Cigarette Companies ‘Fighting Back’ Against Anti-Tobacco-Industry Ads, New York Times Reports
The New York Times on Sunday examined cigarette makers' response to state and nationwide anti-smoking advertisements that are "focusing on the supposed evils of the tobacco company ... rather than spotlighting the ill effects of cigarettes." Although anti-smoking advocates and tobacco companies agree that the campaigns have been "highly effective," some tobacco company officials have said that the commercials "do little more than vilify cigarette companies and their employees." According to the Times, the "battle" between anti-smoking advocates and cigarette makers has intensified recently as commercials from the American Legacy Foundation, the national public health organization established with funds from the 1998 tobacco settlement, have increased their focused on the tobacco companies. Now, tobacco companies are "fighting back," the Times reports. Lorillard Tobacco Company is suing the foundation in North Carolina court. Steve Watson, a Lorillard spokesperson, wrote in a letter to the foundation last year, "It appears the American Legacy Foundation continues to be content with taking an approach in its advertisements that seeks to vilify the tobacco industry rather than serve to educate the public." Rather than seeking a monetary award, the suit requests that the court clarify the settlement by defining the phrase in the 1998 settlement agreement to say there will be no "personal attack on, or vilification of, any person, company or government agency." In response, the foundation has filed a countersuit in a Delaware state court contending that it was "created by the master settlement but was not a party to it," the Times reports.
Both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris have also taken issue with both state and national anti-smoking campaigns (Tugend, New York Times, 10/27). The companies blame an aggressive anti-smoking advertising campaign in California by the Department of Health Services for a string of legal defeats, saying that the ads are biasing jurors (California Healthline, 9/12). Colleen Stevens, a spokesperson for the tobacco control section of California's health department, defended the anti-tobacco company ads, saying, "What we learned very early on is that 'Please don't smoke; it's not good for your health' doesn't work for kids." She added that what is effective is telling teens "how the industry manipulates" them. Philip Morris spokesperson Michael Pfeil said the company -- the country's largest cigarette maker -- has decided not to file suit against either states or the foundation. "Our desire is to engage with them. We believe we have a role to play in preventing kids from smoking." Pfeil also said, "[W]e're going to continue to seek constructive dialogue" with the American Legacy Foundation (New York Times, 10/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.