Wayne Baker donated not only thousands of dollars to the tobacco industry, but sacrificed his larynx, jugular vein, nineteen lymph nodes and most of his thyroid so far. Baker puts a raspy-voiced human face on the costs of tobacco addiction in Kelly Anderson and Tami Gold’s scathing and sobering expose on the deceptions and cover-ups of Big Tobacco’s Big Dog, “Making A Killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and Global Tobacco Addiction.”
Through interviews with U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and former Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, this thirty minute video explains how a landmark 1998 Minnesota lawsuit finally allowed citizens to peek at the tobacco industry’s long-secret memos and research. These previously sealed documents illuminate the tobacco industry’s years of deliberate lies regarding the potential dangers of cigarette smoking.
“Making A Killing” primarily targets tobacco giant Philip Morris, with its ubiquitous Marlboro Man ads, and, by extension, such sprawling subsidiary companies such as Kraft Foods and Nabisco. It wastes no time getting after it, nailing the bullseye with such defining moments as having Rep. Doggett reading this from a Philip Morris USA Research Center report: “Think of the cigarette as a dispenser for a dose unit of Nicotine.”
Very nice. Kind of like a crack pipe in a soft pack.
This fast-paced film is at its most damning when it shows how Philip Morris and others, hurting from anti-smoking sentiment and heavy restrictions on tobacco advertising here in the States, compensated by muscling in overseas; an assertion backed up by statistic showing the numbers of youthful new smokers skyrocketing throughout Asia and the former Soviet bloc.
Even more chilling is the film’s assertion that Philip Morris, now a $62 BILLION global corporation that wields its sheer economic clout to influence health issues worldwide, hides behind the kinder and gentler veneer of such cuddly holdings as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Jell-O.
If there is a flaw here, it’s that this well-meaning documentary feels a little scattered; as if it was trying to accomplish too much in too little time. There’s also not much information provided about the tobacco industry that we don’t already know or at least suspect, with the important exception of learning the extent of Philip Morris’ vast holdings. Instead, “Making A Killing” covers familiar ground, mostly warming over information, such as the company’s growing interest in overseas smokers, that’s already been discussed in shows like “60 Minutes.” To its credit, however, the film goes beyond mere whining, urging a boycott of Philip Morris and all such companies associated with the brand.
While we’ve sadly reached the point where we’re no longer really outraged by stories such as Wayne Baker’s, and are merely resigned to them, “Making A Killing” still serves an important purpose. By shedding an ever- brighter light on this despicable industry and holding its proverbial feet to the coals, maybe victims such as Baker will someday be able to conquer their addiction to donating.