This is a really funny and fairly sympathetic piece done by Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” about the new Food and Drug Administration regulations and its effect on the vaping industry. The piece did miss one big point about the vaping industry, however.
The proposed regs, while missing a lot of important proposals anti-tobacco advocates wanted, like curbs on marketing and Internet sales, would require all vaping products to individually go through a lengthy approval process. Vaping advocates say this would cripple if not completely wipe out the vaping industry because the costs to go through this process would be so onerous. The FDA itself estimates that between 30 percent to 70 percent of e-cig businesses may be forced to go out of business due to the new regulations.
Full Frontal visited a vaping conference and did have a good time poking fun at vapers. For instance, Samantha Bee sends a correspondent to the conference rather than go herself because she doesn’t want to be around vapers, then the correspondent immediately runs out the door as soon as she encounters e-cigarette steam blown in her face. However, the show was fair to e-cigs and did acknowledge that some studies have shown that vaping is far less dangerous than smoking.
One thing I honestly learned from the segment is that there is a pretty distinct actual honest-to-goodness “vaping culture,” that at least according to the show, has a counter-culture edge. Sort of like cigar culture only with lots of piercings, I suppose. I never realized this culture existed, though, as I thought about it, some of the e-cig proponents I’ve dealt with online are almost messianic in their defence of e-cigarettes.
One thing the Full Frontal segment did get wrong, however, (and they got this like … reallywrong), was that suggesting that Big Tobacco has “struggled to compete” in the e-cigarette market. That’s really not true. Vuse E-Cigs (35 percent market share, Blu E-Cigs (23 percent) and MarkTen (16 percent), the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 e-cig brands on the market, are actually wholly-owned subsidiaries of RJ Reynolds, Imperial Tobacco Group and Altria (Philip Morris). In fact, these three brands represent a combined 74 percentof the e-cig market. Seventy-four percent is hardly “struggling to compete.”
Yeah, maybe Big Tobacco wants to crush all the smaller makers through FDA regulations (Though, Altria has expressed its opposition to the FDA regulations), but if that’s the case, the real story is the tobacco industry is already deeply entrenched in and dominating the e-cig industry. Will these regulations help Big Tobacco dominate it even more? Full Frontal didn’t even mention that Big Tobacco owns the three most dominant e-cigarette brands and I really think the show either missed or ignored that dynamic between Big Tobacco and e-cigarettes.
I’ve posted earlier stories about as part of a Justice Department RICO (a federal racketeering law usually used against organized crime) lawsuit, Big Tobacco was ordered some time ago to come up with “corrective statements,” ie, full-age newspaper ads admitting that tobacco companies have lied and covered up about the dangers of smoking.
Well, those full-page ads have yet to show up, partly because Big Tobacco is wrangling big time with the courts about what it has to say in its “corrective” ads. This has actually been dragged out now for SEVEN years. (And that’s SEVEN years after all the appeals over the original order were exhausted). The final order was issued in May 2015, and still no ads.
The wording of the ads has been directed by federal court judge Gladys Kessler (District of Columbia). The ads are supposed to hit on five major points:
* The adverse health effects of smoking;
* The addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;
* The lack of any significant health benefit from smoking “low tar” or “light” cigarettes;
* The manufacturers’ manipulation of cigarette design to ensure optimum nicotine delivery;
* The dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke.
But the tobacco companies appealed. Apparently, the fifth total appeal filed by Big Tobacco in this case. Big Tobacco continues to try and weasel its way out of these corrective ads and Kessler is getting fed up:
“That is ridiculous — a waste of precious time, energy, and money for all concerned — and a loss of information for the public,” writes Kessler [PDF]. “The Court has no intention of following that path, although it is obvious that Defendants are, once again, attempting to stall any final outcome to this long-standing litigation.”
In her order, Kessler notes that the revision offered by the government and its allied public health groups should suffice, as it simply shortens the disputed preamble to “A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA to make this statement…”
“The newly crafted preambles do not in any way send a message to the public that Defendants deceived them in the past,” explains the judge, “nor that Defendants are being punished for their previous conduct.”
Apparently, one of the things the tobacco companies are asking for is having their corporate names removed from the corrective statement (By the way, they are ALTRIA, RJ REYNOLDS and BRITISH-AMERICAN TOBACCO)
ALTRIA, RJ REYNOLDS, BRITISH-AMERICAN TOBACCO. First Amendment, bitches!
They’re also fighting over ticky-tack language issues, such as not wanting the word “ordered” in the ad, and wanting that word replaced with “determined.”
From the Consumerist story:
A lawyer for one of the firms representing the public health groups involved in the case tells theNational Law Journal that everyone is onto the tobacco companies’ tactics.
“I think it’s safe to say that [Kessler] believes that the defendants are trying to delay the issuance of the corrective statements and that’s certainly the concern that my clients have had for many, many years,” he explains, “that the defendants have done and continue to do whatever they can to delay the day of reckoning.”
An interesting story about a report put out by California State University, San Francisco (co-authored by anti-tobacco advocate Stanton Glantz) warning that legalized marijuana could become the next “Big Tobacco” because it would create a massive, wealthy and politically powerful economic behemoth.
Here is a copy of the 66-page report. , In reading the Sacramento Bee article about it, Glantz and the report are arguing that with legalized pot and the billions of revenue it would create would also create a very powerful marijuana lobby. A lobby that would likely throw its weight around politically and could ultimately become a subsidiary of the tobacco industry, possibly to the detriment of public health policy.
From the article:
“Evidence from tobacco and alcohol control demonstrates that without a strong public health framework, a wealthy and politically powerful marijuana industry will develop and use its political clout to manipulate regulatory frameworks and thwart public health efforts to reduce use and profits,” the report states.
Glantz, in an interview added:
“The goal (should be) to legalize it so that nobody gets thrown in jail, but create a legal product that nobody wants,” he said.
He worries that a new marijuana industry would spend large sums of money to curry favor with lawmakers.
“I think a corporate takeover of the market … is very, very hard to stop,” he said, adding, “They are already a potent lobbyist in California.”
I’m not necessarily agreeing with the report, and honestly, I found parts of it a bit alarmist. But, the concerns about marijuana monopolies and Big Tobacco involvement in the industry are valid. I have posted other articles about Big Tobacco eyeing the legalization of pot very carefully, with the very real potential of today’s tobacco companies swooping in and taking over the legalized pot industry. Keep in mind, this has already pretty much happened with e-cigarettes. RJ Reynolds bought out the No. 1 e-cigarette brand — Blu E-cigarettes, which controls about 40 percent of the E-cigarette market — and there are a number of other e-cig brands owned by tobacco companies. Big Tobacco isn’t in competition with e-cigs, not anymore. When in doubt, buy ’em out.
Tobacco is a dying product, especially in the West, while both e-cigarettes and marijuana are booming. Pot is likely to boom even more as it’s legalized in more states and Canada. If California legalizes pot in November, that state alone probably represents over 10 percent of the pot market in the U.S. Now tack onto that Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and perhaps a few other states (legalization seems likely in Nevada, soon), plus another 35 million people in Canada if Trudeau goes through with his promise to legalize pot nationwide. I just have to imagine the people at RJ Reynolds, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris are absolutely drooling over the prospects of getting into that market. That’s over 90 million people in North America living under legalized pot laws as early as 2017.
One of the things I like about one of the California pot legalization measures is that it would allow people to legally grow up to six plants. I haven’t taken the time to research how many plants a person could legally grow in Washington, Oregon or Colorado, but I think it’s important that if pot is legalized that people still be allowed to grow a small amount of their own pot, so it doesn’t quickly and completely become a corporate-run industry. You want to keep RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris or some other monopoly out of the pot business? Let people grow their own pot, and take other steps to prohibit any corporation from getting more than a certain market share and make sure it stays in the hands of small businesspeople.
And there is a paranoid X-Files side of me that is convinced there are people within Big Tobacco that have thought about, dreamed about, maybe even started doing the work on … how to add nicotine to marijuana. Seriously, think about it. Marijuana with arguably the most addictive substance on the planet added. It would be like Spice in “Dune.”
The report states that pot should be regulated much like tobacco. Instead, the California proposal calls for regulations similar to alcohol. From the article:
One of the (measure’s) proponents, Donald Lyman, a retired physician and a former state public health official, said the notion that marijuana must be regulated exactly like tobacco “represents an awkward minority opinion not widely shared within the public health community.”
I have to agree with Lyman here. For one, there’s some actual medical benefits to pot. I think the medical benefits of pot gets overstated by some pot proponents, but there’s legitimate medical uses as a painkiller and to control seizures. There is NO legitimate medical use for tobacco. While it can become habit-forming for some people, marijuana also is not physically addictive anything like tobacco, nor is there any evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer or even COPD. You simply can’t treat pot and tobacco like the same product. Probably the most similar product to pot would be beer or wine (and yes, there are rumours that not only is Big Tobacco drooling over legalized pot, the beer industry has interest in getting into the pot business as well).
One of the California measures would prohibit monopolies and large-scale pot licences for five years. Co-author of the report Rachel Barry, says five years isn’t enough. From the article:
“I am thinking more in 20 years what the industry will evolve into, not five years,” Barry said. “And that’s something we should be doing with the regulations.”
One marijuana legalization proponent sees some validity in some of the report’s concerns, but said that most of these issues are being dealt with in the language of the California measures.
From the article:
Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California and a member of the (Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin) Newsom commission’s steering committee, said he agrees with some of the concerns raised in the report but ultimately believes the initiative protects the public.
“My middle school child will not walk into a corner store where tobacco and alcohol are marketed and see marijuana for sale,” Soltani said.
A very compelling read from Think Progress about how the gun industry watched regulators and the legal justice system cratered Big Tobacco, prompting the gun industry to take steps to make sure the same thing couldn’t happen to it.
Big Tobacco, while still vastly wealthy, is not nearly the political powerhouse that it was 25 years ago. The adult smoking rate has dropped from 42 percent to 17 percent in the U.S. over the past 50 years, smoking advertising has been seriously curtailed and few workplaces allow smoking anymore. Two things helped destroy Big Tobacco’s political influence — regulations and lawsuits. Big Tobacco fought, which minimal success (some, but not much), smoking bans, first on airplanes (a battle the industry ultimately lost) and then in restaurants and then in bars. Now, more than 30 states have total smoking bans, another handful of states have smoking bans in restaurants and even in those states without smoking bans, most major cities have banned smoking in bars and restaurants.
In the courtrooms, Big Tobacco really got spanked. The industry won lawsuit after lawsuit for years until through the discovery process in many of these lawsuits, internal industry documents were released showing that Big Tobacco absolutely knew since the 1950s that cigarettes caused cancer and were physically addictive and showed that for decades, the industry has been trying to market to teenagers.
Because of the release of these documents, Big Tobacco actually started losing lawsuits. A bunch of state’s attorneys general filed suit because of the costs of smoking to their Medicaid programs, and rather than fight these lawsuits and potentially lose, Big Tobacco agreed to the $280 billion Master Settlement agreement in 1998. Today, the tobacco industry continues to get nailed with lawsuits, a lot of them in Florida, costing them millions in legal fees and eventual settlements (though the industry is well-known for dragging these settlements out for years through appeals, people have received multi-million jury settlements.).
The gun industry sat back and watched and took action to make sure the same thing couldn’t happen to it. The gun industry was facing similar types of class-action lawsuits which eventually crippled Big Tobacco politically.
From the Think Progress article:
Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, told ThinkProgress that the NRA was “very afraid of the parallel between gun litigation and tobacco litigation, so it preempted that.” Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — the secretive free-market lobbying group that brings together conservative politicians and major corporate interests including the tobacco and gun lobbies — it pushed a “Defense of Free Market and Public Safety Resolution” to hurt Smith & Wesson’s ability to sell to law enforcement.
“ALEC helped to try to punish the one component of the industry that agreed to these measures,” Graves recalled, discouraging local police “from buying guns from Smith & Wesson — for daring to go along with safety [measures] designed to keep kids safe.”
When the NRA’s preferred candidate, George W. Bush, was inaugurated in January 2001, his new HUD secretary Mel Martinez quickly ended the department’s involvement in the lawsuits (the NRA strongly endorsed him three years later in his campaign for U.S. Senate in Florida). ALEC and the NRA worked at the same time to successfully encourage many states to prohibit local lawsuits against the gun and ammo industries.
Next, the NRA and its Congressional allies set about eliminating the threat of state or local action, once and for all. In 2005, Bush signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which effectively shielded the gun industry from legal liability when their products are used in criminal and unlawful activities.
So, the gun industry made sure to get legislation passed to make sure something like the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement or the Engle case in Florida could ever happen to it.
From the article:
A decade later, the law has been used to stop virtually all efforts to hold gun companies liable in court.
“I think that, had the really powerful litigation run its course, we would have had the same success on guns” as on tobacco, Graves said. “That tobacco litigation was historic… They were able to make some substantial progress and change the future — having information out there, showing how evilly the tobacco companies were behaving. So there was an effort to stop that for guns, which have huge number of deaths and injuries. We haven’t seen the same progress as you would have had these been allowed to go forward. ”
But the industry didn’t stop there. The gun industry also through legislation clamped down on research into gun violence. It was scientific research done by the Centers for Disease Control that helped break Big Tobacco’s power.
From the article:
Thanks to a 1996 law, pushed by the NRA and one of its life members, then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), the federal government does not do the same kind of in-depth research on gun violence and its prevention. The “Dickey Amendment” stipulated that no funds “made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” A 2012 appropriations law put similar restrictions on NIH funding for that year.
Though the NRA claims this was not its intent, the effect of the amendment was not simply that the CDC did not advocate for gun control, it stopped the Centers from doing almost any research on gun violence. And, according to a 2011 New York Times story, before the few remaining firearm-related studies funded by the CDC get published, the NRA gets a heads up “as a courtesy.”
Ted Alcorn, research director at Everytown for Gun Safety, told ThinkProgress in an email that his organization’s research has found that “after the gun lobby’s attacks on the Centers for Disease Control in the mid-1990s, the agency’s funding for public health research on gun violence fell more than 95 percent and publications in the field dried up.” Though groups like Everytown have worked to fill the gap, the lack of federal research has made progress on gun safety even more challenging.
The article also points out that while most doctors will talk to patients about their smoking, laws are being passed (Florida) prohibiting doctors from asking patients if they have a gun in the house. And it points out that while the majority of states and vast majority of cities have smoking bans, more and more states are passing laws allowing the open carrying of guns. Really, there’s never been a better time than now to be a gun owner in the U.S.
Thanks, unfortunately, to the lessons learned by the gun industry while watching the gutting of the tobacco industry’s political power.
The Food and Drug Administration, which for the most part has taken a pretty milquetoast approach to administering tobacco products ever since the agency was given regulatory authority over nicotine, just banned four new RJ Reynolds brands.
RJ Reynolds, long known to tobacco control advocates as the truly sleaziest tobacco company out there, will be forced to pull the brands — Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13 — and to stop selling them because they are new “formulations.” (Camel Crush Bold is the only one I’m familiar with.).
One part of the problem with the new brands is that one of them had a new delivery system of adding menthol to the tobacco, while RJ Reynolds resisted the FDA on providing information on the sweeteners and formulations of the new brands. From the NBC News article:
The FDA said the Camel Crush product has a little capsule of menthol in the filter that’s new. After “considerable back and forth” R.J. Reynolds was unable to show that the menthol capsule didn’t change the product’s risk and didn’t change how consumer might view the brand. As for the Pall Mall products, the company wouldn’t give FDA enough information about sweeteners and other flavors added to the cigarettes, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters.
Retailers have 30 days to remove these brands from theirs shelves. After 30 days, the FDA has the power to simply seize them from the shelves.
From NBC News:
“Today’s decision sets an important precedent that almost certainly will apply to other brands. The FDA’s action is a critical step in preventing the introduction of tobacco products that may be more appealing to youth, more addictive or more harmful,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
“Tobacco manufacturers have a long history of continually modifying their products to make them more attractive and more addictive and introducing new brands and styles designed to appeal to specific segments of the market, including children. These tactics have been spectacularly successful in attracting new smokers, most of whom are children, and in discouraging current smokers from quitting.”
The FDA recently cracked down on RJ Reynolds for labeling its “American Spirit” brand of cigarettes as a “natural” cigarette. The agency is still holding off on regulations regarding e-cigarettes. Advocates have been waiting for months for the FDA to finally release final regs on e-cigs. So far, the agency has only proposed to disallow the sale of e-cigs to minors, which is already banned in most states. Tobacco control advocates want the FDA to ban Internet sales of e-cigs, crack down on e-cig marketing obviously directed at teens and ban sugary, fruity flavours of e-cigs.
Several months ago, Tobacco companies were ordered by a federal district judge to take out full-page ads in a bunch of major newspapers, admitting that they lied for decades about the dangers of cigarette smoking.
The decision was made as part of a racketeering case filed against the industry by the U.S. Justice Department. (I love the term “RICO case” … sounds like something out of the Untouchables.)
Well, the tobacco industry doesn’t like being forced to say “we lied” and appealed this decision. The appellants were the three major tobacco companies in the U.S. — Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard.
Last week, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision.
From a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids press statement:
(This) ruling upholds the specific language of the five corrective statements ordered by Judge Kessler. The corrective statements will address the companies’ deceptions regarding 1) the adverse 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 design of cigarettes to maximize nicotine delivery and addiction; and 5) the health effects of secondhand smoke.
The Court of Appeals did remove a preamble stating that the tobacco companies “deliberately deceived the American public,” but the bulk of the “corrective statement” — the five specific lies and deceptions of the tobacco companies, remained intact in the ruling.
I don’t know if the tobacco companies will appeal this ruling (or where such an appeal would go — the U.S. Supreme Court?)
The District Court judge who issued the original ruling stated in her decision that:
“[This case] is about an industry, and in particular these Defendants, that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system. Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, the Government, and to the public health community … the evidence in this case clearly establishes that Defendants have not ceased engaging in unlawful activity.”
Joining the case as intervenors are the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but here is another article on the same subject from USA Today — the fear that Big Tobacco will take over the legal marijuana business.
Most legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are small mom-and-pop operations. And they are heavily regulated as states are being careful how legal pot is being sold and distributed.
However, it’s already obvious that it must be terribly tempting for Big Tobacco to jump into the burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry. Its current product — tobacco — is seeing diminishing revenues, at least in the West, thanks to higher taxes, drastically lower smoking rates (from close to 30 percent about 20 years ago to about 18 percent today), the popularity of e-cigs, smoking bans and lots of other factors.
Hah, OK, this quote from the USA Today article cracked me up:
“I think there’s a ton of paranoia that they’re buying up warehouses and signing secret deals,” said Chris Walsh, the editor of Marijuana Business Daily, an industry publication.
However, noted anti-smoking crusader Stanton Glantz recently co-authored a paper that the tobacco industry has had an interest in the marijuana market since the 1970s. And USA Today was nice enough to provide a link to the paper.
According to the paper, published in Milbank Quarterly:
“In many ways, the marijuana market of 2014 resembles the tobacco market before 1880, before cigarettes were mass produced using mechanization and marketed using national brands and modern mass media. Legalizing marijuana opens the market to major corporations, including tobacco companies, which have the financial resources, product design technology to optimize puff-by-puff delivery of a psychoactive drug (nicotine), marketing muscle, and political clout to transform the marijuana market.”
Both Altria and RJ Reynolds deny they are looking to get involved in the marijuana business, but we we know the tobacco industry’s track record for honesty, right? Hah! ——>
The head of a company that makes hydroponic equipment for marijuana growing agrees that it appears inevitable that Big Tobacco, and possibly the alcohol industry, will try to muscle in on marijuana as more states legalize it.
“We’re a mass-produced society, from the food we eat to the television we watch,” said President and CEO Derek Peterson of Terra Tech, “ultimately, big alcohol or big tobacco is going to come into this space. I just can’t imagine that won’t happen.”
And with the tobacco industry’s involvement, look for many of the same tricks tobacco used to market cigarettes to kids to market marijuana to underaged users. (Yeah, I know, like marijuana really needs to be marketed to teenagers, but you get my drift. E-cig companies have been incredibly — and I mean incredibly — brazen in marketing e-cigs to kids, look for Joe “Rasta” Camel to make a comeback if Big Tobacco gets involved in pot.).
I’m glad someone did an article on this (NBC News) because frankly, this is something I’ve been wondering about myself for the past couple of years.
With a total of four states now with legal marijuana (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska), might the day come when pot sales will be controlled by huge corporations, perhaps even a single massive mega-corporation?
Boy, there are dollars to be made there. Billions upon billions of them. Too much profit to keep Big Business out for long. It’s legal now for about 18 million people in the U.S. — and I guarantee that number will continue to escalate, maybe a LOT and maybe soon. California might be next in line to legalize pot.
According to NBC:
“My concern is the Marlboro-ization or Budweiser-ization of marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “That’s not what I’m fighting for.”
“It’s a cultural thing,” said Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the country’s oldest consumer pot lobby. “All of us have at least a little bit of discomfort with the corporate stuff.”
Which brings me to big tobacco. “Marlboro-ization.” I’ve long suspected that Big Tobacco is keeping an eye on the effort to legalize pot … and drooling in the process. The tobacco industry has been in a long, slow decline for about 20 years now. So the industry will have to diversify. One way to accomplish this is by selling more cigarettes overseas — but the gargantuan market of China is off-limits because the Chinese government doesn’t want American tobacco companies taking over its state-owned market.
So, that leaves … marijuana. I would not be shocked. Not in the slightest if RJ Reynolds or Philip Morris got into the marijuana-selling business in the next 10 to 20 years. Pot advocates see it looming on the horizon. They mention beer companies, too.
“Beer, wine and tobacco people—I’ve met with them all,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, which is above all a consumer rights organization. He doesn’t love the idea of Big Pot, but he believes it will help guarantee that users get a quality product at a fair price.
He recalled two lunches in Washington, D.C., (one at DC Noodles, the other at Pizza Paradiso); several office visits; and a grand tour through Savor, the district’s popular beer and food conference.
“It’s been so surreal,” he said, reflecting on more than two decades as a marijuana lobbyist, all of it spent outside the warm circle of the other vice industries.
“I always dreamed of these meetings,” he added. “I pictured balding guys, with comb-overs, red suspenders, eating in quiet restaurants—and lo-and-behold that’s what they’ve been.”
The article focuses pretty heavily on the alcohol industry and whether beer and spirits distributors might want to get involved in the marijuana business someday, or if they see marijuana simply as a competitor.
I’m focusing a bit more on the Big Tobacco aspect, because frankly at this point, I think it’s more likely Big Tobacco would get involved in pot rather than beer companies.
My old pal Stanton Glantz (one of the most prominent anti-tobacco crusaders of the past 30 years) is quoted extensively in the story.
Tobacco executives, meanwhile, have been studying the marijuana industry for years, according to Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His research has drawn an 80-million page archive of tobacco industry documents, spanning the 1960s to the late 1990s. Many of the documents reference softening pot laws, rising use, and the dual threat/opportunity of a third major vice industry.
In early 1970, for example, an unsigned memorandum distributed to Philip Morris’ top management read, “We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
“These documents reveal that since at least 1970, despite fervent denials, three multinational tobacco companies, Phillip Morris, British American Tobacco, and RJ Reynolds, all have considered manufacturing cannabis cigarettes,” according to an investigation by Glantz and two colleagues, published this summer in Milbank Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal of public health.
Make no mistake. Pot will be legalized, if not everywhere in the U.S., than in most of the U.S. And I’m predicting sooner rather than later. The political will to keep it illegal is slowly caving. And it is big, big, big business, a multi-billion business. You can be damned sure Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds are thinking about it.
The question is … would that be a bad thing?
In my mind, only if they completely abandoned the scourge of the 20th century — tobacco.
Here is a story from Alternet about how Big Tobacco companies are buying into the e-cigarette business. This began a couple of years ago when Lorillard (Newport Cigarettes) bought Blu E-Cigs, the biggest e-cig company out there. RJR owns an e-cig brand called Vuse.
The article correctly points out that there are no rules or regulations controlling marketing of e-cigs to minors, which is a major concern to me and other anti-tobacco advocates. E-cig companies have been pretty aggressive in using the exact same techniques to market their products as the tobacco companies used to market cigarettes 30 and 40 years ago.
This is a fairly scathing article from Alternet, and based on my research into e-cigs, I see some of the points they are making (I totally agree with the article’s points about the dangers of no control over e-cig marketing), but don’t entirely agree with all of them, suggesting that e-cigs are nearly or virtually as bad as cigarettes. A number of commenters (and e-cig proponents) are taking Alternet to task for the article.
Let me make it clear — again — I am not an e-cig proponent. BUT, I have read and heard enough anecdotal evidence to accept that they may help SOME people quit smoking. And while e-cigs are not entirely harmless, nor are they anywhere nearly as toxic as cigarettes. Do, I think they should be regulated? Absolutely. The FDA is doing this and importantly, is banning sales to minors. Do I think their marketing should be regulated? Absolutely. The FDA is NOT doing this, but should. Do I think they need to be banned? No, I’m not on board with that yet.
The article decries that Big Tobacco is getting into the e-cig business. I don’t see this as either a bad thing or a good thing. I see it as an inevitable thing.
Big Tobacco has lost billions in sales in the U.S. and the rest of the West in the past 25 years as smoking rates have plummeted, and lately smoking rates among young people, which had stubbornly refused to drop, finally starting dropping dramatically about four or five years ago.
Big Tobacco is a lot of things, evil, venal, amoral, etc., but it isn’t stupid. The execs see the future, and the future is, cigarette sales in the West will never remotely approach where they were 30 years ago, and will continue to decline. So, what are they doing? Diversifying. Into e-cigs. It’s capitalism, love it or hate it.
Oh, happy day. Philip Morris (Altria), the No. 1 private cigarette manufacturer in the world, saw its profits drop a dramatic 8 percent in the second quarter of 2013, mostly due to lagging sales. Philip Morris shares dropped 2.5 percent as a result.
Here’s what is interesting. We all know the sales of cigarettes is down, so at first blush, this doesn’t seem to be a big surprise.
What IS a big surprise? The biggest reason for the drop in profits is the drop in sales of Philip Morris brands (mostly Marlboro) overseas.
One thing a lot of people may not realize is that while cigarette sales have been obviously dropping the U.S., the tobacco industry has weathered the storm just fine, mostly by expanding its overseas markets in burgeoning smoking regions such as India, the Philippines and Africa. Philip Morris is blaming a sluggish economy overseas:
According to USAToday:
The cigarette maker reported earnings of $2.12 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the quarter ended June 30, down from $2.32 billion, or $1.36 per share, a year ago.
Excluding excise taxes, revenue fell 2.5% to $7.9 billion despite higher prices. Costs to make and sell cigarettes rose more than 1% to $2.7 billion.
Cigarette shipments fell about 4% to 228.9 billion cigarettes as it saw volume declines in all of its regions. Total Marlboro volumes fell nearly 6% to 72.4 billion cigarettes.
Philip Morris International said economic woes in the European Union and increased excise taxes drove shipments down nearly 6% during the quarter. Shipments fell 3.6% in the company’s region that encompasses Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Shipments also fell 2.4% in Latin America and Canada.
In Asia, one of its largest growth areas, the company said that cigarette volume fell 3.5%, hurt by a recent tax increase in the Philippines, which saw a 16.5% decline in shipments.
Smokers face tax increases, bans, health concerns and social stigma worldwide, but the effect of those on cigarette demand generally is less stark outside the United States. Philip Morris International has compensated for volume declines by raising prices and cutting costs.
Anytime the tobacco industry is hurting that is great news. Perhaps its a bad economy, but maybe smoking bans, higher taxes and lower smoker rates in other countries is having an effect, as well. Of course, Philip Morris would never admit THAT.