Anne Landman's Collection
Some Reflections on Our Present Discontent - or Why We Are Losing the Public Affairs War on Tobacco?
Length: 5 pages
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This "private the confidential" Philip Morris (PM) discussion paper (estimated date 1990) appears to be the musings of a PM executive about why the tobacco industry was losing ground to public health authorities, and what could be done about it. The paper was found in the files of Owen C. Smith, an associate general counsel at PM. The tone of the piece is grim. The watershed event that precipitated the piece was apparently when a prestigious journal, "The Economist," (previously noted as being an ally of the tobacco industry) printed a scathing article about the tobacco industry. The article said, "The drug which Raleigh introduced to Europe [tobacco] now kills about 3M [million] people a year around the world, and the number is rising fast." The article spoke of a ban on tobacco advertising, saying "the temptation to support such bans is immense--not least because of the obvious self-interest and fraudulent arguments of the tobacco and alcohol lobbies...The heart urges a ban on their lying killers."
The writer of this PM thought-piece concludes that "we are losing far too many battles far too quickly" and that PM must act quickly to avoid a "tightly constrained and perilous end game." He concludes "...must, fundamentally, face the fact that the health issue drives every other issue" and that PM's failure to respond to the health issue thus far "simply confirms our 'guilt' in the eyes of both the public and the politicians."
But just when it sounds like the author might have an epiphany about how the company has acted and consider changing directions, he leaps back into the same combative and antagonistic line of thinking that has characterized so many other Philip Morris documents:
"The way out of our increasingly bleak dilemma is clear and realizable... [We must] Squarely face up to the health issues and demonstrate the genuine doubts, conflicts, ambiguities and contradictions that characterize the evidence against smoking. This means using effectively, preferably through third parties, the many experts, scholars and commentators who over the years have criticized our opponents," and "Stress the absurd (and often inhumane) priorities involved with anti-smoking campaigns in the third world by international organizations.
The paper also reveals that the importance of advertising and sponsorship to the tobacco industry lies in the industry's continued ability to use them to maintain clout in the political arena:
"If one takes the pessimistic view of present trends, the tobacco industry could lose all its political clout within two years. Overstated? Not really. If you take away all advertising and sponsorship, you lose most, if not all, of your media and political allies. If you take away those freedoms, there is hardly any barrier to a punitive tax regime, part of it going to fund our complete anathematization through the funding of ever more extreme anti-campaigns courtesy of 'social levy' foundations, of which there is a growing fashion."
The paper suggests implementing strategies using coalitions, third parties, celebrities like Michael Caine and Tom Selleck, to help PM "get on top of the deteriorating situation."
I'm going to guess that based on the style of writing and type styles, the author of the piece is Dr. Thomas J. Borelli, manager of corporate scientific affairs for Philip Morris in 1990. THIS IS A GUESS.
Over the last couple of weeks a number of events have occurred which should prompt some reflections on where we are an where we seem to be going, as a company and as an industry, in light of the current tobacco wars.
We can, with resolve and an appropriate strategy, roll back the tide, at least to the extent that we can maintain our present breathing space, but whether that is possible turns very much on decisive action now...
At its most basic, it seems fairly clear that we are losing far too many battles too quickly. These setbacks and defeats, whether or not we appreciate it at the time, are cumulative. There are now genuine grounds to fear that a point will be reached, and it is much more likely to be earlier than later, when we will experience a qualitative change in our circumstances and prospects.
A major crunch is near when we will be facing, not so much a continuation of the episodic guerilla warfare we have had to endure over the last 25 years, but rather we will find ourselves in a tightly constrained and perilous "end game." When that point is reached, and it could be just around the corner, all our efforts will be hugely discounted and almost inevitably negative.
...A vivid and forceful illustration of this worrying phenomenon was presented in some articles in the Sept. 15-21 issue of the prestigious journal, the Economist. The leader, titled "Advertising under siege," is worth cool reflections. The second sentence reads in part - "The drug which Raleigh introduced to Europe now kills about 3M people a year around the world, and the number is rising fast." It then goes on...to say, that the "temptation to support [advertising bans] is immense - not the least because of the obvious self-interest and fraudulent arguments of the tobacco and alcohol lobbies...The heart urges a ban on their lying killers" (this presumably is a reference to us!).
...In the recent past the Economist has castigated the whole concept of foundations created by "social costs" levies... as "an exercise in bad government."...It has also attacked the pseudo-science engaged in by the political health lobby. In other words, it was a distinctly strong ally on business issues.
But clearly is has been won over by the statistical claims and one-eyed moralism of the anti-tobacco lobby. Why is this so and what does it say about the counter campaign of the industry? The answer to both efforts is fairly clear. We have dissipated our efforts, failed to use third parties effectively and lacked real follow through...
The pressure against us is growing at a frightening speed. We are now in a new ball game. It's quite possible that unless we change our whole approach very quickly...we will find that within 12 months would could well lose our advertising and sponsorship, and a good deal of our marketing freedoms in most of our major markets. We could also face a worldwide spread of almost punitive tax regimes...
Defeat, like fear, is contagious. Once people sense surrender is in the air, the collapse of the whole operation can come with enormous rapidity...We must, fundamental, face the fact that the health issue drives every other issue. Not to even respond to the health issue, which is increasingly the case, simply confirms our "guilt" in the eyes of both the public and the politicians...It suggests intellectual and even moral bankruptcy.
What is to be done?
The way out of our increasingly bleak dilemma is clear and realizable. We must robustly face up to the nature and scale of the challenge. While being prudent, we can no longer afford to hide behind the lawyer's instinctive caution as an all purpose excuse for putting up a half- hearted response.
What follows is a suggested plan of action for winning this war:
1. Squarely face up to the health issue and demonstrate the genuine doubts, conflicts, ambiguities and contradictions that characterize the evidence against smoking. This means using effectively, through third parties, the many experts, scholars and commentators who over the years have criticized our opponents.
2. Go on the offensive through imaginative advocacy advertising campaigns, using leading figures around the world who will put the best arguments on a range of issues...
3. Arrange, through reputable third parties, a series of top seminars which will mobilize leading experts on such issues as "creative epidemiology," politicized health campaigns, the link between advertising freedoms and democracy, the "hidden agenda" of many of the anti-smoking and anti-business activists, etc.
4. Fortify and widen the range of coalitions to oppose both advertising and sponsorship bans.
5. Stress the absurd (and often inhumane) priorities involved with anti-smoking campaigns in the third world by international organizations.
6. Set up, through a reputable third party (we already know which one is willing and able) a scientific assessment bureau which would establish a bank of experts to respond promptly and responsibly to attacks on our industry...
None of the above suggestions is too difficult, many in fact have been tried and were successful, but were allowed to die through lack of leadership and follow through...
If one takes the pessimistic view of present trends, the tobacco industry could lose all its political clout within two years. Overstated? Not really. If you take away all advertising and sponsorship, you lose most, if not all, of your media and political allies. If you take away those freedoms there is hardly any barrier to a punitive tax regime, part of it going to fund our complete anathematization through the funding of ever more extreme anti-campaigns courtesy of "social levy" foundations, of which there is a growing fashion.
We could well be in this position within two years, or even less, if the pace of present restrictions worldwide continues. It doesn't take much imagination to see what this would mean for our share price, not to mention our reputation. Compared to the billions we could lose, our present commitment to recovering both commercial, political and, not least, moral ground is, to put it baldly, pitiful. The time to get on top of this deteriorating situation is now.
- Philip Morris
- Presumed corporate author, Philip Morris. Found in the files Owen C. Smith, Associate General Counsel for PM
- Presumed corporate author, Philip Morris