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by Heather Moore
art/Eric Spitler

The tobacco industry has taken a lot of heat from smokers who blame cigarette manufacturers for their smoking-related illnesses; but if anyone has reason to sue the big tobacco companies, it's the animals.

Joe Camel isn't the only animal who smokes. For decades, experimenters have repeatedly performed inhumane and irrelevant smoking-related tests on animals. Although animals would never normally encounter or imbibe tobacco on their own, dogs, primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, lambs, chickens, and other animals are mutilated, pumped full of nicotine, and forced to inhale smoke.

Dogs, for example, are forced to inhale cigarette smoke on mechanical ventilators. In one experiment, vivisectors cut holes in beagles' throats and made them breathe concentrated cigarette smoke for an entire year. Experimenters have also inserted electrodes into dogs' penises to measure the effect of cigarette smoke on their sexual performance. Masks are strapped on to the faces of rats and mice and cigarette smoke is pumped directly into their noses. Rhesus monkeys are confined to chairs with head devices and exposed to nicotine and caffeine to determine how these substances affect breathing.

Pity the Primate

As you read this, pregnant monkeys at the federally funded Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (ORPRC), at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), are confined in small, barren metal cages, while their fetuses are exposed to nicotine.

ORPRC experimenter Eliot Spindel has acknowledged that "the deleterious effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy are all too well established." Yet his five-year study, during which he will kill the baby monkeys and dissect their lungs, is funded with tax money through 2004.

ORPRC, the center that garnered headlines for "creating" ANDI, the sole survivor of 40 embryos implanted in rhesus monkeys in an attempt to create a baby monkey with a jellyfish gene, receives $15 million in federal tax dollars each year to subject approximately 2,500 primates to a variety of cruel experiments.

Matt Rossell, a former primate technician at ORPRC, is one of the icenter's most outspoken critics. Rossell worked at ORPRC for more than two years and was responsible for the psychological well being of the primates. According to Rossell, animal technicians at ORPRC frequently made mistakes because they were forced to rush through their jobs at an assembly line pace. The mistakes, such as giving injections to the wrong monkeys, lead to discomfort, stress, and incorrect data. Rossell is "convinced that no useful scientific research could ever come out of there."

Blood Money

Despite the wishes of Oregon voters and the wealth of data proving that cigarettes harm people OHSU will receive an additional $200 million to expand its research program. This money is part of the 1998 multi-state settlement agreement in which the tobacco industry paid the state of Oregon an initial amount of $27.5 million. The state was also rewarded a yearly payment, which began in 2000, of between $73.6 million and $96.3 million depending on various factors.

The tobacco settlement money was intended to reimburse the public for tax dollars spent on financing public health for those afflicted with tobacco-related illnesses. In November 2000, Oregon voters decisively defeated two proposals for spending the tobacco settlement payments, because they allocated little or no additional money for tobacco prevention.

Cigarette manufacturers and government agencies also fund smoking experiments on animals. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), in 1996 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded 123 grants totaling $28,099,418 for research focusing on cigarette smoke or nicotine. A full 40 percent of the grants involved animal experiments, on which NIH squandered $10,276,391.

Dr. Barnard reports that, in 1996, U.S. taxpayers coughed up:

  • $133,132 to John C. Longhurst at the University of CaliforniaDavis to study how nicotine affects the cardiac reflexes of cats.
  • $183,628 to Hakan W. Sundell at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University to use mechanically ventilated lambs to study nicotine exposure and its effects on ventilation. (Supposedly, this information relates to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in humans, although it has already been documented that maternal smoking accounts for about 30 percent of SIDS cases.)
  • $104,214toJames R. Pauly atthe University of Kentucky, whose grant abstract stated, "The outcome of pregnancy is adversely affected by maternal use of tobacco products." Nonetheless. he wanted to study the effects of nicotine on the unborn babies of female mice.
  • $100,199 to Barry A. Trimmer at Tufts University in Massachusetts to study nicotine-resistant tobacco hornworms, who mainly eat tobacco plants.

Even health charities, such as the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society, use donor contributions to impose tobacco addiction on animals.

An Industry Smokescreen

Despite the massive amounts of money spent on animal studies, everything we know about cancer and other smoking related illnesses has come from human epidemiological (population) and I clinical studies, not from animal experiments. Ironically, animal experiments misled the public for years because rats, mice, dogs, and other animals do not develop lung cancer as humans do.

The tobacco industry used this misleading data to its advantage for years, claiming that smoking did not cause lung cancer in humans. According to the California-based animal rights group In Defense of Animals (IDA), one experimenter reported in a leading medical journal in 1957 that "the failure of many investigators to induce experimental cancers, except in a handful of cases, during fifty years of trying, casts serious doubt on the validity of the cigarette-lung cancer theory." However, 27 human studies had already established a clear link between smoking and cancer.

There are now reams of data on the link between smoking and cancer, but the tobacco industry is still desperately grasping for anything that might convince the public that smoking isn't dangerous.

It's time for the tobacco industry to pull its head out of the cloud of smoke and face the facts: Smoking causes cancer. It is also the leading cause of pulmonary illness and death in the United States, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, influenza, and pneumonia. In addition, smoking contributes to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and birth defects.

Yet the pointless experiments continue. Millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of animal lives are wasted on experiments that are so cruel and unnecessary they have been illegal in Britain since 1997. U.S. federal law does not even require tobacco products to be tested on animals. The money wasted on worthless animal experiments could be much better used for education, health services, or drug addiction treatment programs for pregnant women.

Snuffing Out Animal Experiments

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is out to light a fire under tobacco companies until they snuff out animal tests for good. PETA is currently targeting Philip Morris, the number one cigarette manufacturer in the country. Using a parody of Philip Morris' Marlboro cigarettes, PETA developed a billboard advertisement proclaiming, "Murderer," to warn smokers that Philip Morris kills animals in cruel laboratory experiments.

In April 2001, PETA introduced a shareholder's resolution asking Phillip Morris to quit funding experiments on animals. The resolution would also have required the company to direct that its tobacco settlement contributions to the Council for Tobacco Research or other research organization be used only for non-animal research.

The resolution served its purposečit generated a lot of discussion about smoking experiments on animals. PETA's matchbooks, advising, "Don't get burned by Philip Morris. They're using your money to hurt animals," were distributed at the shareholder's meeting and gave many people cause to reconsider their support of the tobacco giant.

Apparently, Phillip Morris doesn't take kindly to criticism. The company recently announced plans to change its name to Altria, perhaps to distance itself from anti-smoking backlash. (It's been reported that Phillip Morris has already bought Web sites with names like AltriaKills.com so that its opponents would not get to them first.) But Phillip Morris doesn't need to change its name, it needs to change its horrible practice of testing on animals.

People should realize that if they smoke, they not only put their life at risk, they also help pay to inflict suffering on innocent animals. The best way for smokers to help animals is to butt out cigarettes for good. Both animals and people will breathe a little easier.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The March of Dimes Hurting Not Helping

Under the pretext of researching birth defects, the March of Dimes has funded numerous experiments on animais. March of Dimes experimenters have addicted pregnant animals to alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine, even though we already know that these substances can harm a developing baby.

These substances are not always administered to animals in the same manner in which humans are exposed to them. In some experiments, for example, animals are given nicotine intravenously, whereas humans are exposed to nicotine by inhaling cigarette smoke.

In one experiment funded by the March of Dimes, vivisectors injected nicotine into pregnant rats via electric pumps that were implanted in their backs. Even the authors of the study pointed out that "the chronic infusion used in this study ... does not replicate the human situation because it does not have the repeated boli of nicotine that results from repeated cigarette smoking in humans, nor does it have the diurnal variation of high nicotine levels during the day and lower levels at night."

The results of these experiments are not reliable, as vast differences exist between species, and data taken from one species cannot always be correctly applied to another. Different species of animals vary enormously in their reactions to toxins and diseases, as well as in their metabolism of drugs.

Animals are also rarely given chemicals, such as nicotine, on the same time schedule as humans. Usually, animals are given large amounts of a substance over a short period of time, while humans are generally exposed to small amounts over long periods of time.

The evidence is already in: Pregnant women, especially, should not smoke. Human studies have shown that, infant deaths would decrease by as much as 10 percent if women who smoke (25 percent of pregnant women) gave up cigarettes during pregnancy.

There is no reason for the March of Dimes to torture animals and waste donor contributions. Many similar charities, including Easter Seals and Birth Defect Research for Children, put all their funds into programs that directly benefit babies and never waste a penny on cruel animal experiments. Check out MarchOfCrimes.com for more details on how the March of Dimes hurts animals instead of helping babies.

Win the War on Cancer

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Conquest of Cancer Act, initiating the "war on cancer." That "war" has become a losing battle. Since 1971. the National Cancer Institute has grown into a $2 billion-a-year federal funding source for cancer researchers, and the American Cancer Society has doubled its annual income from public contributions. Every year, $30 billion is spent on cancer research, detection, and treatment in the United States, yet cancer remains our nation's number two killer.

It doesn't have to be this way. According to the World Health Organization, up to 90 percent of all cancers are preventable. Clinical studies have proved that most cancers are caused by smoking and by eating high-fat foods, foods high in animal protein. and foods containing artificial colors and other additives. Smoking also promotes atherosclerosis and robs the body of oxygen. It is one of the primary factors that cause heart attacks, as well as cancer.

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