The U.S. Department f Justice wants the nation’s biggest cigarette makers to fund an advertising campaign which admits Big Tobacco lied to the public about the dangers of smoking Lady cigarettes. Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled 14 “corrective statements” that would be part of the campaign. Some examples:
“A federal court is requiring tobacco companies to tell the truth about cigarette smoking. Here’s the truth: … Smoking kills 1,200 Americans. Every day.”
“We falsely marketed low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes to keep people smoking and sustain our profits.”
“For decades, we denied that we controlled the level of nicotine delivered in cigarettes. Here’s the truth. … We control nicotine delivery to create and sustain smokers’ addiction, because that’s how we keep customers coming back.”
Thursday, attorneys for the tobacco companies (probably the big winners in a proceeding that has dragged on for 12 years) indicated they would challenge those statements. The judge in the case is to decide this week how much latitude the manufacturers have in making that challenge.
It all may be a waste of time – and money.
Consider that current cigarette packaging carries one of the following warnings: “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy,” “Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight” and “Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.”
Again, those warnings are on the packaging itself. Cigarette packaging bearing big, bold letters claiming “SMOKING?THESE?THINGS?CAN?KILL?YOU” wouldn’t keep people from buying them.
Clearly, warning labels alone won’t help people quit the habit. And the advertising campaign as envisioned by the Justice Department would be more vindictive than effective.
We think the money would be better spent on smoking cessation and tobacco avoidance efforts.
If that doesn’t work, perhaps the next step would be a rebranding campaign – involving real brands.