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Lip Balm Anonymous Presents the Industry of Addiction

Chap Stick Conspiracy

The History of Chap Stick

The Whitehall-Robins Healthcare company has a long history of using the popular media to push their products. Anyone remember Suzy Chaffee ("Suzy Chap Stick"), spokesperson for Chap Stick in the 1970's? Long a leader in the lip balm market, Chap Stick has been overtaken this year by Blistex. Here is a detailed history of Chap Stick from a June 1994 Whitehall-Robins press release:
Chap Stick PhotoIn the early 1880's, Dr. C. D. Fleet, a Lynchburg, VA., physician and pharmacological tinkerer, invented Chap Stick as a lip balm. The handmade product, which resembled a wickless candle wrapped in tin foil, was sold locally, but did not have much success.

In 1912, John Morton, also a Lynchburg resident, bought the rights to the product for $5. In their family kitchen, Mrs. Morton melted the pink Chap Stick mixture on her kitchen stove and poured the liquid through a small funnel into brass tubes. The rack was moved to the porch for cooling. After that, the molded Chap Stick was cut into sticks and placed in containers for shipping.

In 1963, the A. H. Robbins Company, formerly of Richmond, acquired Chap Stick lip balm from Morton Manufacturing Corporation. At that time, only Chap Stick Lip Balm regular stick was being marketed to consumers; however, since 1963, a number of line extension have been introduced.

In 1971, four Chap Stick Lip Balm flavored sticks were added, followed by Chap Stick Sunblock 15 in 1981. In 1985 Chap Stick Petroleum Jelly Plus was introduced in Regular, Sunblock 15, and Cherry-flavored varieties, all in squeezable tubes. In 1992, in response to growing consumer expectations, Chap Stick Medicated, in three forms -- sticks, squeezable tubes and jars -- was launched. This expanded considerably the selection of lip care products available to consumers, further solidifying Chap Stick's leadership position in the lip care category.

In December, 1989, A. H. Robins, formerly based in Richmond, was acquired by American Home Products Corporation. As might be expected, the product has undergone a number of changes in formula, form and packaging throughout the years. Yet today, at an A. H. Robins Consumers Products plant in Richmond, Chap Stick is still poured into molds -- but on a modern production line. During a regular shift, approximately 85,000 units are produced.

According to a September 1996 issue of Med Ad News, WhiteHall-Robins reports that sales of Chap Stick were up 10.73%, generating $63 million in revenues.

Like the Corner Drug Dealer!

Robins took a different approach than Blistex when we contacted them for information on their company. Instead of sending literature, they sent us coupons for Chap Stick and their other products. Does this strategy sound familiar? It is the same one used by the corner drug dealer who says "The first one is free!" Truly despicable.

Chap Stick on the Web!

The folks at Whitehall-Robins are getting into the misinformation business with their new Web site Healthfront. The name says it all: it is a front pretending to be about health. You can wade through their graphics and frames-heavy site, or you can go straight to the Chap Stick links we provide here. The first Lip Care page announces proudly that chapped lips aren't funny! We agree, and there's nothing funny about their Chapstick page, either. It provides the typical propaganda about how Chap Stick will keep your lips "looking and feeling healthy". Our problem with these pages, and the whole site in general, is that Whitehall-Robins' name is rarely seen. We think many people are going to think this is some sort of board-certified medical site. Funny how every problem has a Whitehall-Robins solution...

Poor Josie

Josie Bisset, of Melrose Place fame, was quoted in a People Weekly article (May 6, 1996, page 108) that she never leaves the house without Chap Stick! Those who've read our Blistex page know that there is some evidence that Chap Stick and other lip balms are "gateways" to hard drugs. If Josie develops a drug problem in the future, you heard it here first! Our thanks to LBAer Joanie M. for pointing this article out to us.

No, not Winona too!

The December 1997 issue of US magazine features an interview with actress Winona Ryder. The article mentions that she uses lip balm and even says that Chap Stick is her favorite brand. First Johnny Depp and now this! Stop now, Winona, before you destroy your career. Thanks to LBAer Jason H. for pointing out this article.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A monkey on my lips

For 26 years, I've harbored a craving for this inexpensive substance both day and night, winter, spring, summer and fall. No matter the hour or season, I need my Chap Stick

David Eisnaugle

Atlanta Constitution. Sunday, February 4, 1996. Page: H/5

With my head hung low and lips aquiver, I must confess to a long- standing addiction: I crave an intoxicating combination of petrolatums, padimate O, lanolin, isopropyl myristate and cetyl alcohol to get me through my days and nights. Combine these chemicals and you get a substance that medical journals refer to as lippus balmease. I'm talking about Chap Stick.

Any self-taught chemist can cook these elements into a creamy concoction that has a street value of $1.50. Fortunately, people like myself who can't tell a Bunsen burner from a hole in the ground can simply visit their neighborhood pharmacy or Kwik-Fix mini-mart and score a tube or two.

Yes, I have a monkey on my lips and it's called Chap Stick. For the past 26 years, I've harbored a craving for this inexpensive substance both day and night, winter, spring, summer and fall. No matter the hour or season, I need my Chap Stick.

I am at my weakest when I am asleep and have lost the ability to maintain the proper moisture level on my lips. More often than not, I find myself bolting upright at 3 a.m. and fumbling for my parched lips with trembling fingers. I'll reach over my snoring wife and snatch the tube of Chap Stick on the nightstand to mainline a quick smear. All is right with the world once again.

How did this addiction begin? Was it because I ran with the wrong crowd, or did I just get caught up in a cool scene I read about in "Interview"? Neither. It was my mother who introduced me to the instant nirvana of lip balm.

A quick flashback to the winter of '69 in Columbus, Ohio. I'm 8 years old and seated between my parents in a Methodist church pew. The minister has worked himself in a lather as he unravels the levels of hell awaiting those who do not heed his warnings. With the same ferociousness, I have stripped away an alarming amount of dead skin from my first case of chapped lips.

The night before, my younger sister had introduced me to this strange new candy called lipstick that she discovered in our mother's dresser drawer. For nearly two hours, we applied the lipstick and then licked it off as fast as we could. My sister preferred the frosted lipsticks; I was partial to anything red. But the next morning my lips tingled like a five-alarm fire and resembled crusty ballpark franks. As my father drove us to church, I kept my burning lips glued to the Ford's ice-cold passenger window. Once in church, my mother became quite disgusted with the dance-of-the-seven-veils act I was performing on my lips. She snapped open her purse and plopped a tube of lip balm in my hand. At first I was puzzled a here was something that looked like the very thing that got me in trouble in the first place. Nevertheless, I applied this ointment and awaited its healing powers. Miraculously, it soon took a bit of the sting out of my lips. Praise be to lip balm.

But at the age of 34, I have a ball-and-chain relationship with Chap Stick. I can't go out my front door without first tapping my left pants pocket for a Chap Stick check. Whenever caught deep in the throes of moisture-free lips, my modus operandi for applying Chap Stick is eight quick dabs, as opposed to one big swipe, every 20 minutes. This economical approach avoids needless waste and a potential overdose, plus it makes the tube last longer. In this age of spiked cigarettes, boozy cough syrups and jazzed java joints, it's not unheard of for someone to admit an addiction to any one particular substance. I don't know what I would do if the Food and Drug Administration ever classified lip balm as an illegal substance. This nightmare scenario undoubtedly would force me to smuggle this lip elixir out of Switzerland and into the United States by freeze-drying it into a powder and then concealing it in condoms or Swiss Miss hot chocolate packets.

Psst, hey, you; want some hot chocolate?

Copyright 1996 Atlanta Newspapers Inc.

"Another Tale Of Personal Courage"
by Jon Carroll

Reprinted from the April 22, 1997 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle by permission

THIS STORY HAPPENED in Egypt, but it could have happened in Your Town, U.S.A. The participants were third-tier media celebrities and a glamorous international circus star, but it could have been just ordinary lumpy people like you and your friend Ed.

Addiction knows no name, no country, no special waiting areas in Third World airports. Addiction can happen to men and women and writers alike. Addiction is no respecter of class, money, wit, style, fabulous long swooping scarves or the ability to catch oneself by one's heels while swinging 20 feet in the air.

It's a terrible thing, addiction. We weep.

It was my younger daughter who broke through the cycle of denial. She started an intervention, although at the time it sounded like a peevish comment. We were all sitting on a low wall in Luxor. We were supposed to meet someone who was not meeting us.

``You use way too much Chapstick,'' she said to my wife, Tracy Johnston, noted travel writer.

``I do not,'' said Tracy, deep in her disease.

``Yes, you do,'' reasoned Shana, the glamorous international circus star. She was wearing newly purchased sunglasses that made her look like Christina Onassis after a particularly harrowing birthday party.

``You can't use too much Chapstick,'' said Tracy. ``It's not like it's addictive or anything. We're in Egypt; it's dry; I'm using Chapstick. How can that be wrong?'' Oh, it was hot that day.

``Ha!'' said Shana. I said nothing. I was witnessing. Or napping. One of those.

``Chapstick is very addictive,'' Shana continued. ``I had a friend who had this problem.'' Then she told about the friend who had this problem. It was such a harrowing tale I cannot bring myself to repeat it here. Also, I was napping. But it ended: ``And now she's cured.''

TRACY SQUIRMED like the trapped junkie rat she was. ``I don't use it any more than anybody else.''

``You use it more than me,'' I said, suddenly awakening from feigned sleep. Both women looked at me as though a curbstone had suddenly begun to speak. I settled back into my watchful posture.

But Tracy was considering the issue. She is fair- minded, even though she has an unnatural fondness for waxy substances on her lips. She realized that Shana might be right.

Perhaps she was powerless over Chapstick. Perhaps her life had become unmanageable, a long, dreary march from tube to tube. She lived only for that moment. If nothing else was available, she even used cherry flavor. Oh, God, it was sad. I would have said something, had I been allowed to speak.

``I have come to accept that only a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity,'' Tracy said. ``What is the next step?''

``Stop using Chapstick so much,'' said Shana. Oh, she is wise beyond her years.

AND SO SHE DID. She quit cold turkey, or perhaps cold lard, that day in Luxor. She just said no. When she wanted to reach for Chapstick, she reached for a semi-automatic weapon instead.

I am here today to support my wife. That's why we're all here in this circle of caring. She has discovered that her craving has been lifted from her. Her lips have remained moist and healthy. Her ``need'' was the result (we believe) of a certain incident with lipstick and a boy named Larry.

But there are no reasons; there is only recovery. Tracy doesn't use Chapstick at all anymore, except socially. At a party in the desert when the wind comes up; maybe then. Or when she goes for a boat ride.

She's been going for a lot of boat rides lately.

Note: we received this note from Jon Carroll: "Bless you in your fine work." Thank you Jon, for helping to spread the word...

Last updated on November 23, 1997
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