The Military's Fightin' the (Marlboro) Man

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It turns out that Big Brother is always watching you, even if you're in a war zone and are craving a smoke after a long day. The Pentagon has recently completed a study arguing that tobacco use should be banned in the military and sales prohibited on government-owned property.

Of course, there will be no military tobacco prohibition in the near future, although folks are talking about the phase-in of new standards over the next 20 years or so. Either way, it's clear that Big Cigs Altria (NYSE: MO  ) , Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI  ) , and Lorillard (NYSE: LO  ) have their work cut out for them as the country moves ahead with tobacco-prevention policies.

Thank you for not smoking
Altria, for one, has been "helpful" in reform efforts with its support of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which enables the FDA to regulate tobacco products and advertising. I wonder how the company would feel about full-fledged elimination of smokes in the military, where 37% of service members are users, versus about 20% of the general American population.

It always pays to follow the dollars, and it's estimated that tobacco-related health issues and lost productivity cost the Pentagon around $846 million annually. In this case, though, the dollars go both ways, with 70% of profit from tobacco sold on bases used to fund military recreation programs -- $88 million in 2005. And although products sold at military stores are tax-free, cigarette prices must be set at market levels, so members of the military are seeing the same price jumps for Marlboros that the general public is experiencing.

Will the smoke clear?
Smoking bans are nothing new; many states have passed legislation prohibiting tobacco use in public places like restaurants and workplaces. With spiraling health-care costs, however, your health is becoming more important to the masses. Any vice that you have, whether it's alcohol, tobacco, or too much food, is coming under the microscope.

Total smoking-related health-care costs in the U.S. are estimated to be some $96 billion annually. In comparison, it's estimated that overeating will cost Americans $147 billion in annual health-care costs, and food producers such as Kraft (NYSE: KFT  ) have been hounded to cut unhealthy trans fats from cookies and other snacks. Alcohol-related health-care issues have been estimated to cost Americans around $176 billion annually, but no one's talking about banning Molson Coors' (NYSE: TAP  ) products from the barracks. So, if smoking actually costs the nation less -- or at least not more than -- obesity and alcohol-related problems, then why are smokers bearing so much of those costs through higher taxes?

In a word, addiction. Listen, smokers are an easy target, as evidenced by government's pursuit of ever-growing excise taxes. And American cigarette makers aren't alone in dealing with impact of the smoking stigma. Global operators Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM  ) and British American Tobacco (NYSE: BTI  ) must be cringing as many countries start to enforce public smoking bans in one form or another.

Could prohibition drive demand?
As the recent results at Big Tobacco companies indicate, smokers keep lighting up in spite of massive excise taxes, rising unemployment rates, and a depressing economic picture. Tell them they can't smoke in restaurants and they'll smoke outside. Demand that they don't smoke at work and they'll just smoke in the car during lunch. Smokers will drink at home if you won't let them smoke in bars.

My point here is that smokers are going to keep smoking no matter what. It's long been thought that alcohol consumption actually increased during Prohibition. Might the military's ban on tobacco have the same effect? Instead of purchasing cigarettes from government stores, soldiers could just have them sent from the States, or they could purchase them directly in the country where they are serving. A whole new black market could be formed, driving prices sky-high throughout the entire military.

Hey, maybe Altria's behind the drive to ban tobacco in the military after all. And maybe more of these potential smoking bans could be an Altria investor's dream come true. Or maybe not. Regardless, the government is thinking about a long-term move away from tobacco, and in the end that will mean proportionally fewer consumers for Big Cigs.

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  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 2:27 PM, harleyrider1978 wrote:


    Though repetition has little to do with "the truth," we're repeatedly told that there's "no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."

    OSHA begs to differ.

    OSHA has established PELs (Permissible Exposure Levels) for all the measurable chemicals, including the 40 alleged carcinogens, in secondhand smoke. PELs are levels of exposure for an 8-hour workday from which, according to OSHA, no harm will result.

    Of course the idea of "thousands of chemicals" can itself sound spooky. Perhaps it would help to note that coffee contains over 1000 chemicals, 19 of which are known to be rat carcinogens.

    -"Rodent Carcinogens: Setting Priorities" Gold Et Al., Science, 258: 261-65 (1992)

    There. Feel better?

    As for secondhand smoke in the air, OSHA has stated outright that:

    "Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)...It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded."

    -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec'y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997

    Indeed it would.

    Independent health researchers have done the chemistry and the math to prove how very very rare that would be.

    As you're about to see in a moment.

    In 1999, comments were solicited by the government from an independent Public and Health Policy Research group, Littlewood & Fennel of Austin, Tx, on the subject of secondhand smoke.

    Using EPA figures on the emissions per cigarette of everything measurable in secondhand smoke, they compared them to OSHA's PELs.

    The following excerpt and chart are directly from their report and their Washington testimony:


    "We have taken the substances for which measurements have actually been obtained--very few, of course, because it's difficult to even find these chemicals in diffuse and diluted ETS.

    "We posit a sealed, unventilated enclosure that is 20 feet square with a 9 foot ceiling clearance.

    "Taking the figures for ETS yields per cigarette directly from the EPA, we calculated the number of cigarettes that would be required to reach the lowest published "danger" threshold for each of these substances. The results are actually quite amusing. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a situation where these threshold limits could be realized.

    "Our chart (Table 1) illustrates each of these substances, but let me report some notable examples.

    "For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes would be required to reach the lowest published "danger" threshold.

    "For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes would be required.

    "Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

    "At the lower end of the scale-- in the case of Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up simultaneously in our little room to reach the threshold at which they might begin to pose a danger.

    "For Hydroquinone, "only" 1250 cigarettes are required. Perhaps we could post a notice limiting this 20-foot square room to 300 rather tightly-packed people smoking no more than 62 packs per hour?

    "Of course the moment we introduce real world factors to the room -- a door, an open window or two, or a healthy level of mechanical air exchange (remember, the room we've been talking about is sealed) achieving these levels becomes even more implausible.

    "It becomes increasingly clear to us that ETS is a political, rather than scientific, scapegoat."

    Chart (Table 1)

    -"Toxic Toxicology" Littlewood & Fennel

    Coming at OSHA from quite a different angle is litigator (and how!) John Banzhaf, founder and president of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

    Banzhaf is on record as wanting to remove healthy children from intact homes if one of their family smokes. He also favors national smoking bans both indoors and out throughout America, and has litigation kits for sale on how to get your landlord to evict your smoking neighbors.

    Banzhaf originally wanted OSHA to ban smoking in all American workplaces.

    It's not even that OSHA wasn't happy to play along; it's just that--darn it -- they couldn't find the real-world science to make it credible.

    So Banzhaf sued them. Suing federal agencies to get them to do what you want is, alas, a new trick in the political deck of cards. But OSHA, at least apparently, hung tough.

    In response to Banzhaf's law suit they said the best they could do would be to set some official standards for permissible levels of smoking in the workplace.

    Scaring Banzhaf, and Glantz and the rest of them to death.

    Permissible levels? No, no. That would mean that OSHA, officially, said that smoking was permitted. That in fact, there were levels (hard to exceed, as we hope we've already shown) that were generally safe.

    This so frightened Banzhaf that he dropped the case. Here are excerpts from his press release:

    "ASH has agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against avoid serious harm to the non-smokers rights movement from adverse action OSHA had threatened to take if forced by the suit to do it....developing some hypothetical [ASH's characterization] measurement of smoke pollution that might be a better remedy than prohibiting smoking....[T]his could seriously hurt efforts to pass non-smokers' rights legislation at the state and local level...

    Another major threat was that, if the agency were forced by ASH's suit to promulgate a rule regulating workplace smoking, [it] would be likely to pass a weak one.... This weak rule in turn could preempt future and possibly even existing non-smokers rights laws-- a risk no one was willing to take.

    As a result of ASH's dismissal of the suit, OSHA will now withdraw its rule-making proceedings but will do so without using any of the damaging [to Anti activists] language they had threatened to include."

    -ASH Nixes OSHA Suit To Prevent Harm To Movement

    Looking on the bright side, Banzhaf concludes:

    "We might now be even more successful in persuading states and localities to ban smoking on their own, once they no longer have OSHA rule-making to hide behind."

    Once again, the Anti-Smoking Movement reveals that it's true motive is basically Prohibition (stopping smokers from smoking; making them "social outcasts") --not "safe air."

    And the attitude seems to be, as Stanton Glantz says, if the science doesn't "help" you, don't do the science.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 2:28 PM, harleyrider1978 wrote:


    March 8, 1998

    Passive smoking doesn't cause cancer - official By Victoria Macdonald Health Correspondent

    THE world's leading health organization has withheld from publication a study which shows that not only might there be no link between passive smoking and lung cancer but that it could even have a protective effect.

    The astounding results are set to throw wide open the debate on passive smoking health risks. The World Health Organization, which commissioned the 12-centre, seven-country European study has failed to make the findings public, and has instead produced only a summary of the results in an internal report.

    Despite repeated approaches, nobody at the WHO headquarters in Geneva would comment on the findings last week. At its International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon , France , which coordinated the study, a spokesman would say only that the full report had been submitted to a science journal and no publication date had been set.

    The findings are certain to be an embarrassment to the WHO, which has spent years and vast sums on anti-smoking and anti-tobacco campaigns. The study is one of the largest ever to look at the link between passive smoking - or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) - and lung cancer, and had been eagerly awaited by medical experts and campaigning groups.

    Yet the scientists have found that there was no statistical evidence that passive smoking caused lung cancer. The research compared 650 lung cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people. It looked at people who were married to smokers, worked with smokers, both worked and were married to smokers, and those who grew up with smokers.

    The results are consistent with their being no additional risk for a person living or working with a smoker and could be consistent with passive smoke having a protective effect against lung cancer. The summary, seen by The Telegraph, also states: "There was no association between lung cancer risk and ETS exposure during childhood."

    A spokesman for Action on Smoking and Health said the findings "seem rather surprising given the evidence from other major reviews on the subject which have shown a clear association between passive smoking and a number of diseases." Roy Castle, the jazz musician and television presenter who died from lung cancer in 1994, claimed that he contracted the disease from years of inhaling smoke while performing in pubs and clubs.

    A report published in the British Medical Journal last October was hailed by the anti-tobacco lobby as definitive proof when it claimed that non-smokers living with smokers had a 25 per cent risk of developing lung cancer. But yesterday, Dr Chris Proctor, head of science for BAT Industries, the tobacco group, said the findings had to be taken seriously. "If this study cannot find any statistically valid risk you have to ask if there can be any risk at all.

    "It confirms what we and many other scientists have long believed, that while smoking in public may be annoying to some non-smokers, the science does not show that being around a smoker is a lung-cancer risk." The WHO study results come at a time when the British Government has made clear its intention to crack down on smoking in thousands of public places, including bars and restaurants.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 2:29 PM, harleyrider1978 wrote:

    Scientific Evidence Shows Secondhand Smoke Is No Danger

    Written By: Jerome Arnett, Jr., M.D.

    Published In: Environment & Climate News

    Publication Date: July 1, 2008

    Publisher: The Heartland Institute

    Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) is an unpleasant experience for many nonsmokers, and for decades was considered a nuisance. But the idea that it might actually cause disease in nonsmokers has been around only since the 1970s.

    Recent surveys show more than 80 percent of Americans now believe secondhand smoke is harmful to nonsmokers.

    Federal Government Reports

    A 1972 U.S. surgeon general's report first addressed passive smoking as a possible threat to nonsmokers and called for an anti-smoking movement. The issue was addressed again in surgeon generals' reports in 1979, 1982, and 1984.

    A 1986 surgeon general's report concluded involuntary smoking caused lung cancer, but it offered only weak epidemiological evidence to support the claim. In 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged with further evaluating the evidence for health effects of SHS.

    In 1992 EPA published its report, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking," claiming SHS is a serious public health problem, that it kills approximately 3,000 nonsmoking Americans each year from lung cancer, and that it is a Group A carcinogen (like benzene, asbestos, and radon).

    The report has been used by the tobacco-control movement and government agencies, including public health departments, to justify the imposition of thousands of indoor smoking bans in public places.

    Flawed Assumptions

    EPA's 1992 conclusions are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. The report has been largely discredited and, in 1998, was legally vacated by a federal judge.

    Even so, the EPA report was cited in the surgeon general's 2006 report on SHS, where then-Surgeon General Richard Carmona made the absurd claim that there is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS.

    For its 1992 report, EPA arbitrarily chose to equate SHS with mainstream (or firsthand) smoke. One of the agency's stated assumptions was that because there is an association between active smoking and lung cancer, there also must be a similar association between SHS and lung cancer.

    But the problem posed by SHS is entirely different from that found with mainstream smoke. A well-recognized toxicological principle states, "The dose makes the poison."

    Accordingly, we physicians record direct exposure to cigarette smoke by smokers in the medical record as "pack-years smoked" (packs smoked per day times the number of years smoked). A smoking history of around 10 pack-years alerts the physician to search for cigarette-caused illness. But even those nonsmokers with the greatest exposure to SHS probably inhale the equivalent of only a small fraction (around 0.03) of one cigarette per day, which is equivalent to smoking around 10 cigarettes per year.

    Low Statistical Association

    Another major problem is that the epidemiological studies on which the EPA report is based are statistical studies that can show only correlation and cannot prove causation.

    One statistical method used to compare the rates of a disease in two populations is relative risk (RR). It is the rate of disease found in the exposed population divided by the rate found in the unexposed population. An RR of 1.0 represents zero increased risk. Because confounding and other factors can obscure a weak association, in order even to suggest causation a very strong association must be found, on the order of at least 300 percent to 400 percent, which is an RR of 3.0 to 4.0.

    For example, the studies linking direct cigarette smoking with lung cancer found an incidence in smokers of 20 to around 40 times that in nonsmokers, an association of 2000 percent to 4000 percent, or an RR of 20.0 to 40.0.

    Scientific Principles Ignored

    An even greater problem is the agency's lowering of the confidence interval (CI) used in its report. Epidemiologists calculate confidence intervals to express the likelihood a result could happen just by chance. A CI of 95 percent allows a 5 percent possibility that the results occurred only by chance.

    Before its 1992 report, EPA had always used epidemiology's gold standard CI of 95 percent to measure statistical significance. But because the U.S. studies chosen for the report were not statistically significant within a 95 percent CI, for the first time in its history EPA changed the rules and used a 90 percent CI, which doubled the chance of being wrong.

    This allowed it to report a statistically significant 19 percent increase of lung cancer cases in the nonsmoking spouses of smokers over those cases found in nonsmoking spouses of nonsmokers. Even though the RR was only 1.19--an amount far short of what is normally required to demonstrate correlation or causality--the agency concluded this was proof SHS increased the risk of U.S. nonsmokers developing lung cancer by 19 percent.

    EPA Study Soundly Rejected

    In November 1995 after a 20-month study, the Congressional Research Service released a detailed analysis of the EPA report that was highly critical of EPA's methods and conclusions. In 1998, in a devastating 92-page opinion, Federal Judge William Osteen vacated the EPA study, declaring it null and void. He found a culture of arrogance, deception, and cover-up at the agency.

    Osteen noted, "First, there is evidence in the record supporting the accusation that EPA 'cherry picked' its data. ... In order to confirm its hypothesis, EPA maintained its standard significance level but lowered the confidence interval to 90 percent. This allowed EPA to confirm its hypothesis by finding a relative risk of 1.19, albeit a very weak association. ... EPA cannot show a statistically significant association between [SHS] and lung cancer."

    In 2003 a definitive paper on SHS and lung cancer mortality was published in the British Medical Journal. It is the largest and most detailed study ever reported. The authors studied more than 35,000 California never-smokers over a 39-year period and found no statistically significant association between exposure to SHS and lung cancer mortality.

    Propaganda Trumps Science

    The 1992 EPA report is an example of the use of epidemiology to promote belief in an epidemic instead of to investigate one. It has damaged the credibility of EPA and has tainted the fields of epidemiology and public health.

    In addition, influential anti-tobacco activists, including prominent academics, have unethically attacked the research of eminent scientists in order to further their ideological and political agendas.

    The abuse of scientific integrity and the generation of faulty "scientific" outcomes (through the use of pseudoscience) have led to the deception of the American public on a grand scale and to draconian government overregulation and the squandering of public money.

    Millions of dollars have been spent promoting belief in SHS as a killer, and more millions of dollars have been spent by businesses in order to comply with thousands of highly restrictive bans, while personal choice and freedom have been denied to millions of smokers. Finally, and perhaps most tragically, all this has diverted resources away from discovering the true cause(s) of lung cancer in nonsmokers.

    Dr. Jerome Arnett Jr. ( is a pulmonologist who lives in Helvetia, West Virginia.

    For more information ...

    James E. Enstrom and Geoffrey C. Kabat, "Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98," British Medical Journal, May 2003:

    Air quality test results by Johns Hopkins University, the American Cancer Society, a Minnesota Environmental Health Department, and various researchers whose testing and report was peer reviewed and published in the esteemed British Medical Journal......prove that secondhand smoke is 2.6 - 25,000 times SAFER than occupational (OSHA) workplace regulations:

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 2:29 PM, harleyrider1978 wrote:

    Funny thing, al quieda forced a non-smoking rule when they contrilled parst of iraq.They cut off fingers hands heads and ears if you were caught smoking............This led to the iraquis siding with the americans who didnt place anti-smoking rules on them.......Now their own government is proposing what they rebelled against.......I smell obamas people dictating this to the iraq government...

    All smoking bans have been repealed thru out time.......dont think this is the first.....

    Anti-tobacco policies were revived in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in a movement that paralleled the then-popular alcohol prohibition movement. The Anti-Cigarette League of America campaigned against cigarette sales. Between 1890 and 1930, 15 states enacted laws banning the sale, manufacture, possession, or use of cigarettes, and 22 other states considered such legislation.

    Even the legislature of the tobacco-producing state of North Carolina considered cigarette prohibition laws in 1897, 1901, 1903, 1905, 1911, 1913, and again in 1917.

    Eventually, all the states repealed their cigarette prohibition laws. Kansas was the last to do so, in 1927.


    Nazi Smoke-Haters

    The next major anti-smoking restrictions were in Nazi Germany. Anti-tobacco extremist Adolf Hitler once stated tobacco was "the wrath of the Red Man against the White Man." Under Hitler, smoking was barred in many workplaces, government offices, hospitals, and rest homes, and later blanket smoking bans were introduced in many cafes, bars, and restaurants.

    After World War II, during the period of de-Nazification, those bans were repealed.

    Neither Progressive nor Permanent

    Placed in historical context, today's anti-smoking restrictions appear to be neither progressive nor permanent. Like past bans, they are based on prejudices and conventional wisdom that are likely to be falsified by new scientific and health discoveries or, if you like, new prejudices and conventional wisdoms.

    Also like past bans, today's prohibitions are leading to civil disobedience, black markets, and heavy social and economic costs.

    With the anti-smoking message backed by billions of dollars from government, foundations, and drug companies, it is easy to overlook the backlash that is already occurring and has been growing stronger. Business owners have been fighting back against smoking restrictions, and prohibitions are being more widely flouted in places such as Italy, Spain, Turkey, and, yes, to some degree even in California.

    In addition, governments need the revenue that smokers provide in taxes and in revenue to hospitality establishments that cater to a smoking clientele.

    Though the anti-smoking movement looks formidable, if history is any indication we will not have to wait long for current smoking bans to unravel

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2009, at 5:56 PM, JustSavvy wrote:

    perhaps change the ticker from PMI to PM for Phillip Morris International and not the PMI group?

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 7:01 AM, tacman1123 wrote:

    This is possibly the worst Motley Fool article I've ever read. Assertions that support smoking and Altria, but not based on fact.

    For example: " tobacco-related health issues and lost productivity cost the Pentagon around $846 million annually. In this case, though, the dollars go both ways, with 70% of profit from tobacco sold on bases used to fund military recreation programs -- $88 million in 2005. "

    While the dollars go both ways, the health costs are enormous. The drug cartels in Bogata build schools, too, so I guess the dollars flow both ways there, too.

    "Smokers will drink at home if you won't let them smoke in bars." Um, no, actually smokers don't go to bars to smoke, they go to socialize (like everyone else). This argument is repeated every time smoking restrictions in bars are discussed, and it never materializes. 30 states and several countries have passed smoking restrictions in bars, and there's not been a single case showing a sustained drop in business -- tax receipts, employment numbers, etc -- NOTHING. Except, of course, tobacco-industry-funded studies, which still aren't quite sure what causes lung cancer. And OJ is still looking for Nicole's killer.

    The comments posted ahead of mine are in the "there was no moon walk, the earth is flat". There is not a single scientific organization that disagrees with the statement that exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful.

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Keeg013 wrote:

    For example: " tobacco-related health issues and lost productivity cost the Pentagon around $846 million annually. In this case, though, the dollars go both ways, with 70% of profit from tobacco sold on bases used to fund military recreation programs -- $88 million in 2005. "


    You need to be careful in quoting any stats as all stats can be made to lie. If I go into the Doc with a sore throat and a cold but I smoke all they do is check off the applicable blocks - cold, sore throat, smoking and it is then entered into a database. So when it somes time to do studies - "TADA" he smokes so that goes into the lost productivity time to due smoking.

    However, what they do not show you in the lost productivity by non-smokers. Since only 25 percent or less of the military smokes, why is there no cost comparison? Because, the costs for the non-smokers would strip away the arguement of the smokers costing more money.

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 11:49 AM, AThousandClowns wrote:

    First, the armed forces should advertise a new policy that recruits to their special forces ranks (who are on par with professional athletes) do not smoke. Then the average grunt who respects these forces will follow suit.

    If the tobacco companies fear loss of revenue, let the gov't buy cigs in mass and air-drop them on the enemy.

  • Report this Comment On August 07, 2009, at 2:18 PM, crashedtheqc wrote:

    "First, the armed forces should advertise a new policy that recruits to their special forces ranks (who are on par with professional athletes) do not smoke. Then the average grunt who respects these forces will follow suit."

    I believe that one of the reasons that the armed forces don't do this is that many of the recruits for special operations forces do smoke, as do many of the operators.

    Can anyone tell me if the numbers quoted in this article apply only to smokers? I'm wondering if they have factored in the costs associated with smokeless tobacco, also a popular vice among the military.

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