Would you support legislation to outlaw tobacco products?

Other than tobacco commodities, what products can you think of which, when used in accordance with their manufacturer’s directions, almost guarantee an untimely and agonizing death? None, right?

In the case of cigarettes, thousands die each day from having smoked the things. To keep sales up and investors happy, producers must addict “replacement smokers.” Increasingly, they also supplement their bottom line with nicotine delivery means like e-cigarettes, “smokeless tobacco,” even nicotine replacement patches.

The Centers for Disease Control says e-cigarettes are unsafe for kids, most contain addictive nicotine, and young e-cig users may be more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes. Notwithstanding, Philip Morris’ parent company, Altria, markets e-cigarettes and owns 35 percent of the Juul Labs Inc., vape device mogul. Guess which age demographic e-cigarette ads target.

Smokeless stuff like Copenhagen snuff is also brought to you courtesy of Altria. “Smokeless” tobacco contains addictive nicotine. It is also very good at causing mouth cancer — says so right on the packages. Yet at Snuffhouse.com you’ll find satisfied review comments like: “Wow! I was a heavy smoker for years and now snuff, dip and chew with the odd cigarette still. The point I’m making here is that I am very habituated to Nicotine, when I dip I just ‘gut’ the juice and never spit. So me and Nicotine are good buddies. I think this is a magnificent snuff.”

Tobacco companies swing both ways, like Reynolds American, a cigarette company that also owns Zonnic, a nicotine replacement gum, pouch, spray or lozenge, to help you quit smoking. As one tobacco executive said, “if anyone’s going to take away our business, it might as well be us.”

Nicotine replacement therapy can be effective, if accompanying behavioral therapy is maintained. But if the therapy part is dropped, as in most cases after two weeks, it’s right back to smoking. Reckon tobacco companies are aware of that?

Undergirding it all is tobacco companies’ time-

honored use of deadly clever advertising. Time was, an American Tobacco Company ad pictured a physician proffering a pack of Lucky Strikes with the tag line, “20,679 Physicians say Luckies are less irritating.” From Brown & Williams, “As your Dentist, I would recommend Viceroys.” And from Liggett & Myers, actor Ronald Reagan, promising, “I’m sending Chesterfields to all my friends.”

None of those can top R.J. Reynolds’ Joe Camel advertising that for 23 years specifically and effectively targeted kids. None, that is, except one for 45 years, featuring Wayne McLaren, Dick Hammer, Eric Lawson, Jerome Jackson and David McLean as Marlboro men.

Those old “ranch hands” had something else in common. From 1954 till Marlboro Man rode off on Joe Camel in 1999, all puffed what came to be known as “cowboy killers.” Three died from lung cancer, two from emphysema.

McLean’s widow sued Philip Morris for requiring David to smoke, to keep his job. But at that time tobacco companies in California were shielded from legal liability (as federal law now shields gun manufacturers). McLean’s case was dismissed, and she got stuck with all expenses related to her suit.

Philip Morris had created Marlboro back in 1924 and named it after the Earl of Marlborough (Winston Churchill’s family) to impart an air of elegance and sophistication. They targeted Marlboro cigarettes solely at females (not blowing smoke here). America’s “luxury cigarettes” had a red ring to hide lipstick stains, advertised as “Beauty Tips to Keep the Paper from your Lips.”

Independent, sophisticated, real women had their own cigarette, but no real man got near the things. Then in the early 1950s, data — of which tobacco companies were already well acquainted — suppurated from meddlesome scientific studies, and spewed out onto the unsuspecting public that, heads-up, cigarettes contain some really bad stuff.

Sales started skittering along a long downward slope. Alarmed cigarette makers countered with “milder,” “safer,” filtered cigarettes. Philip Morris followed suit with Marlboro but had a bigger problem. Marlboro smokers were exclusively female. Sales to males were needed.

Advertising legend Leo Burnett came to the rescue in 1954 with tough, rugged, independent, riding-on-the-range Marlboro Man. “For man flavor, come to Marlboro Country.”

Apparently, many did go to Marlboro Country because in the first year of Marlboro Man, Marlboro cigarettes’ sales jumped 3,000 percent. Today, Marlboro is the world’s best-selling cigarette. It “commanded 43.1 percent of the U.S. cigarette market in 2018, bigger than the next 10 brands combined.”

But what about independent, sophisticated, real women? Didn’t they still deserve their own cigarette? Tobacco companies are as malleable as Silly Putty. Out comes Phillip Morris, out comes Leo Burnett again, and capitalizing on the “Women’s Lib” Zeitgeist of the ’60s plus America’s — then — obsession with slimness, out came Virginia Slims. “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

So too has the tobacco industry, and efforts to tightly regulate or ban the stuff.

Michael Smith is a Southern Pines resident.

(3) comments

ken leary

Actually I'm for decriminalizing all drugs. We could end the mass production and "pushing" of tobacco products. As a society we could demand that for profit firms stop killing us, or at least take responsibility for their products. I jest though; it is not as though the "free market" ever takes responsibility for externalities such as cancer, lead poisonings, emphysema, coal ash, nuclear waste, etc.. That is left for the individual or future generations. We could be talking about this as a society rather than whether there is an aberrant gene sequence demonstrably responsible for some behavior prohibited by a book written by men, for men, a couple thousand years ago. But no. That isn't divisive enough, and it is forbidden for us to question the pursuit of profit.

Peyton Cook

This nation has already attempted to ban a product, alcohol. It didn’t work. The same is true of tobacco. It will only create another large black market. I am a former tobacco user; cigarettes, cigars and pipe. I quit cold turkey in 1967. Continuing to truthfully detail the harm of tobacco use is vital. Should we not also discuss the harmful effects of marijuana?

Kent Misegades

“what products can you think of which, when used in accordance with their manufacturer’s directions, almost guarantee an untimely and agonizing death?“ Marijuana, fast food, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, potato chips, fried chicken, sweet tea, colas, Calabash cuisine, playing the lottery and many other products that when taken in moderation pose no harm to people. Some, like caffeinated colas and coffee are highly addictive. If I miss my morning cup my heat explodes. Fact is tobacco is legal and built much of the economy of our region. Advertising in radio and TV ended decades ago yet some people still CHOOSE to use it. The great irony among the opponents to the tobacco industry is that many are the biggest supporters of legalizing marijuana, a substance that is known to lead to stronger drugs, unlike tobacco. Let people makes free choices concerning tobacco and let them live with the consequences.

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