Philip Morris named as corporate human rights violator

The US organization Global Exchange has named Philip Morris to its list of "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is the second major cause of preventable death in the world. Nearly five million lives per year are claimed by the tobacco industry, whose products results in premature death for half the people who use them. Among tobacco companies, Philip Morris is notorious. Now called Altria, it is the world's largest and most profitable cigarette corporation and maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament, Basic and many other brands of cigarettes. Philip Morris is also a leader in pushing smoking with young people around the world.

Philip Morris has consistently misled consumers about the dangers of its products. Documents uncovered in a lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry by the state of Minnesota showed that Philip Morris and other leading tobacco corporations knew very well of the dangers of tobacco products and the addictiveness of nicotine, yet they continued to deny these realities in public until the internal company documents were brought to light. To this day, Philip Morris deceives consumers about the harm of its products by offering light, mild and low-tar cigarettes that give consumers the illusion that these brands are "healthier" than traditional cigarettes.

Philip Morris has actively targeted the world's youth by researching smoking patterns and attitudes and targeting youth as potential customers. Marlboro cigarettes are the top brand for youth in the United States. Although the company says it doesn't want kids to smoke, it spends millions of dollars every day marketing and promoting cigarettes to youth. Overseas, it has even hired underage Marlboro girls to distribute free cigarettes to other children and sponsored concerts where cigarettes were handed out to minors.

As anti-tobacco campaigns and government regulations are slowing tobacco use in Western countries, Philip Morris has aggressively moved into developing country markets, where smoking and smoking-related deaths are on the rise. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, tobacco's killing fields are shifting to the developing world and Eastern Europe, where most of the world's smokers now live. Preliminary numbers released by the World Health Organization predict global deaths due to smoking-related illnesses will nearly double by 2020, with more than three-quarters of those deaths in the developing world.

Meanwhile, Philip Morris' profits continue to grow. In the third quarter of 2005 alone, Altria's net revenue was $25 billion, up from 2004 in large part due to the high performance of Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International.

Full story from Global Exchange site: "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005

News reports on the Grim Reaper in Kuala Lumpur

Here are five press reports of the Grim Reaper's appearance at the Emerging Tobacco Markets 2005 trade show in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Kini, Nov. 14, 2005: "Grim Reaper" appears at Tobacco Expo

Malaysia Kini, Nov. 15, 2005: "Mr. Death" clouds KL tobacco convention

Malay Mail, Nov. 16, 2005: Tobacco fair in KL under fire

The News, Nov. 17, 2005: A grim message

There will be another one of these trade shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 14-16, 2008.

One down, two to go

British American Tobacco, the multinational that supplies Canada with Player's, du Maurier, and Matinee, is closing all of their manufacturing facilities in Canada, and moving production to Monterrey, Mexico.

A BAT spokeswoman insisted that the taste of their products would not change. It's safe to assume that the toxicity won't change, either.

Story from the Globe and Mail: Imperial Tobacco plants to shut down (sorry, fee required). No mention of BAT's until-recently-secret manufacturing facility in North Korea.

Rothmans and JTI-Macdonald still manufacture cigarettes in Canada.

Response from Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada: Imperial Tobacco's closure of tobacco plants is an opportunity to say "good buy".

Michael Campbell's new Gestapo

After the Supreme Court of Canada made a 9-0 decision upholding British Columbia legislation making it easier to sue tobacco companies, all of Canada's major print media followed the tobacco industry's party line in criticizing the decision.

The columnist most up front in this was Michael Campbell, who has a column in the business section of the Fraser Institute mouthpiece Vancouver Sun, and a program on CKNW called "Money Talks".

In Campbell's case, money doesn't just talk, it libels. Campbell invented a fantasy about an "anti-smoking Gestapo", and the Sun printed it.

Here's a response to Campbell's name-calling: Michael Campbell, Tobacco Industry Sycophant.

A piece of good news on patios

This letter to the editor was published in the South Delta Leader on August 12:

While the debate about smoking on patios rages in Vancouver, my partner and I recently went out for dinner in Tsawwassen. As we approached the front entrance of the local White Spot, I noticed what appeared to be a recently-added-on patio, on the front of the building. I automatically assumed it was, like most patios, a smoke pit... and we chose a seat inside.

It wasn't until we were leaving that we asked the hostess about the patio... and were very pleasantly surprised to learn that it is, in fact, smoke-free. A big thumbs up to the owners/managers of that particular White Spot for leading the way and voluntarily doing what will, one day soon, be the law... everywhere.

Besides once again being reminded of the hazards of making assumptions, my only criticism would be: Any establishment with a smoke-free patio should proudly advertise it, loud and clear.

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace Action on Smoking & Health

Philip Morris/Altria to build new animal testing facility

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has discovered plans by Philip Morris/Altria to build a new reasearch and development facility in Richmond, VA, and the research to be done will include animal testing. Here's PETA's story: Philip Morris to Build New Research Facility: Bad News for Animals.

The story also reveals that Philip Morris is getting huge tax break from the City of Richmond for this.

PETA is correct in pointing out that this is "bad news for animals". Unfortunately, PETA suggests that Philip Morris do their research on human volunteers instead. This would be bad news for humans.

We already know that cigarettes kill, and so do the tobacco industry's own scientists. There isn't any compelling need to add to the body of knowledge that already exists on this subject.

Peter Jennings 1938-2005

Smoking kills some 5 million people around the world every year, But it doesn't bleed so it doesn't lead. We get occasional reminders about smoking's devastating impact on health when a Yul Brynner, a Nat King Cole, a George Harrison - or a Peter Jennings or Peter Gzowski - dies but, for the most part, families suffer their tragedies in private.

The nicotine industry acts with impunity, but it's not too late to begin demanding it be held responsible for its deadly actions. Unregulated, slender, deadly sticks of tar and carbon monoxide are killing scores of Canadians every day. That fact alone should make it into print and onto broadcasts and TV newscasts regularly. Peter Jennings and Peter Gzowski, at heart both good men and good reporters, would approve.

Stan Shatenstein, Contributing Editor, Tobacco Control
Co-editor, GLOBALink News & Information

More on BAT/Imperial Tobacco and smuggling

Fresh allegations rock BAT as six-year investigation by the Mounties leads to publication of secret letters. Here's an article from The Guardian about it.
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