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Profits, death and disease: big tobacco’s business model

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr Luther Terry, released the 1964 report on Smoking and Health.

"The Advisory Committee’s conclusion “hit the country like a bombshell,” said Dr. Terry.

“Cigarette smoking contributes substantially to mortality from certain specific diseases and to the overall death rate.”

“Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men; the magnitude of the effect of cigarette smoking far outweighs all other factors. The data for women, though less extensive, point in the same direction.”

“Cigarette smoking is the most important of the causes of chronic bronchitis in the United States, and increases the risk of dying from chronic bronchitis and emphysema.”

“Male cigarette smokers have a higher death rate from coronary artery disease than non-smoking males. Although the causative role of cigarette smoking in deaths from coronary disease is not proven, the Committee considers it more prudent from the public health viewpoint to assume that the established association has causative meaning than to suspend judgment until no uncertainty remains.”


The excellent book about the history of cancer research "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer", which I can highly recommend, covers the background research into the largest cause of preventable cancer that ultimately led to the US Surgeon General's report:


The US Surgeon General has this year released a comprehensive report and executive summary of what progress has been made in reducing this risky habit. Note the introduction to the comprehensive report:

"This comprehensive report chronicles the devastating consequences of 50 years of tobacco use in the United States"


Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at University of Melbourne looks at the present business model of the worlds top tobacco companies in the article below.


"Tobacco is one of the great commercial successes of our time. They have a very simple model, which needs little innovation or R&D – simply because the product sells itself through addiction. Their aim is to get young people to take it up, so they will continue for life and can then ensure their children smoke (children of smokers are twice as likely to smoke as non-smokers). The fact that half of their clients will die, on average, 12 years prematurely is of no concern to them.

They have built the perfect model of intergenerational addiction and early death. Their stocks, yields and margins are, unlike their products, very healthy.




But the battle continues and this has been clearly shown by the recent front page story in The Australian claiming that plain packaging has failed. Fuelled by data from the tobacco industry only, the obvious reason for such a banner headline was so that it could be reproduced by the Murdoch press in the UK and Europe where the Irish, UK and French governments have made it clear they want to pursue plain packaging." (emphasis mine).

As a non-smoker, I can't truly appreciate how difficult it must be for those addicted to nicotine to quit, but I can well believe reports that nicotine is more addictive than heroin and many other hard drugs from seeing how tough it has been for my friends trying to quit; even more so when life is stressful - for example if you've just leant that you have cancer.

If you are still getting that nicotine hit, consider how much better your already CLL immune compromised health could be if you removed this burden from your body. You'll reduce your already higher risk of secondary cancers and having healthier lungs has to help improve your chances of recovering from pneumonia - a common cause of death in those with CLL.

If hat doesn't provide enough incentive, just work out what you could do with that extra money :) .

The final word belongs to Chaya Venkat of CLL Topics/Updates:

"The patient that gets no respect"



2 Replies

Unfortunately smoking is legal and a more "accepted" habit than cocaine or heroin. It is therefore much more difficult to give up. You can light up in many places, but just try to snort or "shoot up" in those same places. There are programs and institutions (mostly free of cost) that help you kick drug habits, but none (that I know of) for smoking. The tobacco industry has no interest in helping you quit.



And therein lies a major problem, with governments hypocritically taxing smokers heavily for what is indeed a legal activity, with some of the tax revenue going to providing additional health funding for tobacco caused illnesses and perhaps to support quit smoking programs. Smokers can feel, with considerable justification, that since they have paid additional taxes to enjoy their legal habit, they should be able to access government funded health care when they get smoking related illnesses.


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