Philip Morris is considering airing public service-style
commercials on US television aimed at halting under-age smoking
(Campaign, 28 August).
Is nothing sacred? Has the big bad US tobacco company suddenly turned
all altruistic and public spirited?
Well, not exactly. There are canny reasons behind its decision to
dissuade children from smoking. The US tobacco industry is riding on a
high having defeated a sweeping anti-smoking bill in June. But it cannot
The defeated bill would have raised the price of cigarettes over five
years, expanded the Food and Drug Administration regulation of nicotine
and subjected the industry to a new set of advertising and labelling
Philip Morris, whose brands include Marlboro and Benson & Hedges, joined
with three other tobacco companies to fund TV spots lobbying against the
legislation, focusing on the sharply increased taxes smokers would have
had to pay. The campaign, which saw dollars 40 million spent on
advertising, struck home, and the bill was defeated.
The prime supporter of the bill, President Clinton, hit back at the
Republicans who voted to defeat it, saying: ’This battle is far from
over.’ He has since instructed the Government to conduct annual surveys
on which brands are favoured by under-age smokers.
And now, Philip Morris is filming its public service campaign, not, the
company insisted, in response to Clinton’s threat.
Tobacco may have won the battle so far, but if under-age smoking does
not decline soon, the industry faces further legislation.