Tobacco execs come out smokin'

April 19, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

In an often hostile exchange with congressional questioners, top tobacco company executives . . . insisted that nicotine was not addictive and said they remain unconvinced that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other life-threatening ailments.

( -- Los Angeles Times

"Gentlemen of the tobacco industry, thank you for coming. It's a beautiful Thursday morning and we'll try not to keep you too l. . ."

"Mr. Chairman, who says it's Thursday?"

"Yeah! Is that the AMA again?"

"Gentlemen, please! The calendar says it's Thursday."

"That doesn't prove diddly."

"You can make a calendar say anything."

"Mr. Chairman, I got me a Miss Valvoline calendar at home says it's 1972."

"Please, gentlemen. We asked you here to talk about cigarettes. Frankly, many of us wonder how you remain in your line of work knowing that more than 400,000 Americans die annually from smoking-related illnesses."

"All due respect, Mr. Chairman. That's bull!"

"Yeah. Who gave you those figures?"

"Doctors, health experts, the surgeon general's office, every responsible medical organization in the wor. . ."

"Bunch of damn quacks."

"Mr. Chairman, it's like my daddy used to say: 'Just because it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, that don't necessarily mean it is a duck.' "

"I'm not sure I follow you, sir."

"All I'm saying is, you might have a lot of smokers droppin' dead, but that don't automatically mean it's cigarettes killin' them."

"That's right, Mr. Chairman. Hell, 400,000 Americans die each year from hang-gliding, too."

"Sir, only 30 Americans die annually from hang-gliding."

"Whatever. You see my point."

"Mr. Chairman, let's not quibble over numbers."

"What about racquetball? That's dangerous!"

"Yeah, you can get whacked in the head!"

"Sir, racquetball does not cause lung cancer, nor does it . . ."

"Beg pardon, Mr. Chairman. Lung what?"

"Lung cancer. What cigarettes cause."

"Mr. Chairman, you're sayin' cigarettes cause lung cancer?"

"You . . . never heard that before?"

"Absolutely not, Mr. Chairman!"

"He's right. That's a first."

"Let me get this straight, gentlemen. None of you believes the preponderance of evidence linking smoking to lung cancer, emphysema, heart dis . . .?"

"Mr. Chairman, I resent that!"

"If we're going to let a few crybabies spoil things for the millions of decent, God-fearing smokers, Mr. Chairman . . ."

"This is the USA, not Albania!"

"Gentlemen, I can take you into cancer wards where ex-smokers sit hooked up to oxygen . . ."

"That's a lifestyle choice, Mr. Chairman."

"Sir, your product hooks smokers."

"Mr. Chairman, have you been talking to those lunatics at the New England Journal of Medicine?"

"You're saying nicotine is not addictive?"

"No more than Oreos, Mr. Chairman."

(Laughter. Tobacco execs exchange high-fives.)

"Gentlemen, studies show laboratory animals hooked up to levers that dispense nicotine will continue to press the lever -- eschewing everything else, food, water, sex -- until they're dead, powerful is nicotine's grip."

"Mr. Chairman, those are your white mice, your lab rats . . ."

"Yeah, your lower breeds of species."

"Mr. Chairman, our studies show that even long-time smokers can quit just like that."

"Sir, are you serious?"

"OK, maybe they gain a few pounds."

"Two, three, tops."

"Gentleman. what you're saying is astonishing. My younger sister stopped smoking recently and couldn't sleep for two weeks, she was so edgy."

"All due respect, Mr. Chairman, there must have been something else bothering her."

"Was she having boyfriend problems?"

"They say PMS makes 'em irritable, too."

"Gentlemen, it's nearly noon. Perhaps this is a good time to take a short recess and . . ."

"Who says it's nearly noon?"

"Did the AMA say it's nearly noon?"

(Gavel.)

"Gentlemen, this hearing is adjourned."

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