Nov. 13 2002
Washington, D.C. — Barely one week after the 2002 election, and as newly-elected members of Congress gather in Washington, Philip Morris today spent millions of dollars to place a lavish insert in major metropolitan newspapers that seeks to portray the world's largest tobacco company as part of the solution to the problem of tobacco use, when in fact it remains the major cause of the problem.
This newspaper insert is clear evidence that Philip Morris is gearing up to cash in on the more than $3.2 million in federal campaign contributions it made this past election (plus millions more in state elections). Philip Morris is trying to make it politically acceptable for elected officials, especially Members of Congress, to be on its side. Philip Morris' goals include killing the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, enacting weak FDA authority over tobacco products that protects tobacco industry profits rather than the public health, and defeating public health measures at the state and local level. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Philip Morris was the number one corporate campaign contributor to federal candidates and political parties in this past election, giving $3.2 million as of October 7, 2002. Philip Morris has also been the top corporate campaign contributor since 1989, giving $19 million at the federal level. Now Philip Morris expects a big payback. Elected officials at all levels should reject these efforts and act instead to protect our nation's kids and health from Philip Morris.
At the same time that Philip Morris seeks to portray itself as a responsible company, it is spending billions on marketing that addicts kids and remains the major cause of the problem of tobacco use, especially among kids. More kids – 55.2 percent of all smokers aged 12 to 17 – smoke Philip Morris's Marlboro than all other brands combined, according to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. In addition, Philip Morris continues to oppose effective measures at all levels of government to reduce tobacco use. Philip Morris attacked Florida's successful tobacco prevention program, funded front groups that opposed cigarette tax increases and secondhand smoke protections, and ran a so-called "youth tobacco prevention" program that was found to actually increase the likelihood that youth would smoke. In the Czech Republic, Philip Morris went so far as to argue in a study exposed in July 2001 that early deaths from smoking had "positive effects" because they save the government money.
If Philip Morris is serious about being a responsible company, it will end its marketing practices that addict kids in the United States and around the world, stop opposing effective measures to reduce tobacco use, and join the public health community in supporting legislation before Congress to grant the FDA real, effective authority over tobacco products. Instead, Philip Morris continues to seek to buy political influence and conduct misleading public relations campaigns. The fact is that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year, and for more than a decade, Philip Morris has sold more cigarettes to more Americans than any other company.