Pigs in Cigs
Our first guest blogger is Stan Shatenstein, a tobacco control expert from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Stan is the coordinator of GLOBALink News & Information Monitoring Initiative (an international listserv of tobacco control stakeholders) and a Tobacco Control journal Contributing Editor, responsible for Lighter Side content. He writes about how intriguing information, in this case how there could be pig's blood in cigarettes, can be so quickly spread through online and news and entertainment media. This is a powerful lesson for advocates and researchers wanting to harness the power of the web and mass media to spread health information.
Although his name may be unfamiliar to those outside of the US, Canada, UK and Australia, Stephen Colbert, host of the Colbert Report on the US Comedy Network, is quite an influential comedian. Having started as a correspondent on Jon Stewart's newsmaking Daily Show, Colbert now plays a benighted 'journalist' on his own programme. He gave the English language the word truthiness, among other creations.
On April 7th, he picked up the pig blood story and gave a "reluctant wag of the finger to the tobacco industry". Claiming to be "a huge fan of inhaling flaming leaves and paper" he noted that "Australian researchers" (sic) found the presence of pigs' blood in cigarettes and lamented that the inclusion of such "disgusting ingredients" could "ruin the delicious flavour of the tar, fibreglass and ammonium phosphate". Colbert then went on, aided by actor Jeff Goldblum, to perform to perform minor surgery - a 'circumcision' - on a cigarette filter.
It's hard to say what influence this comedy bit will have on global cigarette consumption, but it does show the power of information. A single young Dutch designer, Christien Meindertsma, decided to trace "what happened to the body parts of a specific commercially raised pig" and published a book, Pig 05049, based on her findings. The UK Guardian/Observer newspaper reported on the book and Globalink listserv member Cecilia Farren spotted the mention "that hemoglobin from pig blood is used in cigarette filters". Cecilia pointed out this intriguing fact on Globalink, several of other members provided background information on the pig blood 'Bio-filter' developed in Greece, then Simon Chapman brought the story to the attention of the Australian media and now the news has truly gone global. Nice work.
I believe the Colbert Nation website clips can only be viewed in a few countries outside of the US. But here is a link to the clip. (There is a perfume commercial beforehand that you will be forced to watch. After that, push through to the 3:42 minute mark if you don't want to watch Colbert lampoon "Hello Kitty" wine before the cigarette sketch.)
The April 7th episode can also be purchased through the iTunes Store.