Philip Morris International getting out of the tobacco business? Huh, what now?

Philip Morris International this week made the somewhat shocking announcement that it plans to abandon tobacco altogether as its “New Year’s Resolution” and will focus on “electronic alternatives,” (Apparently, that means e-cigarettes).

This pronouncement raised some serious eyebrows … and skepticism. PMI (a separate entity from Altria, which owns tobacco brands in the U.S.) is a huge player on the worldwide tobacco market. PMI went so far as to create a website: smokefreefuture.co.uk  where people can get information on quitting smoking. And by the way, you can only click on that link if you live outside the U.S. I guess they don’t want to help Americans quit smoking.

Sounds all well and good, right? Well, noooot so fast.

First of all, PMI, the company that sold its customers the disease, is now selling them the cure — e-cigarettes. And in its “we’re quitting tobacco” campaign, the company is pushing its e-cigarette products. So, this appears to be an attempt at simply promoting its e-cigarette brands.

Secondly, if PMI is getting out of the tobacco business, why is the company still fighting plain packaging laws and other restrictions on tobacco marketing worldwide.

From a Daily Mail article:

The Truth Initiative argues that if it were seriously anti-smoking now, PMI would cease sales and production of cigarettes altogether, but evidence suggests that the company may not be in such a hurry to make that happen.

Beginning in July, Reuters published a series of PMI documents that reveal the company’s correspondences and meetings with delegates from various countries, in secret efforts to undermine the World Health Organization’s global anti-smoking Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Thirdly,  there appears to be zero timetable for dropping out of the tobacco business. As Truth Initiative points out, last year, PMI sold 565.5 billion cigarettes. They aren’t getting out anytime soon.

From the Fortune commentary, written by Matthew Myers, head of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

These ads should have run on April Fools’ Day instead.

It is the height of hypocrisy for PMI to proclaim that it is helping solve the tobacco problem while it aggressively markets cigarettes—especially in low- and middle-income countries—and fights proven policies to reduce tobacco use and save lives. This advertising campaign should be seen for what it is: an effort to divert attention from the fact that PMI remains a primary cause of the smoking problem, not the solution.

Not surprisingly, PMI set no deadline for actually giving up cigarettes. If the company is truly committed to a smoke-free future, it should actively support the proven policies to reduce smoking that are endorsed by an international public health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, tobacco advertising bans, and graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. These policies apply equally to all tobacco companies, and supporting them would not put PMI at a competitive disadvantage.

Instead, the company has led the fight against these policies around the world. A 2017 investigative report by Reuters revealed a massive, secret PMI campaign aimed at “bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.” From Australia to Uruguay to Thailand, the corporation has filed expensive lawsuits that challenge strong tobacco control laws and seek to intimidate other countries into inaction.

PMI’s latest claims are no more credible. Until the company stops marketing cigarettes and fighting efforts to reduce smoking, its claimed commitment to a smoke-free future should be seen as another public relations stunt, not a serious effort to reduce the death and disease caused by its products.

So, it certainly seems PMI is simply blowing smoke. And not really fooling very many people, either.

 

 

 

 

People freaking out because they can’t smoke on an airplane … how is this still a thing?

Stewardesses smoking on a plane. Nice beehive. I’m guessing about 1967?

Here’s yet another in a long line of nitwits freaking out on an airplane because she can’t smoke.

A woman lost her mind on an airplane because she disabled a smoke detector, then threatened to start killing people on the plane when she was confronted.

Get this, it was a flight from Sacramento to Portland, Ore. Basically a 75-minute flight. She really couldn’t go two hours without lighting up?

Ah the days … when there was no escaping other people’s smoke.

I swear, I come across some article about someone either losing their shit on an airplane or getting arrested for trying to light a cigarette in an airplane restroom at least two or three times a year. At least. Seriously, this isn’t that isolated. Here’s another incident. And another. And another. I could find dozens if I spent enough time.

I don’t get it. It’s been illegal on all domestic flights in the U.S. since the early 1990s and it’s been illegal on ALL flights entering or leaving the U.S. since 2000. So, for the past 17 years, you cannot light a cigarette on any airplane, since 1990 or so, you can’t light up on any domestic flight in the U.S. Smoking has been banned on airplanes throughout much of the world for at least a decade.

So, why is this still a thing? I shrug my shoulders. Some of it, I think it’s some weird phenonenom where people with mental health issues are prone to freakouts on planes and people with mental health issues are often times calmed by smoking so they don’t think about what they’re doing. I’m going to guess the woman on the Portland flight has mental problems.

But, what about the assholes who keep trying to smoke in bathrooms? Knowing they’re in a very confined space with no escape with pressurized air, ie, it’s incredibly fucking dangerous to smoke on a plane which is one of the reasons why it was banned. Is it that hard to get a patch if the nicotine addiction is that bad? (And thank god vaping on a plane is also illegal with vaping pens’ tendency to periodically explode.)

Again … it’s a thing. And will continue to be.

 

Big Tobacco starts airing court-ordered anti-smoking ads

This week, tobacco companies began running ads admitting that cigarettes are unhealthy. This is the result of lawsuit filed by the Justice Department way back in 1999.

A court ruled back in 2006 that the industry had to admit its wrongdoings, but Altria and RJR and British American Tobacco have been appealing that decision for 11 years. They managed to get the language watered down quite a bit from the original ruling that toned down the language.

From a USA Today article:

“It has been a long fight,” Robin Koval, president of the anti-smoking nonprofit Truth Initiative, told NBC News. She added: “Not as much will be seen by young people, who spend less and less of their time watching prime-time television.”

In the ad, fully paid for by the tobacco industry, the industry admits that cigarettes kill 1,200 people every day in the U.S. and kills more people than illegal drugs, alcohol, AIDS and murder combined.

The ad goes on to say that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and various other cancers such as leukemia, throat, esophageal, bladder, pancreatic and stomach.” It even mentions cervical cancer and low birth weight for children (I wish it had talked about diabetes, arthritis, and erectile dysfunction, too).

I haven’t seen any of the print ads yet; the industry is supposed to put these ads in major papers over the next several months. I bought a Seattle Times looking for one, but no cigar. They’re apparently being rolled out over several months. But, I’ve seen the ads on YouTube that are airing on TV.

About time. Watered down, but making Big Tobacco pay for an ad telling people that cigarettes kill … priceless enough.

Natural American Spirit finally drops “additive-free” from advertising

Natural American Spirit finally drops “additive-free” from advertising

Years of litigation have finally worked. Natural American Spirit has FINALLY changed its advertising.

For years, this RJ Reynolds subsidiary had gotten away with advertising its cigarettes as being “natural” and “additive free.” Natural American Spirit had agreed in a settlement early this year with the FDA to stop the deceptive advertising, yet I kept seeing ads in Sports Illustrated for “natural” and “additive free” Natural American Spirit cigarettes, somehow giving consumers the idea that their cigarettes were safer and more healthy … which they absolutely are not.

Apparently, the whole issue had to wind through the legal process because in last week’s Sports Iilustrated, I FINALLY saw that NAS had dropped the “natural” and “additive-free” from its advertising.

The new ad simply says: “Real. Simple. Different.” No “additive-free” BS. Though the ad later goes on to state that the only two ingredients are “tobacco and water.” (Never mind the fact that tobacco contains roughly 3,000 ingredients in of itself.)

It’s a minor victory. RJR really had to be dragged kicking and screaming just to make this small change in its advertising. Advocates wanted the name “Natural American Spirit” changed, but the settlement allows the brand to remain. Again, to reiterate, Natural American Spirit started out as a Native-owned cigarette company but several years ago it was purchased by RJ Reynolds and it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds. A lot of people still believe this is a Native-owned brand. It isn’t.

A great and informative anti-tobacco video

That’s 30 packs’ worth of tar

This might be the best anti-tobacco video I’ve ever seen. It’s an experiment using cotton balls in a jar and subjecting them to various levels of cigarette smoke, ending at 30 packs. Then the viewer gets to see just how much gunk and tar the cotton balls collect after just a few cigarettes.

Think, that’s the same gunk and tar that collects on smokers’ lung cells. My favourite part is when the guy squeezes all of the tar out of the hoses used in his experiment.

Think about that. Pretty scary, huh? If this video doesn’t encourage smokers to quit, seriously, I don’t know what can.

Look at this and think to yourself, this is 30 lousy packs. That’s basically a month’s worth of cigarettes for a moderately heavy smoker. That’s 1/12th as much gunk that ends up in your lungs as you get after just one year.

Here’s the video:

Japan companies offer an extra week off for quitting smoking

OK, I know most companies offer a health insurance discount to their employees who don’t smoke or who quit. But, here’s a new one to me — an extra week off for being a nonsmoker.

The logic behind this is nonsmokers don’t take the smoking breaks that smokers do, so they’re entitled to more time off. I like the idea. Whatever it takes to encourage people to quit.

What’s especially novel about this is Japan is a very smoker-friendly culture. The country has a fairly high smoking rate, though it is apparently dropping. Japan is still 21st in the world in the highest rate of cigarettes smoked per capita. That’s way, way ahead of the U.S., Canada and most Western nations.

I’ve noticed this is Japanese anime, that they really love smoking in Japan, and still consider it very cool and hip.

 

 

 

 

“Tobacco Nation” being left behind

Here’s a really good story from U.S. News and World Report about how the smoking rate in the U.S. has dropped dramatically through much of the country … except for one region.

And that’s this funky swath from the Upper Midwest, beginning in West Virginia and then into the Deep South and even some of the lower Midwest. The U.S. News and World report looks at these 12 states — Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Two of these states — West Virginia and Kentucky — have the highest smoking rates in the country at over 24 percent. By comparison, the national smoking rate is roughly 16 percent. Every single one of those 12 continguous states has a smoking rate over 20 percent.

From the article:

 Adult smoking rates in “Tobacco Nation” parallel those in some of the most tobacco-heavy countries in the world, including the Philippines (23 percent), China (28 percent) and Indonesia (the highest rate at 35 percent). The high smoking rates have serious health consequences for both individuals and communities; there are 30 percent more preventable hospitalizations for “ambulatory, care-sensitive conditions” for Medicare enrollees in the 12-state bloc than in the other 38 states, the report said.
 “It’s tragic [in a] nation with these resources financially – medical resources, technology resources, et cetera – that we have a part of the country [where] 66 million people live … that looks more like Brazil or Bangladesh or the Philippines than the United States of America, and that’s just wrong,” says Truth Initiative CEO and President Robin Koval.

These states have a couple of other things in common — most of them have no statewide smoking ban and most of them have low cigarette taxes. Michigan and Ohio are the only two states in that swath that have indoor smoking bans.

 

 

 

This graphic shows the average state cigarette tax in those states is just 98 cents a pack, roughly half of the $1.89 a pack in the other 38 states.

It also isn’t a coincidence that most of these states are conservative and vote heavily Republican. Republican legislatures tend to be more averse to taxes and regulation, so you see no statewide smoking bans and low cigarette taxes.

And you also see a very high lung cancer rate in all of these states.

And there is also a lot of tobacco growing in that region, with millions of tobacco dollars contributed to political candidates. To keep those taxes low and keep those regulations away.

It’s something to celebrate the truly impressive inroads that have been made against smoking in the past 10 years. Both the adult and teen smoking rates have plummeted, the majority of states and major cities in the country have smoking bans, cigarette taxes have gone up and lung cancer deaths are going down. But, that’s sobered by the reality that one part of the country is being left behind by all these advances. People there are being betrayed by the people they’re voting into office.

Anyway, here is a link to a very cool interactive map where you can click on each state to see its smoking rate.

 

E-cigs banned indoors in New York

I only got savvy to this story because I get front pages from the New York Daily News.

The main story here is about Bill O’Reilly, but up in the corner, I noticed the front-page headline of e-cigs smoked.

Sure enough, the story is e-cigarettes are now banned indoors in the state of New York.

The irony here is e-cigs were initially marketed long ago as a way to get around indoor smoking bans. I fully remember the Blu e-cig ads with Stephen Dorff and Jenny McCarthy smoking e-cigs at parties and clubs. Well not in New York. And not in a growing number of places.

The biggest issue with e-cigs indoors? Well, while that cloud of nicotine-laced steam might not smell and might not be irritating, it’s still got plenty of chemicals in it beside water vapour, including a potentially large amount of formaldehyde. (The e-cig industry has denounced these formaldeyde studies, but boy it sure sounds exactly like the cigarette companies trying to denounce the ties between smoking and lung cancer.)

I’m at the point where, absolutely e-cig steam does not bother me or irritate my eyes … but that doesn’t mean I personally want to inhale it. That doesn’t mean I want that formaldehyde coming into contact with my lung cells. I’ve found myself holding my breath or turning away from people vaping indoors.

So, yeah, sorry about those ads from three or four years ago, but vaping is being banned indoors. And I’m OK with that.

 

Philip Morris International trying to bring back the Council for Tobacco Research

WHO Head-Quater in Geneva, Switzerland.
Copyright : WHO/Pierre Virot

Oh, this is too rich. Philip Morris International, the international wing of Altria, has proposed setting up something called “A Foundation for a Smokefree World.”

The World Health Organization has urged world governments not to get involved with the foundation, pointing out the pretty glaring conflict of interest.

Here’s the kicker, Philip Morris Int’l plans to fund its foundation with $80 million over 12 years. Wow, that’s big of them. A multibillion corporation that has been fighting anti-tobacco intiatives worldwide for 10 years that will rake in billions in profits setting aside $80 million over 12 years for good public relations.

Here is an excerpt from WHO’s statement. It’s awesome, it doesn’t pull any punches:

The UN General Assembly has recognized a “fundamental

conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.” (1) WHO Member States have stated that “WHO does not engage with the tobacco industry or non-State actors that work to further the interests of the tobacco industry”, (2) the Organization will therefore not engage with this new Foundation.

Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) obliges Parties to act to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law. Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 state clearly that governments should limit interactions with the tobacco industry and avoid partnership. These Guidelines are also explicit that Governments should not accept financial or other contributions from the tobacco industry or those working to further its interests, such as this Foundation.

Strengthening implementation of the WHO FCTC for all tobacco products remains the most effective approach to tobacco control. Policies such as tobacco taxes, graphic warning labels, comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and offering help to quit tobacco use have been proven to reduce demand for tobacco products. These policies focus not just on helping existing users to quit, but on preventing initiation.

(Here’s the kicker:)

If PMI were truly committed to a smoke-free world, the company would support these policies. Instead, PMI opposes them. PMI engages in large scale lobbying and prolonged and expensive litigation against evidence-based tobacco control policies such as those found in the WHO FCTC and WHO’s MPOWER tobacco control, which assists in implementation of the WHO FCTC. For example, just last year PMI lost a six year investment treaty arbitration with Uruguay, in which the company spent approximately US$ 24 million to oppose large graphic health warnings and a ban on misleading packaging in a country with fewer than four million inhabitants.

There are many unanswered questions about tobacco harm reduction (3), but the research needed to answer these questions should not be funded by tobacco companies. The tobacco industry and its front groups have misled the public about the risks associated with other tobacco products. This includes promoting so-called light and mild tobacco products as an alternative to quitting, while being fully aware that those products were not less harmful to health. Such misleading conduct continues today with companies, including PMI, marketing tobacco products in ways that misleadingly suggest that some tobacco products are less harmful than others.

This decades-long history means that research and advocacy funded by tobacco companies and their front groups cannot be accepted at face value. When it comes to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, there are a number of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation, particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company’s brand portfolio. WHO will not partner with the Foundation. Governments should not partner with the Foundation and the public health community should follow this lead.

I love WHO calling this Foundation a “front group” because that’s sure what it sounds like. Philip Morris International has fought and fought and fought tobacco regulations around the world, including plain packaging laws and limits on tobacco marketing. And now it wants to convince people its one of the good guys?

The president of the foundation responded, but I remain pretty unconvinced.

 From Reuters:
The foundation’s founder and president-designate, Derek Yach, a former senior official at the WHO, said more collaboration, not less, was needed to win the war on smoking.
“I am deeply disappointed, therefore, by WHO’s complete mischaracterisation of the nature, structure and intent of the Foundation in its recent statements – and especially by its admonition to others not to work together.”
I find this a pitifually empty statement Collaboration? Really? With the industry that has been fighting regulations tooth and nail? If this foundation was legit, why not find sources of funding other than the tobacco industry? Then, I might give it some benefit of the doubt (though to be honest, it would be really easy for the industry to fund the foundation through dummy organizations.)
What Derek Yach needs to be reminded of is that Big Tobacco did something very similar 60 years ago, it was called the Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research. It was established as a PR move to try and convince the public that the industry was “concerned” about the “possible” health effects of smoking. Instead, the institute was used for decades to deflect, distract and obfuscate the facts about smoking. These organizations were disbanded by the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, but it appears PMI is trying to start up something that sounds absolutely similar.

Blade Runner vs. Blade Runner 2049 … smoking no longer “noir”

I recently went to Blade Runner 2049 and noticed a MASSIVE difference between this and the 1982 version of Blade Runner. And it’s something the original Blade Runner got seriously wrong about the future.

In the 1982 version, there are a number of heavily smoky scenes with characters smoking cigarettes. Not just smoking, but smoking indoors.

OK, OK, I get it. Blade Runner was never meant to be an accurate portrayal of 2019, but I found it ironic. There is virtually nowhere you can actually smoke indoors in 2017. Perhaps in bars in the Deep South, but that’s about it. You certainly couldn’t smoke indoors in Los Angeles, where the film takes place.

Blade Runner … 1982 version

Blade Runner was a film noir, a callback to gritty 1940s detective movies with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, even most of the hairstyles are out of the 1940s. I remember seeing the movie as a teenager and damn near feeling my eyes tear up from all the cigarette smoke on the screen.

Blade Runner 2049. Plenty of noir … no smoking.

In fact, the original poster for Blade Runner had Sean Young holding a smouldering cigarette, looking cool and suave like Lauren Bacall from 1947..

Blade Runner 1982 … cough, cough.

Here’s the actual cool part. In Blade Runner 2049 … absolutely … positively … NO SMOKING whatsoever. Not a puff. Not once during its grueling 2-hour, 45

It’s not a statement on the future, it’s a statement on Hollywood and how things have changed dramatically in 35 years. Blade Runner 2049 could’ve had all the smoking it wanted, it was already an R-rated movie, but it’s a statement to me that smoking is no long seen as “noir” or “cool” that the filmmakers felt no need to include it, even though the original Blade Runner was one of the smokiest movies you’ll ever see.

Blade Runner 1982.

1982 was during the dark dirty days of cigarettes and Hollywood. To my knowledge there were no payments from Big Tobacco to the producers of Blade Runner, but it was just two years after Big Tobacco paid $250,000 to have Lois Lane smoke in Superman II … a kid’s movie. Which kind of started the outrage about Hollywood’s weird and mostly one-sided love affair with cigarettes.

Anyway, something cool and interesting I noticed about Blade Runner vs. Blade Runner 2049.