The first study linking cigarettes to cancer was published in 1939, but it took two decades of further medical research before the World Health Organization recognized this fact in 1960. And despite the unanimous consensus that cigarettes kill, Philip Morris – the world’s largest tobacco company – continued its campaign of denial until October, 1999, when it finally admitted on its website that cigarettes are deadly. It took 60 years for the cigarette/cancer connection to become an irrefutable fact. We are now beginning to repeat the same pattern, only this time with cell phones.
A recent article in GQ magazine , which should be required reading for all cell phone users, suggests that we are in the early stages of industry denial. A smattering of research indicates a connection between cell phones and cancer, but well-funded industry-backed studies refute this evidence. When I share this article with friends they often respond with a shrug of indifference, thereby indicating that cell phones have passed from luxury to necessity. Any risk of cancer has been relegated to the same category we accept when we drive a car or board a plane.
It’s disturbing that it’s easier for us to agree that the cell phone/cancer connection poses an acceptable risk than it is to imagine a world where cell phones have been banned. Perhaps this is because cell phones and smart phones are still considered cool – like cigarettes were in the 1950s. We envied the rebel’s pack of smokes just as we now lust after our neighbor’s iPhone.
It is time culture jammers launched a campaign to uncool the cancerphone. Only then will our society be able to have an honest discussion about the risks of wireless devices.
Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org