The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids put out an interesting report last week about the various additives tobacco companies are putting into cigarettes today to make them more addictive and hence more deadly. According to this graphic from CTFK, there’s a number of things the tobacco industry has done over the past 50 years to make cigarettes more addictive. I’ve read all about how the tobacco industry has been known for manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes. (Something the tobacco industry continues to deny) Anyway, here is an interesting infographic. The various ways the industry increases the intake of nicotine:
Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies precisely control the delivery and amount of nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
Bronchodilators: These added chemicals expand the lungs’ airways, making it easier for tobacco smoke to pass into the lungs.
Levulinic Acid: Added organic acid salts, like levulinic acid, reduce the harshness of nicotine and make the smoke smoother and less irritating.
Menthol: Menthol cools and numbs the throat to reduce irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.
Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.
Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of “freebase” nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.
“Most people would think that 50 years after we learned that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, cigarettes would be safer. What’s shocking about the report we issued today is that we’ve found that a smoker today has more than twice the risk of lung cancer than a smoker fifty years ago, as a direct result of design changes made by the industry,” Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview with ThinkProgress.
(One note about the Matt Myers quote. I would disagree with one aspect of his comment. A two- to three-pack-a-day smoker was not uncommon 50 years ago, and that’s almost unheard of today with the breadth of smoking bans, so smokers are not smoking nearly as much as they did 50 years ago. But, his point is taken.) Pretty chilling stuff. The industry has done everything in its power to try and make cigarettes more physically addictive to keep their customers until death do them part.
I reported on this a few weeks ago — a story about migrant kids as young as 12 working in tobacco fields, some of them getting sick from constant exposure to nicotine.
The Daily Show skewers a real dirtbag Republican state senator and tobacco farmer defending kids spending 12 hours a day in his tobacco fields picking in 100-degree weather. Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee does an absolutely ferocious report, skewering a Kentucky tobacco farmer (I hope this guy never lives it down).
And, just in case YouTube takes it down … which they will eventually. A link:
You can’t make this stuff up. I couldn’t figure out initially if this POS was for real or satire, but, incredibly, he appears to be for real. His name is Paul Hornback. A real douchebag … or playing one on TV:
“You got long days. It’s in the heat, it’s out there in the sun. It might be 100 degrees. But that’s not bad. You got lots of places to get shade.”
All kids complain about work! Our society is becoming too soft. You might see a 10-year-old picking tobacco, but you won’t see him out there all day.”
“Acute nicotine poisoning is not that big of a deal. It’s no different from having a virus.
This story didn’t get as much attention as I would’ve have expected, I think because it’s actually becoming routine.
A jury last week awarded a family who lost their wife and mother to lung cancer in 1995 after years of smoking a $37.5 award from R.J. Reynolds.
This judgement is part of the old Engle Florida Supreme Court case. In that case, a huge class action settlement — $145 billion — was awarded to a number of smokers for the tobacco industry’s long and sordid history of lying about the addictiveness of nicotine and for marketing to kids.
The tobacco industry filed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court and the court threw the award out. At the time — 2006 — it appeared to be a big victory for Big Tobacco, but it was a mixed ruling. The Supreme Court threw out the award, but did allow each of the plaintiffs to file individual lawsuits against the tobacco industry.
That has turned out to be a big deal. There were a total of 8,000 individual lawsuits filed in Florida as a result of the ruling, so Big Tobacco is constantly in court in Florida, and repeatedly losing jury awards. $37.5 million won’t break RJR, but multiply $37.5 million by 8,000 — now you’re hurting the industry … big time. So far, $360 million damages have been awarded as a result of the Engle ruling — nowhere near the original $145 billion number, but hurting the industry nonetheless (You know the biggest reason cigarettes are more expensive now than 10 years ago? It’s not cigarette taxes, it’s legal costs.)
R..J Reynolds tried to use the old hoary defence of “it was her choice to smoke,” but that defence has failed time and again in these jury awards, for two reasons A) Big Tobacco was knowingly selling a toxic, poisonous and physically addictive product .. and lied for decades about the addictive nature of nicotine, and B) Because of the industry’s long and sordid history of marketing to teens (R.J. Reynolds are the guys who invented Joe Camel, remember.). It’s interesting reading a lot of the comments on this story about what BS the ruling is because it was her choice to smoke. No, they don’t get it. That defence doesn’t carry much weight with juries or judges, the fact is because they lied and covered up the dangers of their product, the tobacco industry is still liable for damages … “it was their choice to smoke” isn’t going to work. I tried making that point on that thread at HP; I got a few likes but no responses.
The woman who died in this case — Laura Grossman — was only 38 when she died of lung cancer in 1995.
R.J. Reynolds (which makes Philip Morris look like choir boys by comparison sometimes) also made the absolutely despicable defence that Grossman’s death was her husband’s fault because he didn’t do more to make her quit.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has appealed the verdict, claiming that Grossman’s husband, Jan Grossman, should be held responsible for Laura’s death for “failing to change another person’s course of conduct.” As part of the court ruling, Grossman’s husband and two children were also awarded $15 million in compensatory damages.
That just shows how utterly venal these guys are, especially R.J. Reynolds.
R.J. Reynolds will definitely appeal, the company always does. And they might get the award reduced; Big Tobacco has had some success there, but not as often as in the past.
Oh, happy day. Philip Morris (Altria), the No. 1 private cigarette manufacturer in the world, saw its profits drop a dramatic 8 percent in the second quarter of 2013, mostly due to lagging sales. Philip Morris shares dropped 2.5 percent as a result.
Here’s what is interesting. We all know the sales of cigarettes is down, so at first blush, this doesn’t seem to be a big surprise.
What IS a big surprise? The biggest reason for the drop in profits is the drop in sales of Philip Morris brands (mostly Marlboro) overseas.
One thing a lot of people may not realize is that while cigarette sales have been obviously dropping the U.S., the tobacco industry has weathered the storm just fine, mostly by expanding its overseas markets in burgeoning smoking regions such as India, the Philippines and Africa. Philip Morris is blaming a sluggish economy overseas:
According to USAToday:
The cigarette maker reported earnings of $2.12 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the quarter ended June 30, down from $2.32 billion, or $1.36 per share, a year ago.
Excluding excise taxes, revenue fell 2.5% to $7.9 billion despite higher prices. Costs to make and sell cigarettes rose more than 1% to $2.7 billion.
Cigarette shipments fell about 4% to 228.9 billion cigarettes as it saw volume declines in all of its regions. Total Marlboro volumes fell nearly 6% to 72.4 billion cigarettes.
Philip Morris International said economic woes in the European Union and increased excise taxes drove shipments down nearly 6% during the quarter. Shipments fell 3.6% in the company’s region that encompasses Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Shipments also fell 2.4% in Latin America and Canada.
In Asia, one of its largest growth areas, the company said that cigarette volume fell 3.5%, hurt by a recent tax increase in the Philippines, which saw a 16.5% decline in shipments.
Smokers face tax increases, bans, health concerns and social stigma worldwide, but the effect of those on cigarette demand generally is less stark outside the United States. Philip Morris International has compensated for volume declines by raising prices and cutting costs.
Anytime the tobacco industry is hurting that is great news. Perhaps its a bad economy, but maybe smoking bans, higher taxes and lower smoker rates in other countries is having an effect, as well. Of course, Philip Morris would never admit THAT.
Haven’t posted in a while. Have three interesting updates.
The first is a smoking ban in all places — Russia — one of the heaviest smoking countries in the world. It’s not a particularly strict smoking ban — no smoking in hospitals, on public transit or in schools (nothing about restaurants or bars).
Not very strict, but a big deal in a country where a whopping 55 percent of men smoke daily (compared to about 25 percent in most Western countries).
Bans were also put in place by Russia on advertising and marketing of cigarettes. It affects this Soviet-era cartoon of a smoking wolf named Wolf the Hooligan, which can only be shown at night now because the main character chain smokes.
(Is this music from Speed Racer?)
With the ban, Russia joins most of Europe in having some sort of smoking bans (I believe some Balkan and Eastern Europe countries still have no bans).
As you know, I’m not that dogmatic about smoking bans, but I accept them as part of the changing world. I feel more strongly about the ban on marketing and advertising.
A great article from MSNBC on the latest country to have a smoking ban. Some people are happy, some are mad.
According to a new study released by the American Cancer Society, cancer death rates have dropped drastically over the past 20 years — 23 percent for men, and 15 percent for women.
Two big reasons — better screening and treatment, and a third reason obviously — a LOT fewer people smoking (Down from 50 to 60 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today).
Get this, 40 percent of the overall decline in cancer deaths among men (and 34 percent among women) is caused specifically by the decline just in lung cancer deaths (Lung cancer is by far the biggest cancer killer — the next four cancer killers — colon, prostate, pancreas and breast cancer, kill fewer people per year than lung cancer alone.)
Still, even in 2012, about one-third of the cancer deaths in America will be caused due to smoking (and 160,000 of the 577,000 estimated cancer deaths in 2012 will be lung cancer, about 28 percent), according to the ACS. Another third will be caused by obesity and poor nutrition.
From the report. Estimated cancer deaths in 2012. I put this here just to illustrate the damage done by tobacco.
Total cancer deaths 2012 estimated: 577,000
1) Lung cancer 160,000 — 28 percent of all cancer deaths (85 percent smokers or former smokers)
2) Colon 51,000
3) Breast 39,000 (suggestions tobacco increases risk)
4) Pancreas 37,000 (Definite links to tobacco, 50 percent smokers or former smokers)
5) Prostate 28,000
6) Leukemia 23,500 (suggestions of tobacco increasing risk of certain kinds of leukemia)
7) Liver 20,500
8) Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 19,000
9) Bladder 15,000 (Definite links to tobacco, 50 percent smokers or former smokers)
I can’t wait to get my hands on a book coming out in February, written by a Stanford professor about the evils of the tobacco industry, called: “Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition”
Ouch, but $44.95? I think I’ll wait to see if I can get a used copy.
In this book, Robert Proctor (I’ve seen his name around in a few articles I’ve read), takes on the tobacco industry and argues the industry is not dying, but people still are. Obviously, with the term “Holocaust” in the title, this book is no shrinking violet. I personally have called tobacco a “slow motion Holocaust,” having watched what it did to people in my mom and dad’s generation.
I’m quoting liberally from a Stanford University article, which you can read in full here:
One author calls it “a remarkable compendium of evil” while another reviewer says “unpacks the sad history of an industrial fraud. [Proctor’s] tightly reasoned exploration touches on all topics on which the tobacco makers lied repeatedly to Congress and the public.”
Sounds like the kind of thing that will get my rage on. It sounds like it pulls no punches.
Big Tobacco tried to stop the publication of the book, actually subpoenaing Proctor’s emails and his unfinished manuscript and costing him $50,000 in legal fees.
Two other powerful quotes from the book.
For the industry, though, the cigarette represents the perfect business model. “It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive,” says investment guru Warren Buffett.
Proctor notes that “by artfully crafting its physical character and chemistry, industry scientists have managed to create an optimally addictive drug delivery device, one that virtually sells itself.”
Proctor explores several tobacco myths in the book. Among them:
Myth #1.Nobody smokes anymore. If you read the media, smoking sounds like a dying habit in California. That’s far from true, said Proctor. Californians still smoke about 28 billion cigarettes per year, a per capita rate only slightly below the global average.
So why do we have this illusion? “We don’t count the people who don’t count. It’s not the educated or the rich who smoke anymore, it’s the poor,” said Proctor.
Myth #2. The tobacco industry has turned over a new leaf. “The fact is that the industry has never admitted they’ve lied to the public or marketed to children or manipulated the potency of their project to create and sustain addiction,” Proctor said. “A U.S. Federal Court in 2006 found the American companies in violation of RICO racketeering laws, and nothing has changed since then. And the same techniques used in the past in the U.S. are now being pushed onto vulnerable populations abroad.”
Myth #3.Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. Proctor pointed out that most people begin smoking at the age of 12 or 13, or even younger in some parts of the world. “Do they know everything?” Proctor asked rhetorically. “And how many people know that cigarettes contain radioactive isotopes, or cyanide, or free-basing agents like ammonia, added to juice up the potency of nicotine?”
Myth #4.Smokers like smoking, and so should be free to do it. And the industry has a right to manufacture cigarettes, even if defective. Proctor called this “the libertarian argument.”
“It is wrong to think about tobacco as a struggle between liberty and longevity; that tips the scales in favor of the industry. People will always choose liberty, as in ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ What people don’t realize is that most smokers dislike the fact they smoke, and wish they could quit. Cigarettes are actually destroyers of freedom.”
There are tobacco industry documents, he noted, in which smoking is compared not to drinking but rather to being an alcoholic.
Myth #5. The tobacco industry is here to stay. Global tobacco use would be declining were it not for China, where 40 percent of the world’s cigarettes are made and smoked. Proctor has a bet with a colleague, though, that China will be among the first to bar the sale of cigarettes, once their financial costs are recognized.
Anyway, sounds like a heavy read and a real unapologetic voice of anti-tobacco advocacy. Can’t wait.
Hey thanks to Richard at the Patio for tuning me on to this.
He brought up Mad Magazine’s tobacco parody ads from the 1960s. I vaguely remember their parody ads (The Magazine at its height was before my time, but I used to get these little paperbacks of their old magazine Mad used to put out like 10 years later. I gave away all those paperbacks. I had dozens of ’em. Used to get them at a little cheesy gift shop at Bass Lake, Calif.) I had a bunch of Don Martin and Spy vs. Spy books, too. Don Martin was great.
Mad Magazine is really dated and at the time was kind of edgy, but today it looks pretty staid (and very New York-ish) compared to the humour that’s out there today. National Lampoon and other magazines kind of blew Mad out of the water, but they paved the way. I don’t know if we just grew up, or if Mad Magazine got stale, but it stopped being the cultural phenomenon it was inthe 1960s.
I had a few of their old comics from the 1950s that were really cool. Really subversive stuff for the 50s. Just kind of goofy comics. Then Mad turned into more a satire of politics and culture in the 60s. The 50s comics seem more timeless to me.
So, I went online and dug up a few of them. Most of these are from the late 1960s. Again — FOR THE TIME — this was considered edgy. One of the cartoons with Obama is obviously a newer one.
Oh, whoops, just realized I sneaked a real ad in there. Can you find it? It’s pretty bad.
It all began in 1994. Years of outrage over decades of Big Tobacco’s lies finally seemed to be coming to fruition. 1994 was the year it seemed like we finally turned a corner in the fight against Big Tobacco.
The early 90s was pretty much the height of the lung cancer epidemic. Ever since then, lung cancer rates overall have been slowly dropping, especially among men. It was also the height of “Joe Camel,” a wildly successful marketing campaign by RJ Reynolds that appealed to beginning smokers (i.e., teenagers). What was really alarming people at the time was that the teenage smoking rate had been steadily decreasing until the mid- to late-80s. Then, shockingly, the teen smoking rate started going up, and going up markedly. Why? Joe Camel. Tobacco paying millions every year to insert “cool” smoking scenes in PG and PG-13 movies. They were finding a way to market to kids.
Congressman Harry Waxman held a famous series of Congressional hearings in 1994 in which the CEOs of the four major tobacco companies were subpoenaed to testify before Waxman’s committee about the cover-up and lies of Big Tobacco. All four CEOs — from RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris, Brown & Williamson and Lollilard — steadfastly refused to budge an inch under withering questioning from Waxman and other congressmen that they knew cigarettes were addictive and were killing people. They all four claimed they did not believe this.
The public was outraged. It was a major public relations debacle for Big Tobacco. Within months, a perjury investigation was initiated by the Department of Justice. All four CEOs were eventually fired. Ultimately, the Department of Justice claimed it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute for perjury because the four CEOs testified under oath they believed tobacco did not addict people nor cause cancer. They had crafted their answers very carefully, obviously with help from attorneys. Because they had used the word believe, they could not be prosecuted for perjury.
Then came the Global Settlement Agreement, which came oh, so close to passing. This was a settlement proposed between several plaintiffs and Big Tobacco to right at least some of the wrongs committed by Big Tobacco over the past century. This included payment of $365 billion to the states for their Medicaid costs caused by smoking. FDA would be given regulation over tobacco products, warning labels would be strengthened and all class-actions suits against Big Tobacco would be nullified.
This required an act of Congress (because of the FDA involvement), and Congress failed to pass the bill, which was carried by Sen. John McCain.
Out of the flames of that failure, came the the Master Settlement Agreement, which was announced in 1998, I cheered. Finally, Big Tobacco was being brought to its knees. It wasn’t as good as the GSA, but it still sounded good. Big Tobacco would be crushed by a $280 billion out-of-court settlement with 46 states … (give or take several billion depending on your accounting).
I continued to cheer it for at least five years … until I started finding out all that had been lost. All in all, this agreement was an abject failure on most levels, explained very well in Alan Brandt’s “The Cigarette Century.”
The Master Settlement Agreement is to this day the biggest court settlement ever reached in the history of litigation. Big Tobacco (RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris, Lollilard and Brown & Williamson), was sued by the state of Mississippi in the early 1990s to reimburse the state for its Medicaid expenses caused by all the health problems caused by smoking. 40 other states joined the suit. Famed Mississippi attorney Dickey Scruggs took over the plaintiffs’ case, leading an army of lawyers against Big Tobacco.
The case had an interesting basis in law. The tobacco industry was adding untold billions to the Medicaid expenses of states dealing with the near-epidemic of health problems caused by cigarettes — lung cancer, heart disease, lung disease, etc. In the 70s and 80s, lung cancer especially hit a crescendo as all those heavy smokers who started smoking in the 1950s and 1960s (when the smoking rate was the highest) started getting lung cancer. The industry knew damn well that its product was making people sick, yet continued to sell it … and this was actually adding to taxpayers’ tax burdens.
All this information came out in a series of documents leaked over a period of years from various personal injury lawsuits against the tobacco industry. While few of these lawsuits succeeded (Most jury decisions for the plaintiffs were either overturned by higher courts or the damages greatly reduced), one good thing did come out of all this litigation. Discovery.
Through the discovery process, reams and reams of documents were released to the plaintiffs, who in turn made them available to the public, proving that the tobacco industry had known since the early 1950s that tobacco was giving people heart disease and lung cancer and that nicotine was physically addictive and that “light” cigarettes were not safer than “regular.” Documents were released showing that Big Tobacco executives did their damnedest to keep this information covered up, and to fabricate studies attempting to disprove that cigarettes were killing people. More documents also proved that the industry had been shamelessly marketing to “new smokers,” which is a Big Tobacco euphemism for “teenage smokers.”
With this reams upon reams of evidence now out in the public forum, Big Tobacco was forced to settle, or face constant lawsuits and judgments. However, the high-priced Big Tobacco lawyers completely outmaneuvered the state attorneys general in the settlement.
The biggest failure of the agreement? It was suggested in the agreement that a certain amount of the $280 billion go toward tobacco education and cessation programs. Everyone assumed it would. Everyone thought it was a MANDATE. It was never MANDATED however.
Anti-smoking programs did receive a lot of funding from the settlement for a few years, but it didn’t take states very long to figure out that the word “mandate” wasn’t in the settlement anywhere. Before long, state legislatures started diverted that money to balancing their general funds. Money for tobacco education dried up. Lazy state legislators got an easy source of money to balance their budget without raising property taxes. It turned into a huge windfall. Not only that, but states started selling bonds with the intention that they would be paid off by future tobacco settlement funds.
Instead of stamping out smoking, states had become utterly dependent upon tobacco. It wasn’t in the states’ interest to cut smoking rates.
There was one last chance to really nail the tobacco industry. A RICO racketeering lawsuit filed against Big Tobacco in the federal court by the Justice Department under Bill Clinton. They had a damn good case. Tobacco executives had conspired for years to cover up the addictiveness and deadliness of their product. They had conspired for years to cover up the fact that they were marketing their product to kids. They had lied that “light” cigarettes were safer.
The feds won their case in 2006, sort of. A federal judge issued a scathing ruling convicting Big Tobacco of racketeering under the RICO statutes. An appeals court upheld this decison. However, shockingly, the courts did not impose any financial penalties, saying the RICO statute did not allow this. Some argue that the Justice Department under Bush did not pursue the case as aggressively as it had been pursued under Clinton, and this was part of the reason for the mixed ruling. The case is still being appealed as the government is seeking more of a monetary punishment against Big Tobacco.
So, tobacco executive lost their jobs for lying to Congress, were investigated for perjury, but avoided an indictment. Big Tobacco was convicted by a federal judge of RICO racketeering, and that conviction was upheld by an appeals court, but no executives went to jail, nor was the industry even forced to pay penalties. A huge civil settlement with the states has simply turned into a windfall for state government.
Big Tobacco murdered people for decades. And murder is not too strong of a word for it. They knew since the early 1950s, maybe even earlier, that they had a product that was addicting people and was killing people. And they continued to sell it and market it, and then they marketed it to kids. And they covered up and lied. For decades. It’s amazing to me that not one person has ever spent a day in jail for it. And people are rotting in prison in Texas and Florida for selling pot.
They got away with it. The final chapter of Dr. Allan Brandt’s book, “The Tobacco Century,” is “The Crime of the Century.”
They murdered roughly 100 million people worldwide between 1950 and 2010, and by “murder,” I mean they knew full well they were killing people with their addictive product.
If you want to look at the glass half-full, a few good things did come out of the 1998 MSA:
* Joe Camel was retired for good. Big Tobacco is forbidden from marketing to kids again (no ads with cartoon characters). They have attempted to get around this provision several times.
* Payments to movie studios for product placement were forbidden. Weirdly enough, smoking scenes in movies after 1998 actually went up, not down. Big Tobacco insists they have nothing to do with this. It’s probably Hollywood’s continued love affair with the cigarette dating back to Casablanca. However, pressure has been put on Hollywood to cut gratuitous smoking scenes out of PG and G movies. That pressure seems to be working.
* The cost of cigarettes went up. To pay for the $280 billion settlement, the industry as expected raised their prices. Along with a number of states jacking up their cigarette taxes, in some cases dramatically, the price of cigarettes has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, helping to drive down the smoking rate.
* Spurred partly by outrage that sprang from Waxman’s hearings, more and more states and cities have passed smoking bans. Not only do smoking bans help drive down the smoking rate (because a lot of casual smokers only smoke in bars, and therefore, it gives them a good excuse to quit), they also protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
* The FDA was given regulatory authority over tobacco in 2009. The first thing the agency did was ban candy-flavoured cigarettes, which are popular with kids.
* The smoking rate and teen smoking rate have declined since 1998, but not dramatically. The smoking rate was around 24-25 percent in 1998, and today it’s pretty much stuck at about 20 percent. The smoking rate for teens is a little harder to pin down, because few teens are what you would call “regular smokers,” but the percentage of teens who were smoking dropped from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010. However, that drop has stalled the last few years, probably because of the cut in tobacco education funding.
* Class-action suits against Big Tobacco have been halted, but individual lawsuits are still being allowed. In Florida, a Supreme Court decision there in 2006 allowed thousands of individual lawsuits to go forward against Big Tobacco for lying about the safety of “light cigarattes,” etc. So far, juries have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars for plaintiffs, with hundreds more suits in the works. None of those judgments have been paid out, however, as Big Tobacco is appealing all the verdicts. the industry will be dealing with these lawsuits for at least the next decade, maybe longer.