Memo to cell phone manufacturers and service providers: Start saving money now for the lawsuits that are coming a decade or two down the road.
Don’t believe me? Ask the tobacco companies. Big Tobacco wound up paying big bucks after class-action lawsuits claimed BT was responsible for smokers’ additions.
Now, I’m not one of BT’s friends. If you put all the cigarettes I’ve smoked in my life together, you might – might – have two packs. Throw in a half-box of cigars and a few ceremonial pipes, and you have the sum total of my tobacco use. I lost my father to lung cancer, though how much of that was due to smoking and how much to coal-dust-induced Black Lung is anyone’s guess.
But I have always found the people who claimed they didn’t know smoking was bad for them a trifle hypocritical. C’mon – get real.
On Feb. 16, 1882, the Louisville Courier-Journal declared the cigarette had done excellent service as “a fool-killer.”
In August 1887, the Detroit Free Press said, “Of all the forms of using tobacco, the small paper-covered tube known as the cigarette is the most deadly,” although the DFP seemed to be as much concerned about the paper the tobacco was rolled in as it was about the tobacco itself. The Free Press claimed smoking had increased 500 percent in four years, although it didn’t say how it arrived at that statistic.
It should be noted here that cigarettes were a by-product of the Civil War. Men unable to obtain enough tobacco for a decent pipeful, let alone procure a cigar, began rolling scraps of tobacco in paper and smoking them, thereby creating the original Marlboro man (Encyclopedia of Kentucky, Somerset Press, 1987).
The point is, these warnings go back a century or more. But people in the mid- to late 20th century didn’t know smoking was dangerous? Riiiiiiiiight.
Now, back to cell phones. Some years ago, a study found that links between cell phone use and tumors was inconclusive. Not non-existent – inconclusive. Did this cause consumers to say, “Hmm. Maybe I’d better think twice about buying that cell phone. Maybe three or four times before giving one to my kids”?
Oh, hell, no. They said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”
Recent medical studies, primarily from Europe, have raised new questions about those cute little microwave-emitting phones, and last week scientists testified on the subject before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. (Yes, I know a Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform is an oxymoron, but that’s a whole ‘nuther issue.)
David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, warned that we “must not repeat the situation we had with the relationship between smoking and lung cancer where we … waited until every ‘i’ was dotted and ‘t’ was crossed before warnings were issued.”
Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, also drew a parallel between cell phones and cigarettes and told the committee scientists need to “do a better job of interpreting evidence of potential risk.”
On the other hand, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News Sr. Health and Medical Editor, says, “The best science does not show a connection between cell phone use and cancer of any kind,” but Carpenter notes that earlier studies did not take long-term use into account.
So will society recognize a serious threat may – I say may – exist and consider that reducing cell phone use until more evidence is available might be prudent?
I repeat: Oh, hell, no.
A recent survey found that the majority of respondents said they could live without a microwave oven but that they couldn’t live without their cell phone.
Anything you feel you can’t live without that isn’t actually required for your continued physical existence is an addiction.
So, cell phone manufacturers and service providers, brace yourselves for the class-action lawsuits 20 years down the road when witnesses with what look like grapefruits growing out of their ears say, “Gee, nobody told me it was dangerous.”About the Author: I regard historic research as a never-ending Easter egg hunt: You never know where you'll find a hidden treasure. Growing up with parents who told stories of family history probably had a lot to do with that. I realized early on that history is about lives already lived. I've met war veterans, early aviators, friends of Abraham Lincoln's in-laws, and a host of others who shared their histories with me – and it was never boring!