the Articles of Confederation.

    You know, the fact that the words "private organization" don't appear in the paragraph you quoted from me would generally serve as a strong indicator that I didn't claim that. I did say that they are not the government, and are an NGO. Although "NGO" is, you are right, not what I'm looking for here. They're a treaty organization, like NATO or SEATO or OAS.

    THey still have the right to set their own hiring policies, though. Right?

  • ||

    You can still have an occasional cigarette in a bar? Where?

    Jason O., you hit this one over the fence.

    Which reminds me, I saw my first 'protest' graffiti in Seattle: Our rights are going up in smoke... (Seen underneath West end of the West Seattle Bridge).

    I would like to offer up a minor correction: No, your rights WENT up in smoke a long, long time ago. And democratically, to boot!

    Paul

  • ||

    This predates my libertarian flowering

    Shouldn' that be your 'libertarian DE-flowering'?

  • ||

    The United Nations, K. Toishi, is not the government, as many people are quite fond of pointing out; and receiving funding from the US doesn't make it 'public' any more than sugar price supports make ADM public. It's an NGO."

    The U.N. has enforcement power. It is a governmental organization- by proxy of its member nations- end of discussion.

    Paul

  • ||

    The UN may be a government, but it's not the US Government, which, along with those of the 50 states, is the only government bound by the US Constitution.

  • ||

    So, you don't support the right of WHO to set its own policies concerning who it will and won't hire? Is that what I'm getting here?

    Huh? No, that is not what I said at all. I really think something is being missed here. I most certainly do support an employer's right to set its own hiring policies, however dumb I may find them to be. That does not mean that I won't criticize those dumb polices when I see them, but I certainly won't call for the government to step in a dictate how, when, or for what reasons you may refuse to hire someone.

    Note that I am not taking a position on the private or public nature of the WHO - I really don't care. The principle I am getting at is simply that I don't have to be silent about a stupid policy, but I would never expect or want the government to try to force what I deem to be a fair policy on employers. That was why I said your original post didn't make sense to me - just because one thinks the WHO should be free to set bad hiring policies doesn't mean they are okay with it.

  • ||

    "I simply want to stop people from going to the graveyard."

    Why? Is the graveyard where people go to smoke without being harassed? (Everyone's dying to get in!)

  • Larry A||

    Phil, libertarians say, "I think what you are doing is stupid and bad for you but you have a right to stupidly hurt yourself." Almost every other political persuasion says, "I think what you are doing is stupid and bad for you so we're going to make it illegal."

    Sure we're obnoxious. But we're a hellofalot easier to get along with.

  • ||

    "You know, the fact that the words 'private organization' don't appear in the paragraph you quoted from me would generally serve as a strong indicator that I didn't claim that."

    I guess I was thrown off by your claim that the UN wasn't "public." I supposed I foolishly thought that if it wasn't public, then it must be, I dunno, private. Silly me.

    But the suggestion that an association of governments is somehow something non-governmental (I know, I know, you didn't say "non-governmental"; you said "not the government"; my bad) is just wrong. The only authority the UN or its specialized agencies (such as WHO) have is what they have derived from governments that set it up. If a bunch of churches get together and form an association (let's imagine it's a bunch of Southern Baptist congregations, and they call their organization the "Southern Baptist Convention"), I think you'd agree that their organization was ecclesiastical.

    And sure, they have the right to set their own hiring policies. They can practice racial and religious discrimination, unless there's something in their Constitution that forbids it. That doesn't mean the U.S., as a Member State of the WHO, ought to be complacent about it.

    (But I suppose an even bigger problem comes in the fact that the U.S. *is* a Member State of the WHO and that, in joining back in 1946, bought into the totalitarian idea that it was appropriate for an international agency to aim at "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health," and then agreed to define "health" as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.")

  • David Nieporent||

    So, you don't support the right of WHO to set its own policies concerning who it will and won't hire? Is that what I'm getting here?

    What you're not getting is the difference between "support the right to set its own policies" and "support the policies."

    They're a treaty organization, like NATO or SEATO or OAS.

    Are you actually arguing that if a bunch of governments get together in a joint venture, the resulting institution is private rather than governmental in nature?

  • ||

    Well Seamus,

    it seems that Phil isn't only out-joeing the joe but is also pulling a gunnels on you.

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