LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Actor Terry Crews attends Variety's 5th annual Power of Comedy presented by TBS benefiting the Noreen Fraser Foundation at The Belasco Theater on December 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Variety)
Actor speaks out about his porn addiction
00:56 - Source: CNN

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NEW: Former Playboy bunny Pamela Anderson calls porn a "public hazard"

A draft of the GOP platform labels pornography a "public health crisis"

But what exactly qualifies as a "public health crisis"? Experts weigh in

CNN  — 

A debate over porn and public health continues to rage on.

Former Playboy model Pamela Anderson penned an op-ed with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday about the dangers of pornography, calling it a “public hazard.”

In July, the Republican Party called internet pornography a “public health crisis” under an amendment that was added to its platform draft at preliminary meetings in Cleveland. The party’s national convention took place the week after.

But what exactly qualifies as a “public health crisis,” and does viewing porn fit that criteria?

The World Health Organization vaguely defines a crisis as “a situation that is perceived as difficult” and a “time of danger.”

In a 2012 edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Crisis, Emergency, and Risk Communication manual (PDF), crises are described as “time-sensitive” and crisis communication tends to occur when “an unexpected and threatening event requires an immediate response.”

Still, there seems to be no definitive definition of what constitutes a public health crisis, said Emily Rothman, an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. “But that doesn’t mean it’s fair game for anybody, anywhere, to just pick up that term and start using it at will to make a political point,” Rothman said.

“Republicans and anyone else who uses the word ‘crisis’ runs the risk of burning out the public on the idea. So then when there is an actual, acute, immediate, clear threat to the public’s health and safety – from an outbreak of a disease or from gun violence, for example – people are going to blow you off instead of pay attention,” she added. “It’s really not cool for people who aren’t trained or experienced in public health to start declaring what is or what is not a public health problem.”

In a written statement to CNN, the CDC said it “does not have an established position on pornography as a public health issue. Pornography can be connected to other public health issues like sexual violence and occupational HIV transmission.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation agrees with the Republican Party that pornography is a “public health crisis,” said Dawn Hawkins, the center’s senior vice president and executive director, in an email.

“Thanks in part to the internet, it is now beyond an individual’s or a family’s capacity to adequately protect against, or overcome the harmful influences of, pornography,” she said.

The Republican Party is contemplating an anti-porn amendment, Hawkins said, because research shows that pornography use is linked to decreased gray matter in the brain, having more sexual partners and perpetuating rape myths.

Hawkins added that some youth view pornography before they reach puberty, and it may be educating them about sex, which she said is disturbing because about 88% of porn videos depict physical aggression, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Violence Against Women.