A prominent former researcher for the Phillip Morris cigarette company used a powerful delivery, a visual presentation and a freeze-dried money brain to drive home the message to schoolkids last week that all forms of nicotine addiction are bad news.
Victor DeNoble, PhD., who once worked in a secret research lab for the tobacco giant to develop a cigarette with reduced heart risk, spoke Feb. 13 to ABC School middle schoolers in the morning, to Franklin County fifth through 12th graders in the afternoon, and to the Franklin County School Board in the evening.
In it he shared his background as a researcher, in which he said his findings were suppressed by Philip Morris, he was eventually fired and his laboratory and data were seized. In 1994, after a decade of being silenced by a secrecy agreement, DeNoble became the first whistle-blower to testify before Congress about his research conducted within the tobacco industry, which showed nicotine has addictive properties similar to other drugs of addiction.
In talking with the students, he told of how one of his monkeys had developed a craving for nicotine, and then passed around a preserved monkey brain for the young people to examine.
Before returning to his home in San Diego, Calif., DeNoble paid a visit to the school board.
“Your brain doesn’t care where nicotine comes from,” he said. “What kids don’t understand is that everyone in this room is wired for drug addiction.
“Kids don’t know that, they think they’re immune,” said DeNoble, accompanied by Gina Moore, Tobacco Prevention Specialist with the county health department. “We talked about electronic cigarettes. They’re really going to be trouble for us. People are using them to maintain their addiction where they can’t use tobacco products.
“We now know they contain at least five components that cause cancer,” he said. “We’re beginning to understand these vapors are just as toxic as the cigarette, and what’s more disturbing is that young people can purchase e-cigarettes. Middle school kids are taking the empty cartridges and filling them with other drugs, like alcohol, nail polish and glue.
“E-cigarettes are probably something you guys are going to have to face soon,” he told the board. “Having the ban on school grounds would really go a long way.”
DeNoble also spoke to the SWAT executive council during his visit. “We were fortunate to get him,” said Moore.
The $2,500 cost of DeNobles’ visit came out of the tobacco prevention program’s grant funding.