Accommodating public health demands makes it possible for tobacco companies to win positive public relations and enhance political credibility while compromising little in business operations, a study in the American Journal of Public Health found.
For the study, researchers reviewed Philip Morris USA internal documents and studied the company's reaction to shareholder requests to put warning labels on cigarette packaging. The authors then analyzed the reactions among Philip Morris, institutional investors, tobacco industry competitors and socially responsible investment activists.
The study found that Philip Morris gained political and public advantage when it voluntarily printed labels on cigarette packages sold abroad after first refusing requests from activists and others to do so. In addition, the study found that the labeling Philip Morris agreed to include was ineffective at deterring smoking and that in some foreign countries the labels were confusing or unreadable to many smokers.
The researchers conclude that a "plan to end the for-profit manufacture and marketing of tobacco products" could be the most worthwhile aim of negotiations with tobacco companies (Wander/Malone, American Journal of Public Health, November 2006).