February 17, 2005 (Ira Pilgrim)

Philip Morris

It is always sound business to take any obtainable net gain, at any cost and at any risk to the rest of the community.

Thorstein Veblen

At Carthage nothing that results in profit is regarded as disgraceful.

Polybius, c.200 BC

What does an adolescent want more than anything in the world? A male wants to be considered a man rather than a boy. Being a man involves symbols such as facial hair and smoking cigarettes. I remember sneaking cigarettes so that I could be like my father. My parents preached against smoking, but my father never changed his habit and died as a consequence of his cigarette habit. I kicked the habit in my late twenties, after I read about the consequences of smoking.

The coming-of-age symbols for a female are breasts. The main physical distinction between a girl and a woman is menstruation, but that is not obvious to others. Smoking cigarettes is another one. Women did not smoke cigarettes when I was growing up, but they do now, thanks to the scum who advertise cigarettes. Lung cancer was rare in women when I was growing up. Now more women die of lung cancer than do of breast cancer. American Cancer Society take note: Lung cancer, in contrast to breast cancer, is a preventable disease.

The first time I saw and heard a Philip Morris's TV commercial in which it tries to discourage teen-age smoking, I was astonished. If I believed what I saw and heard it would be the equivalent of company saying to people "Don't buy my product!" I am sure of one thing; the people who run the tobacco companies aren't stupid. They may be greedy, lying, murdering scum, but they are not stupid. There could be only one explanation; that those commercials would have the opposite effects and would encourage teenagers to smoke when they reached 18; smoking cigarettes being a coming-of-age symbol. This seems to be the case and studies of the effect of those commercials indicate that while the ads say that teenagers shouldn't smoke, the effect of the message will be that more teenagers plan to start smoking after age 18. In other words, those commercials can be expected to produce more young adult smokers. It also has the effect of convincing gullible youngsters that the Philip Morris people are good guys who are trying to help them.

The executives of Philip Morris are responsible for about 400,000 deaths per year in this country alone. They have been selling cigarettes since 1881. The current chief executive officer is Geoffrey C. Bible. That's an easy name to remember. He is paid an annual salary of $5,600,000 plus very lucrative stock options. In terms of being a cause of human suffering and death, he makes Saadam Hussein look like Mother Theresa.

Philip Morris has a net annual revenue of $7.8 billion, which makes it the second most profitable corporation in the world. It is the largest seller of tobacco products in the world, its most popular brands being Marlboro for men and Virginia Slims for women.

When a tsunami hits and kills 350,000 people, the world is shocked. That is because it happens in one place and at one time. If you spread the deaths out, people pay no attention. That is the case with tobacco. While cigarettes kill, they generally do it at a later age than automobile accidents. To an adolescent, it seems as if he/she is immune from lung cancer. To the loved ones of someone who dies in their fifties or sixties from lung cancer or tobacco-caused heart attacks, it means having a life shortened by 20 years. If I had continued to smoke, as I did in my youth, I would probably be dead by now. Johnny Carson was born in 1925, the same year that I was born. Johnny, who was a chain smoker, died of emphysema this year. Emphysema, in which you slowly suffocate to death, is a hellova way to go.

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