The Insider, easily one of the best films of the 1990s, tells the story of a 60 Minutes interview with tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand that blew the lid off the industry’s secret to success – nicotine addiction. This stylish film directed by Michael Mann stars Al Pacino, Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer, and picked up 7 Oscar nods, including Best Picture.
Before Wigand’s court testimony and 60 Minutes interview, most people knew smoking was a tough habit to kick, but after, it was public knowledge that the tobacco industry banked on the addictiveness of nicotine, that indispensable ingredient that made all the difference in determining whether smokers would come back for more, even if they knew that smoking was killing them.
That this was common knowledge more than 20 years ago is kind of appalling, when you consider how passive the FDA has been about the rise of nicotine addiction in minors since the introduction of new “nicotine delivery devices” in the form of vapes.
Vapes aren’t required to be labeled for their nicotine content, and the accuracy of their labeling leaves a lot to be desired – nearly half of sampled flavored vapes that claimed to have 0 mg/L of nicotine actually did contain a small dose of nicotine per puff. Although nicotine addictiveness varies with dosing, the correlation is non-linear (an inverted U-shaped curve), meaning even small doses have the potential to get kids hooked on the drug.
Nicotine is now known to be more addictive than heroin, but is still not regulated by the FDA.
This poem, based on the 49th Psalm, is about a standoff backstage at 60 Minutes over whether the footage from Wigand’s interview should be cut to avoid litigation from the tobacco industry over the violation of Wigand’s confidentiality agreement.
Tell your audience to hear him out in full,
tell them we’ll broadcast his entire statement.
Everyone needs to hear this, piped to their homes,
this story touches the rich and poor alike.
You’ve known me how long? I know what I’m doing,
and this is where I stake my reputation.
When I ask someone to tell the world the truth,
I put my tradecraft and my clout behind him.
Why should I balk at these cowardly warnings,
with the public interest hanging by a thread?
These executives trust in vague corporate worth
and boast of their six-figure salary checks –
but what do they have to show for their careers,
except a soulless ransom for their bare skins?
To redeem such cheaply sold lives at this price,
it’s too much – one comes to an end forever.
Do these lawyers expect to live forever?
Will this well-paid lackey see where she’s headed?
For she sees that the wisest among us die,
no less than the rich fool and the unschooled lout,
and the dead can take none of their wealth with them.
Their graves will be their homes when all is settled,
to moulder there alone for generations,
no matter how much influence they have now.
No man rests in splendor for eternity.
We are born to die, as surely as the flies.
These excuses they offer areshallow lies,
and to make amends after – more empty words.
They are paving the way to irrelevance –
cheap monied interests have shown them the way down –
and those who refuse to back down will not fail.
These corporate tools will fritter away our name,
and make us bed down with the merchants of death.
But I will stake my career on this story,
and on the weight of Wigand’s testimony.
These broadcast executives in fancy suits,
they don’t intimidate an old hand like me.
For when this program goes to air, lives will change,
but those fools will leave no mark on history.
They spend their whole lives on self-serving projects,
and thank me only when I make them richers.
But they will join their ancestors in the grave –
without a thought for their own posterity.
We do not have the luxury to live so.
Our days are numbered – only our work lives on.