[Homestead] Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - was Put Big Tobacco out of business

clanSkeen sgian at planetc.com
Tue Sep 14 22:30:25 EDT 2004

First, Tvo, let me say that everything you covered in your post, and in the
included article, are true.  Big Tobacco did know in the late 50's and early
60's that tobacco as they sold it was addictive and harmful and they hid the

But let's suppose you could go back 40 or 50 years armed with the very memos
and papers that are being used against the tobacco companies now and you
publishe those in, say 1960.  What would the effect have been?   Very
little, I posit.  The fact is that everyone back then with the intelligence
of a carrot KNEW that tobacco was addictive and that it ruined people's
health.  Coutless times when I was a child and a teenager (in the 50's and
60's) someone would comment "I used to be able to swim a mile, back before I
smoked."  "I used to be able to work in the field (tobacco field, like as
not) all day too, before I started smoking so much."  'Smoker's hack' was a
common term and people noted that smokers didn't live as long as non-smokers
(as a rule).   It was also quite well known and agreed that tobacco was
addictive as is reflected in the lyrics to Tex Williams song in 1947:

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hates to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette

So if you went back to that time and said "You know the tobacco companies
have determined that tobacco is addictive..", it would have been met by
anyone with the brains of the above mentioned carrot with "Duh!  You
reckon!?"  Cigarettes were manufactured by machines in the 1880's, but
manufactured cigarettes were not in widespread use until after the WWI (due
to marketing them by giving them to soldiers).  The link between lung cancer
and smoking was well established and well known by the 1930's.

The problem has always been the predisposition of the addict (of whatever)
to dismiss the addiction.  The ubiquetous response to the notion that
tobacco was harmful to the smoker's health  was "Ah, I figure when your
number's up, it's up.  Nothing you can do about it.  You have to die from
something; if it isn't this, it will be something else."  "I smoke so I
won't eat so much and know being fat is worse for your health than smoking."
etc. etc.

Tobacco isn't the only product in this category.  Tobacco was marketed for
years as being a good for your health and, it was said, it's certainly
better to be calmed down than to be nervous and uptight, no?  Good for your
health!  But just like Hawthorne's story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", if
people were sent back to their youth to make the decision to take up a
habbit to destroy their health or not, they'd mostly make the same decision.

A parallel now of days is prescription drugs.  "Ask your doctor about
Bombed-out-of-your-Gourd!"  Notice now how the big pharmaceutical companies
are being called on the carpet about pushing antidepersants on children.
The fact is that most of the modern pharmacopeia is just as bad.
Pharmaceutical companies gladly addict millions of people on dangerous
chemicals to treat imagined illnesses or hypothetical interventions.  For
example, anticholesterol drugs result in shutting down part of your liver
function, eventually permanently, under the purely hypothetical idea that
reducing serum cholesterol will help prevent heart disease.  Some aches and
pains and shortness of breath isn't because you are old and fat.  No indeed,
it's because you have Whatever-itis and we happen to have a drug that will
make you feel better.  No matter that the drug ( and especially the
combination of all the Soma-juice you are taking) is deteriorating your
organs and sapping your life .... hey, you feel better and it's good for

If you think that anyone given over to tobacco in 1960 would give a second
glace at the documents now coming to light, then just look at the reaction
of people addicted to prescription drugs now of days.  The defend that
lifestyle to the death, literally, just as smokers always have.

I was helping some friends renovate a building last weekend.  There was me,
a guy in his late 30's and five guys in their mid 20's.   The guy in his
late 30's was on his 11th day without a smoke and was suffering.   He had
smoked since he was 15.   All the guys in their 20's were smokers who
couldn't work for more than 15 minutes without taking a break to smoke.
These guys were born well after the conclusive connection between smoking
and health was well established.  And yet, armed with all the facts about
health and addiction, they choose to smoke anyway.   Put the tobacco
companies aout of busienss, and they will smoke anyway.  Make it a crime to
smoke, and they will smoke anyway.

While I wouldn't care whether you burned down all the tobacco companies or
not, you'd be barking up the wrong tree at any rate.  Until we address the
problem of people being responsible for their own condition, it will do not
good.  So long as the notion is encouraged and protected that although a
person is fat, addicted to drugs, sedentary, have wrecked their personal
relationships, become dependent on doles, made a financial mess of their
affairs, ....but none of it is their fault ... so long as that's our
thinking, how is closing the tobacco companies going to accomplish a thing?


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