The Insider : What was the big deal?

What was the big deal?

Okay, this is probably a stupid question.

For someone like me who is not the least bit familiar with US law, the tobacco industry and the true story this film is based on, some things are kinda hard to grasp.

For instance, what was "the big deal" about what Wigand said in that interview? To me it just sounded like he stated the obvious - "yeah, hi, I worked for a tobacco company that did what tobacco companies generally do - researched how to manufacture cigarettes that contain nicotine in the way that gives smokers the most nicotine for their buck". I mean c'mon, everybody knows cigarettes/nicotine are addictive and unhealthy, and that tobacco companies whole business idea is to get people hooked on the stuff and make a profit, right?

As I understand it the tobacco companies' strategy was "uhhh, we don't know anything about anything, we just sell the stuff". But there has got to be tons of research from the past 5 decades that clearly states that nicotine is addictive, so how can the information Wigand provides be such explosive material? Is it just because it proves that the tobacco companies know that nicotine is addictive (like the rest of us have known since god-knows-when?). Or is it because it proves that they deliberately tinker with the tobacco to make the nicotine more potent, even though they say they don't?

To me it just seemed that the whole insider information was just something most people have always known?

Re: What was the big deal?

The reason why he was so important was because he was part of the upper echelon of big tobacco. He had unique insight into the science and marketing of cigarettes as it relates to addiction. He was able to explain how big tobacco was very aware that it was not just a product but a drug which could be regulated by the fda. His deposition enabled the government run health care system to recoup money.

Re: What was the big deal?

I'm not very old, but I still vividly remember a time when it was considered controversial to say that tobacco was harmful. If you believed it before the Wigard interview, you were a conspiracy theorist, because nobody of significant status was on the record. Until Wigand. That's precisely why this is such an angry and sorrowful movie: a tiny, tiny amount of progress came at tremendous cost. And the revelation made light of the fact that multiple industries - sciences, finances, media - were too afraid to say anything is a shameful and depressing one. Literally thousands of people needed to look the other way for decades in order for this to happen, and it only took one guy with a backbone to make it end. Just think of how many industries need a whistleblower like Wigand, but don't have one.

Re: What was the big deal?

Huh I'm only 34 myself, but I can't recall a time when cigarettes were ever considered harmless, at least not in the 90's (the Wigand case apparently took place IRL in 1996). Perhaps it was way different in the US? I live in Sweden and from what I can remember tobacco was considered just as bad in the nineties as it is today (although it's rather fun to look at old family photos from the eighties and earlier, where people are actually smoking in the picture indoors! That would be surreal today, at least in my family :)

Re: What was the big deal?

It was common knowledge in the U.S. that tobacco was harmful at least as far back as the 60's, when I started smoking. (I've stopped and started again several times since then.)

Blaming the tobacco companies is just a way for people to avoid taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions, plus the possibility of getting money from a lawsuit. It's like blaming food manufacturers for making you fat. After all, don't they put stuff in junk food to make it taste better, and make advertisements to entice you to buy it and eat it?

Fowler's knots? Did you say fowler's knots?

Re: What was the big deal?

Perhaps it would have been more accurate for me to say that people still trusted big tobacco up until the late 1990s in America. People knew tobacco was harmful, but they didn't realize that the biggest names in the business were adding poison to make them more addictive. That sounds, to most ears, like a conspiracy theory. Once that was on the record, a $200+ billion lawsuit followed. I'm shocked that such a sacrifice was required in order for someone to speak against the corporate culture of killing for profit, and that it took so long for it to happen in big tobacco's case.

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Re: What was the big deal?

It isn't that complicated. It was the perjury of the big tobacco executives before Congress, and Wigand stated as much during his taped interview. The executives were full aware of the health risks and other effects of the products, although denying it at a Congressional hearing, under oath. Wigand was fully intent on honoring his severance contract (to retain his benefits), until he and his family were threatened.

Contrary to many replies here, it wasn't that long ago when many, if not most people were completely ignorant about the real health risks of tobacco, including me. Not that it would have mattered, at the time. I started smoking when I was young, at a time there was still tobacco product advertising on television and billboards, and even doctors advertised their "favorite brand". "Safer cigarette" advertisement was everywhere, and the Surgeon General's warning wasn't on any label, yet.

-Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.

Re: What was the big deal?

hmmm.. may be I didn't get your question right. But here is what I think:

- I am from India & no insider would even think about saying something like that EVER let alone have trial about it and fine tobacco companies.
- Nobody would suggest or try to help you but we will produce ugly advertisement that falls just one step short of suggesting that smokers should be ostracized ( or even beaten up and we are perfectly fine with it.
- In the movie Russel Crowe's character confirms nicotine has physiological response ( That is true which means it's the same kind of problem as alcoholism. Perhaps worse because society like I live in, alcoholism is socially not acceptable but smoking is.
- A heavy smoker will tell you it's not the early end of life he worried about but quality of everyday life - the dehydration, the loss of energy, slight change in priorities (because it takes only 5 minutes)
- Finally, because as a smoker who smokes about 30 cigarettes a day, and cannot quit because may be I have genetic predisposition to addition (I believe they did find a gene that really has that effect) or because cigarettes can be right there beside me on the table and nobody really wants to help, (scaring people is not helping and since it's a drug we need actual therapeutic approach) and assume that I just like to smoke away my life because I enjoy it while nothing could be further from the truth.

In light of all this, the character or actual person saying that it's a problem is a BIG deal. And even after that, these big tobacco people, while they they rationalize their existence on top of carcasses that they produced, all supposedly most advanced civilization could only do was to fine them. Nothing more. I am sure they could have paid 100 times more and still would not have flinched.

Maybe one day we will be courageous enough to eradicate tobacco and really help people get rid of this habit. But until then, yes, this has to be a big deal.