PHILIP MORRIS: Launches ‘Corporate Image’ Campaign
"After decades of disputing the findings of the U.S. surgeon general and other medical authorities," Philip Morris Cos., the nation's largest cigarette manufacturer, is set to acknowledge that "scientific evidence shows that smoking causes lung cancer and other deadly diseases," the New York Times reports. Yesterday the company unveiled a $100 million campaign to bolster the company's corporate image, tarnished by a series of lawsuits (Meier, 10/13). The campaign will consist of a series of television ads and a new Web site, www.philipmorris.com. The four television ads, to begin airing tonight, focus on the company's philanthropic endeavors, concluding: "Working to make a difference. The people of Philip Morris" (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 10/13). The ads will highlight Philip Morris' efforts to combat social ills such as hunger, domestic violence and natural disasters, and are scheduled to air during top-rated shows like the baseball playoffs, "Monday Night Football" and "ER" (Wollenberg, AP/Nando Times, 10/12). The Los Angeles Times reports that the Web site includes "unusually frank discussions of the health risks and addictiveness of smoking." On assessing the risk to smokers, the Web site says, "There is an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases. ... There is no 'safe' cigarette." With regard to addiction, the site says "smoking is addictive, as that term is most commonly used today" (Levin, 10/13). Philip Morris' campaign comes on the heels of Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s recent launch of print and television campaign, "designed to encourage parents to tell their children it's 'uncool' to smoke" (Gugliotta, Washington Post, 10/13). Lorillard's campaign also includes Web sites and a multi-city tour (AP/Nando Times, 10/12). Some industry analysts note that making these disclosures will make it significantly harder for people who begin smoking now, to make future claims against the company. Dr. David Kessler, former head of the FDA, said, "It is a profound change. It really sets a new stage for regulation and legislation."
While some applaud the company's efforts, others are still unsatisfied. Matthew Myers, an attorney for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said, "The acknowledgements seem to be an abandonment once and for all of the campaign of sowing doubts in the minds of consumers. But it falls a critical step short because it doesn't say whether Philip Morris agrees with these conclusions." Responding to those criticisms, Steven Parrish, a senior vice president of at Philip Morris, said that the company was "not going to dispute that smoking causes cancer." He said, "This is a serious and good faith effort on our part to try to engage in a dialogue," adding that the company "had decided to take a less combative and defensive position." Kessler said that the company could have taken these steps long ago. He said, "The tobacco industry could have gone down this road in 1964 but decided instead to engage in a campaign of fraud and deception that it is now paying for" (New York Times, 10/13).
Joining the Fray
The United Nations and the World Health Organization have asked independent experts to "investigate new evidence that the tobacco industry tried to influence and undermine UN efforts to control tobacco use," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (10/13). Their claim is based on the 35 million pages of internal documents released after the tobacco litigation in Minnesota last year, which include a Philip Morris document alluding to "counter-measures designed to contain/re-orient the WHO" and to "stop them (WHO programs) in their tracks." Thomas Zeltner, Switzerland's top health official and WHO executive board member, will spearhead the committee, which will complete a "thorough review of the evidence and recommend steps for further action" (Williams, Financial Times, 10/13).