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25 Jun
2014
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Smoke Yourself to Death – We Don’t Care

Fact Meets Fiction

A couple of months ago a book was recommended to me – The Racketeer by John Grisham. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d never read any of his work before so it was a pleasant surprise to encounter a new author with several books on the shelves of the local library.

John Grisham, if you aren’t familiar with his work, writes legal thrillers about courtroom dramas, lawyers, and the corruption in the US legal system.

I’m halfway through The Runaway Jury at the moment. I’ll briefly tell you the story but, no, this isn’t a book review. The story is very relevant to a piece of health news I came across this morning. The Runaway Jury is a story about a widow’s fight for compensation from a tobacco company for the death of her husband – caused by lung cancer. The fascinating part of the story is all the dirty tricks going on in the background – from eliminating jury members who are almost certainly going to vote against you, to blackmailing family members in order to coerce a jury member to vote the right way.

The suggestion is that the huge wealth of the tobacco companies is sufficient to ensure a favourable verdict because they have absolutely no scruples – as long as they don’t get caught.

Legislation Weakened

Then, while checking through my health news updates this morning I came across a piece regarding new tobacco legislation in the US.

“White House changes to proposed rules for tobacco products significantly weakened language detailing health risks from cigars and deleted restrictions that might have prevented online sales of e-cigarettes, published documents show.” – Reuters

The White House also “deleted an FDA analysis showing that exempting premium cigars from a proposal to require large warning labels would save manufacturers $1 million to $3 million but incur costs to public health of $32.6 million to $34.2 million.”

A lot of the White House’s interference seems to relate to the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) attempts to regulate sales of e-cigarettes, with the consequence that they will still be readily available to under-18’s.

Influence

The tobacco lobby is powerful and determined to resist any legislation that will negatively impact the industry’s profits – regardless of the consequences to its customers’ health and well-being.

Douglas H. Luke PhD. St Louis University, examined pro-tobacco political campaign contributions between 1993 and 2000. He found that 220 Republicans and 140 Democrat legislators accepted more than $6.8 million in contributions.  So it’s hardly surprising that anti-tobacco legislation is easily influenced.

From a research paper on how the tobacco industry influences US law.

Protect Profits

This goal of preserving the tobacco market was repeated many times, such as in this 1995 Philip Morris internal document, which stated:

“Our goal is to help shape regulatory environments that enable our businesses to achieve their objectives in all locations where we do business. “Our overall approach to the issues is to fight aggressively with all available resources, against any attempt, from any quarter, to diminish our ability to manufacture our products efficiently, and market them effectively. “We are also becoming more and more proactive in launching programs and hope that we can control the regulation which results from a public sense of inaction. “We also know that in a world where our business interests have enemies—sometimes the best offense is to aim right at the heart of the problem [health consequences of tobacco use] our critics raise. “By solving the problem, we take away their ammunition to harm us. “In short, we are very clear about our objective—an unyielding and aggressive defense of our rights to make and sell our products and our consumers’ rights to have a free marketplace so that they can choose and use those products.”

The tobacco industry’s public rhetoric never mentions its primary objective: to ensure a large customer base, stable markets, and higher profits.

 

Philip Morris is the manufacturer of Marlboro, L&M, Bond Street, Parliament, Chesterfield as well as other cigarette brands. It makes an annual profit of around $2,000,000,000.

 

That Healthy Nicotine Buzz

In my experience of both helping people to stop smoking and talking to friends who smoke, e-cigarettes are a great way to get the nicotine buzz without all the carcinogens contained in the smoke. But everyone I know who switched to e-cigarettes and praised them eventually started smoking real cigarettes again. It seems it’s easy to stop smoking real cigarettes for a while, but the safer electronic versions soon pall and so the cigarette manufacturers can rest assured that their products still have a profitable demand.

It seems e-ciggies, despite all the fancy flavours, aren’t able to help people quit.

But apart from that I have serious doubts about their safety. Nicotine is a highly toxic poison. There is no way around that. Still it keeps the tobacco growing industry in business and the tobacco industry is a multi-billion dollar one.

The Money is all that Matters

The tobacco industry is very like Big Pharma. Billions and billions of dollars are available and any threat to that massive income is dealt with in whatever way is necessary. I can’t help thinking about corruption in high places, when legislation designed to make it more difficult to get hooked on cigarettes, or even just nicotine, is either scuppered or watered down.

It’s all about profit.

You don’t matter.

 

Inspired by: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/25/usa-ecigarettes-whitehouse-idINL2N0P00Z020140625

Further reading:

http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/10/2/124.full

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/17726.php

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