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Science and Problem Solving Techniques

Writing Project

Nicotine: An American Way of Life?


Cast of Characters

Select one of these to interview (assume all are still alive). You may change the name and gender or use the following real names.

Rose Cipolione: Rose was a teen-ager in the 1940's when she began smoking. In 1984 and 15,000 packs of cigarettes later, she succumbed to lung cancer. Before she died, she sued three cigarette manufacturers claiming intense advertising had drawn her into a deadly nicotine habit. The Liggett group, which was targeted in the suit, stated that Congress's 1965 decision to require health warnings on cigarettes shielded them from liability. Rose was a victim, a nicotine addict and a consumer dependent on the government to protect her

David A. Kessler, M.D.: Dr. Kessler is the new FDA Chairman. One of his jobs is to draft policies which regulate drug testing and approval and affect drug company profits. Currently he is recommending a policy to the White House which would restrict access to tobacco for adolescents. He says: "The tobacco industry survives by replenishing the ranks of dead and dying smokers with newly addicted young people." Newt Gingrich blasted the FDA plan as evidence the agency "has lost its mind." Mr. Gingrich represents Georgia, a southern state. Dr. Kessler is a key spokesperson for the medical community and consumer health interests.

Tom Fitzgerald, a senior employee for Brown and Williamson: Tom is part of the public relations department for a major tobacco company which produces Kool, Viceroy and Raleigh cigarettes to name a few. He is incensed at the release of some 4,000 pages of internal, confidential documents. The papers were stolen from files of the tobacco company, leaked to a UCSF medical school professor and scanned unedited onto the Internet where access was unrestricted. His views represent all the financial and corporate interests, having given sworn testimony before congress on the position of tobacco companies denying any wrong doing or nicotine level manipulation.

Mary Gonzales (ficticious name), a consumer protection lawyer and attorney general for a southern state : Mary is currently involved in a class action lawsuit against Brown and Williamson. She alleges that tobacco companies have known for more than 40 years that nicotine is addictive and that chemists have routinely manipulated the levels of nicotine in cigarettes so as to maintain blood levels consistent with addiction. She claims tobacco companies have long been aware of the health risks while publicly stating there was no relationship between lung cancer and cigarette smoking. She states that the sole motive for the behavior of the tobacco giants is greed. Her views represent the consumer who is unable to muster the necessary resources to file a lawsuit.

Ian Uydess, a senior scientist formerly employed by Philip Morris: Ian was responsible for supplying corporate executives with information about nicotine levels in tobacco leaves. He also performed basic research in the areas of addiction and the effects of nicotine on the human body. His affidavit is being used by the FDA to support its policy recommending limiting access to cigarettes. He is both an ex-employee and chemist.

Bennett LeBow, a corporate raider and a CEO for Liggett: Bennett is interested in one thing only, money. He wants to settle a large class action suit against Liggett (Eve and Chesterfield cigarettes) brought about by several states seeking money to help pay the costs of smoking related diseases in impoverished people. Liggett is a minor player in the cigarette business. He wonders why other tobacco companies have resisted settling for so long because the cost of continuing to fight legal battles is greater than the proposed settlement. Bennett is not concerned that he is undermining the solid wall of denial projected by Philip Morris or Brown and Williamson. These giants have been made vulnerable by the action of Bennett LeBow. He represents a major financial threat.

James Laird, a Kentucky tobacco farmer and smoker: James is a tobacco farmer like his father and his father before him. He inherited a thriving farm, mortgaged his home to update his farm equipment and has no other source of income. He supports a wife and two high school aged children and is concerned about farm subsidies and the price of tobacco leaves on the open market. While sympathetic to those who suffer from smoking related diseases, when fewer people smoke and the stockmarket share price of tobacco companies drops, he becomes concerned.

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