Follow-up: San Francisco may ban chewing tobacco at AT&T Park


Back Camera

I wrote about this a day or two ago — a bill has been proposed to ban chewing tobacco both on the field and in the stands of all California ballparks, including Major League ballparks.

Now, while such a bill is likely a longshot to pass, here is an ordinance that might have a better chance. In addition to the statewide bill, there has also been an ordinance proposed to ban chewing tobacco at ballparks within the city and county of San Francisco. Well, there’s one major ballpark in the city — AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants.


SFGate interviewed several players about the proposal, who said it would be difficult to enforce.

From the article:

Also in Arizona, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who quit chewing tobacco with the help of a hypnotherapist, said: “To force a ban, that’s going to be difficult. I’ll say that. (Quitting) is something you have to want to do. I know baseball is doing a great job of trying to keep these guys from doing chewing or dipping. I’m guilty. It’s part of the the game I grew up with.”

The County Supervisor behind the proposal, Mark Farrell, said he has spken with Major League Baseball and the Giants about the idea, and said he’s “not ruling out” exemption for AT&T Park if an agreement cant be reached with the Player’s Association.

Major League Baseball has publicly stated that it is interested in banning chew at ballparks (it is already banned in Minor League parks and by the NCAA), but that it would require an agreement with the Players’ Association. Chew, which for some mystifying reason is deeply ingrained in the game of baseball, is expected to be discussed as part of the next collective bargaining agreement in 2016.

Leonard Nimoy dies of COPD


Sad, sad news. I had a bad feeling a few days ago when I read a story that Leonard Nimoy was ill.

Leonard Nimoy died today at the age of 83 after battling COPD. In an interview on Piers Morgan roughly a year ago, Nimoy disclosed that he had been diagnosed with COPD. His voice was more gravelly than usual and several times he had to stop and clear his voice. It was obvious he was in a deep stage of it. If you watch the video, you will notice that he has an oxygen apparatus on the table in front of him, but that he was able to talk several minutes without it.

He spoke about smoking. He smoked at least two packs a day, calling himself an “Olympic championship smoker,” talked about how when he was in the military, representatives from the tobacco industry actually gave away cigarettes to the soldiers, talked about the old Camel doctor ads. He also quit 30 years ago, but he was one of the unlucky ones who still developed COPD.

Nimoy’s message: “It’s not too early to quit. The damage is being done right now to your lung cells.” Don’t wait five years, don’t wait 10 years. Quit now.

In the Piers Morgan interview, he said his initial reaction after being diagnosed was dismay.

“This is unfair. I quit a long time ago. Why is this happening to me?” Nimoy said.

It is unfair. Nimoy spent the last year or so of his life speaking out against tobacco and smoking. He had a goof life, cut short too soon, but lived it well.

I think as kids, Mr. Spock was everyone’s favourite character on Star Trek. He was certainly the most interesting. I can’t watch the old episodes without busting up laughing at the cheesy dialogue and William Shatner’s even cheesier acting. All that being said, Spock and Nimoy still bring a dignity to the show that has held up over the years.

Leonard’s final Tweet, a few days before he died:

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP (Live Long and Prosper)


Study: Two-thirds of smokers will die from smoking-related illnesses

dead man smoking

I saw some reactions to this story to the effect of “Well, duh,” but actually I think it’s a pretty groundbreaking conclusion.

According to a study out of Australia, 67 percent of smokers will die from some disease caused by their smoking. I’ve long heard the term “the majority of smokers die from smoking,” but there was no real hard-and-fast study confirming that. Well, now we have one. And it’s more than a “majority.” It’s two out of three. That’s more than previously thought.

Keep in mind, lung cancer is not the only kind of disease smoking causes. There’s at least 13 cancers that are known to be caused by smoking. Then there’s COPD. And heart disease. And other vascular diseases.

What is now known, not known 20 or 30 years ago, is the risk factor between smoking and other deadly or debilitating diseases, including diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

From the article:

“We knew smoking was bad, but we now have direct, independent evidence that confirms the disturbing findings that have been emerging internationally,” said co-author Emily Banks, a researcher at the Australian National University.


California bill would ban chewing tobacco at ballparks

lenny dykstra
Lenny Dykstra


This is an interesting tack. I have no idea if there is any political will behind this.

A California state legislator has submitted a bill that would ban chew at all baseball ballparks, including Major League ballparks (Dodger Stadium, Petco, Angels Stadium, AT&T Park and the Oakland Coliseum). The law would ban chew within ballparks by fans, coaches and players.

Now, baseball already bans chew by players at the Minor League level; I have no idea if that applies to fans, it’s probably a ballpark-by-ballpark thing. But, Major Leaguers are still allowed to chew.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other groups (and me) have been trying to get baseball to ban chew. The league has been reluctant to do this, I think mostly because the players’ union has to get behind it. The players’ union has said it is willing to negotiate the issue of chewing tobacco during the next contract talks, which I believe are in 2016.

Frankly, I have to believe most parks already ban fans from chewing because it’s gross and disgusting and who wants to clean that crap up? Again, it doesn’t affect NCAA or Minor League players because they’re already prohibited from chewing on the ballfield. It would be really interesting how the Padres, Dodgers, Angels, Giants and A’s would feel if this bill actually passed.

I think it might be a bit premature for such a bill until we see what happens with the MLB collective bargaining negotiations next year. I’m cautiously optimistic the union will agree to a ban on chew. But, I like that the bill is raising the issue and is putting extra pressure on baseball to deal with the problem.

Chew in baseball has become a hot topic in part because Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died last year of salivary gland cancer and Curt Schilling recently underwent treatment for oral cancer. Both were longtime chewers. Babe Ruth also died of oral cancer.




Breaking: Big Tobacco companies agree to $100 million settlement of Engle cases

Howard Engle
Howard Engle


Breaking news!

RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris have reached a $100 million settlement of 400  Engle cases in Florida. I thought they might do this. I’ve been writing for months that, every way I cut it, it was in their interest to do this.

The Engle (named after Howard Engle, a smoker who died several years ago) cases came from a Florida Supreme Court decision throwing out a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco for its years of lies and cover-ups over the dangers of smoking. However, while throwing those cases out, the state Supreme Court opened the way for individual plaintiffs to file separate lawsuits against Big Tobacco.

Since then, literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed in Florida and Big Tobacco has been losing about two-thirds of these cases, with hundreds of millions of judgements awarded in favour of over a hundred plaintiffs. Most of those judgements have been upheld on appeal.

Rather than go through at least another decade of losing these cases (not to mention all the legal fees), I figured sooner or later, Big Tobacco was simply going to settle.

This settlement involves 400 cases filed in federal court. That’s $250,000 per plaintiff. I’m guessing there’s going to be more settlements, because I believe there’s several thousand more lawsuits ongoing, and that a lot of them are in state courts. So this settlement may have solely been to deal with the federal cases. And in fact, the NBC story is careful to say “it’s the first settlement by Big Tobacco to settle a chunk of Engle cases.”

Under the agreement, Lorillard will pay $15 million, while RJR and Philip Morris will each pay $42.5 million. This settlement won’t affect cases that have already been settled.

Great news for these families devastated by smoking! I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Engle settlements in Florida.





And speaking of John Oliver — Ireland fights back against tobacco industry over plain packaging


A big focus of John Oliver’s piece on the tobacco industry was how huge tobacco companies are fighting small nations trying to impose plain packaging laws for cigarettes.

Oliver’s piece specifically talked about Australia, which won its court case against Big Tobacco, Uruguay and Togo. Here’s another country in a similar battle — Ireland.

Ireland has been threatened with litigation by Japan Tobacco International for a law requiring plain packaging on tobacco products.

From this article:

James Reilly, (minister for children and youth affairs) who introduced the bill as health minister last July but has since become minister for children and youth affairs (although he still has command over passing the bill through parliament), added: “The Irish government will put the health of its citizens first. It won’t be intimidated by external forces.”

Good for Ireland for standing tall. Togo was forced to cave in light of a billion-dollar lawsuit. Uruguay is another tiny country that doesn’t have much resources to fight Big Tobacco.

Weirdly enough, JTI is threatening to file its lawsuit before the law is even passed. It’s still winding its way through the Ireland Parliament, but JTI wants to sue to have the bill stopped by the Court of Justice of the European Union until a case is heard from England regarding tobacco trademarking.

Similar pushes for plain packaging are a no-go in the U.S. due to conflicts with the First Amendment.


Higher taxes? Smoking bans? Lawsuits? The tobacco industry continues to thrive, thank you


A sobering story from Business Cheat Sheet, but one I was aware of.

In John Oliver’s recent epic rant about the tobacco industry, he touched on this issue (more on that in a subsequent post).

Yes, the tobacco industry has taken some big hits in the past 30 years. A sharply declining smoking rate, from over 50 percent in the 1960s to approximately 18 percent today; the massive $280 billion Master Settlement Agreement in 1998; the Engle judgements out of Florida; and higher taxes in most states over the past 15 years.

However, from the Business Cheat Sheet story.

Then came the good news. According to a Credit Suisse research report released last week, tobacco is America’s most successful industry. The report states that the average returns from a company listed on the stock exchange was about 10% per year from the period between 1900 and 2010. Tobacco stocks, however, produced annualized returns of 14.6% during the same period. In terms of hard cash, this means that a single dollar invested in tobacco stocks was worth $6.3 million by 2010, while a dollar invested in a stock market index would only be worth $38,255.

However, as Business Cheat Sheet points out, the tobacco industry has simply rolled with the changes. There’s a reason the average cost of cigarettes has gone from $1.50 a pack in 1990 to $5.50 a pack in 2015. All those added costs — taxes and settlements — have simply been passed on to cigarette consumers.

According to this article, the $280 billion MSA and other litigation raised the cost of cigarettes by 10.9 cents a pack in the late 1990s. However, the price of cigarettes increased by an average of 14 cents a pack. The industry simply kept the change. When your customers are addicted to nicotine, there’s nowhere else to go.

Business Cheat Sheet also points out that the tobacco industry is an oligopoly — a large industry basically controlled by a very small number of companies. In the U.S., there’s really only four major tobacco companies — Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and British-American Tobacco. And when the merger of RJ Reynolds and Lorillard is complete, that number will be down to three (BAT, which is big internationally, has a tiny share of the market in the U.S.). In fact, get this, there has not been a new major tobacco company formed in 56 years.

Worldwide, a mere five major companies — Philip Morris, BAT, Japan Tobacco International, Reemsta and Altadis — control 45 percent of the market. A huge percentage of the rest of the world market is in state-controlled in China.

To quote from the article:

As a result, competition within the industry is rare and the incentive to innovate on products and prices is low.

To add to that, cigarettes have an inelastic demand curve. This means that demand stays constant, even in times of recession. Thus, the tobacco industry manages to make profits because product margins improve, even if the overall product volume sold decreases.

The tobacco industry is booming in developing nations.

The third reason the industry continues to thrive — burgeoning markets in the Asia and Africa.

The smoking rate has not only declined dramatically in the U.S., but through most of the Western World. This was historically where the tobacco industry made the bulk of its revenues. But, as John Oliver pointed out last week, the developing world is completely different, where there is not as much education about the dangers of smoking and frankly for a lot of people, living conditions are so poor, there’s a level of apathy toward the dangers of smoking even when they are known. U.S. tobacco companies simply drool over these huge markets in Brazil, Africa, India, Indonesia the Philippines. (They’d be going after China, too, but China won’t allow it).

It can seem a daunting task fighting an industry that continues to thrive despite losing so many regulatory, legal and PR battles. Killing the industry won’t happen tomorrow and won’t happen next year or in the next decade. It’s definitely a process of chipping away at it.


What the hell? — Liam Neeson starring in a cigarette commercial

Liam Neeson
Preview for “Run One Night” — being shown on television


This blew me away.

A new movie is coming out in March called “Run All Night.” It looks like yet another cookie-cutter Liam Neeson “I have a particular set of skills” hitman violent thriller (Seriously, are these the only movies Liam Neeson is going to make from now on?).

It’s rated R, has plenty of gunplay, I’m sure plenty of violence and bad language, so I really don’t care if there’s smoking in the movie. But, in the trailer for the movie, being shown regularly right now, it has Liam Neeson prominently featured with a cigarette in his mouth.

What the eff, Warner Brothers? Seriously? It seems like it could have been pretty easy to exclude the “hey, smoking makes you a tough guy bad ass” cigarette commercial from the preview showing repeatedly on regular television … when lots of kids will see how cool Liam Neeson looks with a gun and a cigarette.

I get that it’s an R-rated movie (gratuitous smoking is only supposed to be allowed in R-rated movies now), but regular television programming is not R-rated. When they took the smoking out of PG and PG-13 movies, they also need to make sure to take the smoking out of the previews being shown on TV.

I know it may seem petty to some people, but this really ticked me off. It was a long, bruising and at times exasperating battle to get smoking out of Hollywood movies marketed to kids, and apparently we’re still fighting this battle. You’re not going to show the F-bombs and blood splatters on television previews — cut out the cigarettes, too.



John Oliver — Meet “Jeff the Diseased Lung” takedown of tobacco companies

jeff the diseased lung

This is really brilliant. John Oliver on HBO dedicated an 18-minute segment to ripping into the tobacco companies for attacking small nations trying to implement anti-tobacco laws.

Oliver makes some good points, some I knew about, others I didn’t. We all know the tobacco industry is in full-fledged decline in the West because frankly people are tired of watching their loved ones die of COPD and lung cancer … and governments are tired of the billions of dollars of medical costs draining their economies. The smoking rate in the West is less than one-half of what it was 50 years ago.

Well, the tobacco industry has responded by aggressively marketing its products overseas, especially in Africa and Asia. These poorer nations as a rule don’t have strong regulations regarding tobacco and smoking rates are exceedingly high in some of these countries (According to Oliver, Indonesia’s smoking rate is 67 percent among men.).

Oliver’s takedown begins with Australia, which has been one of the most aggressive nations in the world in combating tobacco. Australia passed a law requiring plain packaging, which Philip Morris International, obviously a subsidiary of Philip Morris, took to court. The case went all the way to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the government.

PMI then filed a trademark lawsuit against Australia to the World Court, saying Australia’s refusal to allow tobacco branding violated a trade agreement with Hong Kong, where PMI is headquartered.

Oliver also brings up lawsuits filed by tobacco companies against tiny countries like Uruguay, Togo and the Solomon Islands for attempting to restrict tobacco branding.

jeff the diseased lung billboard
Actual Last Week with John Oliver “Jeff the Diseased Lung” billboard in Uruguay,


Oliver’s show, Last Week with John Oliver, then came up with a brilliant idea. Create a tobacco brand for these poor countries trying to limit tobacco branding. And they came up with Jeff the Diseased Lung.

Last Week with John Oliver then took out billboard ads in Uruguay and sent t-shirts to Togo with the Jeff the Diseased Lung logo, telling the tobacco companies, ‘it’s all yours. The brand is there, you can use it, our lawyers won’t sue you.”

Very subversive and very funny. (Hopefully YouTube doesn’t take this down after a week.)

Website: Tobacco Tactics


Here is a Website I stumbled upon that looks really interesting, called Tobacco Tactics. I hope the people behind it keep it active. I’ll definitely be checking it out over the next few days. The group also has a Facebook page with links to other anti-tobacco resources. It’s based out of the UK (seems to be part of the University of Bath), so it has a bit of an emphasis on the UK and expends a lot of energy on the battle over plain packaging of cigarette packs (that’s strictly a non-U.S. issue, plain packaging was thrown out in the U.S. over First Amendment issues).

This site focuses on the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics and misinformation campaign. Man, they have some really extensive stuff in there about astroturfing and Internet trolls. I’ve always wondered if “Confederate1978” (the most active pro-smoking troll I’ve ever seen) was some kind of paid tobacco operative (probably not, but you never know.).

As an aside, on virtually every e-cigarette article I find online that has comments, there always seem to be people wildly endorsing e-cigarettes and how they are harmless and how they helped them quit smoking. I have seriously wondered at times if these posters are genuine or if some of them are literally employees of e-cigarette companies.

Anyway, this site is an awesome source of information on the industry’s incredibly sordid history of lies, cover-ups and dishonest tactics that go on to this day. It will take me forever to plow through all this. There’s a chapter on “pro-smoking blogs” that I think I could add some names to!

Anyway, check it out! It’s an informative read.