Tobacco information linked world wide through the internetAuthor: Andy Owens
Marion Star & Mullins [SC] Enterprise, July 24, 1996
Marion County '96 Tobacco Market
Tobacco information linked world wide through the internet
By ANDY OWENS
Star & Enterprise
The Tobacco BBS holds all kinds of tobacco information available through the Internet on the World Wide Web. Whether for, against, or for more information, you'll find it at www.tobacco.org.
Information on tobacco has been lacking in the information age, unless you wanted to just find out the negative, didn't care what it took to grow tobacco and weren't concerned about the tobacco market.
Now, thanks to the world wide computer network called the Internet and the low price of personal computers, things have changed.
Gene Borio saw a need for tobacco-related information, positive, negative and simply interesting from a research and consumer's perspective. That's why he created the Tobacco BBS (Bulletin Board System). Out of that grew a site on the world wide web, linking information from around the world relating to tobacco.
Borio, who resides in New York, said that a lot of people have forgotten that "this country was 'founded on smoke.'"
"For me, this was a voyage of discovery. The blackout on tobacco news for the last 40 years, combined with the polarization of positions has meant no one has been able to even mention tobacco, for fear of a dust-up or losing their advertising dollars," Borio said.
"In the North, it was one of those 'don't bring it up at the dinner table' subjects," he said. "and at worst likely to provoke a fight."
The Tobacco BBS has a lot of information online, but one of the best resources is the links to other information sources. From the Tobacco BBS you can connect to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, R.J. Reynolds, The Society for Research in Nicotine and Tobacco, Tobacco Trials Home Page, featuring trial information state-by-state, among many others.
One of the most interesting parts is the Tobacco History section of the Tobacco BBS. A time-line and Tobacco Tour of tobacco-growing states gives viewers a glimpse into what makes tobacco an important part of our national heritage and how the tobacco industry and tobacco production differs from state-to-state.
Another part of the Tobacco BBS is dedicated to news. Viewers can read secret memos passed by the desks of large tobacco companies or read about tobacco's influence on the 1996 presidential election. Borio said his goal is not to side for or against tobacco, but to be a comprehensive storehouse of tobacco information that anyone with a stake or interest in tobacco would want to know about.
"My mission is to provide as much information as I can on all aspects of tobacco, so that we at least know what it is we're dealing with," Borio said. "When I started, I couldn't find information beyond health organization brochures, and I needed something deeper than that."
Borio said once he found tobacco-related information, he wanted to make it available to anyone else who was interested so they wouldn't have to go through the same searching that he did. Now he allows those accessing his computer to offer their information or link to tobacco information that they have found to be interesting.
"None of this mitigates the health consequences of tobacco use of course," Borio said. "But it helps us understand, on a broader scale, what is at stake, and how much is involved beyond the health issue. It's apparent that we cannot continue to address the health issue as _just_ a health issue, such as tuberculosis or cholera, neither of which had much of an economic or cultural base."
Borio admits that there is a lot more information available than could ever be found or posted on a BBS or a web page, but he said the Tobacco BBS is the most encompassing place to find all types of tobacco-related information. He also said it's the most fun.
He said questions facing the future of tobacco and all of the surrounding social and health issues will cut across every major theme of American culture.
"I don't believe any society has ever faced a conundrum like this. Here we are with a product that is deeply rooted in our past, in our culture, in our economy, and suddenly we discover it's a bona fide drug, addicting and terribly deadly. So now what do we do?" Borio said.
'You know that mythical Great American Novel people always talk about, the one that will capture our essence, our soul? If it's ever written, its center, its core, could well be tobacco."
Connecting to the Tobacco BBS
If you have an Internet account or a computer and modem here's how you can connect to Tobacco BBS:
- With your modem dial (212) 982-4645 up to 28.8 bps
- With an internet account, point your World Wide Web browser to this address:
- The Tobacco BBS does not charge a fee for accessing information online.
Marion Star and Mullins Enterprise
PO Box 429, 135 N. Main St.
Mullins, SC 29574
(803) 423-2542 (fax)
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