How often have you wondered how tobacco executives -- the death merchants -- can reconcile selling addictive and lethal products which also kill those bystanders who breathe in the smoke?

Compare if you will the 2005 comments of Louis Camilleri of Philip Morris/Altria excerpted later on this page, with the 2005 comments below made by Mrs. Rivka Davides of the Davides Group which imports tobacco products to Israel. 

Below are excerpts from a translation of a radio program on KOL Israel, in Israel, August 21, 2005, with anchor Gabi Gazit. 
This is based on an award for volunteer activism given to Mrs. Rivka Davides, whose family made its fortune from the import of tobacco products to Israel.
Mrs. Rivka Davides, 70, has established a Heart to Heart association in Haifa, and received the special Presidential Award for her contributions to cardiology centers in Israel.  Here are excerpts from her interview in the morning talk show of the KOL Israel Radio, with anchor Gabi Gazit (August 21. 2005):

GAZIT:  In few moments, Mrs. Rivka Davides, a sworn contributor for the fight against heart disease and to cardiology institutes, will receive at the President's residence a special award for volunteering in the promotion of public health. There is just this small matter, that Mrs. Davides and her husband, Moshe, are heading a big company called Davides Group, who is in the business of importing cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco products to Israel.

Good morning Mrs. Davides, have you already received the award?

DAVIDES:  Of course...  I received it for organizing in Haifa and the north [of Israel], the whole north, all the hospitals, the Society Heart to Heart, with the participation of the Haifa municipality.  I am fully volunteering for 21 years, bringing in new equipment, CPR courses, all free of charge, saving lives.   This is more important than the disengagement ...

GAZIT:  Let us not talk about the disengagement, but about the family corporation which you and your husband own, which for years have been importing tobacco products to Israel.

DAVIDES:  Many years. I was born with tobacco and cigarettes. My father was the monopolist of "Dubek" [the Israeli tobacco conglomerate] and I was born and I speak Arabic ... and I know you, and I adore you ... for me you are a very good media person.

GAZIT:  Great. So in the name of the press let me ask you ... Don't you see any contradiction between the fact that you are commended for public health, on the one hand, and on the other hand, you are selling to the public tobacco products and cigarettes, which every day anew inflict it with cancer?

DAVIDES:  If I were not, then somebody else would sell these cigarettes. Today there is Dubek factory manufacturing cigarettes, and the state receiving 6 billion dollars from cigarettes.  And if [this] was forbidden, this should be totally forbidden in this country.

GAZIT:  ... Let me put the question in a manner that will make the answer easier for you.

DAVIDES:  The cigarettes are my husband['s]....

GAZIT:  Look, on one hand, you sell cigarettes to people, they smoke them, they get cancer, they get heart attacks, and then you contribute to the hospital that takes care of them when they arrive there after they got sick from the cigarettes which you had sold them; there is some internal logical contradiction, no?

DAVIDES:  If not for me, this would not be there at all.  So which one is better? If not me, bringing in all this equipment, all those shots and CPR courses, what would happen, much worse.

GAZIT:  Listen, I have a great solution! Just stop selling cigarettes to the public...

DAVIDES:  What are you suggesting? That I shall stop making my living... ?

GAZIT:  Wait a second, lady, and then you wouldn't have to... I'll tell you what you make your living of -- why don't you grow bananas in the Jordan Valley?

DAVIDES:  Come on, give me better ideas. We shall keep selling cigars.  I am proud of what I am doing.

GAZIT:  But cigarettes are not healthy, Mrs., Davides.

DAVIDES:  If not me, there will be somebody else. I have many competitors, and I know where this item came from.

GAZIT:  I understand you... from whom?

DAVIDES:  From people who were not invited to the festivity [in the occasion of the award]...  People who were in pain for not being invited...

GAZIT:  Bad people.

DAVIDES:  There is jealousy and we have competitors in cigars and cigarettes, in everything, if not me, someone else would do it.

GAZIT: What can we do, there are bad people, Mrs. Davides, I thank you very much and bless you for your good activity.

Immediately thereafter, Gazit interviewed Professor Eliezer Robinsin, chairman of the Israel Cancer Association and former chairman of the UICC, who said that cigarette smoke kills 10,000 people in Israel every year, out of them 1,500 from secondhand smoke. He mentioned the decision of these organizations not to accept any contributions from tobacco companies. The UICC has decided not to support any study, in any university or research institute, if the same department has received a contribution from a tobacco company.

Gazit then concluded the item in the following words:
"So, if there is any lesson to learn, it is that -'If I would not sell, somebody else would'.   And while we prepare a song, I'll think of examples for this saying".

He then cited the response of the President's office, which cited Mrs. Davides' voluntary activity, while the issue of her involvement in the import of tobacco products "has never come up in the advisory committee".

To this Gazit responds -
"I do not blame the President, there are thousands of people getting awards, but the advisory committee should now mark its failure in the inability to locate the fact that it is giving an award for public health to one who poisons the public with cigarettes and cigars, and also with the rest of those ill products".
The same issue was reported in the newspaper Haaretz on August 21, 2005, with details of the cardiovascular illnesses caused by tobacco smoke, and also with the names of people who attended the ceremony for the award who included the State Controller, and the managers of the three big Haifa hospitals who enjoyed the contribution.  Haaretz ends the item with the reporting that Rivka Davides and her husband Moshe are proud of "not having smoked a single cigarette in their lifetime". 

The hospitals refused to comment.

With thanks for the translation to Amos Hausner of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking

The comments in April 2005 of the CEO of Alria, formerly Philip Morris Company, Louis Camilleri,  are excerpted here from a report on the 2005 Altria meeting.  Quotations are as accurate as possible:

Camilleri offensively denied the testimony of Tosin Orogun, from Nigeria, about using teenagers to recruit other teenagers and adults to smoke.  "You mustn't let your animosity blind your judgment," he said, and referring to Philip Morris, he said, "We're a pygmy in Nigeria compared to other companies."  Camilleri added that Nigerians should be happy that Philip Morris was coming to Nigeria because it was more regulated than the tobacco already in Nigeria.  Camilleri said, "To stop selling cigarettes in Africa would be a cop out.  It wouldn't make a difference, and we're more corporately responsible than other tobacco companies."

Camilleri defended advertising an addictive and lethal product:  "If we can't advertise, then we can't give information to consumers about the new harm reduction cigarettes Philip Morris is producing."

In defending expansion into other countries, Camilleri said: 
"Shareholders should be happy that Philip Morris is expanding into third world countries because Philip Morris partners with ministries of health, and we do more about tobacco education than other tobacco companies would do."

Dr. K. Heinz Ginzel  in reviewing the Philip Morris web sites noted:
"The situation appears to be totally grotesque, bordering on the obscene, in that there is a manufacturer who admits its merchandise harms and kills, yet continues to advertise and sell it at home and abroad, and to harvest the world's children as customers to secure future profits. 

The fact that PM was able to do this with impunity, and by preserving the status quo of conducting "business as usual" without even the least objection by government or society, reflects the depth of social morass and the moral abyss of disintegrating values into which this civilization has plunged."

[Virginia GASP]  Added 24 August 2005