Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

February 24, 2011

CSKT Tobacco prevention program highlights youth addiction

By Lailani Upham

Cristen Two Teeth, CSKT Tobacco Prevention Program advocate holds up a pack of pink cigarettes. Tobacco companies have been developing products that appeal to young people so they will experiment with tobacco use, she said. According to the Montana Tobacco Prevention Program, tobacco companies and new competitors to the nicotine addiction market focus on youth to keep their business going. (Lailani Upham photo)
Cristen Two Teeth, CSKT Tobacco Prevention Program advocate holds up a pack of pink cigarettes. Tobacco companies have been developing products that appeal to young people so they will experiment with tobacco use, she said. According to the Montana Tobacco Prevention Program, tobacco companies and new competitors to the nicotine addiction market focus on youth to keep their business going. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO Studies have shown that younger people become addicted to nicotine quicker than older folks and the tobacco companies know this and targeted the younger generation to keep their business going, regardless of the serious health risks, according to Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' Tobacco Prevention Programs.

Victor DeNoble, Ph.D., former research scientist for Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, was a guest speaker on behalf of the CSKT and Montana Tobacco Prevention Program at SKC on Monday to speak to local health officials.

DeNoble discussed the addictive nature of nicotine and the tobacco industry's attempt to hide important health information from the public. Dr. DeNoble has been touring the state with his message, "Inside the Darkside: an insider's look at the truth about tobacco addiction and what the tobacco companies don't want you to know."

DeNoble and a co-worker Paul Mele worked in a secret lab in Virginia for Philip Morris from 1980 to 1984, where DeNoble led experiments on rats to explore the effects of nicotine on the brain and central nervous system, he said. He revealed how the lab developed a synthetic chemical that had the same desired effects as nicotine on the brain without the health risks. His job was to develop a "safer cigarette."

What could have been a triumph for Philip Morris instead backfired. "The industry realized if it made that cigarette, it would be admitting to the government that it was lying when it said there's nothing wrong with smoking," DeNoble said.

In 1984 Philip Morris shut down the lab, hid the findings and fired DeNoble and Mele, for fear that if a healthier cigarette was produced, the tobacco industry, which had long denied the negative effects of nicotine, would be subject to lawsuits. DeNoble said they were both silenced by a secrecy agreement, but a decade later seven tobacco executives were brought to congressional hearings and through a process of the FBI findings, DeNoble and Mele were released from the agreement and testified.

Dr. Victor De Noble, a scientist for over 30 years tells his story of being hired by the tobacco industry decades ago to create a safer environment. In his findings he discovered how nicotine affects the brain. The tobacco company did not want to hear it and he was fired and his lab immediately closed down, he shared. (Lailani Upham photo)
Dr. Victor De Noble, a scientist for over 30 years tells his story of being hired by the tobacco industry decades ago to create a safer environment. In his findings he discovered how nicotine affects the brain. The tobacco company did not want to hear it and he was fired and his lab immediately closed down, he shared. (Lailani Upham photo)

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, younger people who begin smoking are more likely to become addicted and suffer the same nicotine withdrawal symptoms as adults who try to quit. Several studies found nicotine to be addictive in ways similar to heroin, cocaine and alcohol. The study proved that of all addictive behaviors, cigarette smoking is the one most likely to become established during adolescence.

The Montana Tobacco Prevention Program and CSKT Tobacco Prevention Program are both working toward efforts to curb new teen addiction through a statewide youth coalition, called "ReAct." It is a Montana's teen-led movement against tobacco corporation tactics. The local coalition is called the "Mission Valley ReAct Youth Coalition," according to Two Teeth.

Montana youth are using spit tobacco at alarming rates, which are amongst the highest in the nation, according to both prevention programs. Due to its use over 430,000 Americans die each year. If all of those names were placed on a monument, it would equal seven Vietnam memorial walls. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death, the program reports.

DeNoble stressed how tobacco companies have a strong money incentive to create addicts. Statistics show that someone who is addicted will be for 35 to 40 years of their life and will spend between $50,000 to $100,000 to buy tobacco products.

According to a report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, children and teenagers constitute the majority of all new smokers, and the industry's advertising and promotion campaigns often have special appeal to these young people; and 83 percent of young smokers choose the three most heavily advertised brands.

CSKT Tribal Health Tobacco Prevention Program is offering free options to tribal health recipients to help kick the addiction. Call Cristen Two Teeth at (406) 745-3525 ext. 5119 for more information.

The Montana Tobacco Quit Line is also available to help tobacco users fight their addiction through a free service that provides coaching, educational materials, health care providers' medications available at a reduced cost and trained staff that offer culturally appropriate services for Native Americans to understand the sacred use of tobacco.

The Montana Tobacco Quit Line is staffed Monday - Thursday, 7 am - 9 pm; Fridays from 7 am - 7 pm; and Saturday - Sunday from 8 am - 4:30 pm. There is a 24-hour voicemail and a call will be returned quickly. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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