There has been a great deal of talk about the tobacco scandals. Recently a motion picture, "The Insider," told the adventures of a whistle-blower at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company who went to "60 Minutes" to tell his dirty nicotine story.
While this became a cause celebre, another whistle-blower has also revealed a scandal in the tobacco industry. Sam Dunken, who worked in marketing for Feelgood Tobacco Ltd., came to my office with a file of Feelgood research papers.
He said, "The Feelgood scientists have discovered that more smokers are dying from pneumonia than from any other disease."
"How?" I wanted to know.
"Most smokers have to go outside their building to have a cigarette. While they are standing on the sidewalks in the freezing cold, they are all getting sick."
"How can you be sure?"
"We put 100 heavy smokers in a deep-freeze meat locker. They could smoke all the cigarettes they wanted as long as they didn't wear coats."
"Why couldn't the people wear coats?"
"Because those who go out for a smoke are so anxious to light up they never stop to put on a coat. We wanted our experiment to replicate the exact conditions of a cigarette consumer."
"What did the Feelgood Tobacco people do once they had the information?"
"That's why I'm here. They did nothing. They decided not to print on their packs warnings that smoking could cause you to freeze to death. A group of us suggested we build outdoor covers like bus shelters so the smokers could go into them. But management turned it down because people would use them to puff the competition."
"Is there anything outdoor smokers can take to prevent getting frozen?"
"Doctors are advocating flu shots for those who smoke more than one pack a day."
"Why did you turn whistle-blower?"
"It was my conscience. I walked down the streets of New York, and when it got cold the people were frozen stiff. The only heat came from their cigarettes."
"Would it make any sense to forbid smokers to smoke on the streets in the wintertime?"
"You could save big health bills. Every time a smoker becomes an ice cube and is taken to the hospital, the nonsmoker has to pay the price."
The whistle-blower asked me if I were interested in the story.
"I would be, as long as my publisher doesn't kill it."
"What about '60 Minutes'?"
"It's right up their alley."
(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate