Wanda de Kanter en Pauline Dekker: replacement smokers


Shaking up the audience. That’s what pulmonologists Wanda de Kanter and Pauline Dekker just did. Their story is about shame. Shame to die due to smoking. ‘Smoking is your own fault’, is what their patients often hear. ‘NO!’ says De Kanter en Dekker, ‘the industry is to blame and should be ashamed.’

Standing next to a white coffin, Dekker tells horrible facts about COPD and lung cancer, the most important diseases caused by smoking, the diagnose and the horrifying death. She answers out loud why there are hardly any patient groups for lung cancer and COPD. ‘Not because they die sooner than they could get organized, but especially because patients are ashamed of dying due to smoking. They are being told that they invited the cancer themselves by smoking.’

Someone in the coffin starts talking. It is De Kanter who together with Dekker is fighting now for years against the tobacco industries. On a daily basis, they see patients with cancer from smoking and feel the shame their patients are carrying with them. De Kanter is acting as a patient now. A patient who once was happy but now died six months ago. De Kanter tells how her friend reacted after hearing the diagnosis:  ‘What else would you have expected? You are a smoker!’

‘No,’ Dekker interrupts. Smoking is an addiction, not a free choice. The only free choice is at your first cigarette and is mostly lit at puberty in a phase where the brain is not dealing well with free choice. Dekker says to the person in the coffin, ‘You will not die in vain. ‘

‘I will fight against the tobacco industry and the political lobby.’ The audience claps their hands out.  The pulmonologists walk off the stage. And return. Dekker is now dressed as a representative of the tobacco industry behind the now closed coffin and is giving a speech at the annual stock meeting. She is treating the audience, despite the crisis, with astonishing results. The stocks have grown! At that moment, the audience is terrified by big explosions. One second later thousands of money bills are twirling down on the audience.

Then De Kanter is walking on the stage and presents herself as Mrs. McKenzie. She is about to unfold the marketing plans of the tobacco company. Goal is to gain as much young smokers as possible. The dark side of the success of the company is that so many clients die, so the company is in need for replacement smokers.

The Third World Countries are presented as a unique growth market. For there are no marketing restrictions, so they can start really young. In countries where marketing restrictions reduce the opportunities effort, a lobby should be put in.

‘Tell the liberal parties that smoking is a free choice. Create doubt with telling stories about grandfathers who smoked daily and despite that got really old.’

Dekker interrupts that marketing talk. She shouts at the audience: ‘STOP NOW! One in four smokers dies before the age of 65. Let our children grow up in a future free of tobacco.’

A live blog by Karin Oost