JOIN US TO PROTEST at Big Tobacco shareholder meetings. Tell Big Tobacco how many people you helped to quit, how many cigarettes were NOT smoked, and how much money the industry did NOT make as a result of your helping people to quit.
2014 is the Nightingales’ 11th year of speaking out at Big Tobacco’s shareholder meetings.
Nurses make a difference. In 2011, Philip Morris International CEO claimed that it isn’t hard to quit smoking in reply to the Nightingale nurse.
The nurse’s protest was covered in international news by NBC nightly news, MSN money The Daily Mail (UK) The Huffington Post USA Today Yahoo News New York Daily News Associated Press The Boston Globe
In 2013 PMI CEO resigned after getting international media attention in 2011 when he told a Nightingales nurse that while cigarettes are harmful and addictive, it is not that hard to quit.
This is a letter written by a Philip Morris customer:
We protest at shareholder meetings on behalf of those who suffer and die from tobacco products. Join us in 2014.
A Nightingale Nurse’s journey to protest:
My First Phillip Morris Meeting
It was an honor to serve as a representative Nightingale Nurses in NYC at the Phillip Morris International Annual Shareholder Meeting 2013. Please let me share my thoughts and experiences with you, at this, my first shareholder meeting. I hope I can demystify the process for those of you who are contemplating future actions and to report on my perspective of the events as a representative of the Nightingales.
“Should I go?” was my first obstacle and barrier. I had the usual arguments with myself up until the very day of departure. Then, “should I speak?” haunted me as I attempted to prepare a 2-minute presentation. Each barrier was overcome as I pushed myself along the path I charted.
My confidence was weak from years as a staff nurse threatened, bullied for being too outspoken, too honest, or maybe just too East coast. My words didn’t always come out right and the general disrespect I received as a “staff” nurse left me a bit camera shy as I envisioned stepping up to the podium. I could do this, I said, it’s good training, I need to break out of my fear, learn to speak, learn to write a statement, compose a dialogue, but most of all be authentic.
To do that, I reasoned, I needed to speak from my experience, my core, my knowing, but cigarettes? I am passionate about many social concerns, politics, GMO’s, obesity, Pharma, but cigarettes? My doctoral studies focuses on nurses’ perception of health, and one of the most startling statistics attributing 50% of morbidity and mortality to preventable lifestyle choices with smoking being the greatest hazard. I know the evils of smoking but no one near me smokes anymore. It wasn’t until seeing the strangely familiar PMI logo on my proxy envelope that I realized this was also personal, for my dad, a lifetime smoker of Marlboros.
Arriving in NYC on a redeye from California I was happy my memory of the transit system didn’t fail me as I made my way into Manhattan from JFK. It was in NYC where I first broke in my nursing shoes, 1984, a time when AIDS was still a mystery, cocaine popular among the club crowds, and disco still playing at the Lamplight. I have returned, I silently declared to myself. This time, I have returned a not to work a shift, but to fulfill my role as a nurse in a very different capacity. This time I would be practicing social activism as a form of emancipatory knowing. Emancipatory knowing comes from the integration of nurses’ fundamental ways of knowing originally described by Carper (1977): empiric, ethical, aesthetic, and personal knowledge; awareness of social problems and inequities, envisioning a more just reality, resulting in praxis, an authentic action to bring about change (Chinn & Kramer, 2011).
Preparing my few words wasn’t easy. I am good at procrastinating and not practicing. Sharon’s leadership and Ruth’s suggestions of questions were helpful and I learned a few more facts about the ills of tobacco watching Robert Proctor’s Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytrl4Tw88N8), but I still had difficulty finding my voice and my passion as an RN. Tobacco is such a prevalent
part of the culture that I didn’t even realize my loved ones who suffered from
cardiac disease were victims of tobacco hastening their deaths.
That morning brought rainstorms so navigating the city required getting wet.
I found the Hyatt, located across the street from Grand Central Station, where about
30 to 40 sharply dressed young adults holding placards on one side of the entrance
opposite a group of smokers inhaling at a designated receptacle. Chloe, from
Corporate Accountability International, and another from Tobacco Free Kids, came
out of the crowd to welcome and thank me for coming. The rest of the Nightingales
in white lab coats planned on meeting at a local hotel and walking over with the
banner but the torrential rains dampened that idea. After some time chanting, “we
have heard enough and lies, lies, lies” we took the escalators to the Grand Ballroom.
We were not allowed to bring in recording devices or cameras so I will try to
describe the scene and drama of the meeting from my notes and memory. Yes, I
could take notes.
We were allowed to enter into a reception room set with a few dozen tableclothed
seats and invited to a breakfast of the highest quality fruits, pastries, and
yogurt parfaits. Although Gale C. refused to eat anything on principle, I followed Gale
E. in helping myself to a free meal (NYC is expensive). I took my place at one
shareholder table with some very friendly, social folks and listened. To my right a
fair, clear-skinned man with rosy cheeks (obviously not a smoker) told me why his
13-year old daughter, seated next to him, was skipping her school field trip to “be
exposed”. She was respectfully silent, yet all so curious as I noticed her glancing at
me in my white lab coat. Across the table from me sat a lean, smartly dressed
woman of another generation wearing a red and black ensemble complete with a
stylish hat and my grandmother’s makeup. She said she has been coming to
stockholder meetings since she was just a child. The parties agreed it was the right
thing to do as a shareholder and parent, to pass on the (stock) gift and (business)
education to their future generations.
“Surreal” was how one of the activists described the event. After my brief
education in the reception room I entered the ballroom, a stage set for three: the
incoming CEO Andre Calantzopoulos on the left, current CEO and Chairman of the
Board Louis C. Camilleri on the right with Jerry Woodson, between the two, double
Teleprompters atop podiums barely visible against the luminous cloudy blue scrims.
The audience was surprisingly not that populated, maybe 200-300 total but the
meeting was also webcast.
In an Alfred Hitchcock-like tone and pace “Louie” Camilleri called the
meeting to order, made the introductions, then handed the stage to incoming CEO
Andre Calantzopoulos who elaborated on PMI successes pertaining to product
growth and challenges. I sat there dazed until I realized I was here to work, to listen
and record. These were some points in my notes:
Target Asia noting sales in the EU are shrinking.
Non-OECD comprises 28.8% Global Market
New architecture for Marlboro brand
Global share 9.4% excluding US and EU market
Excise tax pro and cons
Regulatory issues that are not scientific and increase illicit trade
Australia plain packaging
Illicit trade *most interesting describing criminal behavior
Next generation products-harm reduction
Electronic cigarettes-not successful citing lack of consumer taste, sensory, and ritual experience.
China has a growing yet a state controlled market PMI wants in!
In the end, Andre remains “bullish”. Louie returned to the stand to take questions and define the rules of the game: 1 hour for questions, 2 minutes each, and please identify yourself. I was glad my fellow Gales went first as I was still very nervous. But after hearing a few Gales and students deliver their fine remarks I ventured forth:
“Hello, my name is Susan Priano, I am a nurse from San Francisco, CA, a Nightingale (pause) and a daughter of a man who died from tobacco related related disease leaving behind ten children.”
I spoke of my patients’ struggles to breathe after waking from surgery and then used a metaphor of the Boston bombing, Cleveland kidnappings, and Bangladesh garment factory collapse with the deaths of millions from tobacco. These events provoke outrage over the senseless deaths and loss of lives, so I ask, is Phillip Morris ready to stop peddling cigarettes to children, kidnapping and maiming lives? Is Phillip Morris ready to stop their death march, killing millions for billions of profit?
Of course, Louie could not accept responsibility for “the ills of the world”. He said I must hate him. My mike was off so I could not rebut his statement, I thought, “I don’t hate you”. I realize you are proud of your accomplishments as a businessman but as a nurse I practice empathy and compassion and by coming to speak I represent patients and families who are the victims of your profit.
At the close of questions CEO Andre C. makes his closing remarks amidst applause while the student activists stood and held out their “I have heard enough” signs. That bothered some shareholders who could not see. Andre asked the students to sit down or go to the back of the room, many complied, silently moving to the side aisles while we witnessed the angry reddened faces of shareholders irritated at the demonstration. Not having a sign and inspired to make a statement I began coughing deeply invigorating my lungs with a wail I was used to hearing from my dad and grandfather each morning. My persistent hacking was disruptive enough for Andre to call for medical assistance. I think I made my point and found my authentic voice!
A final note, seeing the 13 year-old schoolgirl in the lobby afterwards, I asked, “was it educational?” She nodded, “yes” and as her dad passed me, red-faced, mumbling, “it’s a free country”. Yes, it is.
Susan M Priano RN, MSN, CNS