Category Archives: Cigarette manufacturing

He who sups with Philip Morris should have a long spoon!

The words that came to me as I read this piece in today’s Financial Times were disingenuous, self-serving, cynical and the like.

Philip Morris International has pledged up to $1bn over the next 12 years to an arm’s-length foundation that will fund scientific research designed to eliminate the use of smoked tobacco around the globe.

[Philp Morris]…last week registered the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World as a US charitable organisation, with the stated aim of making grants on ‘how to best achieve a smoke-free world and advance the field of tobacco harm reduction’.

How generous of them! That’s what we need – scientific research (of course they wouldn’t do unscientific research, would they) to eliminate the use of smoked tobacco! And what a noble cause: to ‘advance the field of tobacco harm reduction’!

Then we have the two-faced André Calantzopoulos, chief executive of Philip Morris Ineternational, telling the Financial Times (emphasis added of weasel words and clichés):

Our efforts are squarely focused on ultimately replacing cigarettes with smoke-free products, by offering the millions of men and women who continue to smoke a better alternative. We are standing at the cusp of a true revolution and look forward to the foundation’s objective review of our efforts and efforts of others.

Allow me to re-write this in plain English, saying what I think he really means:

For the millions of people who are addicted to the nicotine in our cigarettes and who therefore find they are unable to quit, we offer an alternative, iQOS, which may (or may not) be a safer way of inhaling tobacco fumes. If everyone were eventually to switch from cigarettes to iQOS our profits would be sustained or may even increase and into the bargain we can present ourselves as a public health champion! (The $1bn is, of course, a drop in the ocean for us.)

Well, I can tell them exactly what they need to do to achieve a smoke-free world and advance the field of tobacco harm reduction – and I won’t charge anything like $1bn for my services. In fact I’ll advise them for free. This is what they need to do, and should do in a much shorter time span than the next twelve years: stop making cigarettes. That will achieve, as least as far as Philip Morris are concerned, the first aim of eliminating the use of smoked tobacco. As for the second aim, that of advancing the field, as they put it, my suggestion will go a long way to achieving that too.

But, of course, what they really want to do, while they keeping merrily on making and selling ordinary cancer sticks, is to plug for all they’re worth their new product with the unpronounceable name of iQOS. For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with what this is, here is a picture of an advertising placard for it, conveniently placed at a child’s eye level in my local branch of Seven-Eleven.

iQOS (or should that be iQOSs?) look like little cigarettes. They are made of tobacco which is heated (not burnt), with the resultant poisonous fumes being inhaled into the lungs. Philip Morris claims this is potentially less harmful than inhaling cigarette smoke – so that’s all right then. And, Bingo! – the field of tobacco harm reduction is advanced!

The misleadingly named Foundation for a Smoke-free World is curiously described as ‘arm’s length’, by which I suppose mean independent. But will it be?

Our old friend Professor Linda Bauld (, however misguided her views on the use of e-cigarettes in pregnancy may be, at least strikes a note of scepticism about this set-up:

I’m very cautiousI’d prefer research completely independent from industry.

Quite right.

Why do I say the Foundation is misleadingly named? Because what they envisage is a world where, even if smoking disappears, millions of people will still continue in the thrall of nicotine addiction.

Text and photo © Gabriel Symonds

Ooh! Ain’t it Wonderful!

Is smoking harmful, or isn’t it? Or is it, perhaps, good for you? In particular, the weighty question needs to be considered: is there any connection between passive smoking (breathing cigarette smoke-polluted air produced by other smokers) and dementia?

A headline in an online publication called ‘Care Appointments’ says: ‘[The University of] Wolverhampton secure (sic) funding to assess impact of passive smoking on dementia.’

Specifically, £153,976 – a nice round figure – has been secured to study the ‘Impacts of Environmental Tobacco Smoke on Incidence and Outcomes of Dementia’. The study will be led by one Professor Ruoling Chen from the University’s Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, no less.

The plan, it seems, is to study groups of old people with and without dementia to see whether passive smoking increases the risk of getting it, and, if someone is unfortunate enough to suffer from dementia, whether passive smoking makes the course of the disease better or worse. Of course it is possible, though I doubt it, they may find that passive smoking is protective against dementia or that dementia patients fare less badly as a result of cigarette smoke exposure.

I can tell you now that this study will be a complete and utter waste of time – to say nothing of a waste of £153,976. Here’s why:

Whatever Professor Chen and his colleagues discover, what are they going to do with the result? If passive smoking is bad for dementia we shall have yet another reason to add the already existing numerous compelling reasons for stopping smoking, and, indeed for banning tobacco. And in the extremely unlikely event that they find smoking is good for dementia, what then? Should  everybody consider taking up smoking to prevent dementia or reduce its severity?

The opportunities for research of this kind are endless but we already know more than enough about the harmful effects of smoking. The £153,976 would be better spent on lobbying for the cigarette factories to be closed down.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Tobacco is the Root of all Evil

A young girl ties tobacco leaves onto sticks to prepare them for curing in East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. © 2015 Marcus Bleasdale for Human Rights Watch

The desperate need to deal with the smoking problem by outlawing tobacco could not be more plainly made than in the six bulleted points of ASH’s (Action on Smoking and Health’s) online Daily News of 30 May 2017.

Here they are:

  • Tobacco kills more than 7 million people per year and is costing the world economy USD 1.4 trillion annually

The death toll has gone up from the previous oft-quoted figure of six million per year.

  • Disposed cigarette butts pose a potential ecological risk to the ocean
  • Essex: Dunmow flat fire caused by badly discarded cigarette
  • Tobacco production ‘breaches human rights laws’

These three speak for themselves.

  • Scotland: Scientists find that smoking harms livers of unborn babies

It was discovered in 1950 that smoking causes lung cancer. How many additional harmful effects on human health need to be found before cigarettes are banned?

  • Austria: Study shows increasing the price of tobacco reduces consumption

How far will the price of tobacco need to be increased so that no one can afford to buy it anymore?

Let’s return to the first point: the statistic of seven million people being killed every year at a cost to the world economy of $1.4 trillion. This is from a slickly produced fifty page Discussion Paper, funded by the UK government, entitled ‘The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: an Accelerator (sic) for Sustainable Development.’

It’s written in the WHO’s usual turgid prose, with the inevitable Executive summary (an ordinary summary wouldn’t cut the mustard, apparently) and patronizingly illustrated with photos of smiling people from what are euphemistically called low- and middle-income countries.

This is the cringe-making style of the writing:

…generate greater awareness of the different narratives and entry-points for effective engagement with non-health sector stakeholders…strengthening governance to address inequalities and social exclusion that drive poor health

We soon come to the point, and this is where I want to make my point:

The paper’s overarching purpose is to support the acceleration of tobacco control efforts as part of broader SDG implementation…

Heaven knows there are enough problems in poor countries – I’m sorry, I mean low- and middle-income countries – with corruption, pollution, repression of women and minorities, child labour, female genital mutilation, religious intolerance, droughts, famines, wars, terrorism, HIV-AIDS, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, landmine injuries, etc. But now, to these horrendous and seemingly intractable problems in so many parts of the world, we have to add tobacco growing and smoking.

No doubt sustainable development goals (SDG) are important for the greater happiness of mankind and deserving of all the help that rich countries can provide, and it’s clear that poorer countries’ problems are only made worse by growing tobacco and people smoking. But what the writers of this report want to do is to attach the tobacco control agenda to the much broader one of sustainable development.

Of course, people in poor countries are just as worthy as anyone else of being encouraged to stop smoking by having taxes increased on cigarettes and of having the dangers of smoking pointed out to them by horrible pictures on cigarette packs and of reducing exposure to cigarette advertisements by regulating them, etc. But these and other ‘tobacco control’ measures in this context are drops in the ocean.

Now consider if the tobacco controllers campaigned instead, or as well, for tobacco abolition. If this were successful, the demand for cigarettes would go down dramatically, there would be a smaller and eventually no market for tobacco products and all the problems from this cause of damage to human health and environmental degradation would eventually disappear.

It’s not so simple as that, of course, but at least let this objective be clearly stated and let a working party be set up, funded by the UK and other governments and the WHO, to look into the best way to achieve this aim.

Because in the meantime it’s not just unacceptable – it’s outrageous – that a product as dangerous as cigarettes is allowed to be sold.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

More BAT Duplicity

Fumatul ucide is Spanish for smoking kills

In my tireless efforts to bring you the low-down on the tricks of the tobacco trade let me tell you about this little gem I came across recently from British American Tobacco (BAT):

Under the page header the eye is drawn to the large print: ‘Our Guiding Principles’.

So BAT has principles. How very reassuring! Below that, just to make it clear, they write: ‘Steering the values of our business and our people’ and, repetitively, ‘Our Guiding Principles provide certainty about what we stand for and act as a compass to guide our behaviour.’

Nice to know BAT’s Guiding Principles provide certainly etc. Below these words is a screen on which you can see a short video: ‘Strength from adversity: a case study in Japan’. Click on the Play button and we get the BAT logo and company colours, the title of the film repeated and the wording ‘Pulling together in the wake of the tsunami in Japan’. Well, good for them! BAT was involved in assisting recovery from the terrible tragedy in Japan in 2011, it seems. The film shows amid the awful devastation individuals and small groups of men wearing suits and ties who explain how they made every effort to assist those affected by this disaster. And whom, in  particular, did they assist? Their retailers, their employees living along the coast, vendors and shop owners, and we hear from the local representative and the Vice President of this company.

But just a minute – what company are we talking about? Was BAT so big in Fukushima? Actually, no. It’s nothing to do with BAT. Look closely and you will see the film is about the Toyota Motor Corporation’s dealerships.

Let’s take a look another of BAT’s so-called guiding principles on this site. This is what it says – I am not making it up:

Freedom through Responsibility 

…We always strive to do the right thing, exercising our responsibility to society and other stakeholders. We use our freedom to take decisions and act in the best interest of consumers.

So society is just a stakeholder? Perhaps they meant to say ‘We always strive to exercise our responsibility to our shareholders.’ At least that would be believable. And if they wanted to show concern about doing the right thing and exercising their responsibility to society, to say nothing of acting in the best interests of their consumers, perhaps they should consider stopping making cigarettes.

Not surprisingly, what BAT says elsewhere on this site about the health risks of smoking is also put in a way that could be considered misleading:

The health risks in groups vary by the amount smoked, being highest in those that smoke for more years and smoke more cigarettes per day.

This could be taken as implying that if you don’t smoke too much or for too long it’s not so risky. But any smoking – even one cigarette – damages your health.

Experts advise no smoking during pregnancy – and we agree.

Do pregnant women need BAT’s patronising comment that they agree with the experts? And what if you happen not to be pregnant, or if you’re a man, then do experts not advise no smoking?

The only way to be certain of avoiding the risks of smoking is not to smoke.

So that lets BAT off the hook. No mention, however, of the fact that no matter how much smokers may want to avoid the risks of smoking, many find it extremely difficult to quit because they’re in the grip of nicotine addiction.

More disingenuousness is to be found in the section headed ‘Can people quit smoking?’, the question implying that perhaps they can’t.

Smoking can be hard to quit. Any adult thinking of starting to smoke should consider that it may be difficult to stop later.

Do adults thinking of starting to smoke first visit BAT’s website where they find the advice that they should consider that it may be difficult to stop later? Or do they smoke because they’re lured by the false promise of pleasure that BAT offers and then they find they’re hooked?

Then we have:

There is nothing so powerful about the pleasure of smoking that prevents smokers from quitting…

Note the implication that smokers may be prevented from quitting because they don’t want to give up the wonderful pleasure of smoking. Once again BAT conveniently avoids mentioning the real reason smokers may have difficult in quitting: it’s nothing to do with pleasure but everything to do with drug (nicotine) addiction caused by their poisonous products.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Lies, Damned Lies and Big Tobacco

How can Nic’otine’andro Durante face himself in the mirror each morning?

Let me put it another way. What are 10,000 deaths a year in the UK worth?

To work this out we need to remember that one of the warning labels appearing on cigarette packs amusingly states ‘Smoking kills’. More precisely, smoking kills about 100,000 people each year in the UK. Now, British American Tobacco (BAT), whose CEO is the above-named Mr Durante, has a 10% share of the market so that means BAT is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people each year in the UK. And the answer to the above intriguing question is the widely reported figure of £7.63m – this being Mr Durante’s 2016 salary, or ‘compensation’ as they quaintly put it, for his company’s legalised drug (nicotine) peddling with the aforementioned hilarious result.

It seems to me there is a kind of battle going on between the forces of righteousness on the one hand and the powers of darkness on the other. I refer, of course, to the do-gooders in the tobacco control movement, those working in specialised stop smoking clinics and other anti-smoking nazis versus those pulling in the opposite direction, namely, Big Tobacco with the collusion of governments who haven’t got the bottle to ban cigarettes.

Let me quote from BAT’s website:

Along with the pleasures of smoking, there are real risks of serious diseases such as lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease, and for many people, smoking is difficult to quit.

BAT’s mention of the pleasures of smoking as if it’s obvious or indisputable, is an assumption if not a downright lie. Smoking is not pleasurable or enjoyable – but it may seem so  – and the implication is that smokers need to weigh the alleged pleasures they gain from smoking against the health risks. But in any case, since BAT is so honest as to spell out the dangers of smoking, let’s give them a medal – or at any rate give their CEO a £7.63m pay cheque.

Then they dig themselves deeper into the hole with their ‘four key marketing principles’ – these seem to be some kind of promises. Here they are, but these so-called principles are more honoured in the breach than the observance:

  1. We will not mislead about the risks of smoking.

Although they say ‘for many people smoking is difficult to quit’ I can find nothing on their website about nicotine addiction as the reason for this difficulty. This major omission could be taken as amounting to being misleading.

  1. We will only market our products to adult smokers.

What do they mean by market? Advertise? Promote in media targeted at adults? In reality it’s almost impossible to shield children from cigarette marketing even if it’s supposed to be aimed only at adults. In any case, there’s no better way of marketing cigarettes to children than for them merely to see an adult smoking.

  1. We will not seek to influence the consumer’s decision about whether or not to smoke, nor how much to smoke.

But they do! What is their marketing for if not to influence non-smokers to try smoking? And after that they don’t have to do anything because a significant proportion of people who try the first cigarette are thenceforth addicted to nicotine so they feel compelled to go on smoking for years or even for the rest of their lives.

  1. It should always be clear to our consumers that our advertising originates from a tobacco company and that it is intended to promote the sale of our tobacco brands. 

They would say that, wouldn’t they. But it doesn’t exactly fit with BAT’s key marketing principle number 3.

Tobacco companies claim that their marketing is not intended to encourage young people to start smoking but to persuade established adult smokers to change brands. So that’s all right then. This is disingenuous. Do smokers find themselves in a pickle, thinking, ‘That’s a very persuasive advertisement for brand Y, I’ll change to it from my usual brand X.’? And if they then see an even more enticing advertisement for brand Z, do they say to themselves, ‘I must try brand Z from now on.’? Are smokers forever chopping and changing in response to the blandishments of Big Tobacco’s marketing efforts? It’s well known that smokers tend to stick with the same brand. What the marketing does achieve, however, is to keep the idea of smoking in the public eye and therefore people who wouldn’t otherwise smoke may be lured into trying it.

Now what about the pleasure(s) of smoking? Oscar Wilde in 1890 put it like this:

A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?

Time has moved on since then and any smoker can demonstrate to himself or herself that the pleasure of smoking is an illusion.

The exquisite state of being unsatisfied, however, is no illusion; it continues for the whole of a smoker’s smoking life. How to get out if it? That is the question!

Text © Gabriel Symonds


Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.

The title is a quotation from Groucho Marx.

A further examination of JTI’s of website (see yesterday’s post) reveals more weasel words.

A major section is headed ‘Our principles’ and, more specifically, ‘Six core principles define JTI’s attitude to smoking’. (The word ‘core’ is redundant.)

The hypocrisy from start to finish is breathtaking. The very idea of a tobacco company declaring that it has any principles at all is a contradiction in terms. Tobacco kills around six million people each year according to the WHO. Therefore, if JTI and the rest of the Big Tobacco fraternity – and small tobacco companies too for that matter – had any decency or principles (don’t laugh) they would do the one and only proper thing: STOP MAKING CIGARETTES.

But that, alas, is not going to happen any time soon while governments are only concerned to ‘control’ tobacco instead of working to abolish it.

Back to the tragic reality of the six million deaths and JTI’s core principles, as they call them – so they must be really important! – in particular, to core principle number five: ‘Accommodation between smokers and non-smokers’.

Many people have concerns about exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. All smokers should show consideration for those around them, and should not smoke when children are present. JTI advocates tailored, practical and effective solutions that separate smokers and non-smokers while accommodating the legitimate interests of both.

So some people – they presumably mean non-smokers – do not have concerns about exposure to environmental (second-hand) tobacco smoke? And who might those be? Of course all smokers should show consideration for those around them but, it is implied by the wording, only when children are present. What about when non-smoking adults are present who hate the stink and object to being forced to breath air polluted by poisons in second-hand tobacco smoke? They have good reason to object on health grounds alone because second-hand smoke indubitably increases their risk (even though to a small extent) of lung cancer and heart disease. This applies a fortiori when children are present, and not just because of the stink and danger of inhaling the smoke – they are particularly sensitive to the adverse health effects including asthma – but because it is a terrible example for a child to see an adult smoking. Then, in order to accommodate the legitimate interest of both smokers and non-smokers, JTI talks, not just of solutions, but of tailored, practical and effective solutions! And just just what tailored, practical and effective solutions do they have in mind?

What are the legitimate interests of smokers and non-smokers? We’ll consider the latter first although it’s so obvious it hardly needs saying. As a non-smoker I never want to have to breathe tobacco smoke-poisoned air. Smokers’ rights end where my nose begins. Even the sight of someone smoking is distasteful.

And what of smokers’ rights? The Forest organisation’s answer is contained in their acronym: ‘Freedom organisation for the right to enjoy smoking tobacco.’ But should they have the right to smoke tobacco if they don’t enjoy it? This question leads to an important aspect of smoking I looked at in my blog of 16 March 2017, ‘Are smokers getting a raw deal?’

Apart from that, what are the legitimate interests of smokers? Presumably to be allowed to smoke whenever and wherever they feel like it, but of course they can’t do that these days in most civilized countries. Apart from in their own homes (assuming there are no children present and no one else there objects), smokers are restricted to smoking in designated smoking areas or, to the annoyance and even distress of the non-smoking public, in the street. So to talk of an ‘accommodation between the legitimate interest of both [smokers and non-smokers]’ in the sense meant by JTI is making an assumption that non-smokers must submit to breathing second-hand cigarette smoke under certain circumstances. This is a completely different situation from that of the accommodation of the legitimate interests of, say, motorists and cyclists on public roads where a certain amount of give-and-take is necessary for the safety of all road users.

Or is this accommodation meant to include the situation where a non-smoker, on encountering a smoker standing outside an office building (as is the case in many cities in Europe), is obliged either to hold his or her breath or to make a detour to pass by out of smoke range? Or should a non-smoker try to accommodate the legitimate interests of a smoker by saying to him or her, ‘Excuse me, does my non-smoking bother you?’

I say smokers have no legitimate interests that non-smokers must accommodate.

Furthermore, what smokers don’t seem to understand is that they are either in a drugged state (with nicotine) just after having smoked a cigarette or they are suffering from drug withdrawal the rest of the time. Therefore, if smokers could only grasp these facts and get rid of the illusion of the enjoyment of smoking, they would perhaps understand what inhaling tobacco smoke is doing to their bodies and minds. Then, one might hope, they would consider their own legitimate interests and stop smoking.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Nothing much changed in thousands of years

German industrial cigarette machine – makes 10,000 cigarettes a minute

There are some individuals and organisations who have found a way to deal with awkward questions: ignore them!

Recently I cast my critical eye at the website of the venerable cigarette manufacturing company, Japan Tobacco International (JTI). In their ‘About tobacco’ section we find the amazing fact that ‘Smoking has a tradition that dates back thousands of years.’ So that’s all right then. Slavery, genital mutilation of children and dog-fighting also date back thousands of years. And another thing they say in the same section is that ‘The way a cigarette is prepared has not changed much.’ I suppose it all depends on what they mean by ‘much’ and from when they are considering change. Up to the late 1800s cigarettes were hand rolled but modern machine rolling can produce up to 20,000 cigarettes a minute. Seems like a pretty big change to me – to say nothing of all the sophisticated additives that can be found in cigarettes these days. So I hope JTI will forgive me for imagining that their site may not be quite straightforward – it’s rather smoke and mirrors, particularly smoke.

Now let’s come to my main concern. If you read the JTI  website carefully you can see how they try to justify continuing to be in the tobacco business – although they make a point of adding, rather obviously, that ‘If you want to avoid the risks of smoking, you should not smoke.’ So that lets them off the hook.

What they don’t acknowledge is how cigarettes themselves have created the problem, that is, nicotine addiction, whereby smokers find it difficult to stop.

This is what JTI says about addiction:

Many smokers report difficulty quitting smoking. The reasons they offer vary. Some say they miss the pleasure they derive from smoking. Others complain of feeling irritable or anxious. Others speak simply of the difficulty of breaking a well-ingrained habit. Given the way in which many people – including smokers – use the term ‘addiction’, smoking is addictive.

It is interesting to see how these comments, while seeming responsible and sensible, could be taken as self-serving.

‘Many smokers report difficulty quitting smoking.’ This is not true. All smokers (whether they report it or not) have difficulty quitting smoking – that’s why they smoke! Or at least one can infer as much.

But do smokers spontaneously report that they have difficulty quitting or is this elicited by the questioner? And what are the circumstances under which this question was asked? What was the question anyway? Did they approach a random sample of smokers and say, ‘Excuse me, do you have difficulty quitting smoking?’ It’s a loaded, not to say insulting question. Or did they say to someone smoking a cigarette, ‘Excuse me, if you have difficulty quitting smoking would you please tell me why.’ Same situation. Or perhaps they asked a sample of smokers attending a smoking cessation clinic who had agreed to take part in such a survey. These smokers would obviously be a select group and therefore can’t be taken as representative of ‘many’ smokers.

So I used the contact section on the JTI website to ask them whence these comments come from. Are they from a scientific paper reporting the results of a survey or are they just made up by the JTI copywriter? I am still waiting for a reply.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume many smokers had somehow reported that they have difficulty quitting, and that they were then asked to say why they thought they were in this unfortunate situation. Let’s take the quoted alleged reasons one by one.

‘Some say they miss the pleasure they derive from smoking’. But if they say they miss the pleasure of smoking this means they have already stopped, so the difficulty is retrospective and these former smokers cannot therefore be included in the ‘many’ who allegedly currently have difficulty stopping smoking.

As for a habit, whether well-ingrained or merely ingrained, that smokers apparently have difficulty breaking, this is not why smokers smoke or why they find it difficult to stop. Habits are easy enough to make or break but drug (nicotine) addiction is another matter entirely.

Those who ‘complain of feeling irritable or anxious’ as a reason for having difficulty in quitting are nearer the truth, but why do they feel this? Because the irritability or anxiety is caused by the cigarettes themselves or, more specifically, by the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine.

Then we have:

But no matter how smoking is described, people can stop smoking if they are determined to do so. No one should believe that they are so attached or ‘addicted’ to smoking that they cannot quit.

Note how ‘attached’ is written as part of the normal flow of the sentence but ‘addicted’ is in inverted commas. This implies that smokers are not really addicted to smoking, only attached to it, and that if they really wanted to stop they would. Thus JTI reveal themselves: Don’t blame us if you think you can’t quit – you could if you wanted to!

What JTI does not admit, of course, is that the difficulties smokers may experience in quitting are an inherent part of the poisonous product they have provided for their customers to get hooked on – and to remain hooked on – for years or decades.

Text © Gabriel Symonds