Tobacco’s Front Lines     March 5th, 2014

Fred Brown
To quote an old military theory, wars fought on several fronts are not won on any.

Now take the battle lines for tobacco. It is not news that there is a war afoot against the use of tobacco in any form.

Just recently, CVS, one of the largest retail pharmaceutical outlets in the nation, decided to rid its shelves of tobacco products. In the announcement, directors of the company said they realized removing tobacco products would cost the company billions in sales. That’s a B as in billions.

Thus, one of the last bastions of “over-the-counter” or OTC “codger” tobacco products and pipes is disappearing into thin air, signaling the end of an era.

Some of us are old enough to remember when pipes (Yello-Bole, Kaywoodie, etc.) filled out cardboard displays at the cash registers and along the walls in drug stores. Tobacco of every description lined the shelves.


But, the bulletin that CVS is emptying its shelves of tobacco is not exactly the hottest news on the planet.

It was announced just before Valentine’s Day that CVS Caremark planned to remove all tobacco from its 7,600 stores by Oct. 1, 2014. And the chain was fully aware that this would cost the company $2 billion in annual tobacco sales.

This is not the only fight tobacco is facing. Other pharmaceutical chains are sure to follow, opening up even more fronts against the besieged leaf.

State legislatures across the country are also upgrading their fight by joining the anti-tobacco forces in attempting to finally and for all time do away with tobacco in the U.S.

Most restaurants, bars, places of business and many public parks and museums across the nation are now off limits to smokers.

And more anti-smoking laws are making their way to state legislatures to tighten the screws even further. Kentucky, once a bellwether tobacco state, is facing tighter restrictions on tobacco.

Recently, Kentucky lawmakers have been pressed to eliminate all smoking in all Kentucky workplaces, joining some 24 other states considering similar laws.

Basically, the “Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition” is pushing for lawmakers to make it unlawful even to “smoke indoors.”

Could that ultimately mean one’s own home?

Several Kentucky towns have already banned “secondhand” smoke in public areas, as well as in working environments.

Earlier in February, a University of California cell biologist announced the evils of thirdhand smoke.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not secondhand smoke, but thirdhand smoke. Now we enter the age of “thirdhand” smoke.

Thirdhand smoke, the biologist reported in a news release, is the accumulation of chemicals and particles from smoke on clothing, furniture and anything else the “tobacco smoke” touches.

The report claimed that thirdhand smoke “lingers on surfaces for at least two months, even after the surfaces are cleaned,” and that not only can you not clean the thirdhand smoke off your tabletop, but it ages over time and becomes “progressively more toxic.”

It may or may not be noteworthy that the thirdhand report was published a month after the University of California banned tobacco, as well as so-called e-cigarettes, in any form on all of its campuses. And tests were carried out on three-week-old mice locked up in cages with some ventilation. The cages, the report said, contained objects slathered in secondhand smoke.

Now, Maryland is considering legislation that would ban smoking in many of its public parks and museums, and Alabama’s Legislature is considering a “Smoke-Free Air Act” that would ban smoking in public, period.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., the City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it illegal to smoke near bus stops and city building entrances.

An existing ordinance in the county already outlaws smoking near building entrances, ventilation systems and windows. The new ordinance, however, gives the Ann Arbor Police Department the power to stop a person and issue a ticket for $50 if anyone lights up in a smoke-free zone. The ticket comes only after the smoker has been asked to leave the smoke-free zone and refuses.

Now, The Smoking Bans are not new. They have been around since forever. There are accounts that even the Puritans banned smoking in the street in the 1600s.

And in some nations, smoking was punishable by death.

Tobacco, of course, has been around a long, long time. Native Americans handed Christopher Columbus a pipe when he landed in America. They told him they had been chewing and smoking the leaves for, oh, 5,000 years, for their health.

So, evidently The Bans and The Leaf have been at odds for lo these millennia.

America has seen the results of prohibition. It didn’t work with alcohol in the 1920s, as seen an interesting paper by an Auburn University professor.

The report says that Prohibition failed with alcohol and won’t work with tobacco. That paper can be found here.

It is also interesting to note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has dropped most of its statistics and reporting on tobacco.

The leaf is no longer included in most of its crop reports, leaving the inquisitive to run down state statistics on tobacco for themselves.

And just recently, North Carolina tobacco growers were highly upset to learn that the state’s Attorney General Roy Cooper and other attorneys general across the nation support a move to exclude tobacco from an upcoming important and very large U.S. international trade agreement.

The National Association of Attorneys General recently wrote to U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman, saying that including tobacco in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement could “jeopardize the states’ ability to regulate tobacco products.”

Many attorneys general from U.S. states and territories signed the letter. Agricultural experts claim that excluding tobacco from the agreement would put a crimp in the farm family’s ability to sell tobacco in the international marketplace. This could also lead to eliminating many other U.S. agricultural products from trade agreements.

The point is: The anti-tobacco zealots won’t stop until they have snuffed out the last cigarette, destroyed the last field of tobacco and relegated the pipe smoker to history.

We have no one to blame for this set of circumstances except ourselves. Pipe smokers are a small, easy-going bunch. But without getting too political, perhaps it is time to put together a political action committee of some sort, and then hit the halls of the Capitol with pipe-smoking lobbyists.

This is just a thought: If every pipe smoker in America donated say a buck to the effort, maybe that would fund someone savvy enough to take to the halls of Congress and pitch our message, which is that pipe tobacco is not cigarette tobacco; pipe tobacco is not smoked in the same fashion as cigarettes or even cigars; ours is, for the most part, a contemplative experience.

Statistics indicate that young people continue to experiment with tobacco. The young are intrigued with pipes and tobacco in a far more diverse way than, say, your grandfather, or even yourself.

Would it not be better that they migrate to the tobacco pipe instead of the pot pipe now legal in Colorado?

We are in a different time. It is, perhaps, on the order of what the cigar and pipe-smoking Sigmund Freud had in mind when he said: “Civilized society is perpetually menaced with disintegration through this primary hostility of men towards one another.”



Fred Brown
is a journalist who lives in Knoxville, TN. He will write this column for monthly. He can be contacted at


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