- In addition to causing cancer, the cigarette industry itself is a cancer. Cigarettes are extremely profitable (drug dealing usually is). Cigarette companies take in about $28 billion in cigarette sales each year, and on that make a profit of more than $6 billion. That's a profit margin of 23%. Most companies are thrilled with a profit margin of 10%. (The national corporate average in 1991 was 6.9%.) Forbes magazine commented, "Only the Mint makes money more easily than cigarette companies." Ironically, it's because cigarettes are deadly that competition is low: other companies simply don't want to be involved in peddling death. (Addictions they don't mind; death, they do. Call them old-fashioned.) Six tobacco giants make practically every brand of cigarette sold in the United States. How do they avoid anti-trust or price-fixing proceedings? They simply argue that the more cigarettes cost, the better: fewer people will buy them; therefore, fewer people will smoke. As hypocrites often do, they play both sides of every coin—and they have a lot of coins. Once people are hooked, they're hooked, and they'll pay whatever is necessary for their next fix.
- With this money, the cigarette industry hides from the public the simple fact that tobacco is the most addictive substance known (more addictive than even heroin), and that cigarettes kill. Cigarette companies spend a fortune each year on advertising, and they use that clout to eliminate or soften media stories that might be hazardous to the health of the tobacco industry. In the past, only the media accepting cigarette advertisements were vulnerable to this pressure. Over the years, however, the cigarette companies have bought just about every wholesome brand in America.[*FN] Now they can use their advertising clout to control almost all media—even television, where cigarette ads have been banned for years. When cigarette advertising was allowed on television, the cigarette companies put enormous pressure on all shows to include smoking as one of the "good guy" activities and eliminate smoking as a "bad guy" activity. In other words, they wanted the heroes to smoke and the villains to do something else—playing pool was okay, taking other drugs was fine, arrogantly driving expensive cars purchased with ill-gotten gains was terrific.
[*FN] Nabisco, General Foods, Oreo Cookies, Jell-o, Ritz Crackers, Planters Peanuts, Triscuits, Miller Beer, Jim Beam Bourbon, Kool-Aid, Log Cabin Syrup, Oscar Mayer Wieners, Maxwell House Coffee, Entenmann's Cakes, Post Grape-Nuts (Euell Gibbons is rolling in his grave), Fleischmann's Margarine, Kraft (yes, something as American as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is owned by a tobacco company), Carefree Sugarless Gum, Lifesavers, Fig Newtons, Cool-Whip, Velveeta, Pinkerton Guards, and Franklin (Ben is rolling in his grave) Life Insurance (a company that gives lower rates to nonsmokers) and, heaven help us, Animal Crackers. This list is subject to change. Cigarette companies buy and sell other businesses as easily as you or I might pick up a box of Triscuits, a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft, or a roll of Lifesavers—they just throw them in their shopping carts and head for the check-out counter (the stock market).