WHAT Were They THINKING?

By now, it is clear to many Americans that many of the big corporations that have such a strong influence in Washington D.C. care little if their actions harm the planet and injure or even kill people–as long company profits can be assured. Take cigarettes, for example. It is now known that tobacco companies knew about the harmful effects of their product, and not only continued to sell and market it, but put in additives that would actually make them more addictive! Ethically deficient corporations have also been exposed in their cover-up of dangers related to asbestos.

Thanks to the courage of an attorney named Karl Asch back in 1977, we now know that asbestos companies were fully aware of the effects of asbestos since the 1930s. Since many of these corporate leaders sit on multiple boards of directors and frequently move in the same social circles, it’s hard to believe that tobacco companies weren’t aware of asbestos dangers as well. Nonetheless, as late as the early 1960s, the general public was still being duped into believing that asbestos was a “good thing.” Small wonder then that between 1952 and mid-1956, the makers of Kent cigarettes marketed what they called their “Micronite” filter. At a time when Americans were very interested in science, the word “Micronite” sounded very “sciencey.”

The claim that (according to an ad in the 20 November 1960 issue of the New York Mirror magazine), “More Scientists and Educators Smoke Kent With the Micronite Filter Than Any Other Cigarette!” and that it was endorsed by Boston Celtics all-star Bob Cousy added a great deal of credibility. What Americans didn’t know was that “Micronite” was actually crocidolite–an exceptionally deadly form of amphibole asbestos. It is now known that the risk of lung cancer in smokers exposed to asbestos is 9,000% greater than that of non-smokers. It is a bullet that Basketball Hall of Famer Cousy (a donor to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) has dodged; this past summer, still in good health, he celebrated his 79th birthday. This is amazing, considering a study in 1995 demonstrating that someone smoking one pack a day would ingest 131 million crocidolite fibers into his/her lungs over the course of a year.