Shame on Eastman Chemical – redux

I posted an item here on January 13, 2009, criticizing Eastman Chemical, and I also sent a similar letter to Rudy Baum, the editor of Chemical & Engineering News, which Mr. Baum offered to publish. (I have great respect for Mr. Baum. Indeed, I am forever grateful for his publication of an earlier letter of mine, on September 14, 2004, which led to the formation of Chemists Without Borders in the first place.) Subsequently, I received a letter from Mr. Baum saying he’d changed his mind about the Eastman letter. Here’s what he said.

Dear Dr. Gerber:

Upon reflection, I have decided not to publish your letter on Eastman Chemical Co. and its production of material for cigarette filters. As much as you find cigarette smoking distasteful, it remains a legal activity. Eastman Chemical is a corporation, and it is not its business to police people’s unhealthy activities.


Rudy M. Baum

Besides the impact of smoking on smokers themselves, the industry which grows tobacco in many places has a terrible impact on the workers who do the farming of the tobacco. For instance, in places like Bangladesh, where Virginia tobacco is cultivated for US companies, the workers are kept intentionally in the dark about the risks to their occupational health and safety.

What do you think?

0 thoughts on “Shame on Eastman Chemical – redux”

  1. I think Rudy caved to the possbility that Eastman would be pissed and pull advertising revenue from C&E News. Lame

  2. As smoking habits change in the US and Europe companies have increased their efforts to advertise cigarettes in developing countries. Between 2005 when I went on my first mission to Kenya and Cameroon cigarettes and smokers were hardly noticeable. Today it is! It is heart breaking to imagine that today we fight AIDS TB and Malaria knowing tomorrow, we will fight lung cancer and other smoke related illnesses in Africa.
    Dr. Rolande Hodel

  3. Legal raw material in a legal final product. I think you are looking at the issue wrong. If you have problems with how another raw material is manufactured/harvested then you should be barking at them not Eastman.

    Yes smoking is bad for you, as is drinking alcohol, coffee (hypertension), most pharmaceuticals, high fructose corn syrup, modelling glue/adhesivies, etc.

    Its all degrees, and shades of grey. The only black and white is its a legal raw material in a legal product.

  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone. We welcome support for a new initiative to challenge tobacco companies and their treatment of workers. Philip, would you like to join our effort?

    In addition, however, it is precisely (or should I say, imprecisely?) because it’s “all degrees, and shades of grey” that civilized people need to take a stand on all aspects of the issue. It’s not just a matter of whether it’s legal, either. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right or make it a good idea. Companies, politicians, etc., knowingly aid and abet one another in a process designed to promote and expand this “bad for you” habit (see Rolande’s comment above). “Bad for you”, of course, is as euphemistic as one can get considering that in many countries’ cigarette packets must be labeled, “SMOKING KILLS”. Now, we even have the US Supreme Court ruling against tobacco company fraud. My original criticism of Eastman Chemicals remains for aiding and abetting such fraudsters. Let’s do more!

  5. Eastman Chemical plans to eliminate 1,200 jobs and cut capital spending by $100..managerial ranks. The cuts, which represent 7.5 percent of Eastman’s total work force, are expected to save Eastman an additional $100 million.

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