In this week's edition of EXPOSED! I'm putting on display the decades of deceit demonstrated by one of the most demonic industries of all time...
“Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers.”
-World Health Organization.
Tobacco has a long history and it is thought to have been grown in the Americas as far back as 6000 BC. Around 1 BC, American Indians used it for a variety of purposes, from religious to medicinal. They considered it to be so valuable that they offered dried tobacco leaves as a gift to Christopher Columbus in that famous year of 1492. After sailors started to bring it back, it was soon planted all across Europe. Oddly enough, it was popular at that time because of its healing properties as believers thought that it could cure anything from bad breath to cancer. How wrong could they be?
So what could be better than sage advice from a qualified doctor? The tobacco companies thought that it was a really good move back in the 1930s and 40s to have physicians promote their products. Not much was known then about the deadly effects of smoking, facts that we are all so aware of today. Lucky Strikes made by American Tobacco were the first to do it and claimed “20,679 physicians say “Luckies are less irritating” to the throat. The incidence of lung cancer was on the rise but the correlation between this and smoking had yet to be acknowledged.
From there onward as more and more medical evidence came to light about the dangers of smoking, the tobacco companies waged a war based upon disinformation. They tried hard to sow doubt in the minds of consumers that smoking was in fact dangerous, saying that the evidence was not conclusive. The US Surgeon General's report came out in 1964 stating that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis. Following on from that, the US Congress mandated that health warnings should appear on cigarette packages, with advertising in broadcast media being banned and a call for an annual report on the health consequences of smoking. But the tobacco giants stuck to their guns, rolling out their own experts and forming so called institutes to push their agenda.
Fred Panzier, who was Vice President of the Tobacco Institute in the US from 1971 to 1980, wanted to keep the controversy alive around smoking and health. He said in a memo which he penned “It is my strong belief that we now have an opportunity to take the initiative in the cigarette controversy, and turn it around. For twenty years the industry has employed a single strategy to defend itself on 3 major fronts – litigation, politics and public opinion.” This strategy consisted of “Creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it” and “Advocating the public's right to smoke, without actually urging them to take up the practice.”
The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was passed in the US in 1970 in order to combat organized crime. Ongoing criminal enterprise could be prosecuted and incur civil penalties and the legislation covered a host of terrible crimes such as kidnapping, murder, drug trafficking, slavery and more.
In September of 1999 the US Justice Department filed a racketeering lawsuit against the major cigarette manufacturers and two affiliates. The charge was one of conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking and the defendants were the biggest players in the industry:
Phillip Morris Companies
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation
Lorillard Tobacco Company
The Liggett Group
The Council for Tobacco Research
The Tobacco Institute.
The government alleged that “the defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute – a massive 50 year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes in violation of RICO”.
[From the DOJ Final Proposed Findings of Fact (FPPF), Executive Summary, Page 1.]
The trial took 9 months and involved hundreds of depositions and thousands of exhibits. On August 17, 2006 US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the Government had proven its case and found that the tobacco company defendants had violated the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Judge Kessler ruled that:
Defendants knew for 50 years or more that cigarette smoking caused disease, but repeatedly denied that smoking caused adverse health effects. Defendants publicly distorted and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades.
Defendants concealed and suppressed research data and other evidence showing nicotine is addictive, and withheld information about their internal research on addiction, from the American public, the government, and the public health community, including the United States Surgeon General. The defendants acted this way to maintain profits by keeping people smoking and attracting new consumers, to avoid liability, and prevent regulation of the industry.
Defendants falsely denied that they can and do control the level of nicotine delivered to smokers to create and sustain addiction.
Defendants falsely marketed and promoted low tar/”light” cigarettes as less harmful as “full flavor” cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain corporate revenues.
From the 1950s to the present, different tobacco companies using different methods have intentionally marketed cigarettes to young people under the age of 21 in order to recruit “replacement smokers” who would ensure the future economic viability of the Tobacco Industry.
Defendants publicly denied, while internally acknowledging, that secondhand tobacco smoke is hazardous to nonsmokers.
At various times, Defendants attempted to, and did suppress and conceal scientific research and destroy documents relevant to their public and litigation positions.
Judge Kessler further found “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.”
After nearly 2 decades of litigation, in 2017 the tobacco companies were forced to run both television and newspaper advertisements with corrective statements. These statements referred to the following:
A. Adverse Health Effects of Smoking
B. Addictiveness of Smoking and Nicotine
C. Lack of Significant Health Benefit from Smoking “Low Tar”, “Light”, “Ultra Light”, “Mild”, and “Natural” Cigarettes.
D. Manipulation of Cigarette Design and Composition to Ensure Optimum Nicotine Delivery.
E. Adverse Health Effects of Exposure to Second Hand Smoke.
So with ever-tightening regulation in the West, the tobacco industry had already set its sights on the growing markets presented by Asia. With rising tobacco consumption in the whole of Asia and the Western Pacific Region, a huge opportunity was there for big tobacco and a grave health threat was being created.
Back in the 70s and 80s, whilst many of these countries did have some kind of control measures such as health education in schools and simple warnings on cigarette packaging, these were neither sufficiently specific nor comprehensive. For instance, specific advertising could be banned but product sponsorship not. Funding of government information campaigns was low in comparison to the power of the tobacco industry to get their message across. Asian countries also tended not to have the political will to get to grips with the problem. It is ironic that in the late 1980s, the USA actually helped their own tobacco industry to gain access to some Asian markets. Under the threat of economic sanctions, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan had to accept American cigarette imports. Thailand also eventually complied after a failed attempt to hold out against the US demand.
[Mackay J. US tobacco export to Third World: Third World War. J. Natl Cancer inst Monogr. 1992; 12:25-28]
A 1996 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that tobacco use internationally was actively encouraged by US trade policies. Following trade agreements, US market share in those 4 countries mentioned above increased substantially as they were compelled to import US tobacco products. This led to a 10% increase in consumption per head in comparison to the period prior to the importation. This brought about a political awareness in Asia that further control of tobacco products was essential and all aspects of the industry had to be tackled head-on.
[US trade policy and cigarette smoking in Asia. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA1996]
An important tool in the control of tobacco use is taxation. In 2012, the Asian Development Bank estimated that, in the absence of intervention, smoking would eventually kill about 270 million current and future users who at the time were living in China, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam. Increases in tax would reduce the number of smokers and smoking-related deaths and at the same time bring substantial new revenues.
But despite the huge increase in regulation of the tobacco industry, it still manages to get its toxic message out there. In the US, the industry spends over $400 per smoker per year on special offers, coupons, sign-ups and other direct mail approaches – an unseen world to non-smokers. Robert Proctor, a historian from Stanford wrote “This is precisely how the industry wants it; a fungus always grows best in the dark.”
Vape at Your Peril.
Marketed as a better alternative to regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are viewed by critics of the tobacco industry simply as a gateway to nicotine addiction. The Centers for Disease Control reported that between 2011 and 2013 the number of never-smoking youth who tried e-cigarettes tripled from around 79,000 to over 263,000.
The fluid in e-cigarettes is made up from propylene glycol, glycerol, nicotine and some flavoring substances. The danger lies in how these compounds can change when they are heated and vaporized. Basically, the chemicals going through this process are converted into other chemicals and by using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the new chemicals have been examined by scientists with worrying results. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study indicating that formaldehyde-releasing agents are formed during the vaping process. Formaldehyde itself is a group 1 carcinogen and this group carries the largest risk of cancer or causes the most serious cancers. The risk therefore of developing cancer from these toxins could be higher than from smoking traditional cigarettes. The long term health consequences of vaping are yet to be fully understood but what is known so far, make this smoking alternative a very dangerous option.
Bartolome de las Casas (1484-1566) was a 16th-century Spanish colonist. When he arrived in the interior of Cuba he found:
“men with half-burned wood in their hands and certain herbs to take their smokes which are some dry herbs put in a certain leaf, also dry, by which they become benumbed and almost drunk, and so it is said they do not feel fatigue. I knew Spaniards on the island of Espanola who were accustomed to take, and being reprimanded for it, by telling them it was a vice, they replied they were unable to cease using it. I do not know what relish or benefit they found in it.”
Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico p. 768
Smoking gun, anyone?
Stay safe, PA