Philip Morris International made a seemingly startling claim the other day – that the company is looking to drop cigarettes altogether in the United Kingdom within 10 years.
PMI is a spin-off of Altria, which was the umbrella corporation over the old Philip Morris company in the U.S. PMI runs Philip Morris’ old assets around the world outside of the U.S. I know it’s confusing … it is a completely different company from Altria.
“I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind,” CEO Jacek Olczak told The Mail on Sunday, a U.K. tabloid. ‘I think in the U.K., 10 years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking.”
While it’s not the first time he has made such a pronouncement, when it comes to ending smoking in America, the tone is a little softer.
The caveat is PMI is apparently considering moving toward something called “tobacco sticks.” I’m not 100 percent positive, but these tobacco sticks, which PMI calls IQOS, are different from e-cigs.
These smoke-free products include PMI’s IQOS heated tobacco device, which in early July received limited FDA approval to be marketed as a modified-risk tobacco product that reduces a person’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Altria is the exclusive licensee of the device in the United States, where it will be sold by Philip Morris USA, which makes Marlboro cigarettes for the domestic market.
So, they “sort of kind of” are thinking of getting out of the cigarette business. Maybe the UK will be their initial test market. I don’t see PMI getting out of the cigarette business worldwide. They sell a LOT of cigarettes in Europe, especially Eastern Europe, the Philippines and Indonesia, one of the heaviest-smoking countries in the world.
From the article:
Critics are skeptical of the company’s motives.
“If PMI were serious about banning combustible cigarettes within 10 years, it would strongly support strong new government action now to make cigarettes (and all similarly smoked tobacco products) less attractive, less addictive, more expensive, and otherwise less readily available to both smokers and nonsmokers, especially youth,” said Eric Lindblom, a law professor at Georgetown University. “But they have not done that.”
In less than two months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is supposed to decide, at long last, whether the company most responsible for the teenage vaping epidemic should be stopped, or at least restrained, from marketing its e-cigarettes.
The decision will hinge on whether scientific research shows that Juul’s sleek nicotine-delivery device has public health benefits. Does it enable smokers to break or reduce their addiction to cigarettes? Or does it primarily lead to dual use of e-cigs and traditional cigarettes, while luring nonsmokers — especially young people — into nicotine addiction?
Juul, which is partly owned by tobacco giant Altria, decided to add to that scientific evidence.
Juul paid more than $50,000 to a scholarly journal so it would devote the entire May-June issue to 11 studies that Juul funded, all showing vaping is a public health boon. The availability of e-cigs could “avert millions of premature deaths in the U.S.,” one Juul study concluded.
But Juul’s gambit may have backfired.
Three members of the editorial board of the 45-year-old American Journal of Health Behavior resigned in protest, while editor and publisher Elbert D. Glover retired shortly after the “Special Issue on JUUL Use” was published, according to The New York Times.
I love this part of the Inquirer article:
[A peer reviewer] shared with the Inquirer the email from Glover to scores of potential reviewers. “Peer reviewers” are usually not paid, but Glover offered $75 per review if it could be turned in quickly — one week. He said the special issue was on “e-cigarettes” in general and did not mention that the authors of the 12 studies were on Juul’s payroll. The actual manuscripts redacted the name of the sponsor.
The design of one study she reviewed seemed so biased that she recommended rejecting it. “I thought, ‘No way it wasn’t funded by Juul.’ ” She questioned Glover about it. Soon, he sent another email to the group.
“It has been brought to my attention that some reviewers were unaware that the special issue on e-cigarettes is being funded by JUUL,” Glover wrote. “My apologies for not alerting everyone. … I honestly did not believe it to be a concern as the comprehensive reviews always purge weak or biased manuscripts.”
The whole thing smacks of desperation from Juul. They know the hammer is coming down soon.
E-cigarettes like Juul MIGHT have some benefit in helping SOME people quit smoking … I’ve always tried to keep an open mind about this. But when Juul resorts to this kind of sleaze and dishonestly, they know the truth. And the truth is Juul and other e-cig companies have hooked millions of kids on nicotine and that a big percentage of those kids move on to cigarettes to get their nicotine fix. It appears that e-cigs likely do a lot more harm than good.
I expect this will be the first of many, many, MANY settlements paid out by Juul in lawsuits and investigations both into its business practices and its targeting teens with advertising. Juul has been an especially sleazy company for years and the roosters are finally starting to come home to roost.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into Juul’s targeting of minors in 2018. During that investigation, the courts found that Juul illegally destroyed documents, ignored court orders and wasted the state’s time by loading them with irrelevant documents.
Juul agreed to pay a $40 million settlement because its court fines for its actions were actually much more.
“North Carolina is now the first state in the nation to hold Juul accountable for its instrumental role in creating a youth vaping epidemic,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said at a press conference revealing the agreement Monday.
North Carolina kicked off its investigation in 2018 and announced the lawsuit the following year. In May, the judge for the case ruled that Juul destroyed documents, provided thousands of pages of irrelevant information and ignored related court orders. The company faced millions of dollars in fines tied to that decision, but the agreement announced Monday will wipe that slate clean.
Under the agreement, Juul will not be able to target its advertising to minors, use anyone in its marketing materials who is younger than 35 years old or pay for influencers to promote its products, among other restrictions.
Here’s the great news. There’s nine other states that have filed similar lawsuits against Juul and a coalition of 39 states is investigating Juul.
I predict that when it’s all said and done, Juul will end up paying over $1 billion in various settlements for its advertising and business practices and Altria will happily pay it with its massive legal war chest as the price of doing business.
Altria (Philip Morris, Marlboro) bought a controlling share into Juul in 2018 and most of the company’s execs from its heyday 3 to 5 years ago quietly scurried off.
I wrote several years ago about a Simpsons episode that came out pretty strongly against vaping.
Add Rick and Morty to the list of cartoons opposed to vaping. Surprisngly to me, because Rick and Morty just doesn’t really take on causes, the show and Adult Swim along with the Truth campaign did an anti-vaping commercial that shows pretty extensively on Adult Swim.
I say surprising because I’ve come to know a lot of Rick and Morty fans, and they love being edgelords and anti-politically correct. To the point of being straight up annoying about it. Kind of like Bill Hicks fans.
Anyway, it’s a pretty good ad about the toxic metals that are found in vaping materials, maybe it will actually get through to younger R&M viewers. Check it out, I posted it below. I feel like the tide has turned against vaping (more on that later this month), and this is just part of the public perceptions changing that vaping is either cool or harmless.
I don’t expect Bojack Horseman to do an anti-smoking commercial any time soon.
This is not new news. Rush Limbaugh died in February 2021 during my hiatus.
Obviously, he was a racist, promoted racism, did his share to bring toxicity to the airwaves and to today’s political discourse. So, there were a lot of reasons to hate him.
I’m not a fan of pissing on the dead, but really, Rush Limbaugh did a lot of damage in the world. Among the awful things about him was the misinformation and lies he repeated about smoking.
Limbaugh was a heavy cigar smoker much of his life and not coincidentally died of lung cancer. He also spread the lie that not only did secondhand smoke not cause cancer, neither did smoking itself.
According to Snopes, this is a real quote from Rush Limbaugh:
“There is no conclusive proof that nicotine is addictive. And the same thing with cigarettes causing emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease…”
I always suspected that Rush knew 90 percent of what he spouted was pure bullshit. But, he spouted it because he knew his audience loved it. Rush loved to light up a cigar for the cameras and blow cigar smoke into the lens as a clear “Fuck you” to the libs.
Well, lung cancer had the last laugh. Lung cancer had the ultimate “Fuck you” to Rush. There was no deathbed confession of his wrongs, no public statement of “My God, what have I done…?” Good for him. He’s dead. And frankly, the world is a better place without him. I’m not going to lie. And I’m not going to play nice about it.
First of all, with a new presidential administration in place with Joe Biden, big changes are happening with oversight toward the tobacco industry. The big thing that happened last week is menthol cigarettes were FINALLY banned by the Food and Drug Administration last week.
Also to be banned are surgary cigars like Swisher Sweets.
The ban isn’t immediate. It has to go through a lengthy comment period and should take effect in about a year.
This has been a point of controversy for many years. The FDA some time ago banned candy- or sugar-flavoured cigarettes, but punted on menthols. Even though technically, menthol is a sweet, candy-like flavouring.
The biggest reason the FDA kicked the can down the road is that candy-flavoured cigarettes, while clearly directed at getting teens to take up smoking, were never that big a part of the cigarette market.
Menthols, on the other hand, are a HUGE part of the tobacco market. In fact, Newport cigarettes, a menthol brand, was once upon a time Lorrilard’s biggest brand. According to this CNN article, menthols make up 33 percent of the tobacco market in the U.S.
Weirdly enough, Kool cigarettes, another menthol brand were once my parents’ favourite brand. What makes it weird is to be honest, they could be kind of racist, and menthol cigarettes were heavily marketed toward Black people.
“Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made in getting people to stop smoking over the past 55 years, that progress hasn’t been experienced by everyone equally,” said Mitch Zeller with the FDA’s Office of Tobacco. “In the United States, compared to non-Hispanic White smokers, significantly fewer Black smokers support long-term quitting and Black smokers are more likely to die of tobacco-related disease than White smokers.”
Mentholated brands of tobacco products have been heavily marketed to racial minorities resulting in disproportionate use. More than 85% of mentholated brand users are Black, nearly 47% are Hispanic, 38% are Asian, nearly 29% are White, according to the CDC.
Why or how menthols found a market among Blacks, I’m not sure. Here is a pretty good article examining the history of menthol cigarettes and Black smokers.
The ban does not include menthol ecigs for now, but I see that as another issue to be debated another day anyway. Menthol isn’t marketed to KIDS the way bubble-gum and cherry flavoured ecigs have been.
And hey, this is Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time wearing an anti-smoking T-shirt. I thought that was cute.
I haven’t updated the blog for a while. It seemed like COVID (As well as Donald Trump, police brutality, etc.) kind of took over the collective consciousness there for a long time and I’ve been very, very busy with work. On my off time, I don’t always feel like writing.
Also, my mother passed away recently after a very long and painful battle against COPD. I will write more about that later when I’m ready to post about it. I’m not there yet. She is largely responsible for me starting this blog to begin with nearly 15 years ago.
Anyway, I’m feeling to urge to end my hiatus and begin posting again. A couple of major tobacco-related stories have happened recently, one just a few days ago that is a BIG deal, so on to that.
A study from the University of California, San Francisco looked at 8,400 young people and suggested that smoking is a risk for complications from the virus, along with diabetes, asthma, obesity and other health conditions.
The numbers get pretty convoluted, but a UC San Francisco article sums it up. Essentially, it says that among nonsmokers, about 16 percent of young people are susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19. In the overall group which includes smokers, that number roughly doubles to 31.5 percent.
“Recent evidence indicates that smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased illness severity, ICU admission or death,” said Dr. Sally Adams of US San Francisco. “Smoking may have significant effects in young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases.”
“The risk of being medically vulnerable to severe disease is halved when smokers are removed from the sample,” said senior author Charles Irwin Jr., MD, of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. “Efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use among young adults would likely lower their vulnerability to severe disease.”
UC San Francisco is a major research center into tobacco studies.
This study contradicts an earlier study that seemed to suggest that nicotine somehow protected people’s lungs from COVID-19. That study was done very early during the pandemic and I was pretty skeptical of it from the get go.
An interesting story out of the UK: A study done by the University College London showed that more people in the UK quit in 2020 than at any time since 2007. That’s credited to concerns about smokers being more vulnerable to complications from the COVID-19 virus.
A team at University College London has been asking 1,000 people a month in England about their smoking habits since 2007 as part of the Smoking Toolkit Study.
In the year to June 2020, 7.6% of smokers taking part in the survey quit – almost a third higher than the average and the highest proportion since the survey began more than a decade ago.
On average, 5.9% of surveyed smokers quit per year since 2007.
Data isn’t complete and plenty of studies are going to be done on the connection between smoking and COVID-19 mortality. However, a lot of signs sure point to smokers doing worse responding to COVID-19 than nonsmokers.
From the BBC article:
Data from the Zoe Covid Symptom Tracker app suggested smokers were 14% more likely than non-smokers to develop the three “classic” symptoms of coronavirus infection – fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath.
The app, created by researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and King’s College London, analysed data from more than 2.4 million UK participants.
I live in a state in which masks are mandated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The other day I went to the grocery store, and I estimated that at least 20 people in the store were not wearing masks. I noticed two distinct groups refusing to wear masks — people under 35 and women of all ages.
Interestingly enough, I’d say every single guy in the store over the age of 40 was wearing a mask. Not sure I saw one older guy without one. I saw a few older women not wearing masks.
Anyway, it’s been interesting to see and read the rhetoric against wearing masks and how much the rhetoric sounds EXACTLY like something I’ve heard before.
Others have pointed out that the debate over wearing masks is a lot like the debates a couple of decades ago over seatbelt laws.
Massachusetts radio personality Jerry Williams transformed his talk show into a crusade against seat belts, gathering 45,000 signatures in three months. He managed to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the state’s new belt law.
“We don’t feel we should be forced to buckle up and have a police officer sent in by the state to make sure we’re buckled up,” Williams told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1986.
“There was a libertarian streak among resistors,” Nader told Business Insider. “They took the stance that ‘you’re not going to tie the American people up in seat belts.'”
A similar ideology seems to be fueling pushback against face covering during the pandemic.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio was forced to rescind his face-mask order, he told ABC News, when he realized Ohioans “were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
In California, an anti-lockdown protester held a sign comparing wearing masks to slavery, Newsweek reported.
Nader says he believes most modern-day mask slackers are fueled by obstinance, not a political agenda.
Nader at the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, in 2015. Bradley E. Clift for The Washington Post via Getty Images
“It’s just an ornery personality trait by some people,” he said. “They’re not community people.”
There you go. They’re not community people. They don’t see themselves as a part of society, they see themselves as rugged individualists, fighting against the “state” or whatever.
I will fully admit that I was resistant to wearing a seatbelt until probably about the mid-90s. I even walked away from two rollover wrecks without wearing a seatbelt in either one of them. I finally caved after I got a couple of seatbelt tickets, and frankly it was no big deal and it was stupid of me to resist the idea.
The big argument against seatbelt laws is personal liberty. The big argument against it is that they save lives. As far as being part of a community, seatbelt laws are shown to reduce fatalities and major injuries, which is turn reduces insurance rates. So, we all save when everyone is wearing a seatbelt.
For several years from about 2005-2010, I can’t tell you how many arguments I had with idiots and Libertarians (sorry, really kind of the same thing) over “personal liberty” and smoking bans. While some people have pointed out the similarity of the masking debate with seatbelts, I personally am immediately reminded of the same idiotic arguments against restaurant and bar smoking bans 10 to 15 years ago.
I banged my head, and banged my head and banged my head against the brick walls those people threw up over smoking bans I don’t know how many times.
Here’s where the “personal liberty” argument failed with smoking. A person’s personal liberty ends where it affects another person. It’s not only obnoxious and rude to inflict your secondhand smoke on others, it’s also been shown that it affects people’s health, especially people who are forced to work in a smoky environment. Your personal liberty ends as soon as that smoke comes out of your mouth.
Same thing with masking. Masking provides some protection for the mask-wearer, but they provide even more protection to others from the person wearing the mask. Simply put, they really do stop the spread of COVID-19.
Unlike smoking bans, I don’t totally get the resistance to wearing a mask. I really don’t. It just feels like something out of “Idiocracy.” It’s people taking the concept of “personal liberty” the extreme that they abandon all common sense. It reminds me of a Bors cartoon in which a woman makes fun of Donald Trump for putting ketchup on his burnt steak, so some Trump supporter has to burn a steak to the point where he has to cut it with a chainsaw and then put ketchup on it to “own the libs!” Not wearing a mask is somehow “showing the libs?” Showing them what? That you really don’t give a damn about others?
At least with the people fighting smoking bans, I could see some of their logic — that something was being taken away from them that they had always had: The ability to smoke while sitting at the bar. Nothing is being taken away from anyone by asking people to wear a damn mask when you go to the store.
Wear a damn mask. I tell people: “You want the economy to reopen, you want to be able to go to the bar or the restaurant? Then wear a mask, or else they’re going to forced to close everything down again.”