Monthly Archives: July 2006

The Tobacco Companies: Remember Rope-a-Dope?

As I sat through two related sessions on tobacco company marketing behaviors yesterday afternoon at the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, I couldn’t help but think of the analogy between the behavior of the tobacco companies and Muhammad Ali’s tactic of bobbing and weaving to avoid his opponents’ punches.


Whether you consider the tobacco companies immoral or just amoral, the reality is they are in business to produce a product that is designed to kill or injure when used as directed.


That fact then begs the question of how companies making profits from death and illness can survive in a socially responsible, moral society.


For Ali, his tactics included something called the “rope-a-dope.”


The riddle: How are the tobacco companies’ strategies to remain viable in a moral society similar to the tactics of a boxer?


The answer: they both are well-honed practitioners of a technique called “rope-a-dope.”


What, you may ask, is “rope-a-dope?” 


Here is the definition taken from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia:


“Rope-a-dope is a boxing fighting style used most famously by Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman.  The … Continue reading →

The New Bold Idea In Tobacco Control:Are We Ready?

Bold new ideas may be the next necessary step in the fight against tobacco. 


And bold doesn’t begin to describe the suggestion of one presenter at this morning’s plenary session at the 13th World Conference on Tobacco or Health now in its third day in Washington DC.


What was clear from the discussions I heard this morning is that we can make progress doing what we are already doing and what we know to do, but that in fact there are inevitably going to be limits to what those strategies can accomplish.  We need new ideas. 


Taxation, smoke-free communities, smoking cessation assistance, marketing restrictions and advertising bans are among those strategies that for some time have been the underpinnings of our tobacco control strategies.


As more than one speaker noted, in the United States these are the strategies that have been implemented by various communities and states around the country.


But, the United States is noted for its lack of a national strategy. 


In fact, the one federal effort that was made to effectively control tobacco products, namely the declaration by the former FDA commissioner David Kessler many years ago … Continue reading →

The Tobacco Treaty: What It Means To The World

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is certainly a topic that is on the minds of many of the attendees at the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health here in Washington DC.


This morning’s plenary session was devoted to a discussion of that treaty and its potential to control the worldwide tobacco pandemic.


Also not far from the thoughts of the folks who attended the session was the fact that the United States, although having signed the treaty, has not yet begun the process to ratify it.  The barbs thrown our way were sometimes subtle, and sometimes not so subtle.


The introductory speaker, Yumiko Mochizuki-Kobayashi from Switzerland, noted that ending the epidemic in the United States didn’t come soon enough for millions of Americans who lost their lives to tobacco.   As a result of various interventions in the US, cancer mortality eventually started to decline in the 1990’s.  But it did take substantial efforts over a prolonged time to achieve this result, and the work is still not done.  


The speaker listed an important series of steps that one needs to keep in mind to … Continue reading →

Taking The Fight Against Tobacco To The World

Today I joined thousands of my colleagues attending a symposium hosted by Larry King and Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN.  The subject was international tobacco control. The session was a combined program of the UICC World Cancer Congress and the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, which starts today.


As I entered the hall at the beginning of the program, the words uttered in the opening video gripped my attention. 


An airline attendant who is active in tobacco control efforts talked about “tobacco rape” as she made the point that you can’t step outside an airplane at 35,000 feet to get away from tobacco smoke.


The participants in the program covered a number of aspects of the tobacco control issue, and the battles that have been fought and the needs that have to be addressed worldwide.  Some of the panelists that appeared during the 90 minute program are well known to many of us, others not so well known.


The emphasis was on the global control of tobacco, and what must be done throughout the world to stem the scourge of the forthcoming epidemic.


The importance of the Framework Convention … Continue reading →

A World in Need: The Cancer Epidemic

Today is a day of transition at the international cancer meetings in Washington, DC.


As the UICC 2006 World Cancer Congress draws to a close, the 13th World Conference on tobacco OR Health is beginning, bringing over 4500 tobacco control researchers and advocates to sessions running through this coming Saturday.


This morning, the focus was on cancer prevention and the cancer control issues faced by countries throughout the world. 


The highlight of the session was the premier presentation of the 2006 World Cancer Declaration  (posting of the actual declaration was pending at the time this blog was published) where the participants in the Congress, from 139 countries, put in place a statement intended to focus attention on the world’s growing epidemic of cancer and what needs to be done now to stem that epidemic.


During that session, Dr. John Seffrin, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society, highlighted what he called the “seven facts of life” for effective cancer control:


Fact #1: Cancer is a global problem and tumor burden is increasing worldwide.


Fact #2: The amount of information to control cancer is unprecedented.  By doing what … Continue reading →

Katie Couric: A Very Special Day

I had a remarkable experience today.


As I have written in my entries from the past couple of days, I am presently attending the international cancer conferences in Washington DC.


Last week I received a call from the folks in our Florida division, who asked if I could attend an event for the following Monday in Tampa.  Today was the day for that event.


Katie Couric was making a tour of six cities in the United States as part of her new responsibilities with CBS, which includes hosting their daily evening news program.


My American Cancer Society colleagues in Florida wanted to take advantage of that opportunity to kick off their $25 million, 5 year campaign to raise awareness of colorectal cancer screening.  Since the Society was the local focus of Ms. Couric’s trip to Tampa, they realized this was a rare opportunity to announce and kick off this campaign. 


I was asked to join them and welcome Ms. Couric to their city and their state.  As a result, I took a detour from my Washington duties to head off to Tampa, Florida to participate.


I … Continue reading →

Can The Rest of The World Keep Pace?

I attended a session yesterday which quickly grabbed my attention when I walked in the room and the speaker said, “We have been crawling and now we can fly.”


He was referring to the fact that the pace of developments in research and the practical, meaningful applications of those developments to patient care has increased so substantially as to be beyond comprehension.


The speaker, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who is currently the acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was outlining the changes that are occurring in cancer research and cancer treatment, and the implications of those changes in many areas of medical practice.


He referred to a process where we are moving from macroscopic care, to microscopic medicine, and now finally to molecular medicine.


Where we used to treat patients with their cancers, we are now treating the actual cancer cell itself.   Research has opened the era where we now understand how the cancer cell works, and what avenues are available to reverse those changes and push the cell back into normality.


The impact of these developments will make our treatments more predictable, and perhaps avoid the long and costly process that … Continue reading →

Report from the UICC: What The World Needs Now


This week marks the occasion of several internationally important cancer meetings in Washington DC.


Last evening, the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) opened its quadrennial international cancer meeting, bringing together cancer experts from 139 countries.


The UICC is the only international non-governmental organization dedicated exclusively to the global control of cancer, with a vision of a world where cancer is eliminated as a major life-threatening disease for future generations.


The American Cancer Society is proud of the fact that our Chief Executive Officer, Dr. John Seffrin, has served for the past four years as president of the UICC.  The Society is the host organization for this year’s conference, which is attended by over 2200 experts in cancer research, cancer treatment and cancer control.


The opening sessions highlighted presentations by Dr. Seffrin, and former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife Barbara, among others.


It stands to reason that we spend much of our attention and focus on what impacts cancer in the United States.  How we improve prevention and early detection, and how we assure patients with cancer have access to the best available care—no matter where they … Continue reading →