by John Jonik
A typical factory-made cigarette is a far cry from what the American indigenous people used for some 10,000 years for medical, religious, and social purposes. Industrial cigs contain over 4000 known hazardous compounds, including additives, residues of nearly two-dozen pesticides, and radiation from industrial fertilizers. To add injury to injury, these toxic concoctions are wrapped in chlorine-bleached paper which increase the dioxin dose delivered by some of these additives and chlorinated pesticides. Furthermore, none of the non-tobacco constituents have been safety-tested for this use, and many are well-known to be toxic and carcinogenic: Some become carcinogenic when heated or incinerated. Calculating the cumulative effects of all this may be beyond the capabilities of Apple, Microsoft, and IBM put together. Being concerned about this is apparently beyond the capabilities of Congress members who, after all, are funded by (and expect future employment from) most of the suppliers of cigarette ingredients, their insurers, their investors, or other corporate interests involved with the things found in cigarettes.
Until 1994, when the big cig manufacturers released a list of 599 additives (many sounding as wholesome as your grandmother's kitchen), all additives were kept top-secret, even from Congress, public health officials, and regulatory agencies. "Trade secrets" was the excuse but, more likely, it was to escape the enormous potential liability and prevent a public relations disaster. There are a lot of troubling elements among these 599 goodies and other known additives and adulterants (See http://rampages. onramp.net/~bdrake for the pesticide story).
There are enough poisons to gag (or kill) a chimney-sweep at a Monsanto plant, but there are also enough sweet and flavorful things to put many candy shops to shame. There is a lot of sugar, for one, up to 12.3% in some according to a Wall St. Journal article. Is it cane, corn, beets? Is it refined? Does this include the sugars from the many added fruit extracts, honey, and molasses? Whoever knows isn't saying. The concerned "anti-tobacco" forces at state or federal levels don't even care to ask, preferring instead to put all of the focus on the natural ingredient, tobacco, and this even though it is biologically feasible that some of the "smoking-related" diseases are due to elements in the cigarette other than the tobacco.
Consider, the sugars produce catechol when heated: a co-carcinogen that intensifies the cancer-causing effect of other carcinogens contained in the cigarette. The licorice present in cigarettes contains an acid that produces cancer-causing hydro-carbons when burned. Artificial sweeteners have been questionable and risky in other productscould it be that when burned in cigarettes they are safe? There's a veritable bushel of fruit juices, oils, and extracts in manufactured cigs: apple, pineapple, raisin, almond, orange, fig, lime, lemon, coconut, apricot, ginger, wild cherry, grape, plum, prune, and mint. Unknown are the hazardous compounds that may be produced when these "innocent" additives are burned. Furthermore, what are the odds that this stuff is raised organically and does not contribute more pesticides to those already present on the tobacco? Other added flavors are chocolate, vanilla, kola nut, cinnamon, sucrose, nutmeg, cocoa, caramel, butter, and maple syrup. These are all there to make the ordinarily dry, bitter, and rough-tasting tobacco palatable to the widest possible market...which includes kids.
Rep. Waxman has become the front-person for the congressional attacks on "smoking"a term still-undefined. He has expressed the classic "shock" at industry documents implying that cigarette manufacturers are targeting kids as future customers. While Mr. Waxman tries to make as much of this News Flash as possible, neither he nor any other public official has asked that the dangerous and untested things in cigarettes be investigated and removed. The less-tasty cigs would cut exposures to the industrial ingredients. And folks would be able to quit more easilyan unpleasant prospect for the pharmaceutical interests who are pushing synthetic nicotine-delivery products and, incidentally, who contribute significantly to Mr. Waxman's campaign fund efforts.
If the Waxmans and Koops, Kesslers, Kennedys, Lautenbergs and others on the warpath against tobacco have any concern for human health, they must also consider that many of the non-tobacco cigarette components are known to be fetal-damaging and pregnancy-disrupting. The dioxin in these cigarettes is more damaging to fetuses and children than to people at any other age. It creates learning disorders, immune deficiencies, and nervous system disruptions. There is no safe dose. Incinerated dioxin is the very worst form of the chemical because it can penetrate the most vulnerable organs, the lungs. Incinerated, it is over a thousand times more of a human health risk than even the infamous dioxin of Love Canal, Agent Orange and Times Beach. Its source in cigarettes is the added chlorine.
If all of this wasn't frightening enough, note that not a penny of the cigarette taxes or "settlement" funds are destined for the victims of these chemically horrific concoctions. Instead, much of the money is to go to the states to pay for something called "smoking-related" illnesses (not "dioxin related?" Or...?) and to insurance companies for children's and elderly health care. And this even though the insurers may be the same ones who insure cigarette assemblers or cigarette ingredients suppliers.
This "tobacco" deal is the most enormous liability dodge since asbestos. It is part and parcel of the devastating "war on drugs," and is based on largely incomplete science. Interestingly, it serves pretty much the same corporate and security-state interests...except that the "smoking" scam also includes the ubiquitous insurance industry.
|John Jonik lives in Philadelphia and contributes cartoons frequently to The Prism.|
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