It’s fairly common knowledge that the tobacco industry has engaged in nefarious practices, such as secretly verifying the addictive quality of nicotine and strategizing how best to get kids to smoke. If you take a moment to read some of the actual memos and reports that chronicle these goings on, I think you’ll find it’s much worse than you imagined.
The once-secret documents of the tobacco industry are available at Tobacco Documents Online.
As part of the Master Settlement Agreement between the States and the tobacco companies, the industry was required to make the documents used during the trials available. They posted the documents on their websites, but searching required going to several different sites, each with a different interface.
That same agreement required the industry to turn over a snapshot of their sites as of July, 1999. Tobacco Documents Online (TDO) spent over a year standardizing the document descriptions to allow uniform searching, and through the American Legacy Foundation, obtained tapes of the document images. TDO offers powerful searching across all the companies, access to high-quality images, OCR, and the ability to collect and annotate documents. The tools here have been built for document researchers, and are available to anyone with a web browser.
We’ve come a long way in the history of cigarette advertising. Here’s a 1949 commercial for Camels.
The “More doctors smoke Camels” campaign was a response to concerns, starting in the 1940s, that smoking caused lung cancer and heart disease. There had been a series of articles on this in the widely read Reader’s Digest. What better reassurance that smoking was not harmful than an endorsement from doctors? Read more
Smoking causes lung cancer. We’ve known that for 60+ years. But the regulation of tobacco has happened in slow motion, thanks largely to political lobbying by the tobacco industry. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the FDA could not take it upon itself to regulate cigarettes. It would first need legislative approval from Congress.
With President Bush gone, Congress should finally be voting on FDA regulation of tobacco in 2009. The proposed bill, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, was introduced in February 2007 by that health and energy hero, Rep. Henry Waxman. The bill has been out of committee since April 2008. As I mentioned, these things happen slowly.
The proposed bill strengthens restrictions on advertising and youth marketing, and it requires new, stronger warning labels. The Canadians have graphic illustrations of smoking-related diseases directly on a pack of cigarettes. Here’s a whole page of Canadian warning labels. The Canadian graphics are mild compared to the Brazilian warning poster that shows a gruesome case of smoking-related gangrene. The U.S. tobacco bill would presumably usher in Canadian-like labels. It also requires full disclosure of all ingredients in tobacco products and restricts harmful additives. Read more
Roll Call, the daily paper aimed at Washington politicos, gets endorsements such as the following from members of Congress:
Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.): “Roll Call is a critical and indispensable tool for deciphering the day-to-day maneuverings of Capitol Hill. Roll Call has its finger on the pulse of Congress.”
Former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.): “I get a lot of information from Roll Call that I can’t find in other publications. I have to read it to keep my head above water in this town.”
When you want to send a message to Congress, you can take out a full page ad in Roll Call.
Last year it was tomatoes contaminated with Salmonella. Except not really. After the tomato industry lost $200 million, it turned out it wasn’t tomatoes after all, but jalapeno and serrano peppers from Mexico. Tomatoes aren’t off the hook though. There have been 12 Salmonella-contaminated tomato outbreaks since 1990 serious enough to involve multiple states.
In 2007 it was the bagged spinach food scare, also a Salmonella problem. In 2006, spinach contaminated with pathogenic E. coli was recalled. That was traced by the FDA to a California town where spinach fields were bathed in the runoff from nearby cattle ranches.
We spend a lot of energy on calories — counting them, avoiding them, feeling guilty about them. But what are calories, anyway? Well, they ARE energy. Specifically, calories are the energy we get from the food we consume. And that makes them a good and essential thing. Calories wouldn’t be a problem if we consumed them and then used them through physical activity. But when we don’t use as many calories as we consume, they accumulate and we gain weight.
When we count calories, we’re really counting how much energy we get from our food. One Twinkie has 150 calories. That’s the supply side. On the demand side, calories measure how much energy it takes to do things. If you raise a small apple one meter (39 inches), you’ll burn 2.4 calories. You’d have to raise an apple over 62 times to work off one Twinkie (and they usually come in packages of two). Read more
In Canada, you can be waiting for a long time. A survey of six industrialized nations found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came to waiting for a doctor’s appointment for a medical problem.
In the film, Mrs. Campbell takes her daughter to Canada for an ear infection. She feels personally offended by Gupta’s statement. “When Dr. Gupta said that Canada has longer waiting times, I felt like I was being made fun of.”
Michael Moore got some valuable publicity out of this controversy. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed Moore shortly after Sicko was released. Since the movie was newsworthy, Moore may not have expected an attack. But preceding the interview was a prerecorded “Sicko Reality Check” by Gupta. It was overwhelmingly negative and accused Moore of “fudging the facts.” Moore responded with his characteristic forcefulness. CNN subsequently arranged a debate between Moore and Gupta on Larry King Live. (See Sources below for links to the Blitzer interview and the three segments of the debate.)