Aug. 15 2001
Washington, DC — Responding to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine showing continued tobacco industry advertising aimed at kids, Philip Morris and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. today issued statements that include several assertions intended to mislead the public and policy makers. We want to set the record straight.
Philip Morris says that it is "committed to lowering the overall profile of its cigarette brand advertising." What Philip Morris does not say is that advertising constitutes only a small part of its marketing and promotions budget and that the latest Federal Trade Commission report tracking tobacco industry marketing expenditures showed significant increases in categories other than advertising, especially those effective at reaching kids. Significant categories include payments for high-visibility store shelf displays and product placement, retail value-added programs (such as "buy one, get one free"), giveaways such as hats and lighters, coupons and distribution of free samples.
Philip Morris says that it voluntarily ceased advertising in youth-oriented magazines in June 2000. What Philip Morris does not tell you is that it took this action only after its continued advertising in these publications was exposed by public health groups and the media and it faced legal action by the state attorneys general. This was yet another example of Philip Morris changing its harmful practices only when it had no other choice.
Philip Morris says that it agrees with public health leaders on the need for Congress to grant FDA authority over tobacco products to reduce youth smoking, help adults to quit and reduce the harm caused by tobacco products. What Philip Morris does not say is that the legislation it is supporting would not accomplish any of these goals and it is aggressively fighting legislation that would. The Philip Morris bill is riddled with so many loopholes and special protections for the tobacco manufacturers that it would actually impede the FDA's ability to do its job. Once again, Philip Morris' reasonable sounding rhetoric is intended to mask its aggressive efforts to preserve business as usual and protect its bottom line.
Brown & Williamson claims that it is working to ensure that its advertising does not reach young readers and cites as an example an agreement with several magazines to include its advertisements only in publications mailed to adults 21 years of age and older. Leaving aside the difficulty of confirming the age of subscribers, Brown & Williamson knows full well that magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone are subscribed to by an adult but read by kids. This is yet one more example of tobacco industry word games designed to hide the truth about their efforts to exploit every conceivable loophole and continue marketing to children.