I WAS a smoker for more than 15 years. At times, I would try to quit for a few months but then would give way to the craving and urge to light up again. Finally, realizing that I wasn’t getting any younger and feeling that my body cannot take any more of the abuse, I just went cold turkey.
To date, I have been smoke-free for over three years. My sister, who has a heart condition, and had multiple strokes in the past, doesn’t realize that smoking plays a big part of her health. She is just 43 years old and she can hardly walk a mile without catching her breath. She still smokes today.
An explosive story of Victor DeNoble, Addiction Incorporated is a documentary of how he became one of the most important and influential whistleblowers of all time. A research scientist at a major tobacco company in the 1980s, DeNoble was tasked at that time to find a substitute for nicotine that would not cause heart attacks. This quest was to discover if it would be possible to create a cigarette that would be safer for smokers—but would not necessarily be less addictive.
DeNoble succeeded, but in the process produced something that many suspected was true, but the industry had been denying for years—that nicotine was addictive. He then took his findings to the people, in spite of a strict confidentiality agreement, testifying about his research in the infamous 1994 Congressional hearings—the same ones where the seven heads of the major tobacco companies declared that nicotine was not addictive.
In an interview with Asian Journal, Filipina Charmaine Parcero, Executive Producer of Addiction Incorporated, shared how she got involved in making the documentary.
“Charlie (Charles Evans, Jr. the director) saw his (DeNoble) testimony on C-Span and knew he wanted to tell his story. He was developing the story at first as a feature and then it just evolved into a documentary,” she said and added, “In my 10 years on the project, I have seen the interest around it go up and down and in the end what pushed it thru was Victor. Here is this scientist that knew his findings could save lives and here we were with information that could do the same.”
Parcero also stressed out that to suppress the information would mean letting the tobacco industry continue to let people be addicted to their products and eventually kill them. For her, she felt that they needed to share this knowledge. On a personal note, Parcero lost her grandfather because he was a smoker. “A number of heart attacks and strokes later I realized it was his smoking habit that caused it all,” she shared.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Parcero’s mother hails from Manila while her father is from Imus, Cavite. The only time she was in the Philippines was five years ago, but has plans to go at the end of this year.
“My dad didn’t want to take my brother and I until we grown up,” she said. “They left (the Philippines) before Martial Law and when they finally returned they saw that the country has changed and it was safe. I think he didn’t want to expose us too young to what was gong on there, he was afraid I might be more of an activist than I already am.”
But producing Addiction Incorporated doesn’t really make Parcero an activist, but more of an advocate, or maybe a messenger. For her, she just wants to convey to the public the truth: Cigarettes are the silent killer.
“We all know they’re bad, we’ve seen the testimonies—the seven tobacco executives with their hands raised, we hear the statistics and see the Surgeon General’s warning, but it’s still killing people and continuing to addict kids,” she said and continued, “I think we have made a film that makes it easy to digest, so that people can not only know what is going on or what has happened, but understand.”
Their team also wanted to bring DeNoble’s work to a larger stage. “ We’re not here to tell anyone not to smoke, but to empower kids/people with knowledge,” she explained. “Someone gives you bad service at a restaurant and you don’t return. Everyone knows someone who died of cigarette smoking-related diseases yet we still know many more people who smoke.”
Addiction Incorporated holds a lot of information and truth, that making it was not fairly easy for Evans and Parcero. “I think the biggest challenge we encountered on making Addiction Incorporated was having too much story,” shared Parcero. “There are so many stories to tell.”
Although they wanted to show all the interviews (over 50), they just couldn’t. The interviewees—which included Sharon Eubanks, who worked at the Department of Justice from 2000 to 2005, Acting General Counsel of the Dept. of Health and Human Services William Schultz and former Mississippi Atty. Gen. Michael Moore — had their “war stories” from their different perspectives of the same events. Fortunately, those stories, although may not have been included, still live on their website (www.addictionincorporated.com) for others to watch.
As for Parcero, she intends to make a documentary about the Philippines. “I believe that there are many stories in the Philippines and I know I could make a film that would cross over to a more international audience and have a presence domestically, here in the United States,” she said. “I see these great Mexican, Spanish and French filmmakers tell their local stories on a worldwide stage, I’d like to do the same with the Philippines, which is why I plan to spend more time there. We are the largest Asian population in the United States and it’s only now that I am recognizing our presence on screen.”
Her advice to those who intend to go into making films? “Believe in yourself. Never give up because it takes that much to make this kind of product,” she said and explained, “When you make a film millions can watch it, that’s huge. Stay true to what inspired you in the beginning because there will be tough times where the end seems no where in sight and if you get through that then you have made a film. Don’t give up.”
Addiction Incorporated is playing in San Francisco’s Landmark Lumiere and Landmark Shattuck Theatre in Berkeley until January 26, but it will also be playing in other cities all over the United States. For more information on showing schedules, please check out their website, www.addictionincorporated.com*All photos courtesy of Sthanlee Mirador. *Many thanks to Karen Larsen of Larsen Associates for her assistance. Source: www.asianjournal.com