Archive for big tobacco

Expert on cultural production of ignorance "watches Fox News all the time"


ignorance via Armando Lioss smallerPhoto via Armando Lioss

One of my favorite columnists, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), along with most sane people (read: not right wing extremists), does not think ignorance is bliss. In fact, he points out how the commercialization of ignorance has not only dumbed down America, it has endangered it. Hiltzik describes how industries thrive on disseminating public misinformation while they profit off of selling harmful concepts and products, exploit a willing media, all at the expense of increasingly oblivious consumers.

He cites the work of Robert Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford and "one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance."

Hiltzik's piece in the Los Angeles Times is one that should be read in its entirety, but the highlights alone will make your hair stand on end. Alcoholic beverages and/or sedatives strongly recommended prior to reading:

Robert Proctor doesn't think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don't know can hurt you. And that there's more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense. [...]

The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."

Yes, infuriatingly, they peddle doubt and go out of their way to create controversy in order to implant big question marks in the minds of an unsuspecting, undereducated public. By inducing the media to "present both sides" when, in fact, there may not be two legitimate sides (science, anyone?), they divert focus and evade facts. For example, we've seen how they "sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations" (coughBachmann!cough) and deny climate change. And don't get me started on the lies about the Affordable Care Act:

When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. [...]

And all those fabricated Obamacare horror stories wholesaled by Republican and conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act and their aiders and abetters in the right-wing press? Their purpose is to sow doubt about the entire project of healthcare reform; if the aim were to identify specific shortcomings of the act, they'd have to accompany every story with a proposal about how to fix it.

My head couldn't stop nodding in agreement when I caught this part:

"Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship." As part of his scholarship, Proctor says he "watches Fox News all the time."... Citing the results of a 2012 Gallup poll, Proctor asks, "If half the country thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, how can you really develop an effective environmental policy? This sort of traditional or inertial ignorance bars us from being able to act responsibly on large social issues."

He goes on to explain how Big Tobacco exploited the tea party's obsession with what they love to call "freedom" and "choice," which of course plays into their anti-government meme, a position that consequently benefits the cigarette industry. Hiltzik emphasizes the importance of educating Americans in order to renew their trust in science. Competent journalism wouldn't hurt in that regard, now would it? He ends with this quote:

The effort needs to begin at a young age, [Proctor] says. "You really need to be teaching third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-graders that some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy."

in greed we trust


Welcome To The Explosive World Of Vaping



A week ago, three U.S. congresspersons,  Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) wrote in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration. They complained that e-Cigarette companies are taking advantage of a “loophole” in current regulations that allows them to escape the type of oversight given to the rest of the tobacco industry.

Really. The tobacco industry is getting nervous. That can't be all bad. Remember, these are the peddlers of cancer sticks they call tobacco cigarettes.

What this trio of representatives is really complaining about isn't regulation of the product based on contents, health, or dangers. It's competition. Commerce. They're doing their dirty deeds under the guise of trying to protect children from vaping -- using eCigs.

First, I don't want to see kids smoking. Certainly not cigarettes. Yet the health hazards equated to eCigs and related vaporizing devices, according to the Daily Consumer Alert are not all that drastic.

A few of the benefits claimed from using the electronic cigarette:

No tar, tobacco, carbon monoxide, or ash.
Get the same amount of nicotine as a regular cigarette.
Each cartridge costs less than $2 and is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes.
Average consumer can expect to save over $1,000 each year.
You won’t “smell” like a smoker any longer.
Different flavors are available.
No more second-hand smoke.

bloomberg reports on eCigsYet because there is no tobacco in these products, they don't fall under the strict guidelines the FDA has set up for tobacco products. One of those restrictions has to do with access to anyone under 18.

Will kids start taking up eCig usage and vape? You bet, just like with regular cigarettes. But is this healthier for them? Probably, but that's what research is for.

Then the question becomes, before a product is deemed needing regulation, do kids need extra protection, just in case? Hesitantly I say, maybe. But I'm not sure yet of the motives of the people trying to bring parity with the tobacco industry regulations. I've got questions as to who's bidding these congresspeople are doing. Are they interested in the children, or is this a lobbyist attempt to help out what could be a dying cigarette industry?

Maybe if they want to bust open their books and return any money they've received in contributions in the past or currently, I might be inclined to be less dubious of their putting some "sin" in sincerity.

If vaping grows as rapidly as it looks to be doing, there's cause for tobacco to worry. Cigarettes won't die out forever, but they may becomes yesterday's news.

A year ago I didn't know anyone who had tried an eCig. Today I know a few. And those are all people used to smoke cigarettes. They don't anymore. I've asked if they enjoy the experience and unanimously they say yes.

Formerly, the cigarette smoker's clothes and even their bodies reeked of old cigarettes. Their breath wasn't fresh, and when they'd  taken a hit or two in my presence, I got a headache from the smoke smell. Not now. With the eCig usage I noticed nothing more than a light waft of soft, fragrant aroma. It's less than passing by mid-summer, night-blooming jasmine.

So maybe these congresspeople should cool their jets. Do some research. If eCigs require more regulation, it'll come. But after research.

Until then, check out the newest advertising for eCigs. An adult campaign isn't going to get kids to want to give vaping a try. See for yourself.

Hmm. You know what I wrote up above -- Never mind.


E-cigs, A Puff Of The Future - Ask The Metrosexual Marlboro Man



E-cigs are the latest fad, perhaps even the fastest growing in the states. The nicotine delivery devices (nicknamed Vapes) and their imprint is being felt worldwide. As governments have pushed through legislation to ban smoking from public places there's not been a huge amount of attention given the newest delivery system for nicotine users and addicts, until recently.

To call e-cigs a fad might be saying that computer tablets and cellphones are a fad. Time to wake up and smell the aromatic vapors of e-reality. The e-cig industry is integrating rapidly into the mainstream. At least the US Food and Drug administration thinks so. They're spending millions of dollars trying to bring them under their regulatory umbrella. Currently they are not classified as cigarettes. Therefore they can't be regulated or taxed at the same levels.

If you're curious about the levels of money we're talking about, consider this from Business Insider:

Miami, FL – V2 Cigs (, the worldwide online leader in electronic cigarettes with over 1 million customers, today announced that, for the first-time, the electronic cigarette category has surpassed $1 billion in annual sales across both traditional and digital retail channels. Wells Fargo Securities also projects total 2013 retail sales to reach a record $1.7 billion by the end of the year—an increase of at least 240 percent, respectively, over the previous year’s estimated $500 million mark.

What's driving all of this business and possibly taking down the traditional tobacco industry? Some startling facts. Here's how Goldman-Sachs assesses the budding and burgeoning industry:

Goldman's Judy Hong describes e-cigarettes as basically all the good stuff about regular cigarettes but none of the bad. "Imagine a product that is possibly >99% less harmful than cigarettes, delivers a similar user experience and offers a better economic bargain—this is the proposition of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs)."

Source: Goldman Sachs

We all know that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true. So what's in this "safer" system of nicotine delivery? Here are the four ingredients in e-cigs?

First is the scary sounding propylene glycol.

Propylene glycol is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it is used as an humectant (E1520), solvent, and preservative in food and for tobacco products, as well as being the major ingredient in the liquid used in electronic cigarettes.

This scary sounding chemical compound, what's it do? It makes foods safe to eat as well as clearing the air (pumped into some hospital ventilation systems to clean the air). It's in layman's terms, a relatively safe preservative. And it's already in cooked goods, candies and other foods that we eat. If you look at the labels on your canned goods at home, you'll probably find it there, down toward the bottom of the list.

Next on the list is vegetable glycerin. What does it do? Wikipedia source:

serves as a humectant, solvent, and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. It does not feed the bacteria that formplaques and cause dental cavities.

Third on the ingredients list for e-cigs you'll find flavorings -- yes, the smoky product can be anything from cherry, mint, chocolate, citrus, strawberry -- whatever flavors you like, they'll either have it or mix it for you. It's kind of like Ben and Jerry's -- there's something for everybody -- with some funny name associated with it. "Aunt Rosie's Raspberry" or "Rock of Ages Apple" were two I find inspired.

Finally, we come to the Nicotine. As mentioned earlier, in small doses it's a stimulant. And with controlled use, it's safer than caffein which is found most commonly in soda, coffee and chocolate.

This brings the story to the video portion of this commentary. Here's a short, but easy to understand report which DNEWS Channel presented and lays it out pretty well.

Now I've never tried an e-cig. But I have been in the company of those who use and love them. I never noticed any issues with smoke, and not unlike an aromatic pipe smoker, there was a tinge of pleasant smell in the air. It was certainly nothing noxious as second-hand cigarette smoke.

No product, even water (hyponatremia), is free from abuse and misuse. And having regulations may be necessary. Sadly, it seems 1.5 million kids grades 6 - 8 have tried e-cigs. They've Vaped.

The FDA seems to think regulations are necessary, if for no other reason than that opens the door for them to grab revenues to squeeze out of users. And they want their piece of the vape. They're looking to raise additional federal taxes and put into place federal guidelines on these PV's (personal vaporizers) and their liquid contents.

Time will tell. But if we look to Europe where trends are often set on medications and legalizations of substances, The Hill revealed that recently:

The European Parliament rejected a proposal to subject e-cigarettes to the same regulatory standards as medicines. That was seen as a major win for the e-cigarette industry, which is expected to eclipse $1.75 billion in global sales this year.

Safer than cigarettes. Legal to use in public. No second-hand, carcinogenic smoke threats. Can reduce regular cigarette addictive habits. Maybe there's something here that's going to benefit us all. It will be interesting to see as the FDA tries to move in and inhale from the vape industry.

It will be fun to see how the traditional tobacco industry reacts. Right now they're trying to buy up the smaller, emerging PV suppliers and e-cig manufacturers. They can smell the smoke in the air, and it's their traditional industry burning down. There's a battle brewing and I'm going to enjoy watching this one. Vape up, if you're so inclined.


What I will not write about today



Sometimes I get so frustrated and/or disheartened and/or annoyed by some of the news stories of the day that I can’t bring myself to write about them. Here are a few recent reports that made my blood pressure hit the roof. I am avoiding delving into them at length out of concern for my physical and mental health.

  • GOP Senators Aim To Prevent Legalized Immigrants From Accessing Health Care Benefits-- That's using your empty heads, GOP Senators! Nothing says "America's well being" better than people who can't access health care when they're sick, hence enabling the spread of more diseases. Did I mention it's bad for the economy, too? It "can shift health care cost down the road and force immigrants to put off needed or preventive services."

See what I mean? So who’s up for a couple of Margs or a trough of wine?

drunk sundays