At last, the tobacco industry admits the link it has always denied

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The Independent Online
I LEARN from inside sources that in the course of the next year the tobacco industry has decided to come clean.

Yes, the tobacco industry has finally agreed to admit something that it has never admitted before.

It has finally agreed to admit that there is a link - let me spell this out clearly - that there is a DEFINITE PROVEN LINK between tobacco and smoking.

"For years the tobacco industry has denied that there is any link between cigarettes and smoking," says Adrian Wardour-Street, the PR man who is spearheading the campaign to admit the link without seeming to do so. "And we were quite right so to refuse! Oh, yes, there was plenty of anecdotal evidence to link tobacco and smoking, but we could never find the ultimate proof, the unshakeable, 100 per cent evidence that there was a direct link between tobacco and smoking."

But surely there could never be any doubt, could there? Why else would people buy tobacco in the shape of cigarettes except to smoke it?

"For hundreds of reasons," says Adrian. "To look glamorous. To offer to other people. To barter at the end of World War Two. To throw to people in Third World countries. To use as stakes in friendly card games. To leave them as tips. To imitate Humphrey Bogart. To put behind your ear..."

OK, OK. And then to smoke ?

"To smoke? We never had any idea that people were smoking the cigarettes as well," says Adrian, looking shocked. "I mean, we were just selling the cigarettes in a box to the public. What they did with them thereafter was up to them. We certainly never recommended that they be smoked. If you look at a packet of cigarettes of any era, you will not find any instructions for smoking on the side. I mean, when did you ever buy a packet of cigarettes where it said on the side, 'Instructions for smoking - Withdraw First Cigarette From Pack, Put In Mouth, Light Far End'?"

What he said was true. I do not think I have ever seen a packet of cigarettes which told you how to smoke them.

"Exactly. So it came as a complete shock to us when people accused us of having a link with smoking. We had no idea that our cigarettes were being used for smoking!"

But if the tobacco industry wasn't geared to smoking, what on earth WAS it geared to?

"The tobacco industry? Oh, my goodness, the tobacco industry has always had its hands full with things like sports sponsorship, snooker, cricket, arts sponsorship, theatre, and so on, which is a pretty full-time thing, without getting into things like smoking."

And where did the money come from to support all this arts and sports sponsorship?

"Oh, from the sale of cigarettes."

For smoking ?

"Certainly not! Even now, the tobacco industry finds it hard to believe that anyone would be so foolish as to smoke cigarettes. Before smoking, cigarettes are clean, rolled up portions of tobacco in pristine bits of paper. That's how we sell them. But if you smoke them, they are smelly, they are dirty, they are hot, they are dangerous, and they cause cancer. We recommend that people do not smoke cigarettes."

So you admit the link with cancer ?

"Oh, yes," says Adrian Wardour-Street cheerfully, "we've always admitted that. It's the link with smoking we find so hard to accept. Anyway, I don't see why the tobacco industry should come in for such hard knocks. Nobody ever sues car manufacturers for causing death, even though there is a proven link between cars and being run over."

So the tobacco industry finds nothing in its history to be ashamed of ?

"Nothing, nothing at all. Except..." here Adrian Wardour-Street lowers his voice, "except I think maybe we were unwise all those years ago to take over the tobacco plant from the Red Indian. We did it in good faith. We assumed that because the indigenous American was using tobacco, it was all right. We may have made a mistake. And if we received no warning from the original users, we must take action."

You mean... ?

"Yes. It is about time the tobacco industry sued the descendants of the indigenous American natives! They never warned us of the dangers of tobacco! This could be the biggest tobacco lawsuit of all time."

So there you have it. The tobacco industry is innocent after all.