Press-Republican

March 12, 2013

Upcoming film depicts tobacco-industry hearings

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Savanna-Lin Boadway and Kali Bushey have both become stalwart spokespersons for the push to stop advertising gimmicks that promote youth smoking.

As members of Reality Check, a grassroots effort by teenagers across the state to put pressure on the tobacco industry and its advertising practices, the two Plattsburgh teens recognize a need to enlist the community’s support for their endeavor.

“It’s a never-ending cycle,” Bushey, a sophomore at Plattsburgh High School, said of the addiction caused by smoking and the connection she feels the tobacco industry has in promoting that addiction. “They just want more money.”

PRESENTING FILM

The Adirondack Tobacco Free Network and Reality Check are hosting a presentation of the documentary film “Addiction Incorporated” at Cumberland 12 Theater on Route 9 north of Plattsburgh from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19.

The film, directed by Charles Evans Jr., examines the role of Victor DeNoble, a scientist who worked for Philip Morris, and his efforts in the 1990s to unmask deception used by the tobacco industry to prevent public knowledge of how truly addicting tobacco can be.

The subsequent Congressional hearings DeNoble ignited led to lawsuits that ended with the tobacco industry’s settlement of billions of dollars paid to states to recoup some of the money they used to treat addicted and ill smokers.

“It’s a very compelling film,” said Christa VanCour, senior public-health educator for the Clinton County Health Department. “I was in high school when all of this was going on, so it’s incredibly important that this is still an issue, that we still have to protect kids from the tobacco industry 12, 13 years later.”

REIGNITING OUTRAGE

Reality Check, which was first formed in 2000, was actually created from money the state gained in the tobacco industry’s settlement.

Teens like Boadway and Bushey have actively worked to promote smoke-free communities, reduce advertising aimed at a young audience and decrease the efforts to promote smoking in Hollywood films.

“I was introduced to tobacco control in 2001,” said Dana Isabella, longtime program coordinator for Reality Check in northeastern New York. “In 15 years (since the Congressional hearings and subsequent settlement), the community has lost its outrage about what the tobacco industry tried to do.

“They (the tobacco industry) are still doing the same thing. They are still involved in creating an addiction to a powerful and devastating product.”

The film will show how executives from the country’s seven major tobacco industries lied to Congress during those hearings and how those executives left their positions because of the hearing’s findings.

“Hopefully this film will reignite that outrage,” Isabella said.

DANGERS OF TOBACCO

Boadway and Bushey were part of a large congregation of Reality Check members who saw the film in Albany a few weeks ago, and both believe the 75-minute film gives a clear depiction of the corruption surrounding those hearings.

“The movie opened my eyes even more than before,” Bushey said. “It showed me a lot more than I learned (through her early experiences with Reality Check).”

“They (the executives depicted in the film) tried to say that nicotine was not as addictive as the scientists were saying,” said Boadwell, a freshman at the High School. “We now know that it’s more addictive (than first surmised).”

Bushey first became involved in Reality Check in eighth grade after seeing a film on tobacco and addiction in health class. A Reality Check summit was being held at Colgate University, and Bushey initially did not want to go until she realized how serious the problem was becoming.

“Learning things that I didn’t previously know really got my attention,” she said, adding that she has stayed with the program because of an increased desire to stop teen smoking in the community.

Boadway came on board as a seventh-grader. Her sister was involved in Reality Check at the time, and she wanted to join to be a part of her sister’s efforts. She has grown to love the experiences and the opportunities Reality Check has given her.

“It makes me angry that teens are getting involved in something they have no control over,” she said of the addiction tobacco causes. “It’s everywhere. We have to do something stop it.”

DeNoble was working on developing a “safe” cigarette for Philip Morris when he discovered the severity of addiction related to nicotine in tobacco. He went to his employers with the information, and the company immediately closed his laboratory and dismissed him.

DeNoble has since become a strong tobacco-prevention proponent and speaks regularly about his experiences and the dangers of tobacco use.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

IF YOU GO "Addiction Incorporated" will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at Cumberland 12 Theater in Plattsburgh. The movie is free and open to the public. For more information or to make reservations for seats, call 570-7784.