Golden Holocaust

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Robert Neel Proctor, an American Historian of Science and Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University, while serving as a professor of the history of science at Pennsylvania State University in 1999, became the first historian to testify against the tobacco industry.

I had the unique opportunity to communicate with this great writer personally and gather additional information about his work on Golden Holocaust.

“Smoking is not going away, on the contrary the tobacco industry continues to create toxic products that cause not just lung cancer, but also cataracts, ankle fractures, spontaneous abortion, erectile dysfunction and many other maladies”, says Robert Proctor in his publication,  Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition.

“The worst of the health catastrophe is still ahead of us. If everyone stopped smoking today, there would still be millions of deaths a year for decades to come. Today’s cigarettes are deadlier even than those made 60 years ago, gram for gram.” Proctor warns.

Proctor asks, “How many people know that six trillion cigarettes are smoked every year which is enough to make a continuous chain from earth to the sun and back and a few round trips to mars?”

It is remarkable indeed, Proctor states, “Cigarettes are the deadliest artifact in the history of civilization – more than bullets, more than atom bombs, more than traffic accidents or wars or heroin addiction combined. They are also among the most carefully and most craftily devised small objects on the planet.”

Proctor explains that the industry has spent tens of billions designing cigarettes since the 1940s – it is explained in the industry’s own documents.

Most people begin smoking at the age of 12 or 13, or even younger in some parts of the world. “Do they know everything at that age?” Proctor asked rhetorically. “And how many people know that cigarettes contain radioactive isotopes, or cyanide, or free-basing agents like ammonia, added to juice up the potency of nicotine?”

Industry’s argument  - “Smokers like smoking, so should be free to do it. And the industry has a right to manufacture cigarettes, even if defective; “Proctor says; “this is the liberation argument.”

“It is wrong to think of tobacco as a struggle between liberty and longevity; that tips the scales in favour of the industry. People will always choose liberty, as in ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’

What people don’t realize is that most smokers dislike the fact they smoke, and wish they could quit. Cigarettes are actually destroyers of freedom.”

Governments throughout the world have benefitted from tobacco taxes, which he calls “THE SECOND ADDICTION.”

The costs of paying for diseases caused by smoking are high, however – especially when you count lost productivity and governments will start winding down on tobacco, he says, once this is taken seriously.

The industry has computerized databases of virtually all smokers and spends over $400 per smoker per year on special offers, coupons, sign-ups and other direct mail approaches – an unseen world to non-smokers. “This is precisely how the industry wants it; A FUNGUS ALWAYS GROWS BEST IN THE DARK”.

With the decline in smoking in developed nations, marketing targets have shifted to the developing world and nations with weak anti-smoking movements.

At present, tobacco kills some 6 million people a year, more than AIDS, malaria, and traffic accidents combined. Half of all life-long smokers will die from their habit. EVERY CIGARETTE DELETES SEVEN MINUTES FROM A SMOKER’S LIFE.

“Cigarettes did not become a staple of daily life until the early decades of the twentieth century. Before that could happen, the industry had done a number of “improvements” to their product.

First tobacco leaves were cured in low brick chimneys with closed iron pipes or flues. There were two valued results of this process when compared to the older method of simply exposing the leaves to a wood-burning fire: the risk of burning down the barn in which they were cured was reduced to a minimum, and the resultant tobacco not only turned a bright golden color, but was also much milder to smoke, hence, could be deeply inhaled. It enhanced the smoker’s enjoyment of nicotine; made each cigarette far more deadly than pipes, cigars, or chewing tobacco.

Proctor notes how several scientists during the 1930s, such as the Argentine pathologist Angel H. Roffo, were demonstrating that the tars extracted from tobacco caused malignant tumors in experimental animals. Although this work was convincing enough for the public health officials in Hitler’s Germany to execute a war against tobacco consumption, such experiments failed to influence more than a handful of American physicians. The tobacco companies seized upon the medical profession’s disunity on this issue as a means to exonerate the cigarette. If doctors themselves could not agree on the true causes of cancer, how could anyone blame their delightfully packaged cartons of so-called coffin nails? 

But the years after World War II were a time of major breakthroughs in epidemiological thought. In 1950, Richard Doll and A. Bradford Hill of the British Medical Research Council created a sophisticated statistical technique to document the association between rising rates of lung cancer and increasing numbers of smokers. That same year, the prominent surgeon Evarts A. Graham and a medical student, Ernst L. Wynder, published a landmark article comparing the incidence of lung cancer in their non-smoking and smoking patients. They concluded that the long-term consumption of cigarettes was an important factor in the rising numbers of lung cancer cases.

Predictably, the tobacco companies—and their expert surrogates—derided these and other studies as mere statistical arguments or anecdotes rather than definitions of causality, a ploy they continued to use well after the famed Surgeon General’s Report on the dangers of smoking in 1964. At the same time, Proctor shows, the reams of Big Tobacco’s memorandums and research materials definitively demonstrate that the industry knew all too well how dangerous their product was. In the pursuit of profits, the tobacco companies preferred to bury such information and continued to hook more potential consumers into a smoky, tarry death march.

Even when the individual state attorneys general began the series of lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the 1990s, which resulted in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, these companies continued to challenge solid scientific evidence linking smoking to cancer. Initially, tobacco executives mounted a mealy-mouthed defense that since everyone by now knew cigarettes were dangerous at some level, smoking was essentially an issue of personal choice and responsibility rather than a corporate one. More famously, they testified before Congress in 1994 and denied any knowledge of the dangers of smoking. In all of the Big Tobacco lawsuits, scientists and historians of medicine were recruited to testify on behalf of Big Tobacco. These extremely well paid and ethically challenged scholars never consulted the industry’s internal research or communications.

Instead they focused primarily on a small group of skeptics writing about the dangers of cigarettes during the 1950s, many of which had or would eventually have ties to the tobacco industry. These witness-scholars often denied culpability for tobacco deaths but, as Proctor rightly observes, they certainly contributed indirectly to this public health nightmare by helping tobacco lawyers to win cases, avoid expensive settlements, and thus help keep the price of a pack of cigarettes down so more people could consume them.

In the 1980s, scientists confirmed the once revolutionary concept that nicotine is extremely addictive. The tobacco companies publicly rejected such claims, even as they clandestinely took advantage of cigarettes’ addictive potential by routinely spiking them with extra nicotine to make it harder to quit. Indeed, their marketing memorandums document advertising campaigns aimed at youngsters to hook whole new generations of smokers. Sadly, that is just the tip of the filter when it comes to what is added to or included in every puff of a cigarette. From arsenic, lead, and pesticides to artificial flavorings, moisturizers, and even radioactive isotopes, Proctor paints a disgusting picture that would have sickened Upton Sinclair.

Proctor understands the immense political and economic obstacles facing this noble goal, but he counters potential nay-Sayers with several “obvious solutions” including banning smoking in all places where people congregate, banning all cigarette marketing and advertising techniques, increasing cigarette taxes to make them less affordable, ending all tobacco subsidies, and increasing the funding and execution of tobacco prevention and cessation programs that are commensurate with the harm such products cause.

What is a human life worth to a cigarette manufacturer?

The writer collects evidence to prove that smoking contributes substantially to environmental damage, even global warming; “When we finally decide to take seriously the problem of global climate change, cigarettes will come under increasing scrutiny. “

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