Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in ads (by court order)

Image: CDC anti-smoking campaign

The new anti-smoking campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention features former smokers who want to save others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Moreover, in order to sustain the economic viability of their companies, Defendants have denied that they marketed and advertised their products to children under the age of eighteen and to young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one in order to ensure an adequate supply of ‘replacement smokers,’ as older ones fall by the wayside through death, illness, or cessation of smoking,” she added.

“In short, Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”

Now, no serious scientist or doctor denies that smoking kills. The

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarettes kill 480,000 Americans a year, and tobacco use costs $170 billion in direct medical costs and $156 billion in lost productivity.


Ex-smokers come clean in CDC campaign

The ads themselves will be far from visually interesting. The court-mandated ruling is short and to the point, and the ads are based on words, not pictures.

The advocacy groups hope to do what they can to counter that. “We want to make sure that although the industry would like this to be invisible and unwatchable that we put this squarely on the radar screens of the American public,” Koval said.

The court specified more than 50 newspapers to carry the weekly full page ads, from the New York Times and USA Today to La Voz de Houston and the Northern Kentucky Herald. It also requires the companies to place five ads a week for a year on the three major networks – NBC, ABC and CBS.

Some of the statements people will see in newspapers and on television:

  • Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
  • Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
  • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.
  • Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year.
  • Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severe asthma, and reduced lung function.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

“I certainly hope for the many people who will see them that this will remind them of things that, frankly, have been forgotten over time,” Koval said.

“People have forgotten over time all of the practices of the tobacco industry, not only the fact that they lied about the products but also the fact that the products they were selling to the American people were engineered to be addictive as possible.”


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Douglas says it’s not clear what the impact of the ads will be.

“I think it’s going to anger some people,” he said. “I think people get angry and they don’t want to give their hard earned bucks to Big Tobacco.”

The companies are now using “the same playbook” to promote e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, which they are marketing as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, Douglas said.

“They recruit some great minds globally in media communications, science, law, medicine,” he said.

For instance, he said, Philip Morris is promoting a new, heated cigarette that doesn’t burn. “That is not an e-cigarette. But Philip Morris would be delighted for the general public to be very confused about all of these things and buy everything the company sells,” Douglas said.


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The groups are hoping the Food and Drug Administration will

use what powers it has to restrict the marketing of new products in the future. Congress won’t let FDA ban cigarettes.

Image: Viceroy cigarette ad

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