THE NEW ASSAULT ON SMOKING

HARRY BRUCE August 10 1963

THE NEW ASSAULT ON SMOKING

HARRY BRUCE August 10 1963

THE NEW ASSAULT ON SMOKING

Cigarette sales are steady. Tobacco company shares are down. The doctors' ire is up. Smoking for kids is out. So far the campaign against cigarettes has been a skirmish compared to the war that is beginning now

HARRY BRUCE

CANADIAN MEN regarded cigarettesmoking as a sissy practice till the veterans of World War I came home with the habit. Now. for the first time in four decades, cigarettes may be going out of style again, not because they're sissy — but because so many people think they’re killers. There are signs now, in several countries, that cigarettes are losing some of their respectability, their fascination and maybe even a bit of the power they exert over hundreds of millions of addicts with unnaturally brown lungs. Their enemies are getting stronger. This

year, in Canada particularly, the offensive against smoking is hotter, better organized and more frightening than it's been at any time since cigarettes began to take their queer hold on half the adults and many of the children of North America.

The anti-cigarette faction in Canada includes politicians, teachers, clergymen and, as you may have heard, hundreds of clear-voiced, clean-breathing ex-smokers. But the sanctity of the faction, and its real brains, come from the medical profession and, more specifically, from a handful of fervent doctors who for several years have been publicly hating cigarettes and the things cigarettes do to people. These men have several immediate objectives but in the long run, unless someone comes up with a truly safe cigarette, a victory for their side can only mean the destruction of the cigarette industry. They may take decades doing it, but they aim to make the cigarette about as fashionable as a plug of greasy, black chewing tobacco. Or maybe less fashionable. The journal of the Canadian Medical Association

says, hopefully: “Cigarette smoking will become, to quote a witticism attributed to Sir John Wolfenden, “an act practised in private between consenting adults.’ ” (Wolfenden is the author of an historic British government report, not on smoking but on homosexuality and prostitution.)

The confrontation between antismokers and the tobacco industry has become the greatest holy war ever fought with press releases. Among the few doctors who lead Canada’s antismokers are Dr. R. M. Taylor, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cancer Society and a member of the Canadian Medical Association’s committee on smoking and lung cancer; Dr. N. C. Delarue, a director of the cancer society and a member of the same CMA cancer committee; and Dr. John Godden, an associate editor of the CMA journal, who is also a member of the cancer committee and whose office is lost in years of material about smoking and lung cancer. The enemy is four tobacco companies. In order of their share of the Canadian cigarette market, they are: Imper-

ial Tobacco Co., MacDonald Tobacco Inc.: Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada, Ltd. (including Rock City); Canadian Tabacofina Ltd. (Benson & Hedges).

The industry has proved so far that it’s as tough and adaptable as the cancer it’s accused of spreading. Its greatest strength is the deeply hooked smoker who — even when he knows cigarettes are bad for him — could puli out his fingernails before he could quit smoking. Tobacco's other strength is economic. It is a six - hundred -million-dollar business in Canada, and it pays nearly nine thousand workers about forty million a year (that's not counting seventy-six hundred farmers, mostly in Ontario, whose tobacco crop is worth another hundred million dollars). Then, cigarette ads bring twenty million a year to newspapers, magazines, radio and television. In England tobacco taxes are enough to finance the entire National Health Service and in Canada they amount to seven percent of the national budget. A cigarette executive told me that in lung-cancer discussions his company prefers not to stress tobacco's eco-

nomic importance for fear of appearing money-minded and callous. In some eyes, the industry is going to look that way anyway. “One might wonder,” says one doctor laconically, "whether we can afford to save the twenty-five hundred Canadians who die each year of lung cancer.”

Lung cancer, of course, is the great root of the controversy. It is still incurable in ninety-five out of a hundred cases and. according to the British Medical Journal, is '“a most unpleasant way to die.” The tobacco men insist that, no one has proved — using the word in its strictest biological sense — that anything in cigarette smoke causes lung cancer in humans. (Rothmans did admit it once in a full-page newspaper ad that, five years later, still raises hackles at CMA headquarters: the ad suggested some sort of association between Rothmans and the CMA.) I've spent a couple of weeks looking at the tiresome and damning statistics and listening to the persuasive and graceful tobacco executives. and 1 believe the statistics. I'm with the CMA. the Canadian and

American cancer societies, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Royal College of Physicians in Britain to name just a few of the organizations that agree on the subject. They all say cigarettes do cause lung cancer.

the Canadian who is most famous for not disputing it is Health and Wel fare Minister Judy LaMarsh. who told a crowd of teenagers on a mid-June Saturday night in Niagara Falls that she, a three-pack-a-day smoker. was quitting for good. No cabinet minister in recent years. except John Profumo. has received more publicity following the abandonment of a personal pleas tire. Despite competition from stories about the last and next popes. Walter Gordon and the budget and Christine Keeler and her budget. Miss La Marslfs decision made most of the country~s important front pages. She endured a press conference and a tele vision interview and every day she wearily told reporters that, no, she was not stealing puffs in her bath room. By June 19. shares of Roth mans had dropped to 6¾ on the

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Is cigarette advertising aimed at children and adolescents ?

Montreal and Toronto exchanges, their lowest point of the year (the high was nine on Feb. 1). By June 20, shares of Imperial Tobacco Co. had dropped to their lowest, thirteen (the high was sixteen. May 7).

Miss LaMarsh is skeptical of the influence her exceptionally public sacrifice will have on adult smokers, but she hopes that out of all the publicity about smoking and cancer someone will find a way to keep teenagers from smoking. A small, depressing aspect of her job is that since her office is at the main door to the Parliament Buildings she often sees twelveand thirteen-year-old Commons pages stop to light a cigarette on their way home in the evening. Juveniles are now the extreme front line in the battle against cigarettes. The doctors who've made the anti-smoking campaign their second profession are convinced that tobacco companies and their ad agencies deliberately seduce teenagers into lifelong enslavement to cigarettes. The industry's feelings are hurt by the accusation. John Devlin, the elegant president of Rothmans, says that anything that keeps youngsters from overexposure to cigarette ads is a good thing. "If anyone suggested my kids take up smoking,” Devlin says, "I'd clobber him."

The anti-smokers say you just have to look at cigarette commercials to know they’re slanted at young teenagers who constantly worry about the kind of adults they'd like to be. Heman-job commercials — these come from the States -— mean bravery and competence. A young man, smoking, throws a suave smile across a nightclub table to an alluring, friendly, smoking young woman; that means virility, sex appeal, romance, social grace. Bob Goulet, who endorses Imperial’s filter-tip duMaurier ("the cigarette of good taste"), probably means all those things, plus success and glitter. “There can be little doubt,” says Godden of the CM A, "that cigarette advertising is aimed as much at the child and adolescent as at the adult.”

Godden may be right but it is hard to see how the cigarette industry, even if it wanted to, could devise a commercial that’s effective for adults only. “What do they want us to have?” asked one tobacco executive. “Some old hag who hasn’t combed her hair for three days? We have good-looking women because good-looking women

smoke. Another thing. You’ve probably never noticed but in our commercials the girls nearly always wear wedding rings. Another thing. Is Bob Goulet too young to smoke?”

On June 19 — the day Rothmans’ stock dropped to 6s/» —President John Devlin announced that Rothmans and its associate company, Rock City Tobacco, would try to spare youngsters the bait of cigarette commercials by scheduling their fall television shows for periods after nine at night. John Keith, the president of Imperial Tobacco, promptly announced that Imperial’s fall and winter TV shows were already scheduled for times after nine and Tabacofina said it would follow the bigger firms' lead ( MacDonald, an anachronism in the cigarette business, has never advertised on television). Imperial’s decision, Keith said, "resulted from our sincere desire to avoid any criticism that our TV advertising might influence children.” It all looked like a major concession by the tobacco industry. In fact, however, it wasn't so impressive.

In the first place, Rothmans-Rock City sponsors only one television show. Tides and Trails, an outdoorsy documentary seen only in western Canada. (Devlin's announcement of the retreat to later TV hours particularly irked people at Imperial because they sponsor eleven show's and. they say. were the first to reschedule them.) In the second place, most of Imperial’s shows would normally have run after nine anyw'ay. Finally, it’s doubtful that very many Canadian teenagers are ever safely in bed by nine o'clock. The tobacco industry, nevertheless, had voluntarily eschewed television's prime early evening hours. Dr. Arthur D. Kelly, general secretary of the CM A, praised the gesture as a step in the right direction.

Using kids to sell cigarettes

The anti-smokers are not so happy with Canadian Tabacofina’s giftcoupon scheme. People who smoke Tabacofina’s Mark Ten (“the modern cigarette that has milder-smoking tobaccos") get coupons which can be cashed for the things that every family wants. The things are pictured in a slick, colored catalogue which features a red-headed model of kindergarten age. Along with the familiar enameled garbage buckets and travelers' clocks, the prizes include tricycles, dolls, holster sets, roller skates, cuddly toy animals, etc. This couldn't be called selling cigarettes to children but it’s certainly using children to sell cigarettes.

A recent study in Winnipeg showed that many youngsters smoke their first cigarette at the age of six, and it's probable that close to half this spring's high - school graduates are steady smokers. This is despite the determination and ingenuity of adult antismokers whose weapons have ranged from the flat threat of the Paris, Ont., school board to strap any kid caught with tobacco, to Lady Summerskill’s appeal to British girls to brush off boys w'ho smoke. The Canadian Cancer Society last year sent almost half a million anti-smoking pamphlets to Canadian schools. This year it'll try comic books.

There is one way to make it tough, at least, for children to get smokes: enforcement of the Tobacco Restraint Act which makes it illegal for anyone under sixteen to buy or smoke tobacco. Since the seller is also accountable under the act us rigid enforcement could conceivably mean the withdrawal from use of thousands of cigarette-vending machines and they account for more than thirty million dollars' worth of cigarette sales a year. Some hospitals provide cigarette machines for public wards and it's not unheard of to find one available to students in schools. When the general council of the Canadian Medical Association met in Toronto this June, it voted to ask the government to enforce provisions of the Tobacco Restraint Act.

The doctors also decided the government should think about forcing the tobacco companies to carry some sort of w'arning on every package of cigarettes. The warning might be an admission that cigarettes are a health hazard — though the idea of labeling them "poison" strikes Miss LaMarsh as ridiculous —or a description, giving tar and nicotine counts, of exactly w'hat's in the cigarettes. (In South Dakota a bill to place the skull and crossbones on state cigarette - tax stamps actually got through the Senate: it was killed without debate in the House of Representatives.) Cigarette companies, in the opinion of many doctors, should have no less obligation than headache - pill - makers or peacanners to parse their product for the buyer. "Through some mischance." the CM A Journal reports, “tobacco was not classed in any of the Food and Drug protective legislation. In itself, this omission has probably cost the lives of millions and it set the stage for a grotesque spectacle: the sight of Government, descending in swift and devastating severity on the cosmetic-manufacturer, the cranberry producer and the rock-candy maker, while taking no action to meet the universally recognized dangers of cigarette smoking.”

The dangers were never better recognized in Canada than they were in June. At one of the best-publicized CM A meetings in postwar years, the dignity and organization of the medical profession were formally committed to an anti-cigarette campaign that will involve every level of government and every school, university and teachers' college in the country. (While the doctors were in town, sales of pipes, including colored and jeweled women's pipes, doubled at one Toronto store.) Miss LaMarsh announced she would call a two-day conference on the tobacco habit. The United Church Observer broke with the official line of its church and declared smoking a serious moral problem. In the U. S., the major cigarette-makers quit running ads in campus publications. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in one case that a manufacturer of cigarettes was liable for a death due to lung cancer. The outgoing president of the Canadian Cancer Society urged smokers among the society's 880.000 members to quit and, of course, Judy LaMarsh did quit.

Miss LaMarsh’s decision seemed to be the only unplanned success in the most intensive assault on cigarettes

ever undertaken in Canada. The assault began, publicly at least, as early as February, when the journal of the Canadian Medical Association ran the first of three editorials which, under the mild title Aspects of the Cigarette Problem, described cigarette advertising as ironic, absurd or heinous, and announced that “ a condition inseparable from the prosperity of the few large companies who control the tobacco industry in Canada is chronic illness and death for a significant pro-

portion of the industry's best customers.’’ A few weeks later Dr. M. R. MacC'harles, then the president of the CMA. said cigarette - induced lung cancer has reached “epidemic proportions” and asked every doctor in the country to quit smoking, at least in front of his patients. (A dottor who smokes while advising a lung-disease patient not to smoke, one doctor says, is “analogous to the father who preaches the virtue of chastity to his sixteen - year - old son while sleeping

with the upstairs maid.") By the end of May a conference of nonsmokers had met in Victoria, a doctor had attacked smoking in the United Church Observer, the Canadian Heart Foundation had declared that smoking was a factor in heart and blood-vessel disease, and the Canadian Public Health Association had urged its members not only to quit smoking but to tell other people to quit.

Then, 1 asked John Devlin of Rothmans what would happen to the to-

bacco industry if, in time, the antismokers really do keep the country’s teenager^ from taking up smoking. He wasnT too worried. “They’ll make up their own minds when they’re old enough,” he said. “And you know, people have been smoking for four hundred years.”

There is a lot of evidence to justify Devlin’s confidence. The cigarette industry has rolled and expanded through every cancer scare of the past fifteen years (though last year, for the first time since 1954, per capita cigarette smoking in the United States declined). At the height of the antismoking noises in June, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics was able to report that, up until April at least, Canadian cigarette consumption was still rising. Last year the Royal College of Physicians in Britain, one of the world’s m o s t influential medical societies, declared its belief that cigarettes are the major cause of lung cancer. Tobacco shares dipped, cigarette sales tapered off, and a politician rose up to damn smoking in the words of King James 1 — “a custom ... in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” But before the year was out the British were once more setting new records for cigarette consumption — and Britain is a country where the government fights cigarettes with posters, films, propaganda trucks and clinics where addicts get nicotine substitutes and may view, at their pleasure, pickled specimens of cancer-infected lungs.

None of this deters the professional anti - smokers. The doctors know they've failed so far to stem the spread of cigarettes but they know also that any attempt to change people’s habits lor their own good is liable to take generations: dentists are still telling Canadians to brush their teeth after every meal. The CMA doesn't expect to see any important results of its campaign for a decade, and many doctors know they won’t live to see cigarettes become as unfashionable as chewing tobacco. “It’s hard for people, after twenty-five years, to adjust to the overwhelming fact that the joke about the cancer stick isn’t a joke any more,” Dr. Godden says. “Cigarettes kill people.” ★