I have just purchased this book, ‘Hooked’ by journalist Michael Moss. Another leading light in the effort to show we have been made ill by those who worship the mantra ‘profit before people’. Corporates employ scientists to find our vulnerabilities in order to ensure that what we put in our mouths will become addictive, generating sales ad infinitum if left unchallenged.
Michael Moss, a few pages into the book, mentioned the name of the great lawyer (in my mind) John Banzhaf. I never knew his name until I read this book, but my life quality has benefitted since he founded ASH. As a chronic asthma sufferer, the impact of his work has caused laws in the UK to change in order to prohibit smoking in public places. As a singer, I was able to perform in venues without developing an asthma attack if I tried to sing where smoking used to be allowed.
About John Banzhaf
He was the lawyer who inspired John Bilott (see my earlier blogs related to his work) to accelerate the class action he was working on.
Michael Moss tells us that ‘ in 1997, Banzhaf had helped engineer the legal assault which brought the tobacco industry to its knees. Rather than relying on individuals to sue the cigarette manufacturers for damaging their health, the new strategy involved states bringing lawsuits against the manufacturers for wrecking the budgets of the health agencies that had to care for sick smokers. This was a stroke of genius that frames the issue in dollars and cents instead of individual moral judgments, and in 1998, the tobacco companies caved. They agreed to curtail their worst marketing practices and spend $246 billion on measures to counteract the medical harm they had done.’
We may or may not choose to smoke a cigarette, and if we do, and we live in the US or UK, we are more than likely aware of the dangers to our health and the health of those around us.
But what of those who grow the tobacco? It is best grown in warm and dry climates.
In 2019 these were the leading tobacco growing countries:
According to this website:
While the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) produces nearly half the world’s cigarettes, almost all of them have been consumed at home.
The article goes on to say:
The companies most often referred to collectively as Big Tobacco –– Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) –– have all been hit over the years with scandals involving smuggling and unethical advertising.
In its expansion strategies, CNTC has taken a leaf from the playbook of its “Big Tobacco” competitors, according to Mackay, who advises the WHO on implementing the FCTC.
“As a template, you could argue this is just what China is doing now,” said Mackay. “It’s not different from what they’ve learnt from the rest of the world.”
And China Tobacco has done it well. According to a 2019 estimate by its largest competitor, PMI, China Tobacco controls about 45 percent of the global market of cigarettes and heated tobacco units. That’s a bigger share than PMI, BAT, JTI and Imperial Brands combined.‘
There is such a demand for cigarettes, that smuggling tobacco has and still is a major activity.
Reading about it here raises awareness of the supply and demand criminal trade.
‘Tobacco companies have facilitated the smuggling of their own cigarettes and roll your own tobacco for decades. Internal company documents reveal that in the 1990s smuggling was an integral part of tobacco companies’ business strategies. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the tobacco industry’s involvement in smuggling had been exposed leading to public investigations, court cases and extremely negative publicity for the tobacco companies. Using a massive public relations drive, they claimed they had changed and were now the victims, not the perpetrators of tobacco smuggling. But contemporary evidence indicates significant ongoing tobacco company involvement in the illicit tobacco trade.12………………
The article goes on to say:
‘Major tobacco companies have an extensive history of facilitating the illicit trade. By the late 1990s, it was estimated that one third of global annual cigarette exports could not be accounted for via legal distribution routes.6 Despite the tobacco industry knowing that cigarette smuggling increased sales to children, documents from the Truth Industry Documents Archive and other evidence has shown the extensive involvement of the industry in facilitating smuggling by shipping huge quantities of cigarettes to ‘smuggling hubs’. The cigarettes were then forwarded via these hubs via the black market, often back to the countries from where they were shipped.‘
When corporates lose legal battles in litigious countries like the USA, they will find other routes to maintain their wealth and production.
This science article explains why it is so hard to quit smoking. Here is an extract:
This component of addiction is known as negative reward and is controlled in part by a region of the brain called the habenula. The neurotransmitters acetylcholine and glutamate are thought to influence nicotine dependence in the habenula, but the molecular details of this regulation are unclear.
This article describes where the habenula is and explains it is a relatively new area of the brain found by neuroscientists. The knowledge gained will no doubt benefit us all over time, but any scientists working for corporates may redirect the knowledge into more sinister avenues.
It is not hard to find stressed people in this world. The fact that nicotine is a poison should warn people that any form of liquid nicotine (as in e-cigarettes) can be lethal. Not only do stressed people take up smoking, but in trying to quit, will switch to e-cigarettes. Targeting stressed people with a poison is an even more abhorrent crime. They are not responsible for their cigarette habit, though they might think they are. They might think smoking makes them seem stronger, more independent. But they will lose their ability to taste healthy food and even any food will not be as important to them as the cigarette. This is a sad situation.
We now have transnational organized crime networks which are sophisticated and successful. They are successful because they have millions of addicted customers, who may smoke themselves to death and nobody cares.
The WHO tells us:
- Tobacco kills up to half of its users.
- Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
So far, Covid (according to Worldometer) has killed 3,918,881 to date (26th June, 2021) over the past 18 months. Many of those deaths, similar to those who die from smoking cigarettes, are people who live in low- and middle-income countries.
Tobacco growing and smuggling of tobacco is an act of Malice, Conscious Disregard of fellow human beings by those who are part of these transnational smuggling networks.
I had a great aunt who made cigars in a factory before she was married. Many of my family smoked, my father, especially, was totally hooked. During World War II, cigarettes were given to the members of the armed forces and many people at home. They were told it would help them feel less stressed. Cigarettes were promoted as ‘good for your health’. A pack of cigarettes could be exchanged for goods and favours. They were a mode of currency and still are. Like other poisons which gradually kill you, cigarettes seemed to de-stress people just as the adverts suggested. We now understand how that happens, thanks to neuroscience. But there was a point in history where scientists began to link nicotine to premature deaths, usually as a result of lung cancer. But even when that was known, the tobacco companies refused to take responsibility.
I am glad that raising awareness and bringing in laws to reduce the places where smoking is allowed has been shown to improve the life chances of many people in the UK. It is no longer seen as a sexy habit as it was in the movies until the law changed that kind of promotion.
An interesting selection of photos on the subject of smoking and tobacco is worth viewing with all the experiences around the world is here.
This is one of the pictures from the above collection: