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One Last, Year-End Look at the Passing Parade of People in the News : The Smoke Still Hasn't Cleared Yet in Controversy Over Clove Cigarettes

December 26, 1985|DENNIS McLELLAN

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in the last several months. Among them:

--Hollywood's Masquers Club, which because of declining funds sold its building and moved.

--Jimmy and Ricky Sperry, blinded in an accident 11 years ago, who received cornea transplants in August.

--Balu Natarajan, who triumphed over 167 other youngsters to win the National Spelling Bee in June.

It's been one year since a story on the death of Newport Harbor High School student Tim Cislaw propelled clove cigarettes into a nationwide controversy that is expected to reach the courtroom in early 1986.

Cislaw, 17, died in May, 1984, as a result of lung problems blamed in a lawsuit on smoking clove cigarettes, the faddish, pungent-smelling imports from Indonesia.

In March, Ron and Carole Cislaw filed a $25-million lawsuit, claiming that the manufacturers, importers and sellers of clove cigarettes were, among other things, negligent in supplying their son "dangerous and defective" cigarettes.

A second $25-million lawsuit was filed in July by a Buena Park woman whose 17-year-old son allegedly contracted a debilitating lung ailment after smoking clove cigarettes.

Each suit names several defendants, including manufacturers, importers and retail outlets.

Eric Lampell, the attorney for both families, said that the lawsuits are pending and predicts "we'll probably see a flurry of activity on both of these cases in early 1986."

Waiting for Test Results

Lampell said he has held back "moving forward" with the case until the publication of an independent study on the toxic effects of smoking clove cigarettes by the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, N. Y. Preliminary results of the study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, showed that eugenol--the major component of cloves--can be lethal when administered directly into the lungs of small laboratory animals.

The method in which the animals were administered eugenol, however, has been attacked as being an "unsound scientific test" by the Specialty Tobacco Council, a trade association for the manufacturers and importers of specialty cigarettes. The group was formed last spring in the wake of media reports on the potential health hazards of smoking clove cigarettes.

Medical Reports

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported a dozen cases in which clove cigarettes are suspected of causing allergic reactions or aggravating respiratory illnesses. However, that report stressed that a cause-and-effect relationship between clove cigarette smoking and the patients' illnesses has not been proved. According to the center, no new cases have been reported.

Clove cigarette sales, which jumped from about 15 million in 1980 to 150 million to 170 million in 1984, have fallen off sharply in the last 12 months.

"Based on some random conversations with a few retailers and distributors, I'd say sales right now of clove cigarettes are about 50% of what they were before the publicity," said Gabriel Avram, executive director of the Specialty Tobacco Council. "The people smoking them now are the folks I think who have smoked them a long time. These products have been (available) in this country since 1970.

"As far as we're concerned," Avram said, "there is still not a single bit of hard scientific evidence that anyone has come up with that would indict these cigarettes as being the danger their critics have said they are."

States Take Action

New Mexico and Nevada have outlawed the sale of clove cigarettes, and legislation that would ban the imports is pending in Ohio. In July, however, a Florida judge declared unconstitutional a 3-week-old law banning imports in that state.

In October, Gov. George Deukmejian signed a bill calling for the California Department of Health Services to appoint a scientific advisory board to evaluate the data from any studies on the possible health hazards of smoking clove cigarettes. The department is required to report the advisory board's findings to the Legislature no later than Jan. 1, 1988.

Meantime, most of the American Lung Assn. affiliates in California are distributing a pamphlet designed by the San Diego affiliate to warn the public of the potential dangers in smoking clove cigarettes, which contain about 60% tobacco and 40% cloves.

As for the Cislaws, Carole Cislaw said that she and her husband originally did not want to publicly discuss Tim's death because of the ongoing trauma of losing their son.

But, Cislaw said, she believes some good has come from their ordeal.

"I feel a definite impact is being made," she said, noting the drop in clove cigarette sales and increased public education regarding clove cigarettes during the past year.

"Now we know that some good has been made because of our opening up and being more public," she said. "It's not going to help Tim, but it's helping other people and that's our main concern."

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