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Will be looking for news on Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission



April 05, 2010 – Comments (1)

I am glad to see people well informed and researched on this topic.  Sheehan's blog gives some good questions to put to Greenspan for this inquiry.  I hope his points get brought up and the commission is well versed on it.  I'd love to see a outcome like what I had with my own personal experience with speaking to a commission.

I have been very political in reducing tobacco use in the past and going to speak at a government inquiry.  This was around the early 1990s.  I supposed I learned a lot about business studying the tobacco industry.  I was working to reduce tobacco use when I was doing my business minor at university and a paper that rounded my foundation of how to deal with the tobacco industry combined a disease model with an economic model and that became my foundation for all the of the anti-tobacco work I did in tobacco and I constantly applied the 4 Ps, Price, Place, Product and Promotion to tobacco products in everything I did towards reducing tobacco use.

When you look at a normal disease model, there is an infectious agent.  Take cholera for example, early a link was found that it could get into a water supply and you could treat the victims forever, however, until you went after the infectious agent and the source, the victims would keep coming.  So, when the water supply was shut down, the spread of cholera stopped.  In a disease model you must treat the victims, but for true success, you must get to the source.

So, when I applied tobacco use to a disease model and thought about what the infectious agent was, well, it was the tobacco industry and the business model and the marketing mix needed to be controlled to reduce tobacco use.  Treating smokers and smoking cessation programs are equivalent to treating people infected with disease, it does little to prevent new cases.  You have to attack how tobacco products are marketed to effectively control tobacco use.

To that end we were working to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 16 to 19 in BC.  I did my first work on sales to minors in 1987.  Together with people I was working with we took a 9 year old boy and a 13 year old girl to see how easily they could buy tobacco products.  We took them to 10 places each and 100% sold despite there being a law about not selling to under 16.

Well, the marketing mix is important and the tobacco industry came out full force and came up with their self regulation rubbish (sound familiar with the financial industry).  They came up with their smoker friendly symbolism of an open package as if offering a cigarette with the no sign around it and it said some kind of no sales to minors.  They sent this package to all the retailers and testified that now that retailers knew the law they would not sell to minors.  I talked with this guy in charge of this program and he sounded like he genuinely believed that this would work and the problem would be taken care of.  At the time I did not realise he was a tobacco industry puppet.  I felt totally scammed by this guy, and it has helped to give me my so jaded look at the world.

Anyway, I was about 25 at the time and knew little about how to fight back.  It completely derailed our efforts and it would be another 5 years or so until we would get the momentum back.

Well, 5 years later and no reduction of sales to minors at all and this commission was taking presentations.  This round the tobacco industry repeated what had worked so well, however, this time I was wiser and ready for them.  I got a copy of the package, contacted the puppet who was still at the helm of this crap and I question him about how many packages went out and he assured me all retailers got one.  It was still early.  In the month before our presentation to the commission I again enlisted a girl to help test compliance.   Last time it never occurred to me to test compliance after they sent out their package and we had tested compliance prior to the package.  In our inexperience and ignorance we assumed there would be compliance.  Well, this time around we tested and the 13-year-old got cigarettes at 10 out of 10 places she tested, and one was the tobacco industry's very own Shopper's Drug Mart.  We went to speak to the commission and we brought this girl with us.

We spoke first and explained how we'd verified that everyone was supposed to know the law and that we had zero compliance and foudn zero effectiveness.  The girl talked about her dismay that the retailers were more interested in the size and mild or extra mild and the brand she wanted and did not care at all about breaking the law.  

The tobacco industry puppets were such idiots, they did not even take the time to come to see what the other presenters had to say.  They spoke after us, but they had not shown up to listen to us.  They talked about how great their program was and how they solved the problem and the committee totally slaughtered them with their questions and all other observers wanted to see the law passed so it was actually very funny watching these idiots.  They had no idea how stupid they looked after our presentation and they had zero credibility.  We got our law passed and the legal age raised to 19.  I can say with pride that BC has one of the lowest youth smoking rates in Canada and I know that I played a very important role in putting into place things that helped to protect youth.  We also effectively lobbied for testing for compliance and enforcement.

The data is clear, controling the marketing mix is the most effective thing you can do to prevent tobacco use.  Applying a disease model to a business world works.

Anyway, although these commissions can not undo the great damage done to people, I hope they improve the public knowledge of what happened with the finanical industry and the self serving arrogance of those in charge becomes more and more common knowledge.


1 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 06, 2010 at 1:10 PM, lemoneater (57.10) wrote:

Very interesting. On our brief visits to Scotland, we noticed how it seemed like everyone smoked everywhere (buses, restaurants) regardless of age. I was bothered to notice children no older than 12 smoking.

As someone who experiences breathing problems, I probably noticed the smoke more than somebody else would have. At least the beautiful scenery, the fascinating history, and the fresh ocean breezes over all made my visit pleasant.


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