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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Five Million Dead Annually

Overheard at the offices of Altria Group, Inc., parent company of Phillip Morris USA...

"This is outrageous!"

"What is it, sir? Did that new tobacco treaty go through?"

"Are you kidding, son? Who was elected president?"

"Al Gore?"

"Let me try that again. Who is in the White House?"

"George Bush."

"Which means"

"War?"

"Close. It means Karl Rove.

"Right! And when Rove ran a consulting firm in the early 1990's, we paid him $3,000 a month. And at the time, Texas was suing the tobacco industry, and Rove had worked for almost all the GOP statewide office holders in Texas. Which was nice for us."

"I'm impressed; good job! It was nice for us. It was also nice for him."

"Which is why we're happy Bush is president."

"Yes."

"I love Republicans."

"Well. not all Republicans. There is that awful mayor of New York."

"The one who banned smoking in NYC restaurants and bars? He's a Republican?"

"Well, there are bad Republicans, just like there are good Democrats. Lots and lots of good Democrats, in fact. But it's a shame what Michael Bloomberg did."

"Absolutely. I should be able to smoke wherever I want."

"Son, I admire your enthusiasm, but you're embarrassing yourself."

"What? Why? Why can't I smoke wherever I want?"

"Why can't I milk a cow wherever I want?"

"You can't bring a cow into a restaurant."

"Why not?"

"Health reasons."

Silence.

"Well, ok, but that should still be the decision of the restaurant owners."

"You mean like it is for sanitation regulations that require restaurant employees to wash their hands?"

"Well, no, the government should enforce those."

"And why's that?"

"Health reasons."

Silence.

"So, sir, why do you work for this company, if you know it's morally, well, questionable?"

"It pays well."

"Very true."

"Now, son, you aren't going to have a crisis of conscience and quit on me, are you? That wasn't my intention."

"Oh, no, sir! I still know that smoking is a choice. That's all that matters."

"What about the fact that it's addictive?"

"Not our fault."

"We've manipulated the level of nicotine in our cigarettes to make it more addictive."

"It's still a choice to start."

"Sure. You want to take a guess, my boy, at what age the average teenage smoker starts smoking?"

"18?"

"No."

"16?"

"No."

"12.5."

"That's young. But they don't die until they're old."

"Well, actually, 27% of Americans who die between the ages of 35 and 64 die from smoking."

"Yet they still start smoking"

"Yes they do. Our ad campaigns are very persuasive. Also, nobody 12.5 years old think they are ever going to die."

"So what were you so mad about, sir?"

"Oh yes, I almost forgot. Oh, it's just that in the newspaper, they're talking about the international treaty on smoking, the one that the Bush administration is trying to kill by making key provisions optional."

"Thanks, Karl Rove!"

"Exactly. I was just angry that the article went out of its way to mention how many people die from tobacco worldwide each year."

"Was the figure erroneously inflated?"

"Oh, no. But it's just not good for us that they mentioned that number."

"Sure. Out of curiosity, what is the number?"

"Son, I don't like saying that number aloud."

"Please?"

"No. Time to get back to work. Altria is not paying you to discuss things like human life."