January 24, 2022

The Editor Speaks: Tobacco

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Colin Wilsonweb2Tuesday May 31st is No Tobacco Day. Please see Premier Alden McLaughlin’s Message for World No Tobacco Day Message 2016 we published at: https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/cayman-islands-marks-world-no-tobacco-day-may-31st/

The Premier said:

“Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and premature death and impoverishment worldwide, and the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats that the world has ever faced, killing six million people a year.
“More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. “

The Premier said he is concerned by the number of people who still smoke despite all the health warnings.

He is encouraged, however, by the Public Health’s Department’s tobacco cessation programme “I Can Quit”. “In its second year running, the results yielded are very encouraging with as high as a 90 per cent success rate,” he said.

In my teenage days – going back more than 55 years – it was normal for people to smoke. I did. I must profess at first I didn’t like it and I had to persevere with it because it was “the norm”. Then I started to enjoy it.

I was a cricket fanatic. I played cricket for three local teams – five and sometimes even six times a week! At least 75% of my team mates smoked.

Then the news broke how dangerous to one’s health smoking was and soon at my workplace and many others, campaigns started up with monetary incentives to stop smoking.

I was one of the lucky ones and was able to stop immediately and never had the craving that most people have for that “wee puff”.

I was even able to have the occasional cigarette without wanting to start up again.

The tobacco companies had for years been duping the public and governments with their false claims, advertising and tampering even with their own scientific evidence.

Their conduct has been superbly illustrated in a report by Clive Bates and Andy
Rowell for the London-based Action on Smoking and health (ASH).

It has been adapted for World No Tobacco Day. For further details and hundreds of
additional extracts from tobacco industry papers visit ASH at:
http://www.ash.org.uk/papers/tobexpld.html
and WHO’s comprehensive Tobacco Free Initiative resources at:
http://www.who.int/toh.

The title is “Tobacco Explained. The truth about the tobacco industry
…in its own words”.

The following is an extract:

Summary

Thousands of internal tobacco industry documents released through litigation and whistleblowers reveal the most astonishing systematic corporate deceit of all time. What follows is a survey of the documents, 1,200 relevant and revealing quotes grouped under common themes.

Chapter 1 Smoking and health Publicly the industry denied and continues to deny that it is clear that smoking causes lung cancer – yet it has understood the carcinogenic nature of its product since the 1950s. It is now clear that the industry’s stance on smoking and health is determined by lawyers and public relations concerns.

Chapter 2 Nicotine and addiction Until recently the industry has denied its product is addictive. Most recently it has used a definition of addictiveness so broad that it encompasses shopping and the Internet. Internally, it has known since the 1960s that the crucial selling point of its product is the chemical dependence of its customers. Without nicotine addiction there would be no tobacco industry. Nicotine addiction destroys the industry’s PR and legal stance that smoking is a matter of choice.

Chapter 3 Marketing to children The companies deny that they target the young. The documents reveal the obvious – that the market of young smokers is of central importance to the industry. Many documents reveal the companies’ pre-occupation with teenagers and younger children – and the lengths they have gone to in order to influence smoking behaviour in this age group.

Chapter 4 Advertising The industry maintains that advertising is used only to fight for brand share and that it does not increase total consumption – academic research shows otherwise. The documents show that advertising is crucial in nurturing the motivation to smoke by creating or projecting the positive values, such as independence, machismo, glamour or intelligence, erroneously associated with the product.

Chapter 5 Cigarette design The documents show that the companies initially hoped to make safer cigarettes, but then abandoned the enterprise when it recognised that this would expose their existing products as ‘unsafe’. The industry has deliberately promoted ‘low-tar’ cigarettes knowing that they would offer false reassurance without health benefits. It has manipulated nicotine and introduced additives to change the delivery of nicotine. It recognises the cigarette as a drug delivery device.

Chapter 6 Second-hand smoke The industry is challenged by second-hand smoke in two ways. First, measures to protect non-smokers will reduce the opportunities to smoke and contribute to its social unacceptability. Second, the ‘freedom to smoke’ arguments are confounded if non-smokers are harmed. The industry has refused to accept the now overwhelming consensus regarding the harm caused by second-hand smoke – instead it has denied and obfuscated, and sought to influence debate by buying up scientists on a spectacular scale.

Chapter 7 “Emerging markets” Faced with reducing levels of smoking in the West and an insatiable need for money, the companies have moved aggressively into developing countries and Eastern Europe. The documents reveal an arrogance and fanaticism that has imperialist echoes.

Two views of the tobacco industry

Taken together the documents challenge the tobacco industry’s cosy explanation of itself – as the supplier of a legal product used for a widely-enjoyed social habit by adults who are fully aware of the risks and choose to take them to experience the pleasures.

Instead a much darker explanation emerges: it is a predatory industry whose market dynamics demand that it recruits young people. It does this by deploying vast promotional expenditures to create, communicate and amplify a set of positive values associated with the product. Once the glamour phase subsides, nicotine addiction takes over making the customer dependent on the product and securing a profitable cash flow. Trapped by nicotine addiction, the smoker is subject to a variety of sub-lethal illnesses which culminate in a one in two probability of death through smoking-related disease. The smoker’s death means a replacement customer must be found – and the cycle begins again.

Facts and realities the tobacco industry must accept

Justification for taking strong measures against the tobacco industry must be based on facts and realities that command wide assent. Ten ‘facts and realities’ justified by the tobacco industry’s own documents, are set out below. The industry should now be required to admit these:

1. That smoking causes many kinds of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses which are fatal for many sufferers. The industry still does not publicly accept that smoking causes lung cancer.

2. That annual global death toll caused by smoking is 4 million. By 2030, that figure will rise to 10 million with seventy percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.

3. That nicotine is the most important active ingredient in tobacco; that the tobacco companies are in the drug business; the drug is nicotine and that the cigarette is a drug delivery device. The industry maintains it is a simple consumer goods industry.

4. That nicotine is physiologically and psychologically addictive, in a similar way to heroin and cocaine – rather than shopping, chocolate or the Internet. The overwhelming majority of smokers are strongly dependent on nicotine and that this is a substantial block to smokers’ quitting if they choose to. The industry still maintains that nicotine is not addictive in the sense used here.

5. That teenagers (13-18) and children (<13) are inherently important to the tobacco market and that companies are competing for market share in these age groups. The industry maintains that its business is only focussed on adults.

6. That advertising increases total consumption as well as promoting brand share. The industry flatly denies this.

7. That advertising is one (of several) important and interlocking ingredients that nurture smoking behaviour among teenagers and children. The industry denies its advertising influences the smoking behaviour of children.

8. That current formulations of low tar cigarettes create false health reassurance and offer little or no health benefit. The industry has either not publicly accepted this or argued that it never claimed any health benefits.

9. That second-hand smoke is a real public health hazard, including causing childhood diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, cot-death and glue ear, and is a cause of lung cancer and heart disease in adults. The industry has mounted a major disinformation campaign in this area.

That the tobacco industry has the normal duty of any manufacturer to ensure that it does not market a defective product and that its products are as safe as possible.

Advertising

I am always amused by the suggestion that advertising, a function that has been shown to increase consumption of virtually every other product, somehow miraculously fails to work for tobacco products.

Emerson Foote, former Chairman of McCann-Erickson, which handled US$20m of tobacco industry accounts expressing incredulity at the claim that tobacco advertising has no impact on the number of cigarettes smoked and, hence, the harm caused.

4.1 Summary

The first cigarette advertisements unashamedly pushed either reduced risk, health reassurance or even health “benefits” of smoking a specific product. By the forties, these were being criticised for being deceptive – and by the fifties the most successful advert of the modern era, the Marlboro Man, had been born.

In the sixties, manufacturers were using adverts to deny that their products caused cancer. The tobacco industry has repeatedly asserted that banning advertising would be an infringement of “commercial free speech”, but has never answered the criticism that much of its advertising was misleading.

The industry maintains that the only reason for advertising is to make current smokers switch brands, it does not effect overall consumption, nor entice youngsters to start smoking – the undeniable evidence that the industry targets youth is in a separate section.

As cigarettes adverts were banned on television, first in the UK and then in the US,
companies looked to sponsorship of arts and sport to circumvent the bans. They have adopted the same line for sponsorship as advertising – it does not affect overall consumption.

The industry also introduced “brand stretching” as ways of circumventing bans on advertising and sponsorship in the early 1980’s and still uses the concept to this day. Earlier this year BAT announced a new Formula One racing team, to be called British American Racing.

In June 1998, the European Union will pass a directive banning tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion in a staged phase-out by 2006.

It can be downloaded in full at: http://www.who.int/tobacco/media/en/TobaccoExplained.pdf

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