Sunday, February 26, 2012

The sweet deal between Big Pharma and Big Tobacco

The 1999 article below was an obvious attempt at making "Big Tobacco" seem to be the bad guy pushing around "innocent" pharmaceutical companies, but it takes on new meaning when considering the recent actions taken against electronic cigarettes and other smoke-free alternatives by groups receiving massive amounts of funding from Big Pharma, such as the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. 
"The result is thousands of smokers cycling between competing forms of nicotine, "turning to a patch, gum or pill for a month" as a result of a New Year's resolution, "then relapsing to a cigarette product," said Gregory N. Connolly of the Massachusetts tobacco control program. "You get this sort of strange, symbiotic relationship between the tobacco industry and the drug companies where everybody makes money." 

Anyone "poo-pooing" the claims that Big Pharma would use it's financial influence over public health organizations to quietly lobby for policies, which ensure future profits, as "silly conspiracy theories" may change their mind after reading this must-read article. Apparently, the drug companies learned from the best.

Consider, too, the implications that the public health groups knew back in 1999 that the products they shill today as "safe and effective" already had studies which showed that "
on any single attempt people who try quitting cold turkey succeed about 3% of the time, whereas success with gum or patches rises to 7% or 8%." This translates to a 92% - 93% failure rate and a relapse back to smoking. It's interesting that this fact has only recently been widely reported in the media (based upon "new" studies) and as Big Pharma lobbies the FDA to market it's NRT products for long-term use to complete with the innovative smoke-free products    now gaining a market share of former smokers.

(Note: Once clicking the link below, the full article is 3 pages long.)

Big Tobacco Keeps Thumb on Makers of Stop-Smoking Aids

Memos show cigarette firms pressured manufacturers of nicotine gums and patches to mute their message.
Cigarette makers and the drug firms that market nicotine gum and patches would seem to be natural enemies, at war in a multibillion-dollar market of people hooked on nicotine.

Yet a peaceful coexistence has reigned between them since nicotine replacement products were introduced in the 1980s to help smokers kick the habit.

The quit-smoking aids are widely advertised, and in recent years have joined such remedies as Advil, Tums and Robitussin on a list of the country's top-selling over-the-counter medicines. Yet they are promoted in a manner certain to minimize conflict with cigarette manufacturers.

Veterans of the smoking wars think they know why.

 For at least a decade, Philip Morris sought to intimidate drug firms marketing the stop-smoking products, using the threat of economic reprisals to make them tone down their ads and refrain from supporting the anti-smoking cause, according to once-secret documents from the world's biggest cigarette maker. Philip Morris officials declined interview requests.

 R.J. Reynolds, the second biggest U.S. tobacco company, also was engaged in some of the efforts, documents and interviews show.

 Pressure tactics were exerted against at least two major drug firms between 1982 and 1992, although they may have continued beyond that date. A non-confrontational marketing approach for the nicotine products remains in use today.

 Moreover, within the last three years, a major worldwide supplier of cigarette filters to the tobacco industry [GlaxoSmithKline] has become a power in the gum and patch business, thus playing in both arenas of the nicotine market.

 Drug firms say their ads are not intended to appease the tobacco industry, but rather aim for the best approach to boosting sales. Even so, their marketing message is the same one that cigarette makers sought to dictate in the past by threatening to cancel supply contracts with the drug firms' corporate parents, internal memos show.

 Rather than attack cigarettes directly or implore all smokers to quit, their ads target the narrow band of smokers who are currently trying to quit--offering a product that can help ease their nicotine cravings.

Companies Muffle Anti-Smoking Message

The involvement of drug firms in anti-smoking politics has been limited as well. Since gaining federal approval in 1996 for over-the-counter sales, patch and gum marketers have financially supported the American Cancer Society and American Lung Assn. in exchange for using their logos in ads. But to the disappointment of tobacco foes, they have chosen not to involve themselves directly in political fights--such as by lobbying for higher tobacco taxes that would help their business by making quitting more attractive.

Considering the history of tobacco industry pressure, "I think there's no question that there's still a residual influence," said Gregory N. Connolly, director of tobacco control for Massachusetts.

Drug firms seem determined "not to get into a public war" with cigarette makers, when "what the public needs is a war between the tobacco industry and the drug industry," Connolly said.

"There are a lot of people who hoped that when they [drug companies] got into the 'quit' market, they would be more aggressively involved in a lot of activities to reduce tobacco use," said Matt Myers, general counsel for the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids.

ome observers have even suggested there is a symbiotic relationship between drug and tobacco firms as millions of would-be quitters cycle between buying cigarettes and gum or patches in a long-term struggle against nicotine addiction.
[Read More

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Smoking bans don't harm business?

This is a telling news report

The ANTZ claim that smoking bans are good for businesses and do not negatively impact the economy. You could just read this article and think that the owner allowing smoking in his bar is exaggerating the 20% loss in business after banning smoking. However, if business doesn't actually drop after smoking bans, why is the owner of the bar down the road - one that
does enforce the ban - feel it is "unfair" that the law is not evenly enforced? According to the ANTZ, his business should be booming compared to the smoke-filled tavern down the road. Except a picture is worth a 1,000 words:
Busy smoking bar
Nearly empty non-smoking bar down the road
Also telling is the comment made by the man at the smoking bar when asked if he's planning on quitting any time soon.

"When they bury me," he replied.

This is what we call an 'inveterate smoker" and smokers like him are completely forgotten and ignored by the ANTZ when they suggest tobacco and smoking policies to legislators. Rather than caring about this man, he is left behind as a lost cause or even worse, villainized for his smoking. This man, who has no intention of quitting tobacco, is fed the lies and half-truths about smokeless alternatives and electronic cigarettes. He is encouraged to keep smoking because the government tells him that smokeless alternatives are really no better for him. Even if he did decide to switch to a reduced-harm option to save money, local, state and federal governments all across the country are increasing taxes on these products, making them as or more expensive than cigarettes and removing that incentive.

 If he decided to switch to an e-cigarette, which are not currently banned for public use in Wisconsin (and in most of the country), the ANTZ groups such as the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids are lobbying hard to ensure that e-cigarette use is also banned in public, removing yet another incentive to switch. These laws are meant to protect imaginary "possible future smokers" who do not even exist, yet what they really accomplish is keeping real, living smokers in harm's way by putting up every road block possible to him switching to a very low-risk, smokeless alternative.

Wisconsin Assembly Bill No. 469 has been introduced by Senator Glen Grothman and is intended to ensure that e-cigarettes are not included in indoor smoking bans. If passed, this will be the first legislation it's kind passed in the entire world - legislation to protect the use of a harm reduction product in public. This legislation could set a precedence and set an example for state and local governments all over the country. (Update: The bill did not pass after two attempts. Some lawmakers I contacted said there was no need for it if cities and counties were not currently attempting to include e-cigarettes in smoking bans. Since then, at least two towns and one county have added e-cigarettes to their smoking bans.)

There are an estimated 2.5 million electronic cigarette users in this country. These are not the hypothetical youth and non-smokers over which the ANTZ wring their hands, but living, breathing human beings; former smokers who have made the conscious choice to end their exposure to smoke. These are folks who can head back out to that corner bar and enjoy an evening without having to step outside for a smoke and business could be booming again for that owner with the empty bar. The ANTZ want to put a stop to even that.

Please write your congressmen and ask them to support Wisconsin Assembly Bill 469. You can easily find them here: 

(For the record, I do not support public smoking bans in private businesses or open, outdoor areas. However, the ANTZ have successfully sold these bans to the public based on their "evidence." When it comes to e-cigarette use bans, on the other hand, they may as well cite fairy dust and magic potions as "evidence," because they have absolutely nothing else that even suggests harm to users or bystanders!)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Of bans and beaches

I woke up this morning thinking about a few places now trying to ban e-cigarette use (along with smoking) outdoors - including at parks and beaches. A recent television episode of a show my kids watch showed a girl trying to read at the beach and being bothered by grill smoke - which got me thinking....

Would the FDA or CDC argue that charcoal or wood smoke is actually safer to inhale than the smoke from tobacco leaves? If not, then would that not be an argument to also ban charcoal grilling from parks and beaches, in order to protect innocent bystanders from THAT smoke, as well? And since there is "NO safe level" of smoke exposure, regardless of ventilation systems installed, would that not support banning the use of wood-fired ovens and charbroil grills in food service and restaurants, in order to protect employees and patrons? If you can smell the grill in the dining room, that means you are being exposed to smoke, right? How can they argue one smoke is safer than another smoke? (Yet, apparently they do.)

Men "smoking" at the park.
Think of the children!
And then there's campfires, fireplaces and fire pits to consider. Shouldn't those be banned, as well?

I think at these meetings where they are trying to ban e-cigs/smoking outside (where grilling is allowed) we should insist that they add grills to the ordinance or not pass it at all!! And if they are trying to ban e-cig use in bars & restaurants, insist they also ban wood-fired ovens and charbroil grills, because my safety is at risk! (Let's see them answer THAT one.)

I know that this has long been an argument made by smoker's rights groups, but I have yet to hear it or about read this argument at any public testimonies regarding outdoor bans and I don't think anyone has insisted or argued that we SHOULD ban grills and fire pits. Maybe the time has come to force them to put their money where their mouth is or shut up.

Think about it - they want to ban smoking and smokeless e-cigarettes at the stadium in Indianapolis, but the hundreds of tailgating grills that will be at the Super Bowl this weekend, pumping out enough smoke to equal dozens of smokers for hours before the game, isn't a concern? Still think these bans are supported by "science?" Time to call them on their bluff?
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