Sep. 5 2001
Washington, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids today released a short, animated "e-movie" spoofing the recent report by tobacco giant Philip Morris in the Czech Republic touting the "positive effects" of early smoking deaths for government finances. The e-movie is a mock commercial for a new product that uses Philip Morris' uniquely twisted logic to "save" a typical American family lots of cash. The movie can be viewed at tobaccofreekids.org/philmo/
This movie is the latest effort in a grassroots campaign to educate citizens across the country and to provide them with an opportunity to call on President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft not to pardon Big Tobacco by killing the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. It was released as the U.S. Senate held a hearing examining the Administration's handling of the lawsuit.
More than 22,000 people have already written, called, e-mailed and faxed the White House to urge that the Administration aggressively pursue the lawsuit and not to be swayed by millions in tobacco industry campaign contributions. At the end of the e-movie, viewers are offered an opportunity to send their own message. This campaign is based on the Internet at: www.DontPardonBigTobacco.org.
The federal tobacco lawsuit, filed in September 1999, seeks to hold the tobacco industry legally accountable for decades of illegal and harmful practices, such as deceiving the public about the health risks of smoking, the addictiveness of nicotine and marketing practices aimed at children. The suit seeks to stop these harmful practices and recover ill-gotten gains by the industry.
After coming into office early this year, Attorney General Ashcroft's Department of Justice initially did not request the funding the department's attorneys said they needed to continue the case, and the news media reported the Justice Department was considering replacing the litigation team. In June, the Department announced it would seek to settle the lawsuit after Administration officials declared anonymously before any negotiations began that they believed they had a weak case. Legal experts have disagreed with both the assertion of a weak case and the strategy of announcing a public position of weakness before entering settlement negotiations.
In July, the news media exposed Philip Morris' report in the Czech Republic, which sought to prevent the government from adopting policies to reduce tobacco use. The report argued that the government saves money on programs such as pensions and healthcare for the elderly because smokers die prematurely.
"This e-movie is humorous, but it has a serious message. Like Philip Morris' report touting the ‘positive effects' of early smoking deaths, this movie reminds us that the tobacco industry has not changed and does not deserve to be let of the hook for decades of deception and wrongdoing," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Despite the tobacco companies' promise as part of the 1998 state tobacco settlement to stop targeting kids with their advertising, recent studies show that tobacco industry spending on marketing reached record levels after the settlement. Much of the increase was in ways effective at reaching and influencing kids, including youth-oriented magazines and convenience stores.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. Every day, 3,000 kids become regular smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.