Smoke 'em if you can get 'em?
July 26, 2002 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Smoke 'em if you can get 'em? Philip Morris' decision to support FDA regulation of cigarettes has smoke coming from between my ears trying to figure it out. Good, bad, victims of the cigarette tax money-grab?
posted by fncll (33 comments total)
Foreign Policy magazine had an article recently that put the lie to the health-care costs of caring for smoking related illness... turns out that the costs are wholly offset by the early deaths of smokers. So, except for second-hand smoke and juvenile tobacco use, do we have the whole cigarette persecution thing wrong? Are the taxes just a state money grab? (I am an ex-smoker, but my wife is still trying (half-heartedly) to quit.)
posted by fncll at 10:03 AM on July 26, 2002

So, except for second-hand smoke and juvenile tobacco use...

Um, hello!? These are big, motherfleckin' issues!
posted by Marquis at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2002

I'm not saying they aren't big issues-- but these are not issues addressed, for the most part, by ever-increasing punitive taxes, for example. These taxes are motivated by the supposed health care costs. If that isn't really an issue, are these taxes justified? Will FDA regulation curb juvenile smoking to a point that makes it worthwhile to enact?

I'm firmly in the anti-smoking camp, but I am also an advocate of personal freedoms when those freedoms can be exercised without hurting others.
posted by fncll at 10:35 AM on July 26, 2002

Can it be shown how the early death of smokers offsets these costs? If the smoker has an early death, it seems that they would be the recipient of medical care, disability, time off of work, etc. Does it matter if the smoker dies at 35 or 70, if they still cost the health care system and their employers these expenses?

fncll, please, I am open to seeing the evidence that smoking does not put financial strain on business and the heath care industry.
posted by adampsyche at 10:38 AM on July 26, 2002

Maybe regulation will put smaller competitors out of business, and my getting in early, Philip Morris can help influence that regulation. That would be my guess as to why they are consenting.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:45 AM on July 26, 2002

First, some background information:

Cigarettes are bad for you. In fact, it is still possible to sue, and win, against tobacco. Settlements are usually huge because these suits get started after someone dies. Cigarettes aren't getting any healthier for you. People are becoming much more intelligent about the harms of smoking AND that the legal system works.

So here's my theory:

If the FDA controls aspects of cigarette manufacturing, including ingredients, etc., Phillip Morris is no longer liable for deaths caused by smoking, thus avoiding costly lawsuits. I think it's brilliant.

Beyond that, as many MeFites already enjoy discussing, if the FDA controlled pot, for instance, large corporations could make a shitload of money by selling to legally. The same principle can be applied to cigarettes. Phillip Morris has more to gain if cigarettes are made "safe" by the government, including tax breaks, etc. If the government meddles in the distribution and content of cigarettes, or pot, they will be held liable for any cancers, deaths, etc. that eventually occur.

Hey FDA: Get the fuck out of the tobacco business before us dumbasses start suing you instead of Phillip Morris.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:45 AM on July 26, 2002

Huh. Good theory.
posted by adampsyche at 10:46 AM on July 26, 2002

Why would Phillip Morris do this?

Name one type corporate entity more profitable than Big Tobacco. Pharmas. Prescription cigs....hmmm...maybe that opens the door to medical pot also...?
posted by nofundy at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2002

Adampsyche: I am at my office, but if you can, look at Foreign Policy magazine from perhaps two months ago. They cited studies that show that the shortened lifespan of smokers offset the health-care costs (because non-smokers who live a long time put an immense burden on health-care ANYWAY) that they imposed. When I get home I will find the issue (hopefully) and post the cites.

I think it is probably true (just speaking from my own common sense) that obesity is the real serious drain on our health-care system because it causes so many health-problems for so long... it seems like most smokers I know don't have serious, expensive problems until they are elderly.

BlueTrain makes sense-- a legal shield from liability and the ability to charge inflated, prescription drug-style costs...
posted by fncll at 10:49 AM on July 26, 2002

"If the FDA controls aspects of cigarette manufacturing, including ingredients, etc., Phillip Morris is no longer liable for deaths caused by smoking, thus avoiding costly lawsuits. I think it's brilliant."

I'm not sure if this would be correct because there are plenty of drug companies that have been sued for wrongful death even after having their drug approved by the FDA. Phen-Fen comes to mind.

We live in a litigious society where everyone sues everyone for everything and anything. Phillip Morris has deep pockets though, so it really doesn't even matter. Lawsuits are just a nuisance to them.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2002

turns out that the costs are wholly offset by the early deaths of smokers

What offsets the cost to the US economy of losing productive workers years or decades prematurely?

[rant]And what compensates me for the putrid ashtray stink of the guy jammed up against me on the T who just sucked down a cancer-stick before he came into the station? [/rant]
posted by plaino at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2002

*blows smoke in the direction of her monitor* I am a smoker. I have been smoking since I was 11 years old, and I am now 27. I have no health insurance. When I need to do things, like get the tumor in my lymph node biopsied, I pay for it with my own little checking account. I don't smoke "in public." I sit in the non-smoking sections of restaurants more often than not. I always ask if it's ok if I smoke in front of other people. I have tried to quit and failed at least a dozen times. I am thoroughly chained to nicotine. But, I consider myself a "responsible" smoker. I try not to bother other people with my little addiction. If I find out tomorrow that I have lung cancer, I am sure that I will end up paying for my treatment (should I choose to bother) myself. So why, exactly, must I spend over one quarter of my monthly income to support my private habit? In New York, a carton of cigarettes is over 50 bucks. In New York City, I hear it's up to 65 bucks.

Maybe the majority of smokers rely on public assistance to treat lung and throat cancer; I honestly don't know. But I can't help but feel victimized TWICE. My parents smoked. I picked up the habit. Due to Phillip Morris' little tricks with nicotine amounts in cigarettes, I became completely addicted within three weeks of puffing my first butt. Now the government is asking me to pay exorbitant amounts of money for a habit I didn't even want. If I could quit tomorrow, I would. But after years of trying, I have pretty much given up. I hate being a smoker. I hate the way it smells and I hate the way it makes me feel. But the attitude of non-smokers *REALLY* irritates me. They sit smugly back and chuckle while people like me spend exorbitant amounts of money to support a *LEGAL* habit. I never see anyone lauding the high street cost of heroin, or cocaine--AND, none of that money goes into the pockets of big government. No, we just spend a lot of taxpayer money to fight the "war on drugs."
posted by xyzzy at 12:13 PM on July 26, 2002

Oh, and furthermore.. if we MUST spend 60 bucks a carton on cigarettes, I would like to see the equivalent of a smokers' methodone clinic.

Free nicotine patches/gum and support groups for all.
posted by xyzzy at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2002

I hate the way it smells and I hate the way it makes me feel.

You must hate it so much that you have to...

*blows smoke in the direction of her monitor*

Ya know, a smoking thread just wouldn't be the same without a smoker *blowing smoke at the monitor* or *in the face of user x*

Thanks for keeping it real for us.
posted by adampsyche at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2002

ahahha ;) You can take it that way if you like, but I honestly wasn't "blowing smoke in the face of user x."

I hate it when people do that. =) Even to me, because I am allergic to smoke. You obviously missed the entire point of my post. I will simplify.

I am allergic to smoke. I hate smoking. I hate myself for smoking. I still find it practically impossible to quit. What does that say about nicotine? What does that say about Phillip Morris? And what does that say about people who *insist* on beating people up for an addiction?

If I posted some horror story about how I am addicted to heroin, no one would react this way. So what is it about smoking that makes people so insane?
posted by xyzzy at 12:37 PM on July 26, 2002

Sorry if I was misconstrued, I meant that every smoking thread eventually ends up with smoke being blowed at someone, but at least you had the courtesy to do it to your monitor.

I believe you can quit if you make use of the resources that are available to you. Many people have.
posted by adampsyche at 12:55 PM on July 26, 2002

I am allergic to smoke. I hate smoking. I hate myself for smoking. I still find it practically impossible to quit. What does that say about nicotine? What does that say about Phillip Morris? And what does that say about people who *insist* on beating people up for an addiction?

And what does this all say about YOU?
posted by Doug at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2002

ah yes. Addiction is always the result of weakness on the part of the user.

Phillip Morris' actions on this issue have been suspect from the beginning. There was an earlier thread (I can't find it now, maybe someone else can) about Phillip Morris involving itself in drug companies working on cures for lung cancer. Now they are supporting government control of cigarettes. Smokers are being gouged for being addicted to nicotine to pay for non-existent health insurance costs, and non-smokers abuse smokers for being addicts.

This issue really raises my ire. Phillip Morris pisses me off, and people who insist on attacking people personally who are honest about it (sort of like the fat threads) *really* bug me.
posted by xyzzy at 2:11 PM on July 26, 2002

I just wanted to say that street heroin is actually quite cheap these days, often only $10 or so.
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on July 26, 2002

I don't spend $10 a day on smoking, so heroin seems costly to me.
posted by xyzzy at 2:18 PM on July 26, 2002

That's a good point BlueTrain, you may be on to something. Also, I don't think the FDA can be sued when they mess up.

All of the smokers taxes and various laws, in my opinion, are majority vs. minority tyranny disguised as public health issues.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2002

Yeah, but you wouldn't hate heroin. And you wouldn't hate smoking while you were doing heroin. You wouldn't care about anything. You would, however, be broke.
posted by agregoli at 2:58 PM on July 26, 2002

Hmm.. are you sure the FDA can't be sued? A quick Google search revealed that people have wanted to sue the FDA before.
posted by xyzzy at 3:02 PM on July 26, 2002

Addiction is always the result of weakness on the part of the user.

Well, technically it is, since it is processes within the user's brain which result in addiction. The machinations of Big Tobacco have not resulted in my becoming addicted to nicotine, yet I have been as thoroughly subjected to their efforts as you have (up to the point that you chose to begin smoking and smoked to the point of becoming addicted, at which point you additionally became subject to whatever chemical manipulations they may have engaged in).

This observation is not meant to knock you. You recognize your problem, are willing to admit that it IS a problem, and actively wish to be free of it. This puts you head-and-shoulders above most smokers in the intellectual honesty department, since so many of them feel the need to justify their inability to stop. But there must be something different about you (and all the rest who don't/can't quit) from all those who have successfully quit, and this difference exists in your brain, be it motivation, a greater severity of or susceptibility to addiction, a lack of belief in your ability to quit, or a combination of these factors. Alluding to this difference is not the same as railing against a "weakness" or condemning a person for it (although I can imagine it might feel that way at times).
posted by rushmc at 3:33 PM on July 26, 2002

I just wanted to say that street heroin is actually quite cheap these days, often only $10 or so.

Well, that depends where you are, and how much you get. And I don't even want to know what they're cutting it with these days.
posted by nath at 4:40 PM on July 26, 2002

It was probably advice from Karl Rove who of course worked as a paid political intelligence operative of Philip Morris from 1991 to 1996. Probably something to do with "winning the war, for the good of the country", that sort of stuff.
posted by Mack Twain at 5:11 PM on July 26, 2002

I couldn't talk about Chicago prices, but in middle Illinois, it was pretty darn cheap. Is injecting anything they'd cut it with any worse than the drug itself?

Anyway, I find it interesting that I used to HATE the smell of cigarettes, and was quite allergic to them, but after hanging out with a few people who smoked constantly, I began to like and even crave the smell. I will have a cigarette occasionally, but luckily I haven't picked up the habit.
posted by agregoli at 5:33 PM on July 26, 2002

Also, Phillip Morris could be best poised to deliver tobacco products with a limited range of certain chemicals. Regulations requiring consistent levels of certain chemicals would edge out the competition for those companies who have the research and development, if not patents, already in place. I can imagine the boardroom salivation over making imports and indie brands pay royalties for the new technology.
posted by roboto at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2002

rushmc: It all depends on your approach. ;) But yes, overall, an excellent analysis of the difference between different types of smokers.
posted by xyzzy at 7:41 PM on July 26, 2002

The Foreign Policy article, "Tobacco" to which fncll referred. Multiple times. Without bothering to bring over a link. I mean, throw us a frickin' bone here.
posted by dhartung at 6:37 AM on July 27, 2002

I wasn't aware the article was online and didn't take the time to look. I deserve to die.
posted by fncll at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2002

If you are stupid enough to smoke (I say this as an ex-smoker who kicked it cold turkey), you have no right to complain about ANY taxes, laws or social stigmas levied against you.

xyzzy - to say you feel victimized is analogous to those fat people suing fast food chains because their food is really unhealthy. Give me a fucking break, you had a choice at 11 to start smoking and a choice every single day since then to quit.

Even if you are too weak to kick it by yourself, get Zyban, get Nicorette patches, get fucking hypnotized. Anything to help you quit. But don't try to shift the blame on anyone else but yourself.
posted by catatonic at 3:33 PM on July 28, 2002

See, that's the thing.. I wouldn't sue Phillip Morris or McDonald's. I wouldn't ask the kind taxpayers of this country to pay for my healthcare. I wouldn't sue my parents for smoking. I smoke. It's my problem, regardless of how I got here, and I take full responsibility for it.


If it is true that these new exorbitant taxes serve no real purpose, I want them removed or put to good use. Free (or reduced cost) nicotine patches or gum, for example. It can cost more to quit smoking than to smoke, depending on how bad your habit is. (Yes, yes, I know cold turkey is an option, but it is a hell of a lot easier to do it with a patch or gum.)

If the US government *really* wanted to convince Americans to kick the habit, they wouldn't be moving to regulate tobacco. If I knew the taxes from my habit were going to help someone stop smoking (even if it isn't me) or prevent teenagers from starting, then I wouldn't care about paying the taxes. But right now, that's not the way it works.
posted by xyzzy at 4:57 PM on July 28, 2002

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