Tuesday, June 23, 2009

American Cancer Society Lies to American Public About Effects of FDA Tobacco Legislation

Also Deceives Public About Big Tobacco Opposition to Bill

Telling the Truth Would Have Required Admitting that the Bill is a Public Scam Which Does Little to Protect Children from Cigarettes But Lots to Protect Cigarette Sales

In a communication sent to the American Cancer Society's (ACS) network of advocates throughout the nation (including myself) and posted on the Society's web site, the ACS has lied about the effects of the FDA tobacco legislation passed last week by the U.S. House and Senate and signed into law Monday by President Obama.

According to the American Cancer Society's statement: "Our nation's children – potential first-time smokers – will no longer be seduced by flavored tobacco products, including candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, which will be banned."

The American Cancer Society is thus claiming that the FDA tobacco legislation bans all flavored tobacco products that might seduce children.

The Rest of the Story

If the American Cancer Society had read the actual text of the legislation or read any of hundreds of newspaper articles about the bill published in the past month alone, it would have easily found out that the bill does not ban all flavored tobacco cigarettes that seduce young smokers. The bill specifically exempts menthol from its ban on cigarette flavorings.

The key section of the bill about which the ACS is lying is section 907(a)(1)(A), which reads: "Beginning 3 months after the date of enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke."

Thus, either the American Cancer Society is somehow unaware that the bill exempts menthol or the ACS is lying to the public.

The former possibility can be ruled out because the ACS itself acknowledged in an earlier communication that the bill exempts menthol: "Some of the most highly visible impacts of the legislation would allow the FDA to: ... Ban all cigarette flavorings other than menthol, that is a characterizing flavor of the product...".

The American Cancer Society is also well aware that menthol is a cigarette flavoring whose primary purpose is to help addict youths by making cigarette smoke less harsh. The ACS itself, in a special report on the topic, stated that cigarette companies use menthol flavoring to: "Numb throat so the smoker does not feel as much throat irritation."

In support of this assertion, the ACS cites a tobacco industry document which argues that a flavoring (such as menthol) which makes cigarette smoke less harsh will help entice youth smokers. According to the ACS report: "The Teague document details a number of product features that make smoking more tolerable for beginning and learning smokers. For example, it discusses methods of reducing harshness, making the flavor bland since new smokers don’t like the taste of the smoke, and improving the “mouth feel” by reducing negatives like hotness and

In fact, the ACS report goes into tremendous detail about how the tobacco companies are using menthol to entice young African Americans to smoke (whether you agree with this conclusion or not, my point is that the ACS has certainly concluded and argued to the public that menthol is used to entice young smokers):

"The tobacco companies’ success in using menthol cigarettes to target African American kids is exemplified by the disproportionate number of young blacks who smoke menthol cigarettes. Not only does menthol numb the throat to allow deeper inhaling, the companies know menthol is attractive to their African American targets: “Young blacks have found their thing, and it’s menthol in general and Kool in particular.” It is hardly surprising then that 80 percent of 12- to 17-year-old black smokers choose Newport, the leading menthol brand, compared to just 16 percent of young white smokers. Again, these product design decisions can have a terrible impact on health. Menthol cigarettes have higher carbon monoxide concentrations than non-menthol cigarettes and may be associated with a greater absorption of nicotine. Moreover, research indicates that mentholated cigarettes may increase the risk of both lung and bronchial cancer by promoting lung permeability and diffusability of smoke particles. African Americans are more likely to develop and die from cancer than persons of any other racial or ethnic group. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both African American men and women and it kills more African Americans than any other type of cancer."

So the ACS is aware that the bill exempts menthol and has also argued previously that menthol flavoring is used in order to entice young smokers by making the smoke less harsh and in particular, by enticing African American youths who are attracted by the menthol flavor.

Therefore, I am saddened but forced to conclude that the American Cancer Society is lying to its constituents and the public in its communication stating that the FDA legislation bans all cigarette flavorings and thus ends the enticement of youths by these flavorings.

I should say that I am a long-time American Cancer Society supporter, volunteer, donor, and fund raiser and thus it greatly saddens me to see the ACS lie to the public like this.

But the reason for this lie is also clear. If the ACS were honest with the public, it would have to admit that the bill is a public scam which does little to protect children from addiction to cigarettes but lots to protect cigarette sales. Most notably, the bill bans all the flavorings that are not used very often (or at all), such as banana, pineapple, cherry, chocolate, and cherry, but exempts the one flavoring (menthol) which the ACS itself admits is used to entice huge numbers of young smokers, including a disproportionate number of African Americans. The ACS itself tells us that Newport - a menthol-flavored brand - is smoked by 80% of African American teenagers.

It's interesting that when it was trying to get this bill passed, the ACS had no problem featuring the problems of tobacco use in the African American community, but now that the legislation has been enacted, the ACS is now pretending that the African American community doesn't exist and that the enticement and seduction of African American youth smokers by menthol-flavored brands is not a problem.

After all, our nation's youths will no longer be seduced by flavored cigarettes. I guess African American youths are not considered a part of our national community of youths by the ACS. (Obviously, I'm being sarcastic here but my point is that first, the ACS is telling a pretty significant lie and second, that there is a notable tinge of institutional racial discrimination in the ACS' statements and actions).

Clearly, the ACS is afraid to tell the public the truth - that while the bill bans all the flavorings in cigarette brands which are rarely used by youths - it exempts menthol, which is the chief flavoring present in the brands favored by 80% of African American youths.

Let me just note that there is no scientific evidence that cherry, pineapple, and banana are playing any significant role in the enticement of youths to smoke. But there is abundant evidence (presented by the ACS itself) that menthol flavoring plays a critical role in the enticement of literally millions of smokers. When was the last time you saw a group of kids standing around smoking a banana-flavored cigarette? But you see groups of kids standing around smoking Newports all the time.

Telling the public the truth - that the bill exempts menthol - would be an embarrassing admission for the ACS, because it would reveal that the bill is a scam, which allows health groups and politicians to boast about how they are fighting Big Tobacco but which actually fails to confront the key problems which are leading to youth addiction to cigarettes (namely, the menthol flavoring and the nicotine).

Which brings us to the other element of massive deception in the American Cancer Society's communication: the web page tells us that by enacting this law, Congress is standing up to Big Tobacco. It states: "It's not easy to stand up to an enemy like Big Tobacco, but that's what Congress did and what President Obama will do next week."

But the truth is that the largest company within Big Tobacco - Philip Morris - was supporting the legislation!

Thus, it is massively deceptive to suggest that those voting for the legislation were standing up to Big Tobacco. They were actually supporting Philip Morris and helping the company do its bidding in Congress. While we can debate whether the bill was constructive or destructive in spite of or because of Philip Morris' support, it is very clearly not the truth that supporters of this legislation were standing up to Big Tobacco. Big Tobacco was actually split on the legislation, with the smaller companies opposing the bill and the largest company vigorously supporting it.

On the same day that the American Cancer Society declared that the seduction of young people by flavored cigarettes has come to an end due to the FDA legislation, Philip Morris announced that it was introducing a "richer, bolder" flavored cigarette that it hopes will compete with Lorillard's Newport and R.J. Reynolds' Camel Crush. And what is the flavoring in this richer, bolder flavored product which is expected to compete for a significant part of the market and to extend the penetration and market dominance of Marlboro? Is it cherry, chocolate, strawberry, pineapple, or banana? Is it mint, vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, or orange?

No -- it is ....

.... you guessed it...


According to a Bloomberg News article: "The cigarette, called Marlboro Blend No. 54, has a “richer, bolder” flavor than Philip Morris USA’s regular Marlboro menthol and Marlboro Smooth menthol cigarettes... . Retailers and distributors began receiving shipments on June 17, according to an information sheet distributed to wholesalers and confirmed today by Bill Phelps, another spokesman for Richmond, Virginia-based Altria. It’s the first new Marlboro menthol cigarette since 2007. Tobacco companies are pursuing menthol sales, which account for a growing share of the shrinking cigarette market. Reynolds, the second-largest U.S. tobacco company after Altria, has introduced products such as Camel Crush, a cigarette that contains a menthol capsule in the filter that provides flavoring when compressed. “If Altria wants to obtain more market share, it has to expand where the consumer has shown a preference,” Thomas Russo, who manages $2.5 billion of assets at Gardner Russo & Gardner, said in a telephone interview. Menthol is “the only territory where Altria can probably hope to gain share from other brands.” ... The company won’t discuss how it creates different flavors and it won’t comment on how the new cigarette compares with rivals’ menthol offerings, Mathe said. Philip Morris USA trails Lorillard in the menthol category and is using promotions to increase initial deliveries of Marlboro Blend No. 54."

The rest of the story is that the American Cancer Society has lied to its constituents and to the American public, telling us that the FDA tobacco legislation bans all flavored tobacco products that entice youths when the truth is that the bill exempts menthol, which the ACS itself has stated is a cigarette flavoring which is used to seduce youths, especially African American youths.

The days of our nation's children being seduced by flavored cigarettes has not ended, as claimed by the ACS. With the introduction of Marlboro Blend No. 54, those days are just beginning.

The only difference is that now, these menthol brands have the blessing of the health groups and of our federal government.

It's difficult to believe that this dishonest communication by the ACS was simply a mistake, since previous communications from the ACS did mention that menthol was exempt. Given the publicity that issue has received in recent weeks, I find it very difficult to believe that this wasn't a deliberate act of deception on the part of the ACS to make the bill sound better than it is and to hide the fact that the legislation fails to address the very issue which the ACS stated was so critical in its special report. Telling the truth would have forced the ACS to admit that the bill was largely a political show - window dressing - and that its propaganda is covering up the fact that the bill protects, rather than reduces, sales of the very products which are most responsible for addicting millions of our nation's youths.

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