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Still smokin’, still addictive

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2003 - Summer


A sizzling second-year show spins the tale of a “healthy” cigarette and a fiendish plot to steal its formula.

Ever since his arrival at Yale in 1997 fresh from his battles with the tobacco industry as head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., has provided fodder for the second-year show. In 1998 students teased him with a song called “FDA Dropout.” Another recent show featured a video of Kessler sneaking out of a bathroom to the tune of “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room.”

Kessler has encouraged this tradition by “buying” his way into the show each year with a donation to local charities. Included in his annual largesse are roles for Nancy R. Angoff, M.P.H. ’81, M.D. ’90, HS ’93, associate dean for student affairs, and Ruth J. Katz, J.D., M.P.H., associate dean for administration.

This year Kessler portrayed himself and paid lip service to the virtues of a vegetarian, low-sodium, lactose-free “healthy cigarette” developed at Yale. Then Kessler, the author of a “well-written but soporific” book on the tobacco industry, helped steal the sole copy of the cigarette’s formula. Had Big Tobacco finally bought him off?

So it seemed until two secret agents traced the theft to Dr. Evil, transplanted from the set of an Austin Powers movie to join the Class of ’05—make that ’005—in “The Spy Who Smoked Me.” The healthy cigarettes, tested at Yale in a randomized, quadruple-blind, double-deaf, one-third-mute study, were still addictive, as revealed in a disco dance-off as Kessler and Angoff struggled for the last butt. With the two deans in the grip of Saturday Night fever, Katz (“I bought my way into the show”) filched the last cigarette in the administrators’ stash.

To the rescue came Gold Bond (Douglas Walled) and Agent XX (Mihae Yun), the lithe and chromosomally correct brains behind the investigation, who recovered the formula.

The show netted almost $6,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.