Mar. 7 2006
Washington, DC — The tobacco companies claim that they have changed their ways and do not want kids to smoke, but their actions continue to tell a different story. In the latest example, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have joined the Lorillard Tobacco Company in seeking to shut down the American Legacy Foundation's highly successful truth® youth smoking prevention advertising campaign. Philip Morris and RJR on March 3 filed a motion to appear as "friends of the court" (amici curiae) in support of Lorillard's appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court that seeks to have the truth® ads declared in violation of the 1998 state tobacco settlement because they allegedly "vilify" the tobacco companies (Brown & Williamson, now merged with RJR in Reynolds American Tobacco, is also listed on the motion). The Delaware Chancery Court has twice rejected Lorillard's four-year-old effort to shut down the truth® campaign, but now the other major cigarette manufacturers have joined Lorillard in this colossal act of hypocrisy.
With Philip Morris the most aggressive, the tobacco companies have sought to portray themselves as reformed and part of the solution to the tobacco problem. But their effort to shut down the truth® campaign shows again that they remain the main cause of the problem and diehard opponents of policies and programs that actually reduce tobacco use. The real reason the tobacco companies are so anxious to destroy Legacy's effective and hard-hitting truth® advertising campaign is because these ads keep kids from smoking by telling them the truth about how the tobacco industry has targeted them and deceived them about the harm caused by tobacco use. Legacy's efforts stand in marked contrast to the industry's so-called "youth anti-smoking" programs, which offer no reason not to smoke and portray smoking as an acceptable adult habit, thereby making it appealing to kids striving to appear more adult. A study published in the March 2005 issue of The American Journal of Public Health found that declines in youth smoking accelerated after the launch of the truth® campaign in 2000 and that there was a significant dose-response relationship between exposure to the truth® ads and declines in youth smoking.
This effort to shut down the truth® ads is far from an isolated incident. RJR and Lorillard also filed suit to stop California's highly successful tobacco prevention advertising, an effort that was rejected by a California federal judge and then by the U.S. Supreme Court just last month when it refused to hear the case. Tobacco companies also continue to fight other scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including tobacco tax increases and smoke-free workplaces and public places.
While fighting effective solutions, the tobacco companies are spending record amounts to market their deadly and addictive products, often in ways that appeal to kids. Since the 1998 tobacco settlement, the tobacco companies have increased their marketing expenditures by 125 percent to $15.1 billion a year, or $41.5 million a day, according to the Federal Trade Commission (based on industry expenditures for 2003, the most recent released by the FTC). The bulk of industry marketing is now spent on price discounts that have their greatest impact on kids, the most price-sensitive customers. Tobacco companies also continue to advertise in magazines popular with youth, such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, and they continue to sell candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes that appeal to youth experimenting with smoking.
It is critical that the American Legacy Foundation prevail in the Delaware Supreme Court so that it can maintain its independence and continue to run hard-hitting advertising proven effective at preventing kids from smoking. The fact that Philip Morris, RJR, and Lorillard are all seeking to stop Legacy's successful efforts to reduce youth smoking is further proof that Big Tobacco has not changed.