Nix on Nicotine

Keywords: quit smoking, freedom from tobacco, anti-tobacco, smoking cessation, smoking deterrence, nicotine addiction

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marketing Tobacco to Kids

I visited my local King Soopers grocery store recently, and paused to observe the tobacco display that I walk past every time I’m in the store.  The large, well-lit glass-front case extends from about 7 feet down to about 18 inches off the floor – placing the colorful cigarette packages at eye-level for any child old enough to walk.  But that’s not all!  Immediately adjacent to the tobacco case is a 25-cent gumball machine and the penny-per-ride “horsie.”  Could this be an accident or oversight on the part of management?

Feeling more than just a little curious, I asked the manager on duty about the display, pointing out the eye-level placement of the tobacco and the nearby child-magnets.  He smiled pleasantly and nodded as I spoke, but offered no suggestion that things could or would be changed. 

Tobacco companies rely on community retail partners to help them sell tobacco to children.  They know that almost no one starts smoking as an adult:  more than 90% of smokers become addicted before the age of 18, some starting as early as 8 years old.  Getting children hooked on nicotine is key to big tobacco’s ongoing profitability.

Here are just a few of the underhanded strategies they use:
  • Offering smokeless tobacco products (“dip” or “chew”) in self-serve displays near candy, gum, and snacks; these products are offered in enticing fruit, mint, and other flavors that appeal to children.
  • Displaying tobacco products within easy reach of children, and reimbursing store owners for losses due to shoplifting.
  • Placing signs at kid eye-level with cartoon-drawings, purportedly to forbid underage tobacco use, but actually to enhance the perception that tobacco is “grown up” and underage use is rebellious or defiant. 
  • Offering toys (again placed at kid eye-level) as premiums with tobacco purchases to cause kids to “lobby” their parents into buying the tobacco product so that they get the toy.
  • Displaying tobacco in movies and television programs, particularly in PG-13 movies, of which more than 80% show tobacco use.
Recently revealed in documents produced by Big Tobacco under Court order is the euphemism they use for the 12 to 18-year age group:  “Replacement Smokers.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We Have a Winner!

I am delighted to announce the winning artwork for the NIX ON NICOTINE campaign logo!  Combining the efforts of two talented artists who have graciously agreed to share the contest prize, our new campaign image is both graphic and compelling.  The artwork by Denver artists Matt Jaramillo and John Keller captures our message and we'll be proud to display it everywhere.  Heartfelt thanks to the artists, to our sponsors, and to all of our supporters.

Press release to follow....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Informed and Aware

My partner on the in-school freedom from tobacco campaign is PS1 Charter School here in Denver.  My sons, Quentin (who died at age 23 from tobacco-related illness) and Monty (who has now kicked the habit)  attended PS1 for their middle and high school years.

The PS1 vision statement for its students includes a goal of being "informed and aware."  I think this is an excellent goal for everyone, especially with respect to substances we put into our bodies.  I believe that if smokers become informed and aware of the content of cigarettes, they will find greater motivation to quit the habit.

So take a look at just a few of the chemical compounds found in cigarette smoke, and alternative uses for those chemicals.

     acetone - nail polish solvent
     methanol - highly flammable/explosive alcohol, used in rocket fuel
     napthalene - moth repellent
     nicotine - herbicide and insecticide
    cadmium - heavy metal used in batteries
     carbon monoxide - the lethal component of automobile exhaust fumes
     vinyl chloride - plastic
    cyanhydric acid - used in gas chambers
    ammonia - detergent
    urethane - floor finish
    toluene - industrial solvent
    arsenic - lethal poison, rodenticide
    polonium 210 - radioactive compound used recently to murder a Soviet spy
    DDT - insecticide

Now, let me ask this.  Would you knowingly and willingly swallow, inhale, or otherwise ingest any one of the above chemicals day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year?  Would you administer any one of them to a trusting child?  Smoking delivers at least 81 different toxic chemicals to your body and to people around you.  Quit today for your health.  Quit today for a child.  Quit today for someone who loves you.  Quit today!

Friday, April 1, 2011


No fooling around!  Just one more week to deadline for the art contest, and your chance to win the $250 CASH PRIZE!  I'll be distributing more contest announcements throughout Denver art galleries tonight, where a big turnout is expected for the First Friday gallery open-house night. 

The winner of the logo contest will not only win the cash prize, but will also be invited to sit on the judging panel for NEXT MONTH'S POSTER CONTEST, to be announced soon after the logo art winner is selected.  Don't miss your chance!  If you need an entry form, call me at 303-964-9129 or email me at

I am also very pleased to announce that my good friend and co-worker, Darrin Ray has KICKED THE SMOKING HABIT!  Keep up the good work, Darrin - you CAN and you WILL do it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Preview of Coming Attractions!

We're down to the last 2 weeks of the ART CONTEST to win a $250 CASH PRIZE for design of the NIX ON NICOTINE campaign logo, and the judging panel is eagerly looking forward to some terrific entries!

With that deadline approaching, we're already looking ahead to the next big thing:  Each month, we will sponsor a new art contest to use the NIX ON NICOTINE logo in a poster that delivers a freedom-from-tobacco message.  New prizes will be  announced each month, and will include gift certificates from some of your favorite local businesses.  The winning poster will be pinned up in schools, government offices, and lots of other public places around town, and will be published on-line.  But that's not all!!!  Each month, the selected poster artist wins a seat on the judging panel for the next month's contest, to sit side-by-side with a celebrity from the music industry, sports world, or government.  We are very excited to be working with some really well-known personalities who have agreed to help us promote this program.  Imagine getting the chance to meet someone you've always admired!

The time has never been better to choose a tobacco-free lifestyle!  Just think of all the advantages:  you'll save money, you'll be more attractive, your body will feel and stay strong and healthy, and you will be a positive role-model for all of the young people in your life!  And if you submit an entry to our poster contest, you may win the chance to meet a real-life celebrity!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sad Numbers

As of this morning, the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan stands at just under 6,000 people, and continues to rise; some sources estimate it will reach as many as 100,000 people.   People everywhere have been galvanized to offer help to try to alleviate the misery and suffering. And rightly so – we are all passengers on this planet together, and the borders that divide us are immaterial in the face of such a crisis.

Nevertheless, I offer the following comparisons.

Number of dead in Japan in 7 days:     6,000 people
Number of dead in US due to tobacco-related illness every 7 days:  8,400 people
Estimated number of dead in Japan by the end of the crisis:  100,000 people
Estimated number of dead world-wide this year alone due to tobacco-related illness:
over 5,000,000 people

The suffering in Japan as a result of this calamitous event is great, but it will pass.
The suffering of millions of people and their families due to tobacco-related illness and early death is incalculable, and extends into the foreseeable future.

Tobacco-caused disease is the single-largest preventable cause of death.  It kills more people than alcohol, drugs, AIDS, car accidents, murders, and suicides combined, nearly 1,200 people in the United States every single day! 

Isn’t it time that YOU quit smoking?!?  Get information and help at:
Next week, Wednesday March 23 is “Kick Butts” day, the perfect day to

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vote With Your Feet

It occurred to me recently that, even though I don't buy tobacco products, I make regular contributions to the financial welfare of the tobacco companies when I buy non-tobacco products from companies owned or controlled by Big Tobacco.  So I did a little research, and found this excellent website:  On the list of tobacco-company owned products:  Wilson sporting goods, Oxygen snowboards, Montblanc pens, Chloe clothing and accessories, Bulova watches, most of the karat-gold jewelry sold at Wal-Mart, Miller beer, and a long list of others.  And of course, there are the food products (and so-called "food" products) sold under the brand names Kraft, Nabisco, Post, Oscar Meyer, and Louis Rich. 

Just in the catgory of food alone, the list of household names is staggering!  Miracle Whip.  Good Seasons.  Jello. Kool-Aid. Seven Seas. Country Time. Maxwell House. Sanka. Cool Whip. Cheez Whiz. Velveeta. Claussen pickles. Philadelphia cream cheese. DiGiorno sauces and pizza. Minute Rice. Altoids. Toblerone chocolate. Stove Top Stuffing. Capri Juice Drinks. Crystal Light. Tang. Knudsen jams and jellies. Sealtest dairy products. Breyer's ice cream. Alpha Bits. Grape Nuts.  Oreo cookies. All of these (and many more) are brought to you by the good folks at Big Tobacco!

Then another thing occurred to me.  I noticed how heavily-weighted the list is toward highly-processed and junk foods.  Foods that contain long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients.  Foods that contain high-fructose corn sweetener, trans fats, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives.  Foods with over-the-top amounts of salt, sugar, and fat.  Foods linked to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and a multitude of other health concerns.

Big Tobacco is using similar strategies to promote junk foods and tobacco:  market to children and youth, load the products with high levels of unhealthy but addictive substances to keep the customers coming back, and create the (false) impression that the products are part of an all-American lifestyle.

Every time we spend a dollar, we cast a vote in favor of the product or service we're buying.  If we don't buy what Big Tobacco is selling, we vote against them and their ruthless strategies to sell us death and disease.  I'm voting with my feet now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


REMINDER:  The art contest deadline (grand prize $250) is one month from today, April 8.  Anyone can enter, and entries will be judged on the basis of creativity, originality, and applicability to the Nix On Nicotine campaign.  Send me an email at for more information or to get an entry form.

The contest is being sponsored by Bishop-Brogden Associates, Inc ( and entries will be judged by a panel including artist, musician, and community activist DJCavem (  

After we have selected the winning entry for the campaign’s logo, we will be sponsoring monthly poster contests that use the logo and deliver a freedom-from-tobacco message.  More about that after April 15, when the winner of the logo art contest will be announced.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Follow the Money

It occurred to me that, since tobacco users are giving so much money to line the pockets of the tobacco company executives, they might want a glimpse of who these guys are. 

Check out this very short (just over 1 minute) video showing the CEOs of the 7 major American tobacco companies testifying before Congress in 1994.

Now compare that with this quote, taken from a 1963 internal memo from Addison Yeaman, executive vice president of Brown & Williamson and the president of the Council for Tobacco Research:
We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug...”
Or this quote from a Philip Morris researcher in 1972:
Without nicotine...there would be no smoking...”
I also found this quote, although I haven't done the research to confirm its veracity.  Allegedly told to the "Winston Man", a former tobacco advertising model who turned people's witness against his former employers.  When one tobacco exec was asked if he smoked, his reply was,
"I'm not that dumb!  Smoking is for the young, the poor, the blacks, and the stupid."
Now, how do you feel about making regular contributions to the lavish lifestyle of these folks?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Silver Screen

Have you noticed the increase lately of gratuitous tobacco use in movies?  I did a little surfing, and found a website called whose mission is to show the impact of smoking & tobacco references in entertainment. Some interesting statistics from their website:
  • Every day, more than 2,000 adolescents in the US start smoking
  • More than half of them start as a direct result of exposure to smoking in movies
  • 80% of movies rated PG-13 - movies specifically targeted at teens - contain images of tobacco use
  • Of the more than 1,000 teens each day who start smoking because of what they saw on screen, 340 will die early from smoking-related disease.
Reviewing previously secret tobacco advertising documents, the British Medical Journal concluded:
"The tobacco industry recruits new smokers by associating its products with fun, excitement, sex, wealth, and power and as a means of expressing rebellion and independence. One of the ways it has found to promote these associations has been to encourage smoking in entertainment productions. Exposure to smoking in entertainment media is associated with increased smoking and favourable attitudes towards tobacco use among adolescents."

The tobacco companies have a name for children:  replacement smokers.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Third time's the (c)harm

Third-hand smoke is a relatively new term for an old phenomenon.  It is tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished. It’s that nasty smell that hangs on a smoker’s hair and clothing and breath, that lingers on drapery and carpets, that fouls car interiors.  It’s the yellowish coating that clings to walls, windows, and furnishings where smokers live.

A recent New York Times article notes,

Among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006. Eleven of the compounds are highly carcinogenic.”

Think about it for a minute.  Layers are deposited and built up, cigarette after cigarette, day after day, month after month.  Each layer contains all of the toxins in cigarette smoke, and as the layers build up, the toxins are concentrated and collected together into a sticky residue that contains much higher doses of poisons than even cigarettes themselves!

Now think about it for another minute.  As a smoker, the toxic residue that you see and smell on clothes, furniture, carpets, walls and windows – that is the visible manifestation of what you are asking your body to process and filter and try to dispose of every single day.  Your lungs.  Your kidneys.  Your liver.  Your heart.  All working overtime to clean up the gunk.  Isn’t it time to quit?  Get help and read more at  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Remember "Average Amos" from yesterday's blog?   We saw that he's impoverished by his nicotine addiction.  He's probably feeling a little blue, and wishes he had more disposable income to spend going out with his friends for a good time, getting one of the latest electronic gadgets, or just getting some work done on his car.  If only he had a girlfriend to comfort him!  Now that would make him feel better.  Sorry to say, we have bad news for Amos in the girlfriend department, too.

You see, four out of five people are non-smokers these days, and most non-smoking females won't date a guy who smokes.  They really hate breathing the second-hand smoke, seeing the dirty ashtrays and butts on the ground, and smelling that nasty smoky odor on his hair and clothes.  Just a big turn-off all around.  They can't feature Amos as a future father and role-model for their children, either.  Worst of all are his bad breath and yellowing teeth - ugh! who wants to kiss that!

For this reason, Amos' possibilities are pretty much limited to the 20% of girls who smoke.  And remember that Amos is average in every way - including his sex appeal!  On average, a guy can get a first date with one out of ten girls that he approaches.  So this means that our Amos would have a chance at a first date with only 2 out of 100 ladies!

And then there's that pesky impotence issue.  Recent research has supported the evidence that smoking is a major cause of erectile dysfunction.  If and when our hero finally gets a date, he may  be unable to get it up when the moment is right!

 Looks like ol' Amos might be losing the swim-meet at the gene pool!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Money to Burn

Who can afford to smoke?  Let's look at some numbers with the help of "Average Amos.” (The numbers here are taken from averages reported in the literature).

Amos started smoking at 16.  At first, he only smoked a little.  But by the time he turned 17, he was hooked, and was smoking about a pack each day.  Amos will smoke for 17 years.  Cigarettes cost about $4.50 per pack now, and that cost will increase over the time that Amos smokes.  So on average over the 17 years, a pack of cigarettes might cost about $6.50.  In that case, the habit will cost Amos more than $40,000 by the time he is 34 years old.  Had Amos saved or invested that money instead, he would have $200,000 or more!

But wait, that's not all it costs to smoke.  Over those 17 years, Amos will spend money to whiten his teeth and to dry clean his clothes - more than a non-smoker would spend.  His dental care will cost more, too, because smoking causes gum disease, bone loss, and other dental issues.  His health, auto, and life insurance will all be more expensive than for non-smokers.  When he tries to sell his car, the trade-in value is more than $1000 less than for a non-smoker's vehicle, because of burns in the upholstery and the smelly build-up of smoke residue.  When he thinks about selling his home, he'll need new carpets, draperies, and paint throughout before he can even put it on the market - costs that could be $10,000 or more! 

When Amos decides to quit after 17 years, he’ll spend some money on quit-smoking programs, too.  Maybe he’ll chew nicotine gum or use other substitute nicotine-delivery devices. He may see a doctor or a therapist to help him quit.  All of those things cost money, too.

All told, Amos will spend from $10,000 to $15,000 per year to maintain his habit.  Over 17 years, that comes to a whopping $170,000 to $255,000.  Now that’s a lot of money up in smoke!

Poor Amos!  I mean, really poor Amos!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Wrong Stuff

During a recent visit to a local consignment/resale store, I noticed a young man sitting on a bench waiting to be served by the “buyers.”  I noticed him, not because he was young and handsome (although he was), not because he was dressed in tasteful but very hip style (although he was), not because he was well-spoken as he conversed with a friend (although he was).  I noticed him because when I got within 10 feet or so, I could smell the overwhelming reek of tobacco smoke.  A quick glance showed other tell-tale signs – yellowish stains on his fingers, discolored teeth, a burn hole in his jacket.  A few minutes later, I overheard the buyers who had opened the bag of clothing that young man brought in for resale.  One buyer discretely turned to the other and quietly asked her to smell a jacket.  She wrinkled her nose and looked disgusted.  “Really strong” was all she had to say.  The first buyer just put the jacket back into the bag, and returned it to its crestfallen owner.  “I’m sorry, we just can’t take anything for the store today.”

Too bad.  Probably not the last rejection he’ll get, either.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

To Tell The Truth

A couple of days ago, I blogged about the Justice Department ordering big tobacco to “tell the truth.”  (Nix on Nicotine blog, February 24, 2011).  That phrase keeps recurring to me.  When you think about it, there are a lot of deceptions around tobacco use.

  • Using tobacco is a choice.  Let’s tell the truth:  Tobacco addicts have lost the ability to choose; they are slaves to their habit.
  • People start smoking in the teenage years to look or feel grown up.  Let’s tell the truth:  Adults who smoke almost all want to quit and many have tried to quit – grown-ups hate the habit! 
  • A “few puffs” or an occasional “dip” won’t get you addicted.  Let’s tell the truth:  nicotine is the most addictive substance known, more addictive than heroin or meth or crack cocaine.  Addiction begins with the first use.
  • Smokers enjoy smoking.  Let’s tell the truth:  Smokers are chemically addicted to nicotine, and prefer smoking to the withdrawal symptoms when they don’t.
  • Tobacco advertising, product placement in movies, and eye-level displays in stores convey the message that tobacco use is a healthy and normal adult activity.  Let’s tell the truth:  there are four times more tobacco-free people than tobacco-addicted people, and the addicts are finding it harder and harder to fit smoking into acceptable social behavior as more and more non-smokers refuse to be around them.
  • Prominently-placed signs in convenience stores warning against sales to minors, often with catchy sayings and cartoon drawings, are supposed to be there to keep kids away from tobacco products.  Let’s tell the truth:  Those signs and warnings, often at kid eye-level, were designed and placed there by the tobacco companies.  They appeal to children, and enhance their perception that smoking is a grown up activity, a rite of passage into the adult world.  Those signs imbue underage tobacco use with a risky and adventuresome mystique.
  • Many elected representatives would have us believe that Congress is working on our behalf to help curb tobacco use.  Let’s tell the truth:  Over the last 30 years, Congress has failed to make it harder for youth to buy cigarettes, failed to legislate stricter regulation of tobacco, and failed to limit smoking in the workplace.  The advances that have been made – such as ending cigarette billboards and “gear” – were made by the Justice Department, not Congress.  Why?  Because many Congress men and women are lobbied by and receive campaign funds from big tobacco interests.

Let’s tell the truth now.  It’s high time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The world is my ashtray, I shall not want...

(With apologies to the 23rd Psalm).

Why is it that otherwise conscientious people think it's OK to throw cigarette butts on the sidewalk, out their car windows, in planters at public places, onto other people's landscaping, into waterways, on beaches ... really, everywhere?  According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, cigarette butts represent a huge pollution problem.

"Experts say cigarette butts rank at the very top of litter problems -- not just for their ubiquity, but for their toxicity and non-biodegradable nature."

Of course, some people who smoke are clueless, some are apathetic, some just don’t care.  But I know people who smoke who wouldn’t dream of dropping a candy or gum wrapper, a used tissue, or any other litter on the ground – except their butts. 

Here's my challenge to anyone who smokes:  carry with you a zip-closure plastic bag, and use it for one month to collect all of the waste associated with your habit – ashes, matches/matchbooks and spent lighters, and of course, the butts.  At the end of the month, take a look at what you’ve collected, and think about how to dispose of the toxic mess that heretofore you’ve been giving to others by mindlessly discarding it in public places.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Big Tobacco School of Modeling

What comes to mind when you think of models?  Fashion week in NYC?  Outlandish outfits, big hair, skyscraper heels? Fact of the matter:  we are all models (yep, even you and I) every day in every way.  When we smoke, we model that behavior to children, youth, and young adults all around us.  To our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our friends.

My good friend Walter (a master of marketing) has often commented to me that people need to see a product or service on average about 7 times before they are ready to buy it.  Now ask yourself how many times your child (or another youngster in your life) has seen someone smoking - in public places, in movies, on television.  No wonder that by the time they are teenagers, they are often willing and perhaps eager to try this grown-up activity.  They have been "sold" on the behavior just by watching models.  What a great deal for the tobacco companies!  They have an army of addicts out there in the world modeling their product to children (a new generation of customers!) while the adult addicts pay a hefty price for the priviledge!

Smoking is a perpetual-motion societal machine: role models selling the behavior of addiction to youngsters, who join the ranks of the addicted and become new role models.
So next time you light up, look around you.  You're on-stage, in the spotlight, a real live model.  Who is your audience today?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Most surreal news of the day?

I had to rub my eyes and make sure I was not dreaming this morning as I listened to the news.  It seems the Justice Department wants to order tobacco companies to "Tell the Truth."  By itself, this is strong and heady stuff for an anti-tobacco advocate!  But what the Justice Department wants big tobacco to say is almost too good to be true!  For example, one of the admissions that the Justice Department has proposed requiring tobacco companies to pay for and publish:

"For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes. Here's the truth. We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers' addiction, because that's how we keep customers coming back." 

Wow!  There are14 proposed admissions in all, dealing with a range of topics including the fact that smoking causes 1200 deaths in the United States EVERY DAY; that secondhand smoke causes disease and death in children, and more.  Here's another of my favorites:

"We told Congress under oath that we believed nicotine is not addictive. We told you that smoking is not an addiction and all it takes to quit is willpower. Here's the truth: Smoking is very addictive. And it's not easy to quit." 

And another:

"We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits."

Of course, the tobacco companies are appealing to try to weasel out of telling the truth; they have until March 3 to respond.

But another surrealistic story stalked the news today as well.  It seems that Muammar Khadafy announced that dissidents in Libya were given hallucinogenic pills in their coffee by Al Quaeda, causing them to do criminal acts and revolt against the government. 

So what do you think?  I'm having a hard time deciding which story is more surreal!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The NIX ON NICOTINE Campaign is Launched!

Today marks the launch of an in-school freedom-from-tobacco campaign.  I'm working with a couple of friends who are educators and youth advocates.  I'm also working with John Polito, a national tobacco deterrence/cessation educator.  It is John's opinion that an effective in-school program does not currently exist.
My eldest son, Quentin, died of smoking-related illness at the age of 23.  Quentin smoked right up to the end.  Please take a minute to visit Mr. Polito's website, where he has posted Quentin's story and a few pictures under a headline banner.  Quentin is also included in the "Smokers' Memorials" section, at #62.  I hope that by telling Quentin's story, someone somewhere may be spared the excruciating pain and devastating loss that we suffered.  And if you use tobacco, look around at some of the other stories and resources at
To launch the NIX ON NICOTINE campaign, I announced today an art contest for design of a logo/mascot for the program.  Grand prize is $250 cash!  If you're interested in submitting an entry, send me an email at, and I'll send you the contest announcement and entry form.
Stay tuned!