Tag Archives: Health

Indonesia’s smoking clinic featured on Al-Jazeera

I’ve written quite a bit about a bunch of Indonesians who claim they can treat cancer and all sorts of other ailments with magic cigarettes. It’s bizarre stuff. The Sydney Morning Herald and AFP news agency have picked up on the story. Now Al-Jazeera and the Global Post are joining in. The images tell 1000 words, but still the government has done nothing to intervene:

Cranberries etc peddle tobacco to Indonesian kids

Delores O'Riordan of the Cranberries giving a peace sign - or is she asking her fans for a smoke?

It’s that time of year again. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was ranting and raving against the likes of Wolfmother and Chris Carrabba for accepting tobacco sponsorship to play in Indonesia. Well, another crop of muso sell-outs led by the Cranberries (that’s what’s-her-face pictured left) are lining up like dirty little piggies at the tobacco-money trough to play at the Java Rockin’ Land music festival from July 22 to 24.

In other words, they’re telling Indonesian kids it’s cool and sophisticated and very, very sexy to smoke. Nice one, creeps.

Here’s a message from a kind reader, Marita Hefler, drawing my attention to the event and a petition against the show’s tobacco sponsorship. Marita writes:

Hi there, great writing – love your posts about the tobacco industry in Indonesia. Java Rockin’ Land is happening again 22-24 July, with Gudang Garam the main sponsor. There is a petition urging all the bands involved to demand the sponsorship be dumped, see: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-international-bands-to-drop-tobacco-sponsorship-in-indonesia. So far, no artist has responded. Yet again, double standards prevail in the lineup: the Good Charlotte frontman is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and he and his brother have their own children’s foundation; 30 Seconds to Mars are active in environmental causes, and lead singer Jared Leto support Elysium, a charity to support critically ill children; Neon Trees have said they don’t want to be part of tobacco sponsorship and have played at an anti-smoking gig; Ed Kowalczyk is a World Vision rep. Blood Red Shoes have supported a cancer charity, and The Cranberries are well-known for speaking out about political issues. Apparently international bands just dump their principles in a bin before they board a plane to Jakarta. Disgraceful.

To these musicians I say: Do the right thing. Follow the example of Alicia Keys or Kelly Clarkson, and demand the tobacco companies cancel their sponsorship of the event. Failing this, cancel your shows. That’s the only way you can salvage your credibility in the eyes of people who care about kids in countries like Indonesia, where they are the explicit targets of an aggressive and foul Big Tobacco marketing campaign the likes of which the West has not seen in decades (because it was made illegal). By playing at this event you are being used by tobacco companies to create young nicotine addicts in a way that would be unacceptable and illegal in your home countries.

Acceptance of the tobacco money means you are either desperate for cash, or so greedy that you don’t give a damn about your young fans. Or both. Oink oink!

(Photo courtesy of Joe Crimmings Photography)

Tobacco ad of the day: miracle electro-smokes!

On world No Tobacco Day, your featured cigarette ad from times past and, in Indonesia, present:

I’m not sure if you can read the newspaper “article”. It says:

Scientific miracles never cease!… Now see what modern electronics has done to increase your cigarette enjoyment! With electronic accuracy, Accu Ray checks and controls the making of your Chesterfield. For the first time you get a perfect [even smoke] from end-to-end. You’ll marvel at the extra flavour that comes through. Yet because this measurably better cigarette smokes more slowly – you enjoy a cool mildness never possible before. From first puff to last, Chesterfield gives you a smoke measurably smoother… cooler… best for you! In the whole wide world, no cigarette satisfies like a Chesterfield!

Looks like they also boost eyebrow growth (obviously tastes have changes in that department over the years … ).

Those of us from developed countries might laugh and recognise this as the old game Big Tobacco played on us for years – dressing up toxic cigarettes in pseudo-science and technology and selling them as healthy, life-enhancing products.

In developing countries like Indonesia – the new front line for international efforts to reduce death and disease from smoking – it’s not funny. Cigarette advertising is ubiquitous and The Jakarta Post, the country’s oldest English-language broadsheet newspaper, has repeatedly published uncritical articles in its editorial pages about how local scientists are using advances in nantotechnology to make “divine cigarettes” that are not only healthy, they can treat cancer. Even Chesterfield didn’t go that far.

(For more old tobacco ads, see Stanford School of Medicine’s great gallery)

No Tobacco Day in Indonesia? Try a ‘health cigarette’

As the world marks No Tobacco Day, Indonesia is again in the spotlight and The Jakarta Post has again covered itself in infamy. On the eve of today’s event, the English-language daily published another installment in its bizarre campaign to promote “healthy cigarettes”. Using pseudo-scientific language, the author of an “opinion” piece claims that cancer patients are being successfully treated with scientifically altered cigarettes that vacuum up all harmful “free radicals” linked mercury.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny:

… apparently, a biochemist from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) has found a way to do just that — neutralise tobacco through a nanobiological process. i.e. a process characterised by the interplay between physics, materials science, synthetic organic chemistry, engineering and biology. The researcher has successfully treated a number of terminal lung cancer patients through a detoxification method that includes smoking the “healthy cigarettes” of her invention.

The unnamed scientist sounds suspiciously like Dr. Greta Zahar, of “Divine Cigarettes” fame. But Alita Damar, the writer of the opinion piece, seems to follow the template set by Australian contributor Murray Clapham last year and doesn’t name the mastermind behind this historic medical breakthrough. Best to keep all those desperate cancer sufferers guessing! She continues:

Indeed, the nanostructure molecular blocks of these health cigarettes remove the electrons of the free radical gases contained in tobacco smoke, in particular those promoted by mercury, thereby neutralising the ill-effects of smoking. Unlike regular cigarettes, this cigarette smoke is “odorless”.

So all the harmful effects of smoking, from impotence to stroke and heart disease and emphysema, not to mention cancer, are nullified by this new treatment. And what of the doubters? They’re dismissed out of hand:

Naturally, the controversial method has raised controversy [spellbinding wordplay here] in the wake of the anti-tobacco campaign here and around the world. Speculation has also been rife that she might work for the tobacco industry. It’s not true, of course. Years ago most patients would only survive in the next few months due to their poor prognostics, but many of whom are still alive.

And what, dare we ask, is the evidence that smoking such cigarettes cures or halts the spread of cancer? None. Unless you factor in the power of the placebo. In the absence of any evidence, we must conclude that the free radical, nano-engineering blah blah being touted here is just another form of “alternative medicine” which desperately ill people will try as a last resort. And as The Economist noted last week, there is very little evidence that alternative medicines work beyond the placebo effect, which may be considerable.

Damar claims that the mysterious researchers are part of the “complexity science” movement, and she notes that they have “presented” their findings at international meetings:

As controversial as it may seem, the detoxification process is based on meta-engineering, for example, the development of new knowledge…

This science, which includes the less popular quantum physics, deals with cells and interaction between cells. It thereby enables a better understanding on how the whole body system functions, thus leading to the achievement of “holistic health”. Hence, we are speaking of a science that potentially brings about breakthroughs in medical science which is generally based on reductionism, or a science that may well “revolutionise” medicine.

The detoxification method has been presented in a number of international forums attended by scientists working on Theoretical Physics and Nano or Computer Science, such as the recent ICEME (International Conference on Engineering and Meta-Engineering) in Florida, the US.

I looked up the proceedings of this conference (which one anonymous blogger described as “junk” ) and found the paper to which Damar appears to be referring. It’s by Sutiman B. Sumitro, identified as representing the Department of Biology and “Laboratory of Molecular Biology” at Brawijaya University in West Java.

The paper is titled “Study on Biradical Based Complex Structure: A PossibleWay to Find out Natural Nanoparticles from the Human Body”. A paper with the same name by Sutiman Sumitro  also appears on the fascinating website of something called the Indonesia Nanobiology Institute.  Take the time to read the 4-page paper and decide for yourself if it’s credible. I’m not a scientist so I can only guess.

Sumitro is a long-standing associate of Zahar, that “strange granny” I’ve mentioned before. They seem to be the driving forces of the “nanobiology institute” and co-author articles posted there. Check out the paper titled “Overcoming Cigarette for Health without altering the Flavor (Brief illustration of scientific background and evidences)”. Fascinating. It says Zahar is from the “Free Radicals Institute” of Malang. So many institutes I just can’t keep up. Here’s the abstract, or as the authors put it, the “Basic Concept and Philosophy”:

This is about technology to eliminate free-radicals and to transform particulates contained in the smoke having characteristic to develop order. The idea is based on the assumption that in the biological system, life is an ordered system with internal driven activities. We consider a complexity concepts cover self-organization and edge-of-chaos phenomena in the living systems. As may we know that in the basic process of life (called metabolism), there is ceaseless flow of energy and matter through a network of chemical reactions, which enables a living organism to continually generate, repair and perpetuate itself. Thermodynamically, the ordered structure of the living system is maintained by continually exert entropy to the outside of the system.

Pretty clear, yeah? They even include a diagram to illustrate “complexity in living system”:

So, we can rest assured the Nobel committee is on its way to Bandung or Malang (or wherever) to bestow its honours on Dr. Zahar (who has previously stated she has no interest in having her work reviewed by “Western” scientists), her colleague  Sutiman Sumitro and their groundbreaking team. When are all those silly Western evidence-freaks going to come to their senses?

Sadly, The Jakarta Post isn’t the only outlet for those willing to peddle this stuff. Take a look at this blog for more.

For a dose of reality, check out this story in the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday, with the depressing stats on smoking in Indonesia.

Or check the National Cancer Institute’s website and read what it has to say about free radicals (such as oxygen) and antioxidants (such as vitamin C). It says that while serious research is ongoing, recent “large-scale, randomised clinical trials reached inconsistent conclusions” about whether antioxidants slow or prevent the development of cancer. As for actually reversing that damage, there seems to be no evidence at all.

There is also serious research being done into the use of nanoparticles to fight cancer. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, have sent gold nanoparticles into the nuclei of cancer cells and killed them (NB: sent particles into cancer cells, not used particles to hoover up free radicals). Their research has been cited as a communication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

I’d love to know who is behind these opinion pieces and features in The Jakarta Post, coming as they do on the eve of No Tobacco Day and as the government tries to improve its appalling record on smoking regulations. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the tobacco industry’s advertising dollars, would it?

Tobacco ad of the day: the kids are not alright

This one goes out to all the bands that are playing at the Java Rockin’Land festival from Friday to Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia. They’re all a bunch of monkeys doing tricks for the man from the tobacco company for scraps of pretty green. Totally uncool.

This American tobacco ad from the 1950s is targeting teenagers. These days it would be illegal, because of what we now know about the connection between tobacco marketing, addiction, disease and death.

But Indonesia might as well be back in the 1950s. In fact, it is subject to a bigger and bolder tobacco company campaign to create teenage cigarette addicts, and the bands playing this weekend are complicit up to their greedy necks.

A special mention must go to Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, who a little more than two months ago played a benefit show before an audience of cancer survivors to raise money for cancer care. I guess Big Tobacco just made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Special mention should also go to the promoters, who argue that they are not forcing teenagers to light up. Smoking is a choice, they say. Yes it is, an extremely bad choice which responsible adults should not be promoting as cool or glamorous or masculine or rebellious or anything else but stupid and dangerous.

The bands who are playing this gig are puppets, nothing more. If they ever claimed to have any artistic integrity they are sell-outs of the lowest kind.

And the officials who allow Big Tobacco to run riot in Indonesia are even worse.

This is what Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Jakarta-based Association of Southeast Asian Nations  (ASEAN), said this week at a conference on smoking in Asia:

I think the people must be informed that their health is being compromised by some of these public officials who are puppets of a campaign of persuasion. And the irony is these people know better, they don’t smoke, the entire family doesn’t smoke. They become the tools and the partners of strategies almost willingly and that is something that has to be corrected, but it is an uphill struggle.

Tools, puppets, monkeys … whichever way you cut it this song remains the same.

Here is a list of the Big Tobacco stooges who are scheduled to play at the pro-smoking Java Rockin’Land: ARKARNA, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, DATAROCK, DI-RECT, GALAXY 7, LIVING THINGS, MUTEMATH, NOT CALLED JINX, SOCIAL CODE, STEREOPHONICS, STEVE FISTER, Stryper, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, THE VINES, WOLFMOTHER (plus a host of local acts).

(For more old tobacco ads check out the Stanford School of Medicine)

Aussie bands skewered over Indonesian tobacco deal

Australian bands Wolfmother and The Vines have been challenged to justify their participation in a tobacco-sponsored rock festival in Indonesia next month.

The event is the Gudang Garam InterMusic Java Rockin’land 2010 in Jakarta on October 8-10. The Smashing Pumpkins will headline the festival, supported by a host of other foreign acts including Stereophonics and (ironically) The Living Things. It will be the biggest rock music event in Indonesia’s history.

It’s being sponsored by Gudang Garam, a major producer of deadly kretek clove cigarettes. The company owns an Indonesian badminton team and is a prolific promoter of popular music, which it uses to increase tobacco addiction rates among young people.

Writing on The Drum on the ABC’s website, Simon Chapman and Becky Freeman of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health describe Indonesia’s tobacco regulations as ranking among “basket-case nations (such as Somalia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and the USA)”.

Indonesia has virtually no tobacco control policies or significant education programs. British American Tobacco (Bentoel) and Philip Morris (Sampoerna) are both massively engaged in Indonesia, a kind of last frontier of Marlboro Country. Despite repeated unctuous statements from both companies about their corporate social responsibility and not wanting youth to smoke, they are frequent sponsors of youth-oriented music events. Admission often includes free cigarettes.

But the authors reserve most of their scorn for Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale, who claimed in a recent interview that there was some sort of righteous goodness about his musical life:

Now all I’ve got to do is make music. That’s all I’ve got to do. Music and playing shows is cool. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not killing people. It’s not starting a war, I’m not polluting the atmosphere, I’m just making music.

Chapman and Freeman highlight the stunning hypocrisy of the singer’s attitude by pointing to the fact that tobacco industry marketing is a “key factor” in the deaths of about six million people a year from smoking-related diseases.

It’s pretty easy to poke fun at the utterances of some rock musicians, but there are times when no amount of cruelty is enough. Chapman and Freeman continue:

In his interview, Stockdale reflected on his newborn daughter “And you look at her and you think, she’s four months old. What kind of world is she going to live in when she’s, you know, 40? That’s a scary thought.” The scary thought is that nations like Indonesia can still play open host to massive scale tobacco promotions and that international entertainers are lining up to help the companies sell as much tobacco as possible.

To get an idea of just how repulsive Indonesian tobacco advertising can be, take a look at Gudang Garam’s explanation of its involvement in the local music scene. The company says it has a commitment to Indonesian rock music and wants to “open the eyes of the international world that Indonesia is conducive”. Right… Could whoever wrote that please take an English lesson? It continues in similar, sickening style:

… we feel that compared to other genres, rock embodies of soul, spirit and personality of the Gudang Garam International brand, Adamant, Masculine, Courageous and Modern, and also continues to evolve.

Through this grand event, Gudang Garam International also attempts create [sic] a closer proximity for the genre’s younger crowds to their idols and continue [sic] to inspire them to create new work of arts [sic] and shake the nation’s, and event [sic] international, rock music scene.

And if we can get a few thousand more kids to became addicted to our deadly product that would be good too! I wonder how Stockdale would feel knowing that his “courageous” and “masculine” image is just what this tobacco company wants to make its drug attractive to teenagers.

Chapman and Freeman conclude their piece by asking whether Wolfmother will follow the examples of Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys, both of whom became embroiled in tobacco sponsorship scandals in Indonesia. Both women played their Jakarta gigs only after the tobacco companies dropped their advertising.

Other artists – such as James Blunt, Jamiroquai, Incubus, Anggun and Slash – have felt no such qualms about selling their young fans to the tobacco industry.

(Photo of Stockdale via Wikimedia Commons)

Maybe Elle would like to donate to rhino conservation

Sumatran rhinos

Elle Macpherson has admitted – and then denied – that she takes rhino horn as some kind of traditional medicine, even though it’s illegal and there is no evidence that it has any significant or unique health benefit.

Oh yeah, and its kinda driving the big mammals to extinction.

Asked why she takes ground rhino horn, she told The Times online that she couldn’t really say. “(It) works for me,” she said, via Twitter. Not exactly a convincing endorsement for the medicinal qualities of what amounts to a giant fingernail.

The 47-year-old quickly tried to cover her tracks, once she realised how far down her own throat she had managed to stuff her delicate foot, and once she had been condemned by conservationists around the world.

It was just a joke, she said. Lighten up!

She told news.com.au that she had “never knowingly consumed or encouraged the use or consumption of any products which contain material derived from endangered species”.

She regretted “any distress or offence that her banter with an interviewer might have caused” and insisted she was “fundamentally opposed to any activity which is detrimental to the protection of endangered animals”.

Rhino conservationists who have devoted their lives to ending the barbaric trade in rhino horns are dismayed. That a supermodel and television personality would publicly joke (if indeed that’s all it was) about such a crime, and thereby encourage others to participate in the trade of critically endangered species, is appalling.

Mongabay notes that the consumption of rhino horn is the main reason for the rhino decline worldwide, and  the complete extinction of four species.

Four of the remaining five rhino species are facing extinction, including the Javan (less than 50 individuals) and the Sumatran (less than 250 adults).

Meanwhile, according to the Sapa news agency, poachers in helicopters recently cut the horns off a heavily drugged white rhino with a chain-saw on a reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The animal survived, but sustained serious injuries to its skull and nasal cavity. It is believed poachers also captured the cow’s month-old calf and took it away,” the report said.

Maybe those poachers heard that “The Body” was marketing their wares and decided to it was time to expand their business.

(photo courtesy of wIanb via flickr)