I thought the FDA and RJ Reynolds had reached an agreement to knock this stuff off — a new ad in my Sports Illustrated last month STILL advertising that Natural Spirit cigarettes are “100 percent additive free.”
I posted about this back in March. This was a settlement in response to FDA ruling that RJR had to drop its advertising that Natural American Spirit cigarettes were somehow more “natural” than other brands, when in fact, they simply are not. There’s simply little or no difference between this particular RJR brand and other cigarettes. It’s not safer in any, way, shape or form.
Reportedly, the FDA and RJR reached this agreement in January. From a March article about the agreement:
In the memorandum, Reynolds said it would “remove the phrase[s] ‘Additive Free’ … [and] ‘Natural’ from all Natural American Spirit cigarette product labels, labeling, advertising and promotional materials,” with the caveat that Santa Fe will still be permitted to use the term Natural in the Natural American Spirit brand name.
Yet, here in AUGUST, there is still an ad in Sports Illustrated, eight months after the agreement with the big, fat words “Additive Free” in the ad. So, I’ve tried looking into it and I can’t find any information other than a lawsuit has been filed against RJR and the FDA over the agreement.
Was the agreement supposed to take effect in 2018? Is RJR simply ignoring the settlement? I have no idea. But, it pissed me off.
And Jesus, it pisses me off that Sports Illustrated keeps taking tobacco advertising, too.
Chain-smoker and notorious Big Tobacco congressional stooge John Boehner last week joined the RJ Reynolds board of directors.
Why am I not surprised. Yeah, believe it or not, this is absolutely a true story, Boehner once handed out cheques from tobacco companies on the floor of the U.S. Congress before he became Speaker of the House. He did this actually on the floor of the U.S. Capitol in 1995. the cheques were an attempt to persuade representatives from voting against a bill cutting tax breaks to Big Tobacco. Boehner and Big Tobacco’s tactics won the day.
What a shill! What a sleaze.
Boehner reportedlt received nearly half a million in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco during his political career, and he was notorious for doing tobacco’s bidding during his many years in Congress.
Big Tobacco made nice with Boehner early in his career and kept the money coming. Over his 14 years in the House, Boehner received $497,112 in direct contributions from the tobacco lobby. Boehner stayed loyal, consistently siding with the tobacco industry’s wishes in legislative battles.
And what a surprise! Boehner, after resigning his House seat and his Speaker of the House post, has glided into post-politics retirement as an actual corporate board member of RJ Reynolds.
“RAI (RJ Reynolds) is striving to transform the tobacco industry through innovative strategies that include speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people and reducing the harm caused by smoking,” said a Boehner spokesman. “These are objectives Speaker Boehner supports and looks forward to helping RAI advance through his service on the board.”
Supposedly, Boehner was such a heavy smoker that current House Speaker Paul Ryan had to have the Speaker’s office fumigated and the furniture replaced because of the smoky stench.
I would never wish lung cancer on anyone, but John … dude … you’re pushing that sentiment to the limit.
An interesting story about a report put out by California State University, San Francisco (co-authored by anti-tobacco advocate Stanton Glantz) warning that legalized marijuana could become the next “Big Tobacco” because it would create a massive, wealthy and politically powerful economic behemoth.
Here is a copy of the 66-page report. , In reading the Sacramento Bee article about it, Glantz and the report are arguing that with legalized pot and the billions of revenue it would create would also create a very powerful marijuana lobby. A lobby that would likely throw its weight around politically and could ultimately become a subsidiary of the tobacco industry, possibly to the detriment of public health policy.
From the article:
“Evidence from tobacco and alcohol control demonstrates that without a strong public health framework, a wealthy and politically powerful marijuana industry will develop and use its political clout to manipulate regulatory frameworks and thwart public health efforts to reduce use and profits,” the report states.
Glantz, in an interview added:
“The goal (should be) to legalize it so that nobody gets thrown in jail, but create a legal product that nobody wants,” he said.
He worries that a new marijuana industry would spend large sums of money to curry favor with lawmakers.
“I think a corporate takeover of the market … is very, very hard to stop,” he said, adding, “They are already a potent lobbyist in California.”
I’m not necessarily agreeing with the report, and honestly, I found parts of it a bit alarmist. But, the concerns about marijuana monopolies and Big Tobacco involvement in the industry are valid. I have posted other articles about Big Tobacco eyeing the legalization of pot very carefully, with the very real potential of today’s tobacco companies swooping in and taking over the legalized pot industry. Keep in mind, this has already pretty much happened with e-cigarettes. RJ Reynolds bought out the No. 1 e-cigarette brand — Blu E-cigarettes, which controls about 40 percent of the E-cigarette market — and there are a number of other e-cig brands owned by tobacco companies. Big Tobacco isn’t in competition with e-cigs, not anymore. When in doubt, buy ’em out.
Tobacco is a dying product, especially in the West, while both e-cigarettes and marijuana are booming. Pot is likely to boom even more as it’s legalized in more states and Canada. If California legalizes pot in November, that state alone probably represents over 10 percent of the pot market in the U.S. Now tack onto that Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and perhaps a few other states (legalization seems likely in Nevada, soon), plus another 35 million people in Canada if Trudeau goes through with his promise to legalize pot nationwide. I just have to imagine the people at RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris are absolutely drooling over the prospects of getting into that market. That’s over 90 million people in North America living under legalized pot laws as early as 2017.
One of the things I like about one of the California pot legalization measures is that it would allow people to legally grow up to six plants. I haven’t taken the time to research how many plants a person could legally grow in Washington, Oregon or Colorado, but I think it’s important that if pot is legalized that people still be allowed to grow a small amount of their own pot, so it doesn’t quickly and completely become a corporate-run industry. You want to keep RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris or some other monopoly out of the pot business? Let people grow their own pot, and take other steps to prohibit any corporation from getting more than a certain market share and make sure it stays in the hands of small businesspeople.
And there is a paranoid X-Files side of me that is convinced there are people within Big Tobacco that have thought about, dreamed about, maybe even started doing the work on … how to add nicotine to marijuana. Seriously, think about it. Marijuana with arguably the most addictive substance on the planet added. It would be like Spice in “Dune.”
The report states that pot should be regulated much like tobacco. Instead, the California proposal calls for regulations similar to alcohol. From the article:
One of the (measure’s) proponents, Donald Lyman, a retired physician and a former state public health official, said the notion that marijuana must be regulated exactly like tobacco “represents an awkward minority opinion not widely shared within the public health community.”
I have to agree with Lyman here. For one, there’s some actual medical benefits to pot. I think the medical benefits of pot gets overstated by some pot proponents, but there’s legitimate medical uses as a painkiller and to control seizures. There is NO legitimate medical use for tobacco. While it can become habit-forming for some people, marijuana also is not physically addictive anything like tobacco, nor is there any evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer or even COPD. You simply can’t treat pot and tobacco like the same product. Probably the most similar product to pot would be beer or wine (and yes, there are rumours that not only is Big Tobacco drooling over legalized pot, the beer industry has interest in getting into the pot business as well).
One of the California measures would prohibit monopolies and large-scale pot licences for five years. Co-author of the report Rachel Barry, says five years isn’t enough. From the article:
“I am thinking more in 20 years what the industry will evolve into, not five years,” Barry said. “And that’s something we should be doing with the regulations.”
One marijuana legalization proponent sees some validity in some of the report’s concerns, but said that most of these issues are being dealt with in the language of the California measures.
From the article:
Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California and a member of the (Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin) Newsom commission’s steering committee, said he agrees with some of the concerns raised in the report but ultimately believes the initiative protects the public.
“My middle school child will not walk into a corner store where tobacco and alcohol are marketed and see marijuana for sale,” Soltani said.
The Food and Drug Administration, which for the most part has taken a pretty milquetoast approach to administering tobacco products ever since the agency was given regulatory authority over nicotine, just banned four new RJ Reynolds brands.
RJ Reynolds, long known to tobacco control advocates as the truly sleaziest tobacco company out there, will be forced to pull the brands — Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13 — and to stop selling them because they are new “formulations.” (Camel Crush Bold is the only one I’m familiar with.).
One part of the problem with the new brands is that one of them had a new delivery system of adding menthol to the tobacco, while RJ Reynolds resisted the FDA on providing information on the sweeteners and formulations of the new brands. From the NBC News article:
The FDA said the Camel Crush product has a little capsule of menthol in the filter that’s new. After “considerable back and forth” R.J. Reynolds was unable to show that the menthol capsule didn’t change the product’s risk and didn’t change how consumer might view the brand. As for the Pall Mall products, the company wouldn’t give FDA enough information about sweeteners and other flavors added to the cigarettes, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters.
Retailers have 30 days to remove these brands from theirs shelves. After 30 days, the FDA has the power to simply seize them from the shelves.
From NBC News:
“Today’s decision sets an important precedent that almost certainly will apply to other brands. The FDA’s action is a critical step in preventing the introduction of tobacco products that may be more appealing to youth, more addictive or more harmful,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
“Tobacco manufacturers have a long history of continually modifying their products to make them more attractive and more addictive and introducing new brands and styles designed to appeal to specific segments of the market, including children. These tactics have been spectacularly successful in attracting new smokers, most of whom are children, and in discouraging current smokers from quitting.”
The FDA recently cracked down on RJ Reynolds for labeling its “American Spirit” brand of cigarettes as a “natural” cigarette. The agency is still holding off on regulations regarding e-cigarettes. Advocates have been waiting for months for the FDA to finally release final regs on e-cigs. So far, the agency has only proposed to disallow the sale of e-cigs to minors, which is already banned in most states. Tobacco control advocates want the FDA to ban Internet sales of e-cigs, crack down on e-cig marketing obviously directed at teens and ban sugary, fruity flavours of e-cigs.
This made my head explode. Sports Illustrated’s policies on tobacco advertising are starting to make my head explode.
We all know SI takes tobacco advertising — a LOT of tobacco advertising. Not only do you find cigarette ads in nearly every issue, you will also find chewing tobacco ads and ads for Blu e-cigarettes. Usually full-page.
SI’s insistence on continuing to take tobacco advertising has drawn the ire of more than a few anti-tobacco advocates. SI is a magazine that is read by a lot of teenagers (I started reading it in my teens).
Well, I usually don’t react to the ominpresent tobacco and e-cig ads in SI, but this one really took the cake. In the April 20th edition of the magazine, there is an ad for Natural American Spirit cigarettes on page 21 (Though the brand likes to play up its Native American roots, these aren’t actually Native American cigarettes, it’s a brand that been owned for 15 years by Reynolds American, the same conglomerate that owns RJ Reynolds.).
Natural American Spirit cigarettes ads are especially odious because the brand markets itself as being “organic” and “natural” and “additive-free.” Their ads are complete B.S. These guys have been reamed over the coals by the Department of Justice for not-so-subtly claiming that by somehow being “natural,” their cigarettes were more healthy than other brands. Reynolds is now required to add onto these ads these disclaimers: “Organic tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette” and “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”
Anyway, on page 86 is a full-page ad for cigars and then on page 119, the killer, another full-pagead for an organization called “Stand up to Cancer,” with a testimonial from actor Tony Goldwyn (he was the bad guy in “Ghost,” remember that movie?), who lost his mother to lung cancer. The ad focuses on the advances being made today to combat lung cancer: “My mom didn’t have many options. Today’s lung cancer patients do.”
I suppose I should give SI some modicum of credit for not being so insensitive as to put the Natural American Spirit ad on the facing page from the ad about lung cancer. But, still my head went “BAM!”
Here you have a product that is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer — by a MILE — being advertised on page(s) 21 and 86, and then an ad about the cost of lung cancer on page 119. The whole thing just felt shameless to me by Sports Illustrated. C’mon, man, the time has long passed for that magazine to simply say “no” to cigarette advertising. Newspapers rarely, if ever take cigarette ads (contrary to public belief, there’s no law against it, newspapers just simply as a rule don’t take cigarette ads), and many, many magazines refuse to take cigarette ads. Several years ago, I got really mad at Discover magazine for having a Natural American Spirit ad, and that magazine is absolutely directed at kids, moreso than SI. I got a nice letter from them apologizing and promising they would no longer take tobacco ads (I think I got a free subscription for a year out of the deal, too. It must have been a persuasive letter.).
RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris have reached a $100 million settlement of 400 Engle cases in Florida. I thought they might do this. I’ve been writing for months that, every way I cut it, it was in their interest to do this.
The Engle (named after Howard Engle, a smoker who died several years ago) cases came from a Florida Supreme Court decision throwing out a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco for its years of lies and cover-ups over the dangers of smoking. However, while throwing those cases out, the state Supreme Court opened the way for individual plaintiffs to file separate lawsuits against Big Tobacco.
Since then, literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed in Florida and Big Tobacco has been losing about two-thirds of these cases, with hundreds of millions of judgements awarded in favour of over a hundred plaintiffs. Most of those judgements have been upheld on appeal.
Rather than go through at least another decade of losing these cases (not to mention all the legal fees), I figured sooner or later, Big Tobacco was simply going to settle.
This settlement involves 400 cases filed in federal court. That’s $250,000 per plaintiff. I’m guessing there’s going to be more settlements, because I believe there’s several thousand more lawsuits ongoing, and that a lot of them are in state courts. So this settlement may have solely been to deal with the federal cases. And in fact, the NBC story is careful to say “it’s the first settlement by Big Tobacco to settle a chunk of Engle cases.”
Under the agreement, Lorillard will pay $15 million, while RJR and Philip Morris will each pay $42.5 million. This settlement won’t affect cases that have already been settled.
Great news for these families devastated by smoking! I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Engle settlements in Florida.
This was entirely predictable. A Florida jury, in one of the thousands of Engle progeny cases, recently awarded a punitive judgement against RJ Reynolds for $23 billion because a widow’s husband died from smoking cigarettes.
I hate RJ Reynolds as much as the next guy, but I knew that no way would this judgement stand up to appeal. It was much too excessive. Sure enough, on appeal, a judge lowered the judgement to less than 1 percent of the original figure.
From the story:
“That award is admittedly and clearly constitutionally excessive,” said Circuit Court Judge Terry Terrell said. He said awarding an equal amount in compensatory and punitive damages “is reasonable and just.”
It’s a fair judgement, the widow has also received compensatory damages of $16.9 million. Terrell gave her the same amount in punitive damages (Frankly, I would’ve liked to have seen more than $16.9 million, but $23 billion was clearly ridiculous. Generally, punitive damages cannot be more than 10 times compensatory damages, which is why this was kind of a stupid decision by the jury; it could have resulted in the entire case being thrown out.)
Reynolds, cuddly teddy bear that it is, requested to have the judgement dismissed completely, but the judge rejected the company’s request. Of couse, RJ Reynolds is appealing the circuit judge’s opinion.
This part of the story is interesting, something I’ve been looking for. RJ Reynolds has already paid out $114 million in Engle case settlements the past few years, with another $217 million pending various appeals. That’s just RJ Reynolds, not Philip Morris or Lorillard or British American Tobacco. In all, 85 Engle cases have been decided in favour of the plaintiff and 40 in favour of Big Tobacco. You wonder at what point, the industry just says, “screw it,” and reaches a settlement with the several thousand Engle plaintiffs. Apparently, it is still worth the industry’s while financially to keep fighting these cases, but they are adding up.
I saw a tiny blurb in a local alternative weekly about these things called “Revos.” Never heard of them before. They’re like a weird combination of e-cigs and real cigarettes.
Revos, put out by RJ Reynolds, use a carbon tip to heat tobacco, rather than burning it, for inhalation. Apparently, they don’t put out as much secondhand smoke. Like this editorial from Massachusetts says: “And this would be beneficial how, exactly?”
The editorial points out — one benefit would be perhaps it wouldn’t stink up smokers’ hair and clothing so much. But, it won’t have any benefit to a smokers’ lungs. Just another sleazy tactic from RJ Reynolds, which I’m sure won’t exactly come out and say, “they’re safer than cigarettes,” but will employ sneaky marketing tricks to passively and vaguely suggest this.
It appears to be some kind of weird reverse marketing ploy. E-cigs are taking business away from tobacco (even though RJ Reynolds now owns Blu E-cigs), by putting out essentially a fake cigarette. So, now a cigarette company is returning the favour by putting out a fake e-cig. It’s like how Japanese and American animation keep stealing from one another.
I also hope Revos won’t be used as a way to try and get around smoking bans. I’ll be keeping an eye on RJ Reynolds and their new Revos.
I’m glad someone did an article on this (NBC News) because frankly, this is something I’ve been wondering about myself for the past couple of years.
With a total of four states now with legal marijuana (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska), might the day come when pot sales will be controlled by huge corporations, perhaps even a single massive mega-corporation?
Boy, there are dollars to be made there. Billions upon billions of them. Too much profit to keep Big Business out for long. It’s legal now for about 18 million people in the U.S. — and I guarantee that number will continue to escalate, maybe a LOT and maybe soon. California might be next in line to legalize pot.
According to NBC:
“My concern is the Marlboro-ization or Budweiser-ization of marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “That’s not what I’m fighting for.”
“It’s a cultural thing,” said Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the country’s oldest consumer pot lobby. “All of us have at least a little bit of discomfort with the corporate stuff.”
Which brings me to big tobacco. “Marlboro-ization.” I’ve long suspected that Big Tobacco is keeping an eye on the effort to legalize pot … and drooling in the process. The tobacco industry has been in a long, slow decline for about 20 years now. So the industry will have to diversify. One way to accomplish this is by selling more cigarettes overseas — but the gargantuan market of China is off-limits because the Chinese government doesn’t want American tobacco companies taking over its state-owned market.
So, that leaves … marijuana. I would not be shocked. Not in the slightest if RJ Reynolds or Philip Morris got into the marijuana-selling business in the next 10 to 20 years. Pot advocates see it looming on the horizon. They mention beer companies, too.
“Beer, wine and tobacco people—I’ve met with them all,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, which is above all a consumer rights organization. He doesn’t love the idea of Big Pot, but he believes it will help guarantee that users get a quality product at a fair price.
He recalled two lunches in Washington, D.C., (one at DC Noodles, the other at Pizza Paradiso); several office visits; and a grand tour through Savor, the district’s popular beer and food conference.
“It’s been so surreal,” he said, reflecting on more than two decades as a marijuana lobbyist, all of it spent outside the warm circle of the other vice industries.
“I always dreamed of these meetings,” he added. “I pictured balding guys, with comb-overs, red suspenders, eating in quiet restaurants—and lo-and-behold that’s what they’ve been.”
The article focuses pretty heavily on the alcohol industry and whether beer and spirits distributors might want to get involved in the marijuana business someday, or if they see marijuana simply as a competitor.
I’m focusing a bit more on the Big Tobacco aspect, because frankly at this point, I think it’s more likely Big Tobacco would get involved in pot rather than beer companies.
My old pal Stanton Glantz (one of the most prominent anti-tobacco crusaders of the past 30 years) is quoted extensively in the story.
Tobacco executives, meanwhile, have been studying the marijuana industry for years, according to Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His research has drawn an 80-million page archive of tobacco industry documents, spanning the 1960s to the late 1990s. Many of the documents reference softening pot laws, rising use, and the dual threat/opportunity of a third major vice industry.
In early 1970, for example, an unsigned memorandum distributed to Philip Morris’ top management read, “We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
“These documents reveal that since at least 1970, despite fervent denials, three multinational tobacco companies, Phillip Morris, British American Tobacco, and RJ Reynolds, all have considered manufacturing cannabis cigarettes,” according to an investigation by Glantz and two colleagues, published this summer in Milbank Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal of public health.
Make no mistake. Pot will be legalized, if not everywhere in the U.S., than in most of the U.S. And I’m predicting sooner rather than later. The political will to keep it illegal is slowly caving. And it is big, big, big business, a multi-billion business. You can be damned sure Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds are thinking about it.
The question is … would that be a bad thing?
In my mind, only if they completely abandoned the scourge of the 20th century — tobacco.
This case is one of the thousands of Engle cases winding their way through the Florida courts. R.J. Reynolds will appeal this verdict (oh, yes they will) but several of these verdicts have been upheld by appeals courts.
The Engle cases stem from a huge $145 billion class-action judgement in 2000. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that settlement, but made an important decision to allow individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. Since then, several thousand lawsuits have been filed against tobacco companies, primarily Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorrilard, and judgements ranging between a few million to $23.6 billion have been handed down by juries (I believe that $23.6 billion judgement will get tossed on appeal as excessive … when I Googled it, Google asked me “do you mean $23.6 million?”).
According to the article:
Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida today returned a verdict of $41.1 million against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for conspiring for decades to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. The jury award consists of $15.8 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amounts of $15.7 million against Philip Morris and $9.6 million against R.J. Reynolds.
“The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”
Interesting that was in federal court, I’m positive other Florida cases were in state courts.
This case is also a little unusual because most of these Engle cases at this point are being filed by relatives of people who died from lung cancer. This one was filed by the smoker, who is still alive and is suffering from COPD, not lung cancer. I believe that’s the first major judgement I’ve seen against a tobacco company for its role in giving a person COPD. I’m sure there’s been some, I just don’t remember ever coming across a story about it until now.
According to the article:
“At trial Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds sought to place all the blame on Mr. Kerrivan for becoming addicted to nicotine as a teenager in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes using celebrities and famous athletes and advertised on television shows popular with children and teenagers. Thankfully, the jury rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”