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Home > Tobacco Use Cessation Program > Didactic Components > Use of Tobacco Industry Influence

Tobacco Industry Influence

Tobacco is the only drug when used as intended by the manufacturer, leads to disability and early death.

The tobacco cartel has a license to kill and these merchants of death are very much alive and flourishing. This industry has lied, defrauded, deceived and contributed to the early deaths of millions of people over the last 50 years. The tobacco companies kill Americans at the rate of one World Trade Center tragedy every 5 days. Tobacco products are without question the greatest weapons of mass destruction.

The tobacco industry is in the nicotine delivery and addiction business and their only concern is profit...they are not concerned with the disability and premature deaths caused by the use of their products. The tobacco industry has known for over 40 years that nicotine is addicting and causes cancer, lung and heart diseases. They have altered the nicotine content and pH to make sure users become addicted early and stay addicted.

The tobacco industry loses close to 5,000 customers EVERY DAY in the U.S. (3,500 who manage to quit and 1,200 who die from tobacco related diseases). They need new customers so they invest millions in philanthropy, public relations, grassroots organizing and political campaigns / lobbying.

  • Politicians are addicted to tobacco money. For many years the tobacco industry has had a stranglehold over Congress: political lobbying has led to tobacco being the least regulated consumer product in the U.S. - exempt from virtually every major U.S. health and safety law, until 2009.
    • In 2009 the FDA was given authority to regulate tobacco products that may include banning harmful chemicals and reducing nicotine.
    • Some of the hazardous chemicals released from tobacco are:
      • Carbon monoxide (car exhaust), ammonia (toilet cleaner), HCN (gas chamber poison), acetone (polish remover), methanol (rocket fuel), arsenic (poison), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), DDT (pesticide), butane (lighter fluid), naphthalene (moth balls), toluene (industrial solvent), methane (swamp gas), just to name a few.
  • Advertising and promotion - the tobacco industry continues to entice adolescents and adults into tobacco dependence by spending 11 billion a year (that is a "B" not an "M") on advertising and promotion: free samples/coupons, catalog mail order promotions, sponsorship of sports and cultural events. Ads make smoking look enjoyable, relaxing (stress reducing), fun, slim and sexy. Some 86% of adolescents who smoke prefer the three most heavily advertised brands. The FDA authority will try to eliminate ads and promotion to adolescents but the tobacco industry will continue to find ways around that.
  • Philanthropy - the tobacco cartel supports civil rights groups, women's groups, charities for homeless, literacy programs, and minority scholarships. These groups are heavily targeted by the industry for use of its products. Contributions are also made to organizations favored by key legislators.
  • Public relations / grassroots organizing - the industry attempts to create a positive image and a less negative image of their products by promoting themselves as champions of freedom to choose... but they can't defend continued tobacco use as free choice if the users were addicted.
    The industry paid researchers to alter scientific evidence - refuting the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. Although today they have finally had to admit that tobacco use does lead to disease...but they still promote and sell their products.

The U.S. tobacco companies are manufacturing more of their products overseas and use more foreign-grown tobacco in the cigarettes they make both here and abroad. This has allowed the U.S. companies to dramatically increase their overall sales, revenues and profits. Nearly 90% of all American-style cigarette tobacco (flue-cured and burley) is now grown by foreign farmers in at least 78 countries. Instead of just killing Americans, the tobacco companies can now kill people in China, Russia, Africa and many other countries by hooking them on tobacco when they're young.

The Tobacco Wars

The public health community and tobacco control organizations face the political, legislative and economic strength of the tobacco industry built over time by the incredible cash flow and profitability of their business. A number of organizations and groups are working on tobacco control. Their emphasis has been to:

  • reduce youth access to tobacco
  • reduce tobacco advertising and promotion and develop counter-advertising
  • increase the tobacco excise tax
  • eliminate secondhand tobacco smoke in all worksites
  • increase access to tobacco cessation programs & quitlines
  • increase cessation training of healthcare providers
  • recommend strong FDA authority over tobacco products
  • expand tobacco use prevention and cessation research
  • expand global tobacco control activities

All of these have been shown to decrease tobacco through both prevention and cessation.

Some of the organizations that are involved with tobacco control are:

  • Smokefree coalitions, Association for Nonsmokers (ANSR), ACS, ALA, AHA, Departments of Health, National Cancer Institute, Public Health Service, the World Health Organization and a number of youth against tobacco groups, to name a few.

In the 1990s, states sued Big Tobacco and settled for $254 billion over 25 years. The portion of total state tobacco revenues (including settlements and taxes) used toward smoking prevention and cessation are a shameful 3 percent, nowhere near the federal guideline...and it continues to go down. After the settlement, the fall in consumption that resulted from the price increase may turn out to be temporary unless it is followed up with serious efforts by the states to fund anti-tobacco efforts.

The state lawsuits against the tobacco industry were based on the fact that the tobacco companies engaged in antitrust conspiracy and consumer fraud. Some of the most important revelations of the State of Minnesota & BC/BS lawsuit were contained in the million of pages of previously secret internal documents made public in the trial.

The tobacco industry has all the money and the lies, the tobacco control organizations the truth but little money. A number of positive things have come out of tobacco control efforts- but a great deal more needs to be done. The battle goes on.

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