This week, several tobacco companies — RJ Reynolds, Altria (Philip Morris) — agreed with the Justice Department to print “corrective statements” in major newspapers around the U.S. admitting that they lied for many years about the health effects of smoking.
These full-page ads will appear in the Sunday editions of 35 newspapers. In addition, the tobacco companies have to post articles on the newspapers’ websites and on their own websites admitting their lies. On top of that, there will be television commercials as well.
A long way from the early 1990s, when tobacco executives testifying before Congress continued to claim that nicotine wasn’t addictive and that there was no proof smoking caused lung cancer (Yup, they kept claiming this right into the ’90s.)
This agreement is part of a 15-year-long racketeering case being pursued by the Justice Department against the tobacco industry.
The five lies the industry will be forced to publicly admit:
The five corrective statements will address the companies’ deceptions regarding 1) the health effects of smoking; 2) the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine; 3) the false advertising of low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes; 4) the designing of cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine; and 5) the health effects of secondhand smoke.
Oh, No. 5 is a hoot. Reminds me all the old arguments I’ve had with smokers’ right’s nuts that secondhand smoke is completely harmless. Dave Hitt, FORCES, the Heartland Institute will not be happy with these full-page ads.
I mean does this make any difference? It won’t undo the damage done and bring people back to life. But, I think it’s important that these lies are exposed once and for all (and I’m serious, there are still people to this day arguing that secondhand smoke is harmless). It’s all about maintaining the legacy of the “cigarette century,” a century in which untold millions died from their tobacco addiction, and the industry’s cover-up of that holocaust. Ultimately, that’s how we will win.
An outstanding anti-smoking ad from Thailand. Two little kids walk up to a bunch of smokers holding cigarettes asking for a light. In every case, the adults refuse to give the kids a light and instead give them a lecture about how cigarettes are poisonous and cause emphysema, etc.
The commercial ends with the children handing adults a note, saying, “you worry about me, but not about yourself.”
And cue the adults giving the kids puzzled looks. Powerful stuff. This commercial has been playing worldwide for a few weeks:
Just watched Man of Steel and had to absolutely crack up at the nonstop product placement through the whole movie — man, I really hadn’t noticed product placement in a movie in years. Man of Steel was one of the more blatant I’ve ever seen — Superman has a battle with Zod’s minions in the streets of Smalltown, right in front of a 7/11, then in front of a Sears, then Zod’s minion picks up a U-Haul van and throws it at Superman, then Superman throws one of the baddies through the wall of an IHOP (there’s also an obvious ad for Nokia earlier in the movie.). Pretty funny. Like, we’re too stupid to notice. This movie grossed more than $500 million worldwide, do they really need the extra $100 million from advertisers?
Anyway, the reason this resonates with me, is the 1978 and 1980 version of Superman (and Superman II) is an absolutely despicable chapter in the sordid marriage between Big Tobacco and Hollywood.
Product placement in Hollywood films began in the 1970s, and Big Tobacco was quick to join in. There was also a long history of Hollywood glamorizing smoking in films, but the tobacco industry never had to pay a nickel of advertising — Hollywood was literally doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.
That changed in 1978 with Superman and Superman II (actually filmed as a single production). Philip Morris not only paid to have Marlboro logos put into Superman movies, they also paid to have Lois Lane chain smoke through the movie — Lois Lane never smoked in the comic book. What’s especially craven about this is those Superman movies as we all know were geared toward kids and teens. They were rated PG and were wildly popular with kids, like Star Wars and Close Encounters. I mean, the whole thing is just criminal to me (since cigarette advertising had been banned on TV for eight years because kids watch TV), on both the part of Philip Morris and the Hollywood studios (three studios were involved in the Superman movies, including Warner Bros.).
Ironically years later, in 2006, a scene was added in Superman Returns in which Lois is attempting to light a cigarette and Superman, using his super-breath, blows out her lighter over and over, partly as an homage to the smoking in the Superman movies from 20 years earlier.
Weirdly enough, perhaps out of some sort of need for penance for the 1978 Lois Lane scandal, DC did a special Superman anti-smoking campaign in the 1980s (and accompanying cartoon — seems to be British.), in which Superman battles a villain called “Nick O’Teen.” Nick O’Teen is incredibly lame. He wears a cigarette butt for a hat and has yellow teeth and has these weirdly pedo dreams about handing cigarettes to little girls (Not even remotely exaggerating).
Unfortunately, this cartoon is so dreadful it’s just going to have the same effect as those lame anti-drug movies they made us watch in high school; it’s just going to encourage kids to do what you’re telling them not to do.
Superman product placement (and more Nick O’Teen)!
This is such good news, I’m actually having difficulty believing it at face value. (Too good to be true syndrome…).
According to a federal study (called the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics), the rate of teen smoking has dropped dramatically from 18 percent in the 1990s to 5 percent in 2012. That’s how many high school sophomores smoked a cigarette daily in the past 30 days.
Wow, 5 percent. That teen smoking rate was stubbornly stuck at 15 to 25 percent for 10 years, long after Joe Camel was forced into retirement … mostly because the tobacco industry was still finding subtle ways to market cigarettes to kids, and mostly because Hollywood stubbornly continued to show smoking in a “cool” light.
“According to the report, 2 percent of 8th-graders, and 9 percent of high school seniors said they smoked daily in 2012. Compare that data to the survey’s peak smoking years in the mid-1990s, when those numbers were 10 percent for 8th graders, 18 percent for high school sophomores and 25 percent for high school seniors.”
This has really been my No. 1 priority personally over the last 10 years I’ve been into this issue … somehow finding a way to get fewer kids to start up smoking. Just telling them it’s bad for them doesn’t do it.
Not sure why those numbers are so dramatic, but I would give some credit to cigarette taxes and the cost of cigarettes going way up in the last 20 years. $6 for a pack in most places, compared to about $3 a pack 20 years ago. I also think less smoking in movies plays a role (no pun intended.).
The other good news, and a bit more scientific (this first study was based on surveys among kids, which has its merits), is that fewer kids are being exposed to secondhand smoke.
“The percentage of nonsmoking kids ages 4 to 11 whose blood had a detectable level of cotinine, a breakdown product of nicotine, fell from 53% to 42% from 2007-08 to 2009-10.”
That’s the result of fewer people smoking overall and more smoking bans.
Judge Richard J. Leon ruled this week that graphic warnings on cigarette packs violate the First Amendment, because, essentially, they go too far in forcing tobacco companies to advertise something against their will that goes against their own self-interests (Basically, there is a judicial precedent that as part of the First Amendment you can’t be forced to say something you don’t want to say. The government can require written labels on cigarette packs, but graphic images go too far in provoking an emotional reaction against the tobacco companies’ own product, the judge ruled.)
“The government’s interest in advocating a message cannot and does not outweigh plaintiff’s First Amendment right to not be the government’s messenger,” Judge Leon wrote.
This is a bummer, but after the injunction, I wasn’t very optimistic. The Justice Department and Obama administration can appeal the decision (They’ve already appealed the injunction, which was imposed late last year. I guess that appeal is moot now). It would first go to a Circuit Court of Appeals, but I expect it would eventually go before the U.S. Supreme Court, and with the incredibly pro-corporate judges on the Supreme Court, I’m not optimistic this ruling would get overturned.
Again, a bummer. Most of the countries in the West require these graphic images on cigarette packs, but in the U.S., it appears the tobacco companies will squirm out of it. Unfortunately, for the moment, the First Amendment seems to be on the tobacco companies’ side.
Here is something I’ve written about before, employers not only banning people from smoking on the premises, but refusing to hire smokers and firing people for being smokers.
This USA Today article looks at this. There are a growing number of companies that are doing this, even including nicotine in the list of things they drug test for. If employees test positive for nicotine, boom, they’re out the door.
Hospitals and health organizations have led the way on this. The reasoning is two-fold:
A) Smokers raise the health insurance premiums of everyone — smokers and nonsmokers alike. (And this is true. It’s been well-documented.)
B) Smokers also have a higher level of absenteeism and illness than nonsmokers and thus their productivity is affected (Also well-documented).
That being said, this still smells very wrong to me. I prefer the carrot approach to cutting down smoking, not the stick. This is kind of where I split from the rest of the anti-tobacco lobby.
I’m perfectly OK with employers charging higher insurance premiums to smokers. I think that’s completely fair because smokers do cost everyone money and should pay their share. At the same time, I’m also OK for higher premiums for being who are obese, because obesity causes nearly as many health problems as smoking (and may cause more premature deaths than smoking within the next 10 to 15 years.). But, refusing to hire people and firing people? Smells wrong.
What I personally would VASTLY prefer is if companies helped pay for smoking cessation programs for their employees, with the “carrot” being lower premiums if they are successful in quitting. If smokers don’t want to go through the program and are OK paying higher premiums, that’s their prerogative.
As far as I know, no smokers has ever won an anti-discrimination suit against a company for refusing to hire smokers or firing someone. I’ve scoured the Internet. People have filed suit, but I haven’t found a case in which a smoker has won or got a policy overturned. For the moment, it appears in certain states, companies have the right to do this. Apparently under federal law, smokers are not considered a “class” of person, so this is a legal practice under federal law.
People have sued and have won cases for being fired for being overweight. What’s the difference? No employer in his right mind is going to fire someone for being fat and then telling them that to their faces (places like Hooters can get away with this somehow). But, you can fire a smoker because they smoke on their own time?
A total of 29 states have passed laws protecting smokers’ rights, but in 21 states, companies can still fire and refuse to hire smokers. I really think this goes too far. I’m not comfortable with it.
(As an aside, I noticed one charity quoted — the American Lung Association — as not hiring smoking. Hah, OK, I can see that!)
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.
Anti-tobacco advocates — and several Congressmen and U.S. Senators — have been pushing for months to have chew banned by Major League Baseball. It would mean no chew on the field, or during games. Before you laugh, that rule has been in effect in Minor League Baseball for 15 years. (And smoking during games in the dugout is banned by MLB.).
The reason for this is plenty of kids get to watch their favourite players chewing during games and that helps encourage them to take up the habit.
Well, advocates won a partial victory. During negotiations between the players’ union and MLB, the union did agree to limitations on chewing tobacco. No chewing tobacco tins on the field in players’ pockets and players cannot be seen with chew in their cheek during television interviews.
Not everyone is happy with the agreement.
“Baseball players are idols to millions of youth, and they should strive to be healthy role models. The failure to ban smokeless tobacco is bad for the health of the players and worse for the kids who emulate them,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
“The fact is that smokeless tobacco use by baseball players will still appear on television screens across the United States,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
This is a compromise, not exactly what we were looking for, but at least it’s a first step. The players’ union was fighting a tobacco ban tooth and nail. Perhaps this will lead to an eventual ban on tobacco chew in ballparks. Players can chew if they want on their own time, but when they are in an MLB, they are on the clock, and there aren’t very many workplaces that would allow you to chew on the job.
The other big news from the agreement is that players will now be tested for HGH, human growth hormone.
(Thanks to Classical Gas for the scoop on this story!)
Australia is attempting to force cigarette companies in that country to have utterly, entirely plain cigarette packages, with no artwork, no logos, no graphics whatsoever, except for graphic images of lung cancer and other diseases caused by cigarette smoking.
The Australian Senate passed a bill to require the plain packages. The Australian House is expected to approve the bill, as well, requiring plain packaging by next year. Tobacco companies are expected to file lawsuits. New Zealand is considering similar legislation.
In the U.S., these graphic warnings have been put on hold. A U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction stopping the FDA from requiring graphic warnings, saying they violated tobacco companies’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to advocate for something they didn’t want to advocate.
Someone showed me a pack of French cigarettes the other day with a pretty gross graphic warning of a rotting mouth. Their point was smokers really aren’t going to pay attention. My attitude is the vast majority of smokers probably don’t care about the warnings — I mean if they’re smoking, they’re probably already addicted to the nicotine. But, maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe, it will put an inkling in a few smokers’ minds that, “Wow, I really need to quit,” and maybe, maybe, maybe, it will discourage some kids from beginning. Who knows? I can hear the nanny-state argument on this one.