Harm Reduction

New laws limit the amount of money that tobacco companies have to post as a bond while court judgments against the companies are being appealed (normally in most non-tobacco cases the defendant has to put up the entire amount of the damages awarded to the plaintiff while the appeal fight is going on). Such laws have been passed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Wisconsin and introduced in other states. American Lung Association president John L. Kirkwood reacted: "It's outrageous that state legislatures are passing laws whose only purpose is to provide special legal protection for tobacco companies."
Currently the media is covering two "safer tobacco stories," one dealing with the claim by Vector Tobacco that its Omni cigarette is "the first reduced carcinogen cigarette" (a topic addressed on HealthFactsAndFears.com last week), the other dealing with claims that chaw use is safer than cigarette smoking. Indeed, U.S. Tobacco, the maker of the chewing tobaccos Skoal and Copenhagen, is currently asking the Federal Trade Commission for permission to advertise that its products could be a safer way to consume tobacco than cigarettes.
Authoritarian governments killed some 100 million people during the twentieth century. Simon Chapman, in an essay on Tobacco.org, notes a similarly lethal but less hotly debated menace: "Between 1950 and 2000, smoking caused about 62 million deaths in developed countries...but they fail to create a sense of urgency in the media, policy-makers, or the public. As Joseph Stalin argued: 'A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.'"
Cigarette manufacturers have always argued that they produce just another ordinary, legal, consumer product. One manufacturer, Philip Morris, has a long-running advertisement which displays cigarettes in a shopping cart chock full of its other in-house merchandise: Jello, Miracle Whip, Kraft Ranch salad dressing, Velveeta and Marlboros. Such a display is about as homogeneous as the scene in E.T. in which the alien attempts to blend into a cluster of teddy bears and other stuffed animals.
George Harrison, the "quiet Beatle" died in December, 200l at age 58. The cause of Mr. Harrison's death a death which clearly by any definition can be characterized as "premature" was cigarette smoking. In their December l0th issues, both Time and Newsweek extensively covered Harrison's death. Coverage noted, among other details, his devotion to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi but neither magazine mentioned the most critical factor: cigarette smoking as the cause of death. Both magazines carry cigarette ads. The omission of reference to cigarettes is significant and raises the question of whether the magazines' own addiction to cigarette ads is a factor in deleting pejorative references to cigarettes.
British conservative journalist Roger Scruton came under fire in recent weeks after admitting that he has taken money to write positive articles about the tobacco industry. For free-marketeers, who defend the right of individuals to make free choices in a marketplace, constrained only by property rights, it is tempting to say that Scruton's error calls into question only his journalistic integrity, not his philosophical principles. But is it that simple?
The first issue of Priorities: For Long Life and Good Health was published in l988, with a mandate to fill an information gap left by popular health magazines specifically, to assist consumers in distinguishing between real health risks and phantom ones. For the last 12 years, Priorities/PfH accomplished this with articles exposing how the health risks of pesticides, chemicals at trace levels in the environment, and commercially processed or high-tech foods, for example, are overstated, as well as articles focusing on real health risks, such as those of tobacco use, passive smoking, and failure to use life-saving devices, like bicycle helmets, seat belts, and smoke detectors.
Do Americans really know enough about the dangers of smoking to make an "informed" decision to light up? Of course they should. Even Philip Morris, as we now know from a company-funded study in the Czech Republic that caused an international flap last week, was aware of early death rates among smokers. The rates were touted in the study as "indirect positive effects" that netted the country savings on health care, pensions, welfare and housing for the elderly. Yet still some commentators, disgusted by huge damage awards and government deals with the tobacco industry, trumpet the mantra: "Everyone knows the dangers of smoking!"
Executive Summary Many women young and old devote a significant amount of time to reading women's magazines. Some turn to these publications for relaxation and/or to review the latest fashions, but others also seek reliable lifestyle and health information. Those seeking medical advice will often depend more on these magazine articles than on their doctors or other healthcare professionals.
Although popular women's magazines state that they have a commitment to general health coverage, they fail to cover the number one cause of cancer death in women lung cancer according to a new study by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Further, women's magazines publish a significant number of cigarette advertisements, while neglecting to include basic information on the negative health-related consequences of cigarette smoking.
As a public health professional, I was appalled by the intensity of the antagonism over the damages in a Californian's lawsuit against Philip Morris U.S.A., decided last June. Sure, the damages $3.5 billion may seem immense. But this record award will barely dent the tobacco giant's profits.
To the Editor: Contrary to Bennett S. LeBow's statement regarding his new Vector cigarette, there is no reason to imagine that using a zero-nicotine cigarette will help smokers quit (Economics, Jan. 16). Would inhaling fine sugar promote abstinence in someone addicted to cocaine? The "double-whammy", to use his own term, will more likely double smokers' travails than reduce them. When committed (that is, addicted) smokers switch to a low-nicotine product, the result is that they change their smoking behavior to get more of the drug, nicotine. They inhale more deeply and more frequently. Smokers who try that with the Vector cigarette will remain unsatisfied, while exposing themselves to even higher doses of the many known and unknown tobacco carcinogens.