At the recent annual shareholder meeting in New York for the tobacco giant Phillip Morris International, CEO Louis Camilleri stated that “Whilst [smoking] is addictive, it is not that hard to quit… There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.” This was in response to cancer nurse and anti- smoking activist Elizabeth Gunersen from San Francisco, who cited statistics showing that over 400,000 Americans and 5 million people worldwide die each year from smoking and smoking related illnesses. Elizabeth Gunersen works with the tobacco industry watchdog group The Nightingale Nurses. Mr. Camilleri, a current smoker himself, did admit that tobacco smoking was harmful and addictive. Health officials refuted his statements immediately after they were made. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, who is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, condemned his remarks on his blog with an article entitled “Phillip Morris International’s Merchant of Death Strikes Again”. Accoding to a 2008 survery conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, in the United States an estimated 24.8 million men (23.1 percent) and 21.1 million women (18.3 percent) are active smokers of tobacco. The following statistics were also cited:
- Among whites, 23.5 percent of men and 20.6 percent of women smoke (2008).
- Among blacks, 25.6 percent of men and 17.8 percent of women smoke.
- Among Hispanics, 20.7 percent of men and 10.7 percent of women smoke.
- 9.9 percent of Asian adults smoke.
- 24.3 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native adults smoke.
Tobacco smoking increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and leads ultimately to the development of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Addiction specialists have stated that tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known to man, and that it can be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine for heavy smokers. The addictive nature of tobacco comes from it’s nicotine content. Despite these facts, the tobacco companies have sought to make their tobacco products more addictive by increasing the nicotine content by more than 10% between the years 2000 and 2006. They have targeted the youth of the nation with deceptive characters such as Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. We should all denounce the statements of Mr. Camilleri and reject his ideas regarding the addictive nature of tobacco. How many more individuals will have to suffer and die with tobacco related illnesses before we take more definitive action to stop the big tobacco companies? I have seen too many patients, with terminal cancer and end stage emphysema requiring continuous oxygen, refuse to give up smoking despite it’s negative consequences. Nothing has helped these patients to quit smoking… nicotine patches have failed, nicotine gum has failed, Chantix and Zyban have failed. I applaud the recent banning of smoking in public places, such as restaurants, that many cities and states have adopted. I also applaud the increased taxes that have been imposed on the sale of tobacco products in many areas around the country. Despite this, more needs to be done to rid the world of the scourge of tobacco smoking and other tobacco related products. Listen up Mr. Camilleri – we’re not buying into your lies and trickery.