Nurses Take On Big Tobacco: The Nightingales Fight the Good Fight

by Christine Contillo, BSN, BS, RN-C

Nightingales Nurses Julia Buss and Carol Southard at 2010 PMI shareholders' meeting, NYC

Last month I joined three other nurses from across the country at the annual Philip Morris International (PMI) shareholders’ meeting in New York City. Wearing lab coats to represent the fact that we’re committed health professionals, we each used our two minutes of the question-and-answer period to confront PMI Chairman and CEO Louis Camilleri about the company’s questionable practices in targeting new (and often underage) smokers in developing nations. With patient advocacy, science, and education on our side, we challenged the heavily advertised and misrepresentative claims of Big Tobacco (PMI currently owns seven of the 15 top-selling cigarette brands worldwide).

Ruth Malone, a nurse and professor of nursing and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, started the Nightingales as a result of her examination of internal tobacco industry documents. Among these papers was a memo declaring that because nurses command respect, they could prove formidable opponents if they were better organized. Since 2004, the Nightingales have attended the annual shareholders’ meeting to focus attention on the suffering and adverse health effects of cigarette smoking that we nurses witness daily. We’ve read letters from patients and their families, challenged the company’s claim of commitment to harm reduction and addiction prevention, and generally try to expose its methods of portraying smoking as fun and glamorous. This year, when Camilleri said in his opening remarks that it is the sale of loose cigarettes that poses a danger to public health, I pointed out that all cigarettes are a danger. He replied, “Not so . . .

[because] it is unknown what chemicals or additives may be in loose or unbranded cigarettes.” Then he asked if the nurses would partner with PMI to try to enact legislation banning the sale of loose cigarettes—no doubt knowing that any such collaboration would only lend PMI medical respectability.

Please visit and consider joining us next year. And read more about the Nightingales’ past efforts here and here. There are nearly 3 million nurses in this country; together we really can make a difference.

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2016-11-21T13:17:26+00:00 June 2nd, 2010|nursing perspective|3 Comments

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  1. Maria, RN June 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Speaking of political action – for all you RN activists out there: FYI – There is a bill that was introduced May 20, 2009, into Congress “H.R. 2536: Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act”, the bill basically will allow foreign nurses to have an easier time to get a visa to work in the USA and give them grants to further their education. Right now the bill is in the first steps of the legislative process…so, now is the time to write/call your congress person and let them know the struggles we newly graduated, local RN’s are having securing a job and to quash the bill before it goes any further!

  2. mona June 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    my 2010 mission is to have at least 10 friends/family members quit smoking

  3. peggy mcdaniel June 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

    KEep up the good work! Every little bit DOES make a difference.

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