A few months ago, I chastised Sports Illustrated for printing a bunch of photos of some Spanish golfer smoking cigars (I don’t do golf, hell if I remember the guy’s name, but he’s apparently a big character on the Senior PGA Tour).
SI Golf pushed it even further this month, with a photo of a couple of golfing equipment builders smoking on its cover. Jesus Christ, who still puts smoking photos on their magazine covers? I get it that it’s cigars, not cigarettes, but you can’t even smoke a cigar anymore in a Marvel movie (true!).
SI, a magazine that is read by a lot of teens and young adults, also takes a lot of advertising for cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. They also will take ads for the COPD Foundation and the lung cancer awareness. I really think SI is one of the worst magazines I’ve seen out there for continuing to promote tobacco products and for giving Big Tobacco a venue for its advertising.
I have no problem with tobacco ads in adult magazines like Playboy or Penthouse, but SI is read by all ages. And most magazines for all ages have stopped taking tobacco ads (In fact, I helped convince Discover magazine to stop taking American Spirit ads … God’s honest truth.).
This has been for some time been a burr up my butt, but actually putting smoking on their cover really ticks me off. You guys need to guy a clue. Seriously. Knock it off with the promoting smoking and promoting tobacco products, you shills.
You might not believe this, but cigarette taxes in California are among the lowest in the entire U.S.
California’s cigarette tax is only 87 cents a pack, which is barely half of the average $1.50 a pack state tax in the U.S. California has the 35th-highest state tobacco tax rate in the nation. A number of states have cigarettes taxes well over $2 a pack. California has a reputation for having high taxes, so what’s behind this?
What’s behind this is California also represents all by its lonesome, nearly 10 percent of the cigarette market in the entire U.S. So, anytime there is a proposal to raise cigarette taxes in the state, Big Tobacco fights it to the bloody death. The California State Assembly refuses to raise cigarette taxes, so a ballot measure was proposed to raise taxes in 2012 by a pretty reasonable $1 a pack. The measure failed, barely (50.2 percent against, 49.8 percent in favour). A bit weird, since California has one of the lowest smoking rates in the nation (less than 15 percent).
I was a bit shocked when the measure failed, since cigarette tax increases have passed by voter imitative in other, less-liberal states than California (including in Libertarian Montana, where voters approved a $1 a pack increase many years ago.) However, the measure was put on the ballot in a primary election, where turnout is not that good. And Big Tobacco spent millions to defeat it. According to this article, Big Tobacco spent $38.7 million to defeat the measure in 2012. Wow, that’s a lot of money … but keep in mind, California with its 38 million people is nearly 10 percent of the tobacco market in all of the U.S. And studies have shown that higher cigarette taxes help drive down the smoking rate.
So, now tobacco control proponents are back with a proposal for a $2 a pack tax increase. They’re gathering signatures and this time, they aren’t screwing around with a primary election date, they’re shooting for a general election date, when turnout is much higher. (Interestingly, there will also likely be a measure on the November 2016 ballot to legalize pot, which seriously should bring out a lot of younger voters … younger voters who don’t smoke cigarettes.)
This proposal would give California the ninth-highest cigarette tax in the nation. However, it will be on the November 2016 ballot, not a primary or special election ballot, so turnout is expected to be much heavier, which bodes well for passage. This article claims a poll shows 2-to-1 supprt for raising cigarette taxes.
Billionaire Tom Steyer is co-chair of the proposal. He says his mother smoked three packs a day and died of lung cancer. Also backing the measure are Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the California Medical Association.
The proposal would also add taxes to e-cigarette products. The proposal needs to gather more than 500,000 signatures to place it on the November 2016 ballot.
The city of Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, just banned chewing tobacco at all athletic venues. This includes Dodger Stadium. And this includes ballplayers … on the field.
L.A. is the third major city to ban chewing tobacco at ballparks — the first two being San Francisco and Boston. I’m pretty sure chewing tobacco has long since been banned in the stands, but it’ll be interesting to see if they actually enforce these laws against players and coaches (and managers, etc.).
In essence, I think these are basically symbolic gestures, because I honestly can’t imagine cops running out on the field to write tickets to players with an obvious chaw in their cheek. Symbolic because MLB has actually made it pretty clear it wants to ban chew on the field and in the dugouts, but the Players’ Association is fighting it.
Before you scream, “FREEEEDOM!”, keep in mind that chew has long been banned by the NCAA and in the Minor Leagues. The only reason it’s allowed at the Major League level is because the Players’ Association hasn’t agreed to a ban. I expect it to be seriously negotiated during the next collective bargaining agreement, though I can’t predict how that will turn out.
Banning chew at the MLB is a real issue, I believe. Studies have shown that baseball players at every level — high school, college, Minor League, freaking American Legion even — use chew at a higher level than non-ballplayers. Chew is weirdly deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. No one understands why or how, but all they know is … there it is.
Banning chew in baseball gained traction when Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Then, shortly after his death, longtime chewer Curt Schilling announced he was battling oral cancer. Schilling seems to be doing well, other than occasionally being kind of an insufferable Muslim-hating asshole. (Seriously, dude, I’m honestly glad you are beating cancer and thank you for the bloody sock game and thank you for your anti-chew advocacy, but Jesus, you cheated death … learn to drop your bullshit about 1.6 million Muslims. Guess what? Muslims love Jesus, too. And maybe that’s what got you demoted at ESPN and maybe that’s a reason you can’t quite get in the Hall of Fame. Karma … it’s not just for Buddhists.)
This story is actually a few weeks old, but I just now heard of it. I found out about it while arguing with someone who claims that American Spirit cigarettes are better for you than other brands (The FDA has warned American Spirit to stop with its “natural” and “additive-free” advertising.
Anyway, a class-action lawsuit being planned in Florida intends to take bolder action than the FDA. From the Santa Fe New Mexican:
A Florida law firm this week filed the first attempt at a class-action lawsuit against the Santa Fe-based company and its parent, Reynolds American Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C., claiming the cigarette maker’s packaging and advertising are intended to mislead smokers into thinking American Spirit cigarettes are healthier than other tobacco products.
The FDA last August warned American Spirit to drop its advertising of being “organic” and “additive-free.” Now, since then, I’ve seen American Spirit ads in Sports Illustrated that still say “organic” and “additive-free,” however, I see in this story an explanation. The FDA told American Spirit to come up with a plan for “corrective actions.” So, even though they’ve been given a stern warning by the Feds, American Spirit has continued with its dubious marketing.
From the Santa Fe New Mexican:
The lawsuit filed (in October 2015) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Justin Sproule notes that American Spirit sales increased by 86 percent from 2009 to 2014, as compared to an overall 17 percent decline in cigarette sales in the United States during the same period. Just this week, Reynolds American announced that it had agreed to sell the international rights to the brand to Japanese buyers for $5 billion.
The complaint seeks damages on behalf of Sproule and others who “smoke American Spirits because they have been deceived by claims, labels and advertising into regarding them as safer than other cigarettes.”
Descriptions such as “additive-free,” “natural” and “organic,” the lawsuit says, “are patently deceptive, especially in today’s market, where these terms have a potent meaning for the health-and-environmentally-conscious consumer.”
The company also exploits its marketing message in other ways, the complaint says, by selling its cigarettes in health food stores. “And it accompanies its cigarettes with literature from ‘America’s leading natural foods teacher’ who claims that the cigarettes are medicinal and that Native Americans smoke such additive free cigarettes without developing cancer.”
I think it’s also interesting that the lawsuit is being filed in Florida. Florida has become a very unfriendly place for the tobacco industry. Many years ago, in what’s known as the Engle Case, the tobacco industry lost a massive $145 billion class-action lawsuit in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court threw that settlement out, saying the case couldn’t be decided on a class-action basis and that each victim (or victim’s family) that was sickened or killed by tobacco had to file their suits individually.
Since then, partly because of the way the Supreme Court ruling was written, which essentially said the plaintiffs were right, they just couldn’t sue on a class-action basis, there’s been a veritable cottage industry of lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Flordia. Several thousand lawsuits, in fact, and the majority of those cases that have been decided have been decided in favour of the plaintiffs. Hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out and hundreds of millions more of settlements are still caught up in the appeals process.
I think because of this, a lot of attorneys who specialize in litigation against the tobacco industry have migrated to Florida. That’s where the action is, so to speak. So that doesn’t surprise me this class-action suit against American Spirit is coming out of Florida.
“I asked (county commissioners) if it’s not the role of the government to protect people, then what is the role of the government?” said Tristan Deering, a senior at Grayson County High School.
Gary Logsdon, the county judge-executive, replied with a racist comment that suggested he believed President Barack Obama was a tyrant.
“I’m not black and I’m not Obama — and I’m not making you do anything,” Logsdon said.
Logsdon went on to add:
“And I love blacks and whites,” Logsdon said. “I respect blacks but, you know, I’m not Obama.”
I’m sure the guy loves blacks. I’m sure he really has a lot of black friends. Really. I have no doubt of this, because I’ve never, ever heard racists claim this before.
The poor teen went on to say he was “baffled,” by Logsdon’s comment. Hey, you aren’t alone, kiddo. I really think a lot of right-wingers just so hopelessly have Obama Derangement Syndrome, they can’t stop thinking or talking about him … or blaming him for everything under the sun. That’s all I can really figure here.
Maybe this guy is “Confederate1978” or whatever. This is a guy from Kentucky who trolls stories about smoking bans posting insane comments about government and Obama and blacks (though you can guess what he usually calls blacks, hint … it rhymes with “chiggers.”) The coincidence is actually kind of amazing here. I’ve seen ol’ Confederate’s name pop up in the comments section of many smoking ban stories for years now. I haven’t seen hide nor hair out of the guy for almost a couple of years.
Anyway, the smoking ban vote failed in Grayson County. Grayson County is a fairly rural county in central Kentucky. Despite being a centre of tobacco-growing and having one of the highest smoking rates, there’s actually a number of city and country full-blown smoking bans in Kentucky in places such as Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green.
This is an article from Medical Daily about research that strongly suggests that candy-flavoured e-cigarette products really are encouraging more teenagers to take up vaping.
Teen vaping has become a big deal. The rate of teens who use e-cigarettes triplied between 2013 and 2014, from about 4.5 percent to about 13 percent. I assume that figure is likely far higher than 13 percent now. In fact, the rate of teens who vape is higher than the rate of teens who smoke. And further research shows that a higher percentage of kids using e-cigs eventually move on to real cigarettes than those who never take up e-cigs.
Anyway, researchers from the Behavior and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge said their work showed that kids shown ads for candy-flavoured e-cigs were more likely to want to try e-cigs than kids showed generic ads for e-cigs or kids showed no ads at all.
From the article:
“We’re cautiously optimistic from our results that e-cigarette ads don’t make tobacco smoking more attractive, but we’re concerned that ads for e-cigarettes, with flavors that might appeal to school children, could encourage them to try the products,” said Dr. Milica Vasiljevic, from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, in a press release.
The Food and Drug Administration has been for some time now mulling new regulations for e-cigarettes. The FDA has already proposed banning e-cig sales to minors (already banned in the vast majority of states, though there is virtually no control over online sales of e-cigarette products). However, in its draft regulations, the FDA proposed ZERO regulations over e-cigarette advertising, even though the federal government has very strict control over cigarette advertising (no cigarette ads on TV or radio and no cartoon images or characters allowed in print ads as per the 1998 Master Settilement Agreement).
If you don’t believe these e-cig ads are pretty damn blatant about marketing their products to teens as being cool and hip, check out this infamous Blu E-Cigs Cherry Crush ad:
Me and a hell of a lot of other people ripped on FDA during the comment period about the lack of controls over e-cigarette marketing and advertising. The FDA was handed regulatory authority over nicotine products and e-cigs absolutely contain nicotine just like cigarettes, so from where I sit, it certainly appears the FDA has authority to control e-cig advertising, which has been very, very blatant as far as trying to market e-cigs to kids.
A lot of people and tobacco advocacy groups are also not happy about all the candy flavourings in general for e-cigs. Candy-flavoured cigarettes were banned by the FDA a few years ago (but Swisher Sweet cigars are still OK for some reason). I’m personally not as dogmatic about this issue (since I have talked to a lot of adult e-cig users who like the candy flavours), but I am adamant that the FDA needs to crack down — hard — on e-cig marketing to kids.
Anyway, will the FDA ultimately crack down on e-cig advertising? We’ll see. The agency has been working on its final regs for almost a couple of years now, so maybe that’s encouraging that it took the reams of comments about e-cigs and e-cig advertising seriously.
First of all, I have to post a “sort of” correction, even though I’m not convinced yet I was completely wrong.
According to this group called “Smokefree Movies,” which is based out of San Francisco State University, which means my hero and longtime anti-tobacco advocate Stanton Glantz is involved, there IS smoking in the film version of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Between 10-and 29 instances, in fact. Darned if I remember any smoking scenes, but again, I’d have to watch the movie again to confirm that. Perhaps the old Soviet and CIA guys smoke. I think the old CIA guy might have been chomping a cigar. I tweaked my earlier post to reflect this new information I stumbled on.
(EDITOR’s NOTE: According to a friend who watched the movie again in response to my post … she confirmed that there doesn’t appear to be any smoking in The Man from U.N.C.L.E, so I have no idea what Smokefree Movies is talking about.)
Anyway, it was pretty interesting timing coming upon this article just as I posted a story about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This story from the Smokefree Movies project confirms that the 7-year-old MPAA policy to discourage smoking in PG-13 movies, while not perfect and definitely not ideal, is in fact, having an effect.
According to Smokefree Movies, the number of films that contained “tobacco imagery” (Not necessarily smoking, but “tobacco imagery”), was about 105 in 2007, the year before new MPAA policy that went into effect threatening (threatening, but not requiring) an R-rating for smoking scenes in PG-13 movies. That number included more than 50 PG-13 and younger-rated movies.
In 2008, that number quickly dropped to less than 90, though the number of PG-13 movies that had smoking went up slightly. In 2009, the effect of the MPAA policy really started being seen. There were about 75 movies that had tobacco imagery, and about 41 one of them were rated for PG-13 or younger.
In 2010, it even got better, with about 61 movies total with tobacco imagery and only 26-28 in PG-13 movies. Frustratingly, that number crept up a bit over the next couple of years, but according to SF State, in 2015, the number of movies with tobacco imagery was about 70 total, with about 30 of those in PG-13 movies. That’s a decrease overall of 33 percent and over 40 percent for PG-13 movies.
Again, I don’t know what the term “tobacco imagery” means exactly. but the policy means there’s been a serious decrease in tobacco imagery in films (both overall and in PG-13 films) since 2007. Man, that’s a big step forward.
Keep in mind, even though supposedly the tobacco industry was no longer paying Hollywood studios a dime after 1998 for including tobacco products in movies, the rate of tobacco imagery in movies actually went UP between 2002 and 2007. So, Hollywood was giving the tobacco industry all sorts of free advertising without collecting a dime in return. What a bunch of shmoes!
Here’s where I might take exception with the term “tobacco imagery,” and maybe why i didn’t notice smoking in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Here is a list of films that contain tobacco imagery. One of those films is “The Fault In Our Stars.”
I have to disagree with SF State on this one. “The Fault In Our Stars” has more than 50 instances of tobacco imagery listed. In this film, a teenager battling cancer keeps a cigarette dangling in his mouth as a specific message — the message being, and I’m quoting from the movie:
“They don’t kill you unless you light them. And I’ve never lit one. It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”
So, the character in the film never once lights a cigarette and uses them to remind himself that cancer is death, cigarettes are death, and that cancer has no power over him if he chooses not to let it have power over him by not lighting the cigarette. I think that’s touching, a bit unfair by SF State to include that. There is such a thing as context. Trust me, when I first saw images of a teenager apparently smoking from this film, I was plenty outraged .. until I read up on the context.
Anyway, a really interesting update to my post the other day and I’m sure I will see “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” again to confirm how right or how close I was in my earlier post. Smoking scenes in films ares down roughly 33 percent from eight years ago, and, more importantly, down over 40 percent in PG-13 films. (More importantly to me, because yeah, I still believe in artistic freedom for the most part and if people want to have smoking characters in movies, that’s their prerogative and I sincerely have no problem with it … I just think they should be prepared for an R-rating.)
Got a pleasant surprise when I got my DVD of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” this week.
The movie is based on the old TV show and is set in 1963 … and yet, I can’t recall seeing any smoking scenes in the whole movie. 1963 was the absolute height of the smoking era — the highest smoking rates in history — and yet there’s almost no smoking, if any, in this film. I didn’t even really think about it until after I was done watching it … and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d have to see it again to confirm the total lack of smoking, but let’s say, there was definitely a paucity of cigarettes in this 1963-period film. (My friend Nancy confirmed to me there is NO smoking in this film.)
For far too long, Hollywood has gone out of its way to glamorize smoking , without the tobacco industry paying the movie industry a dime for all that free advertising. The only time the tobacco industry actually paid the movie industry for product placement was from about 1980 to 1998. Before that, it was all free and after 1998, it was all free — as far as anyone can prove.
This is particularly true of spy movies or a lot of other movies from the 1960s that absolutely glamorized smoking. A lot of people don’t realize this, but James Bond smoked a LOT in the early 60s movies. Cigarettes were a symbol of his virility, suaveness and sophistication.
Smoking is also featured a LOT on “Mad Men,” a show about an advertising agency in the early and mid 1960s. In fact, the agency handles advertising for cigarettes and one of the main characters of the show ends up dying from lung cancer. Mad Men makes the statement that yes, smoking is glamorous, but that it’s an empty glamour with a heavy, heavy price.
I tried to see if the original Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV show featured smoking. It wouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest if it had considering the era and considering that smoking was common on TV back then. Heck, everyone knows the Flintstones even advertised cigarettes. However, I couldn’t find a single image online of any smoking on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. I did find an image of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. cigarette case communicator. They even sold it as a toy for kids.
Anyway, when some of us tobacco control advocates started clamouring for removing smoking from PG and PG-13 movies, there was a big hue and cry from some Hollywood directors, who claimed banning smoking from teen-marketed movies somehow crimps their artistic freedom. (You’ve never been able to say “fuck” more than twice in a PG-13 movie — and even then it has to be as an exclamation, not as a description of the sex act — which is silly to me, but I’ve never heard directors piss and moan about that.)
Well, lo and behold, here is a movie based in 1963, (a movie with plenty of drinking and casual sex, BTW) when smoking was still seen as glamorous and suave, when over 50 percent of men smoked, and there is virtually no smoking in the movie … and even I barely noticed. In fact, I doubt virtually no one other than me did notice. It didn’t ruin the movie, whiny Hollywood directors! It simply doesn’t add anything to stories or characters or plots to have smoking included in movies. It’s completely gratuitous. And it always was. Napoleon Solo’s character is quite suave, sophisticated, drinks his fair share of alcohol, sleeps around … and manages to remain cool without the aid of a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
It also heartened me because I believe this movie is a good sign that the new rules put in place in 2008 by the MPAA regarding smoking in movies is in fact, having an effect. The rules have created a chilling effect over smoking in movies because studios just don’t even want to butt heads with the MPAA over it.
The MPAA didn’t actually ban smoking in PG and PG-13 movies, which made a lot of tobacco control advocates angry at the time. But, it did strongly discourage it, allowing loopholes for historical period accuracy (So, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. probably could have included more smoking and gotten away with it.), and the rules also included some weasel words like “pervasive smoking.” However, the rules were good enough to send the message to studios, “don’t even bother. It’s not worth it, it’s not worth fighting over it.” The simple threat of movies being rated R for smoking was enough to convince studios and directors to just not bother.
Very upsetting study by the Centers for Disease Control which speaks to the absolute biggest problem I have with e-cigarettes — how they are marketed.
The e-cigarette industry has been just downright brazen and blatant about marketing their products to teenagers. E-cig ads today employ all of the exact same techniques used by the cigarette industry for decades to entice teen smokers — sexy, suave, sophisticated people using their products, cartoon characters (even Santa Clause) and ads featuring women’s panties. Women’s panties? … I mean, seriously, you just don’t get more blatant than that.
Anyway, the CDC survey found that 7 out of 10 middle school and high school students had seen these e-cig ads, which are all over the place, magazines, mini-marts, billboards, etc. Tom Friedman, head of the CDC, makes this exact point:
“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes. I hope all can agree that kids should not use e-cigarettes.”
It’s no secret that teen use of vaping products has absolutely exploded in the past three or four years. More than triple the number of kids vaped in 2014 than in 2013 and studies show that more teenagers vape today than smoke cigarettes.
This simply isn’t a good thing on so many levels. Kids are still turning into nicotine addicts, which is bad no matter what the delivery system of that nicotine is. And studies show that a higher percentage of kids who start out vaping eventually turn to cigarettes to get their nicotine fix than kids who never vape.
So, what’s to be done. The Food and Drug Administration is mulling proposals for regulating e-cigarettes. One of the common-sense proposals by the FDA is to ban the sale of e-cig products to teens (most states already ban this, but it is not banned on a federal level … AND e-cig products can be easily purchased by kids online).
The CDC recommends that e-cigs can only be bought in “face to face” transactions, and that online transactions be banned. The FDA did not propose banning online e-cig sales in its draft regulations, but it’s been working on finalizing those regulations for nearly a couple of years now. The FDA also didn’t consider any curbs on e-cigarette advertising in its draft regulations, something that caused a major hue and cry from anti-tobacco advocates.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted something about smoking in video games. One of the games mentioned in an article about smoking in video games was “Bioshock: Burial at Sea.”
Well, I’ve been playing it, and noticed an ad in the game for cigarettes … an ad featuring a pregnant woman.
Now, if any of you have ever played any of the Bioshock games, you know there’s a lot of twisted advertisements in these games … really, openly racist ads, etc. If you understand the Bioshock world, you realize there is a lot of irony and dark views of the worst instincts to be found in current U.S. politics (Libertarianism, Objectivism, white supremacy and anti-immigration bigotry … if anything, the anti-Libertarian and anti-racism messages in Bioshock are more compelling today than they’ve ever been).
So, the ad with the pregnant woman falls right into the twisted, ironic world of Bioshock. “Bioshock: Burial at Sea” takes place in 1958. Is this ad that much different from real ads from the 1950s? It’s only slightly more extreme than this:
There is a lot of smoking in Bioshock Burial at Sea. In fact, in all of the Bioshock games, you can smoke a pack of cigarettes to gain more powers (called “Eve” or “Vigors” depending on the game), but it takes away a bit of your health. I don’t know if there’s enough cigarettes in Bioshock to actually kill yourself, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.
So, while I singled out Bioshock in my previous post about smoking in video games, the game does take a very twisted look back at real cigarette advertising and just how insane it actually was.