My late father, Nello, was a smoker. Log Cabin fine cut tobacco, and Riz La cigarette papers. The tobacco came in a lump – still I remember the smell – a piece of which he broke-off and rubbed between the palms of his hands. The broken-down tobacco was stored in his tobacco tin – a small container which he carried in his pocket. He smoked all day, and through the night – even in bed. He smoked until he was diagnosed with silicosis – dust on the lungs from working underground in goldmines, and tuberculosis. His cough came from the soles of his feet.
His face turned puce. The veins on his neck stood-out in stark relief. He gasped for breath. It was a terrifying sight.
Eventually he was admitted to the Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital in Perth for a lung resection. He never recovered his health, and was a broken man. He died in 1972, aged 63; a victim of an unsafe workplace, and cigarette smoking. My mother, Beria, suffered from chronic asthma. She came to live with me in South Yarra.
She suffered a serious attack and was admitted to the Alfred Hospital. The doctors ordered her to give-up smoking.
She was most indignant: “What are you talking about? I have never had a cigarette in my life.” The doctors were astonished.
“Beria,” they said. “You have the lungs of a 60-cigarette a day woman. Did your husband smoke?” Beria rolled her eyes: “Yes, the three of them!” She was, they said, one of the worst cases of passive smoking they had treated, ever.
I smoked for a short period. There was a time when smoking was considered sophisticated. All those misleading cigarette ads. I read a story on the ABC website which filled my heart with joy!
Millions of Americans opened their Sunday morning newspapers to find full page advertisements from tobacco companies with statements saying: smoking kills, and cigarettes are intentionally designed to get people addicted. The companies will also pay for television ads running between 30 and 45 seconds, with the same message, to air on major television networks at prime time, five nights a week for a year. The “corrective statements” have been ordered by the US Federal Court, and come after a 19-year legal battle with the US Department of Justice.
The newspaper advertisements will be published in 50 major US papers on five Sundays between now and March, and will also feature in prime locations on the websites of these publications.
The television advertisements will air on CBS, NBC and ABC between 7:00pm and 10:00pm on weeknights.
In 2006 a US District Court Judge found tobacco companies had violated civil racketeering laws, and defrauded the American people. After 10 years of litigation, the precise wording, font, format and locations of the corrective statements was agreed on last month. The statements contain messages about the adverse health effects of smoking that include: “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol combined.” They also explain that smoking is addictive and hard to quit, and state that the companies intentionally designed cigarettes to be more addictive: “Smoking is highly addictive. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco,” the ads say.
“Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters, and selecting cigarette paper, to maximise the ingestion of nicotine; adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh; and controlling the physical and chemical makeup of the tobacco blend. When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain — that’s why quitting is so hard.”
There are no legal requirements for the international divisions of cigarette companies to run the statements in other countries, so Cancer Council WA has taken out its own television and newspaper advertisements, featuring the statements.
A Cancer Council spokesperson said it was important these messages, direct from big tobacco companies, were heard by Western Australians: “Finally tobacco companies in the US are being forced to admit that they’ve been deceiving the public for decades. Companies across the world are engaging in the same behaviour, so the statements they’re required to make in the US are relevant to smokers here in Australia. Any honest messages the tobacco companies are forced to make about their own product, informing their consumers about the dangers, need to be heard.” It is estimated about 14% of Australians smoke. According to the Council Cancer, smokers are always needing new reasons to quit, and it believed it would help if smokers heard admissions of serious manipulation from tobacco companies.
Today, 2.6-million Australians woke-up, and the first thing they did was light a cigarette.
In WA, they’ve shown the ads to smokers and the majority of them have been alarmed, and angry, that the tobacco industry has been able to behave like this over the years, particularly since they are admitting cigarettes were intentionally designed to be more addictive.
Victoria should follow suit!
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.