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.

San Francisco ban on flavoured tobacco, e-cig products goes to ballot

Candy-flavoured e-cig products.

The city of San Francisco a while ago banned all sweet-flavoured tobacco products. This included menthol cigarettes, Swisher sweet cigars and candy-flavoured e-cigs.

A group challenged the ban and gathered enough signatures to put the issue on a ballot, asking that this ban be repealed. This movement is called, “Let’s Be Real, San Francisco.”

People behind the repeal are mostly small grocers –the Arab American Grocers Association, a number of vaping outlets and (of course) the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (which is probably funded by Big Tobacco)

According to CBS:

Funded almost entirely by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the committee was able to collect almost $700,000 in contributions and collect just under 20,000 valid signatures in barely a month after the ordinance was signed in early July..

Yeah … so my old pal, RJR is really behind this, not the Arab American Grocers Association.

Anyway, the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco had the opportunity to repeal their decision, but declined, meaning the whole issue will go to a public vote.

The issue could go to a vote by June 2018. Now, looking at how Big Tobacco just got their ass kicked in California, I’m cautiously optimistic that this measure will fail (which means the ban will stay in place).

Flavoured tobacco products is a pet peeve of mine because it’s fairly blatant at times these products are marketed to help get teens hooked on tobacco. Candy-flavoured cigarettes have been banned for years, but not menthols (which are popular with black smokers) and not candy-flavoured e-cig products. The e-cig issue is near and dear to me because the use of e-cigs by teens has skyrocketed in the past five or six years, and it pisses me off to see cherry-flavoured, orange-flavoured and raspberry-flavoured liquid nicotine being sold to teenagers at minimarts. When the FDA began regulating e-cigs, the agency pointedly avoided dealing with the issue of candy-flavoured e-cig products. Maybe San Francisco can lead the way.

 

 

Look for full-page anti-tobacco ads on Nov. 26th, 18 years in the making

This is a legal case going back to the previous century.

Waaaay back in 2006, a federal judge ordered Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds  to take out full-page newspaper ads admitting they lied for decades about the dangers of its products, and that ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department in 1999.

Because of various appeals, etc., Big Tobacco has managed to avoid taking out these ads for years and years. This is actually something Big Tobacco excels at — keeping shit tied up in court for decades. But, now all their appeals have been exhausted and the reckoning day is here.

So, these ads, which will appear in major newspapers across the U.S. in Sunday papers on Nov. 26 will have been in the works for 18 years. You may also see some ads on TV because of the same court ruling.

R.J. Reynolds, father of Joe Camel, estimates the ads will cost them $20 million. A pretty small drop in the bucket for the billions in profits RJR and Philip Morris have made in the past 18 years.

(I will have to pick up a Seattle Times on Nov. 26 to see if one of these ads appears there)

The full-page ads will address these four topics:

  • The adverse health effects of smoking.
  • Addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.
  • Lack of significant health benefit from smoking “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild” and “natural’ cigarettes.
  • Manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery.
  • Adverse health effect of exposure to secondhand smoke

The secondhand smoke one suprised me a bit, since this became an issue way after 1999 (and 2006 for that matter). I can’t wait to see the ad.

 

 

A pack of smokes in New York City now $13

The famous smoking billboard in New York City’s Times Square. From 1943.

New York City continues to build upon its reputation as the most tobacco-unfriendly city in America.

A pack of cigarettes in New York City will now cost $13 a pack under a “minimum price law” passed by the city council.

In addition, the council banned cigarette sales in all pharmacies and will cut the number of licenses for businesses to sell tobacco (mostly through attrition).

The banning of sales in pharmacies is a great idea, I think. San Francisco already did this and the pharmacy chain CVS banned cigarette sales. Meanwhile, other pharmacy chains like Walgreens are being lobbied to stop cigarette sales.

New York City also has among the highest cigarette tax in the nation — about $5.85 a pack … just for taxes.

New York already has a pretty low smoking rate — out of more than 7 million people, roughly 900,000 are smokers, about 12 percent, lower than the national average of about 16 percent.

I have mixed feelings about the $13 a pack law because I think by jacking up the price of cigarettes THAT high, two things will happen … it will encourage some people to quit but it will also add to what is already a major cigarette smuggling problem on the East Coast.

Virginia, only about a four-hour drive from New York City, has some of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation at 30 cents a pack. So a pack of cigarettes in Virginia is already $5 a pack cheaper than New York City, even before this new law takes effect.

This inequity in tobacco taxes has created a huge cigarette smuggling businesses on the East Coast (North Carolina is also 45 cents a pack). It’s estimated that it’s a $15 billion a year industry. So, I fear that jacking up the price that much is just going to do that much more to create a black market for cigarettes.

And of course, if I was a pack a day smoker living in New York City, it would be worth it frankly to make a day trip to Virginia three or four times a year and buy a bunch of cartons of cigarettes. An average pack of cigarettes in Virginia is $5.50 — you’d be saving $7.50 a pack by going to Virginia. A carton is probably about $70 cheaper. Buy 10 cartons of cigarettes you’d have a stock of cigarettes to last over three months and you’d be saving as much as $700!

Honestly, I don’t see a thing stopping people from doing that.

I believe at a certain point, jacking up cigarette taxes reaches a plateau of diminishing returns. Yes, cigarette taxes should be higher in a lot of states, Virginia’s tax is insanely low, but jack it up too high, you encourage people to drive out to the nearest Indian reservation to buy smokes .. or Virginia. I think $2 a pack is a reasonable tax.

And Jesus, states need to get together to even out the inequity in their cigarette taxes, especially on the East Coast. Or the smuggling business is going to continue to thrive.

 

Advertising campaign: Big Tobacco targets the mentally ill

Here’s a really shocking statistic: It’s estimated that over 70 percent of schizophrenics smoke and thatover 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder smoke. The rate of smoking for people with PTSD and clinical depression is believed to be around 50 percent.

That’s while the smoking rate overall is roughly 16-17 percent.

Why the giant difference? Some have theorized that nicotine actually calms some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

What’s especially cruel however, is that Big Tobacco very subtly markets its products to people with mental health conditions, and it has for decades, promoting cigarettes as “soothing,” and will help steady your nerves, etc.

A new Truth campaign (starring the rapper Logic) takes Big Tobacco to task for marketing to the mentally ill. This ad was unveiled at the recent Video Music Awards (no one will ever accuse the Truth Campaign of not having savvy).

This might be one of the reasons why the smoking rate is so high among the mentally ill — that Big Tobacco has long known of this phenonema and has been exploiting it for decades. Honestly, nothing is beneath them, literally nothing. According to Truth, Big Tobacco actually used to give away cartons of cigarettes in mental hospitals (60 years ago, Big Tobacco actually used to give away cigarettes at children’s playgrounds. I’m not making that up. Seriously.)

It’s a pretty serious charge by the Truth Campaign; I’m sure Big Tobacco isn’t happy about it. And particularly unhappy to see these ads air during the VMAs.

Anyway, here is the ad from Truth:

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Reuters India investigation: Philip Morris definitely targeting young people

Interesting read here for my Indian readers on how India is threatening to crack down against Philip Morris International with some kind of “punitive action” for violating that country’s anti-tobacco laws prohibiting marketing cigarettes to minors.

The Indian Healthy Ministry sent a warning letter to PMI after a Reuters investigation this summer dug up secret memos from the company about how to market cigarettes to young adults, including using conveniently located advertising kiosks and through promotional giveaways. Reuters is making a big deal out of this and has even set up a website where you can peruse reams of Philip Morris International internal documents.

That investigation also found that PMI has a deeply entrenched strategy of trying to undermine what’s known as the Framework for Tobacco Control, a multi-nation treaty to try and curb tobacco’s influence in the developing world. That’s a whole another imbroglio I need to look into.

From the Reuters investigation:

… Indian government officials say Philip Morris is using methods that flout the nation’s tobacco-control regulations. These include tobacco shop displays as well as the free distribution of Marlboro – the world’s best-selling cigarette brand – at nightclubs and bars frequented by young people.

In internal documents, Philip Morris International is explicit about targeting the country’s youth. A key goal is “winning the hearts and minds of LA-24,” those between legal age, 18, and 24, according to one slide in a 2015 commercial review presentation.

As with the point-of-sale ads at kiosks, public health officials say that giving away cigarettes is a violation of India’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and its accompanying rules.

Philip Morris’ marketing strategy for India, which relies heavily on kiosk advertising and social events, is laid out in hundreds of pages of internal documents reviewed by Reuters that cover the period from 2009 to 2016. In them, Philip Morris presents these promotions as key marketing activities. In recent years, they have helped to more than quadruple Marlboro’s market share in India, where the company is battling to expand its reach in the face of an entrenched local giant. Reuters is publishing a selection of those documents in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.

The company’s goal is to make sure that “every adult Indian smoker should be able to buy Marlboro within walking distance,” according to another 2015 strategy document.

PMI has been told repeatedly to remove the outside advertising at these kiosks, but enforcement in India is weak. The giveaways take place at social events with women dressed colourfully in the brand colours of different kinds of Marlboros.

Pretty sleazy huh? PMI is clearly looking for every tiny little loophole in the laws it can find, it appears.

India is a HUGELY important market for Big Tobacco, because smoking rates in the West are in steep decline, while China strictly controls tobacco sales as a state enterprise. That leaves … ta da! … India with its 1.3 billion people as the biggest available new market in the world (along with the Philippines and Indonesia). Big Tobacco is literally drooling over these markets, and the Indian government has a big fight on their hands to keep PMI and other international companies at bay.

 

 

Baton Rouge joins New Orleans going smokefree

I don’t get the chance to post a lot of stories about smoking bans anymore, but lo and behold, another big city in the South has gone smokefree.

After seeing the success of New Orleans going smokefree a year ago, Louisiana’s second-biggest city, Baton Rouge, followed suit earlier this month, with a parish-wide smoking ban.

Louisiana already had a statewide smoking ban in restaurants, but now the two biggest cities in the state have banned smoking in all bars, casinos and restaurants.

Baton Rouge debated the issue for months before finally taking the plunge.

Reports are mixed about the smoking ban’s success in New Orleans. It remains popular with residents, with one poll showing 78 percent support, but Harrah’s Casino claims the ban cost the casino $35 million business (Honestly, I find that figure hard to believe. I really do. There are smokefree casinos all over the country doing just fine, so I suspect other economic factors are playing a role.).

So, with Baton Rouge jumping on board, there are few large cities left in the South without some level of smoking bans, though in many Southern cities, bans are just in restaurants. There aren’t any statewide bans in the Deep South and states have left the issue up to local communities.

 

 

 

 

 

What the hell? New American Spirit ad still has false advertising

This ad was in Sports Illustrated in July. What the hell? They were supposed to stop with this false advertising!

I thought the FDA and RJ Reynolds had reached an agreement to knock this stuff off — a new ad in my Sports Illustrated last month STILL advertising that Natural Spirit cigarettes are “100 percent additive free.”

I posted about this back in March. This was a settlement in response to FDA ruling that RJR had to drop its advertising that Natural American Spirit cigarettes were somehow more “natural” than other brands, when in fact, they simply are not. There’s simply little or no difference between this particular RJR brand and other cigarettes. It’s not safer in any, way, shape or form.

Reportedly, the FDA and RJR reached this agreement in January. From a March article about the agreement:

In the memorandum, Reynolds said it would “remove the phrase[s] ‘Additive Free’ … [and] ‘Natural’ from all Natural American Spirit cigarette product labels, labeling, advertising and promotional materials,” with the caveat that Santa Fe will still be permitted to use the term Natural in the Natural American Spirit brand name.

Yet, here in AUGUST, there is still an ad in Sports Illustrated, eight months after the agreement with the big, fat words “Additive Free” in the ad. So, I’ve tried looking into it and I can’t find any information other than a lawsuit has been filed against RJR and the FDA over the agreement.

Was the agreement supposed to take effect in 2018? Is RJR simply ignoring the settlement? I have no idea. But, it pissed me off.

And Jesus, it pisses me off that Sports Illustrated keeps taking tobacco advertising, too.

 

 

FDA considers cutting nicotine in cigarettes; tobacco stocks nosedive

What an amazing coincidence.

I’m not sure what to make of this story and I’m still digesting it. The biggest issue I have is I trust nothing to come out of the Trump administration.

The FDA today stated it’s planning regulations to cut the level of nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive levels.”

The best news about this? Tobacco stocks absolutely tanked after the FDA announcement. That tells me the industry and stockholders are nervous about the idea of cigarettes with non-addictive levels of nicotine.

It sounds great on the surface, but again, this is a Trump appointee making this announcement and this is an administration that is downright hostile to the scientific community.  So, colour me initially skeptical. Sure enough, the new FDA director, Scott Gottlieb, actually was involved in the vaping industry. So, are these new rules designed to push smokers from tobacco to vaping? (Not the worst thing in the world, but again … yet again, sure enough, the new FDA chief appears to possibly have a hidden agenda. I trust no one in this administration.).

A Gottlieb quote:

“[An] overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes—the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users,” Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, said in a statement. “Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use.” The center of this effort, he says, must be a shared vision for “a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources.”

Anyway, the FDA is suggesting somehow phasing this in over several years.

One of the arguments I’ve heard against lowering the level of nicotine — and I have no idea if there’s scientific validity to this argument — is that if you cut the level of nicotine in a cigarette, that will end up forcing people to smoke more cigarettes to get the same level of nicotine.

Is that how it would work in real life? I don’t know. Could be hogwash. But, I do see some common sense in that argument.

What was kind of fun is Altria’s stocks dropped 17 percent after the announcement was made, while British American Tobacco’s stock dropped 13 percent. Investors were immediately panicked about the whole thing.

Interestingly, if the rules are designed to push smokers toward vaping, guess who controls 75 percent of the vaping market? Yup — Altria, BAT and R.J. Reynolds.

What an amazing coincidence. The same people selling the disease are also primarily selling the cure.

Anyway, the FDA was looking at imposing new regulations on the vaping industry that many in the industry claimed would push out the smaller companies and just allow Big Tobacco to have an even bigger stranglehold on the market. Those regulations are now being put off until 2022. Again, kind of an amazing coincidence.

By the way, in reading comments to this news, I see there’s still a lot of misinformation about nicotine. Nicotine is not a benign substance, it increases a person’s blood pressure and can be fatal in large doses. But, it also isn’t the substance that causes lung cancer. That’s the 4,000 other chemicals such as benzene, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, Polonium-210 and others.

But, nicotine is the substance that physically addicts the smoker so they can’t quit. So, it definitely has a role to play in making cigarettes so deadly.

Anyway, still chewing it all over. It certainly took me completely by surprise.

 

 

Tobacco use in India drops from 34 to 28 percent

Good news from India (and I’m hoping I have some readers from India who will be interested to read this.)

According to figures from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the rate of adult tobacco use in India has dropped from 34.6 percent to 28.6 percent from 2009-10 to 2016-17.

That’s roughly a 17 percent drop in seven years. That translates into 81 bakh fewer tobacco users in India in seven years (8.1 million).

That includes smokeless tobacco, bidis, cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Perhaps one big reason, according to the Financial Express, an Indian website, is the average cost of smokeless tobacco, bidis and cigarettes has gone up since 2009.

From the Financial Express:

The expenditure on cigarette has tripled and that on bidi and smokeless tobacco has doubled since GATS-1, the report pointed out.

Also, the Financial Express explains what the Global Adult Tobacco Survey is:

The GATS is a global standard for systematically monitoring adult tobacco use and tracking key tobacco control indicators. It was a household survey of persons aged 15 and above and was conducted in all states and two Union Territories. The first round of GATS was conducted in 2009-10. The second round of GATS was conducted in 2016-2017 by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The survey was conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and technical assistance was provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is really important news because Big Tobacco is relying heavily on increasing its presence in developing nations such as India and Indonesia (the smoking rate in Indonesia is insane). Smoking is dying out in the West because of better education about the dangers of tobacco, so Big Tobacco is pouring more of its resources during the past several years into India, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, places that tend to have low cigarette taxes and lax rules on tobacco marketing. They would go after China, too, but the Chinese have been pretty aggressive about maintaining state control of its tobacco industry.