a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - Going up in smoke

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First Published Jamaica Gleaner: Saturday | April 16, 2011 read original article here

by Tony Deyal, Contributor

Smokers are at their last gasp, but not the cigarette industry, or Big Tobacco as it is called. It is no sense saying that you pay twice for your cigarettes - first when you get them and second when they get you - when the tobacco industry continues to make big bucks despite recessions, punitive taxation, anti-smoking legislation and consumer advocacy.

In February this year, British American Tobacco (BAT), the second-largest tobacco company in the world, and the leading tobacco company by revenue in Europe, reported an increase in profits mainly on sales growth, encouraged by growing sales in developing markets. One of the profit-earning measures was a price increase. In the Caribbean, the West Indies Tobacco Company (WITCO) experienced a three per cent increase in profits. According to a media report, WITCO recorded a turnover of $942.5 million, a growth of six per cent over 2009, which was as a result of an improved sales performance.

The question is: Why in these hard times, people who don't have money to burn continue to burn money? BAT itself provided the answer three years ago in 2008 when the company posted a 14 per cent rise in profits. The Telegraph quoted BAT Chairman Jan du Plessis as saying, "We haven't really felt the impact of economic developments on our business thus far. We're in a kind of business where we know that people would much rather cut down on other areas of discretionary spend before they decide to either down-trade or cut down on their overall daily cigarette consumption." cigarettes do the smoking

One comedian quipped that the people with the burning cigarettes and the even more burning desire to get some nicotine into their systems don't really smoke. The cigarettes do all the smoking. The people are just suckers. However, given the extent to which cigarette smokers have become pariahs in most countries, one would have thought that Big Tobacco would shrink, shrivel and suffer. In today's America, it is more socially acceptable to carry a handgun than a pack of cigarettes. Public pressure mounted on President Obama to give up smoking and he yielded to it, not gracefully but eventually.

We say that cigarettes are more lethal than guns because they travel in packs, and that while the mortality rate is the same for smokers and non-smokers, the difference is the timing, and the suffering. Someone even commented that having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool. Yet, none of this seems to work, and in places like China, tobacco consumption is increasing.

Ernest Dichter, a marketing psychologist and adviser to the tobacco industry, summed up the pleasures of smoking in his 'The Psychology of Everyday Living': "If we consider all the pleasure and advantages provided, in a most democratic and international fashion, by this little white paper roll, we shall understand why it is difficult to destroy its power by means of warnings, threats, or preachings. This pleasure miracle has so much to offer that we can safely predict the cigarette is here to stay. Our psychological analysis is not intended as a eulogy of the habit of smoking, but rather as an objective report on why people smoke cigarettes. Perhaps this will seem more convincing if we reveal a personal secret: We ourselves do not smoke at all. We may be missing a great deal." rite of passage?

I suppose this is why so many of us started smoking - the feeling that we might be missing something. My father was a smoker, the boys and men around me smoked, and it became a rite of passage. Before I knew it, and in what seemed to be a relatively short time in my life, I had reached three packs of cigarettes a day. From the occasional one after a drink, I was smoking from the time I woke in the morning until I fell asleep at night, most times with a cigarette. What is incredible is the insidiousness of the vice - even though I have become allergic to cigarette smoke, I still see myself in my dreams with a cigarette in my hand.

I have become an anti-smoking militant like the pilot who told her passengers, "There is no smoking in the cabin on this flight. There is also no smoking in the lavatories. If we see smoke coming from the lavatories, we will assume you are on fire and put you out. This is a free service we provide. There are two smoking sections on this flight, one outside each wing exit. We do have a movie in the smoking sections tonight ... hold on, let me check what it is ... . Oh here it is; the movie tonight is Gone with the Wind."

A few weeks ago I got a cap from a colleague in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It did not advertise any clothing or sports shoe brand. It just said, 'BREAK THE TOBACCO MARKETING NET', and it provides a website address: www.who.int/tobacco/wntd. I found out that it was part of a WHO (World Health Organisation) marketing campaign on World No Tobacco Day (May 31, 2010) to control the epidemic of tobacco among women.

While the evidence shows plainly that knowing about the dangers of smoking does not really stop chronic smokers from continuing to spend their money on a habit that will eventually kill them, it is important to make the personal statement and commitment, as I did many years ago: "I will not smoke for the next minute." Eventually, the minute turned into an hour and then a day and now 35 years. I don't want any of my daughters or sons to smoke, but while Big Tobacco continues to have more money to spend on advertising than those who oppose them, I think the best message for the rest of us is that it is time to get off our butts.

Tony Deyal was last seen asking what's the best way to stop someone from smoking in bed? Get a waterbed and fill it with gasolene.

Original Article http://mobile.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110416/cleisure/cleisure3.php

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