Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dr. Alan Blum Points Out Big Tobacco Connections of Sponsor of Film on Cancer

Dr. Alan Blum - the Gerald Leon Wallace, M.D., Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama and director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society - published an interesting op-ed last Friday in the Tuscaloosa News. The commentary reveals that several of the sponsors of the recent PBS documentary on cancer as well as the Stand Up to Cancer telethon have strong connections to Big Tobacco and are actually helping contribute to the tobacco epidemic.

I recommend reading the whole piece, but a few of the most relevant excerpts follow:

"At the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi last week, the latest grim statistics shocked even veteran anti-smoking advocates. In spite of the growing number of nations that have banned smoking in public places and have prohibited or restricted cigarette advertising and marketing, the annual death toll from cigarette smoking keeps rising. ... The assumption of the more than 2000 public health professionals from over 100 countries at the conference is that the tobacco industry is the villain, wielding enormous economic and political clout."

"But it’s not just the cigarette companies who benefit from smoking. Without its business allies, the tobacco industry couldn’t exist. These include retailers such as the major chain supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores. Then there are the suppliers of packaging, chemicals, paper and the very machines used to manufacture cigarettes."

"Take Siemens, a global engineering and electronics corporation that cultivates an image of a health-care company in advertisements in major magazines and newspapers, and that runs a science competition for high school students. Chances are that anyone undergoing diagnostic testing for cancer will have blood analyzed — or one’s entire body scanned — in a machine made by Siemens. But Siemens also has a division unknown to the health community and the public — its “tobacco segment,” which provides technical know-how for the largest international cigarette makers such as Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and British American Tobacco. Siemens boasts on its website of helping them produce hundreds of billions of cigarettes each year throughout the world. One Siemens machine operates “at speeds of 4,000 to 20,000 cigarettes per minute.”

"So it was dismaying to see in advertisements for Public Broadcasting Service’s new film “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” (to air on PBS stations over three nights March 30-April 1) that one of its major sponsors is Siemens. During the six-hour documentary, a single Siemens machine will produce 7,800,000 cigarettes."

"Siemens also helps fund the national telethon Stand Up To Cancer, which happens to be the lead sponsor of the PBS film. Stand Up To Cancer also partners with several companies that either sell, promote, or otherwise derive income from the sale of cigarettes, including Safeway Stores’ foundation, the Steve Tisch Foundation (with funding derived in part from family-owned Lorillard Tobacco, maker of Newport) and the publishers Conde Nast and Time Inc., which continue to advertise cigarettes in their magazines."


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