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The Smoking Admission

It’s that time of year when we all start to take personal assessment. Then, we put our new year resolutions together. Then, we smile. Yes, then despite my desire to drop a few pounds, I will still reach for the bread brought to the table.

The same cycle of goal/failure occurs to smokers. Overwhelming evidence of the harms of smoking only cause it to be part of the resolutions list in the first place. Still, the history of the harms through the eyes of tobacco companies are more of a failure than the failed resolution list.

Here is some history:

A  Johns Hopkins researcher reports in 1938 that smokers do not live as long as nonsmokers. Six years later, the American Society for the Control of Cancer warns that smoking might pose dangers but said “no definite evidence exists” that it caused lung cancer.

In 1964, the U.S. surgeon general, Luther L. Terry, issues a landmark report linking smoking and cancer. That sets in motion  measures that deeply cut into smoking rates. This is unfortunate for Big Tobacco because it cuts into tobacco’s profits and influence.

The first effect is with Congress passing laws that require health warnings on cigarette packages. Then, later banning cigarette advertising on radio and TV. Then,  more regulations and restrictions on Big Tobacco.

Despite the previous findings, Big Tobacco routinely defeated lawsuits brought by smokers (and families of deceased smokers) Still, lawsuits were placing heavy attention on the ill effects of smoking. Lung cancer had once been a rare disease. Now, it was effecting millions globally at an alarming rate.

In 1998, Tobacco companies agreed to pay $206 billion to settle a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of 46 states, who were seeking compensation for costs to the public related to smoking-related illnesses.

1997 was the first time that Big Tobacco admitted causing cancer. It is estimated that in 2015, there will be about 6 million deaths from past smoking. In addition a recent study shows that smoking causes men to lose their Y chromosome. That is the explanation for why it causes cancer. Tough to get an admission of wrongdoing.

And for pic o’ day, I was looking for a Christmas picture and got sidetracked with this celebration:

haapy b day

Jesse Steinfeld’s Impact

If I said the name Jesse Steinfield to you, would you ask me if that’s the lady with a recipe book… who is married to Jerry? Well, no. That’s Jessica Seinfeld… married to Jerry Seinfeld.

When I saw the obituary for Jesse Steinfeld, I thought his name sounded familiar… but not really. So, I decided to do my own research. What captured my attention in the obituary?

Steinfeld was the Surgeon General under President Nixon from 1969-1973.  According to his Wikipedia entry, he resigned at the beginning of the beginning of the second term of the Nixon Presidency. That was the official story. In fact, he was forced out of his appointment after campaigning against the harms of smoking.

Before his “resignation”, he is credited with changing the cigarette package labels to include a warning that clearly stated that smoking was hazardous to your health. He also called on a smoking ban in restaurants, theaters, planes and public places. Unfortunately, it took several years for those changes to become reality.

Dr. Steinfeld was on a mission to take on Big Tobacco. To that end, he issued a report that focused on the dangers of second-hand smoke. Unfortunately, at that time, the tobacco lobby was powerful enough to seek his removal from office.

Steinfeld may have been forced out of Washington, but he continued to impact tobacco through medicine. He later served as Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center and as a Professor at the Mayo Medical School. Steinfeld became President of the Medical College of Georgia, a position he held until his retirement. I’d say that Big Tobacco won the battle and Steinfeld won his war!

DID YOU KNOW that telephone companies first began to hire teenage boys as their operators? They then switched to adult women because the boys were constantly wrestling instead of working, and pulling pranks on the callers.

And our pic o’ day:


Lighting up a Warning

Today I received an investment email notice of stock upgrades and downgrades. In that upgrade list it showed that Raymond James had upgraded the stock of First Republic Bank. On the downgrade list, FIG Partners had issued a downgrade for…First Republic Bank. If you are a stock day trader,  I guess that’s about the time that you stare into your coffee for a special sign.

coffee sign

That brings me to another unusual mixed signal involving medicine, health and cigarettes. Plus, throw in a bit of turf-protecting from Big Tobacco.

Wouldn’t it be an eye catcher if the title of my blog had been “The benefits of smoking”. Yes, in fact there have been some claims that it fights obesity, and some studies have even linked smoking to lower risks of Parkinson’s disease (March 2010 Neurology journal) and possibly an indication that there is less of a chance of that a person would need knee-replacement surgery. (Australian study- July issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism) But, here are the real mixed signals!

During the 1920’s, the American Tobacco Company decided to be aggressive in their advertising for their popular Lucky Strikes cigarettes. ( They used print advertising with an image of a physician and the caption stating that “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating'”. The ad was created by their ad agency after physicians had received free cartons of the cigarettes in the mail from the company, and asked whether Lucky Strikes were less irritating to “sensitive and tender” throats. Part of the advertisement was the proclamation that these cigarettes were a smoother smoke because of the toasting process during the manufacturing of the cigarettes. Yep, “the toasting process”.

In the 1940’s RJ Reynolds Tobacco ran an unusual print ad endorsement.


This ad targeted women and appeared in several magazines including Time and Ladies’ Home Journal.  The intent was to show that if a doctor was enthusiastic about smoking, then it must be OK to smoke. Some doctors were even telling their patients the benefits of relaxation by smoking.

On January 11, 1964, Surgeon General Luther Terry announced the findings from the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. The conclusion: there was a link between lung cancer and chronic bronchitis and cigarette smoking.

Prior to this announcement in 1956, Surgeon General Leroy Burney had personally noticed the increase in lung cancer reports. It was particularly steep among smokers. As a smoker himself, he was particularly interested in the harms of smoking. Soon, studies showed what we know today. Burney issued an official statement that “excessive cigarette smoking is one of the causative factors of lung cancer”.

The tobacco industry was furious and fought any kind of warning or statement tying the two together. They funded their own study that denounced prior studies as a manipulation of statistics. Plus, they claimed that the studies were flawed because they lacked human testing with great numbers. The industry was concerned that warnings would shut them down with no sales.

With that as a backdrop, all warnings and statements about the harms of smoking had little impact on cigarette sales. People kept smoking and by 1981, annual cigarette consumption had peaked at 600 billion sold. The mixed signals of the harms of smoking had little effect.  At that time, nearly one in five American adults still smoked cigarettes. People apparently were not listening to the good or bad.

In 2005, tobacco companies entered into a settlement to remove tobacco ads from all school library magazines, as well as other limitations on smoking advertisements. Despite warnings and limitations on advertising, It is still estimated that more than 400,000 people per year still die relating to some illness related to the use of tobacco products. The only clear signal… People will smoke because they choose to smoke. All worries of Big Tobacco were a bit exaggerated.

friday smile

E-cigarette Laws

The new concept of e-cigarettes feels like the wild wild west. In the Virginia General Assembly, two legislators have introduced bills for this session that would create a law  prohibiting minors from purchasing or possessing e-cigarettes. That probably is one of those sentences that you have to read again. Yes… there currently is no Virginia law.

In New York City, City Council has voted 43-8 to include e-cigarettes in its city smoking ban. Those that use the device argue that there is no nicotine smoke, only water vapors. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (From Associated Press) was one of the driving forces in getting the vote to pass. As she put it, “permitting e-cigarettes where regular ones are banned would renormalize smoking. We don’t want a step backward with that”.

The FDA has said that it will begin to regulate e-cigarettes. For now, there are very few laws in any states and still, the FDA has taken no action.

For pic o’ day this seemed relaxing but why do all the cat photos seem more fun.

cat cool

Hiring Freeze about the Fire

The Marlboro Man should not apply for work at Bon Secours Hosptial Systems. In Virginia, Bon Secours has instituted a “nicotine-free hiring policy (Pilot Online) starting November 30. Because of this story, I tried some creativity in the title. Although, I’m told by our “social network staff” that my title isn’t good for optimization. Guess I should have put the Marlboro Man in the title. But, I digress. (like I’m known to do)

Since 2009, smoking had already been prohibited on all Bon Secours premises. Employees could smoke but, I guess they would sneak to their cars or hide somewhere. The new policy will not cause a termination of existing employees but they will all be offered smoking cessation classes and other support to help quit the habit.  I didn’t see anything in the article about a 5K bonus for quitting, like one employer told me about. Hey, Bon Secours, that might be good support!

Isn’t this discrimination. Yes…. Yes it is. It’s discrimination against smokers. Employers can do that because it doesn’t fit in the legally protected  classes of race, creed, color, sex or religion. There are some who are also trying to add another protected class; the category of sexual preference. So far, no one is fighting for the protection of the smoker. No Occupy Smoking.

As an employer, I have seen some employees take a great deal of time for breaks, to “get their smoke in”. We are at an office building that is non-smoking. I think, that might serve as a good deterrent to at least reduce smoking to once or twice a day. I haven’t taken the approach of Bon Secours but I do think it’s interesting and consistent with their focus on good health. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Or, you can let me know what you think of pic o’ today. Of course, there seems to be a lot wrong with this.

How You Look At It

My cousin sent this picture that was taken from his window. That’s no pet looking in. I suspect that there’s a bigger one nearby. It reminds me of the old saying “it’s how you look at things”. Here, there’s no safe way to look at a bear through a window. That’s false security.
In my previous blog, I mentioned that I was going to a meeting this past weekend. Well, one of the speakers focused on the studies of statistics and how they relate to injury and diagnosed medical problems.
One of the statistics that really had impact on me, related to lung cancer. He described that a person that smokes has a 22.1% chance of getting lung cancer. Because there are some people that get lung cancer without smoking, I was curious as to the statistic of lung cancer, without smoking… about 1% chance.
That’s one of those statistics that is a reminder that there is really no good way of looking at it. A little greater than 1 to 5 odds of getting cancer doesn’t seem to have much impact on many, when they choose to smoke.
As I walked through the airport on Sunday, I walked by the infamous “smoking room” where everyone can go to smoke. Looking in the glass, in that smokey haze, I could count about 15 people sitting in there. Those statistics tell us that 3 people in there, will end up with lung cancer.
In jury trials, there are several psychological juror bias factors that impact verdicts. Psychologists tell us that one is called the attrition bias. That means that “it won’t happen to me”. So, when that type of juror hears evidence, they tend to put some fault on the plaintiff, because they believe such injuries could not have happened to them; They would have done something differently; even in a rear-end crash.
Unfortunately, it is that same attitude regarding smoking. Tobacco companies continue to turn a profit, despite the alarming statistics. Cigarrettes continue to be sold, no matter what warning is put on the package. Like that juror attitude, “it won’t happen to me” is a terrible stumbling block in the area of good health.
When Tobacco companies pushed for FDA regulation of their product as a drug, they did so with the hope that it would give them some liability cover. They already knew that warnings and statistics had not hurt sales very much. So, why not pretend to be a regulated drug. Now, how does that really make sense?

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