Update 1/2012: As a result of financial pressure (boycotts, lawsuits, etc), Kraft Foods divorced itself from Philip Morris (which now hides under the alias Altria Group), and we lifted our boycott of Kraft.
Unfortunately, Kraft is now following Philip Morris's lead using bigotry to promote its products. So we're back to boycotting Kraft, too. Maybe this time they'll learn: it's not just the tobacco killing their business; it's the bigotry.
Philip Morris owns numerous products including:
Philip Morris's Crimes:
Don't be fooled by ads that make Philip Morris look like it's some sort of charity group. This corporation is as bad as they get.
Philip Morris promotes age-discrimination to help sell their tobacco products.
The people at Philip Morris understand the psychology of oppression. In the days when blacks were barred from riding at the front of the bus, blacks rebelled. They demanded to sit at the front, even though the front of the bus was no more comfortable than the back, and both ends of the bus went to all the same bus stops. Self-respecting human beings reject second-class treatment. When you tell people they are inferior, and you attach restrictions to that "inferiority," people naturally resist, even if those restrictions seem harmless.
Today, something similar happens with tobacco, and tobacco companies, led by Philip Morris, orchestrate it. Young people are declared inferior. Attached to this "inferiority" is a restriction on sales of tobacco to "minors." Young people then feel the only way to reclaim their dignity is to subvert those age-laws by smoking — and putting money in the pockets of tobacco corporations. As a marketing executive at Imperial Tobacco wrote in a 1977 memo (not meant to be seen by the public):
Of course, one of the very things that are attractive is [the] mere fact that cigarettes are forbidden fruit. Everywhere [teenagers] turn are admonitions to stay away from it. School lectures and teachers [say] not to smoke. Parents (even smoking ones) say not to smoke. Therefore, when the adolescent is looking for something that at the same time makes them feel different and also makes them feel that they are old enough to ignore this weight of authority so as to feel that they have made their own choice, what better could be found than a cigarette? It is not just a smoke. It is a statement, a naughty adventure, a milestone episode. (15)
Philip Morris works overtime to push these age-restrictions because ageism is the key to boosting profits.
Pushing Ageist Laws
Before the 1980s, each state set its own policies on tobacco. Those that were the least ageist enjoyed the lowest rates of smoking among youth and among adults. Montana, for example, had no age-limit at all, and Montana had the lowest teenaged smoking rate of all 50 states. (17)
In states that had no legal age-limit on tobacco, Philip Morris gave hefty campaign contributions to the right law-makers and had age-restrictions introduced (12). A few states resisted. So Philip Morris went to Congress. There they found a proposal by Rep. Mike Synar that had been languishing for months (13). The bill had many provisions the tobacco industry hated (FDA regulation, bans on certain promotions, etc.) and one provision they did not hate: a federal age-limit on tobacco, overruling those states that refused to impose such discrimination. Philip Morris's lobbyists got busy. Suddenly in 1993, Rep. Synar's bill came up for floor action. The bill was picked apart in Congress. Every part of the bill was rejected except one provision: the one Philip Morris's lobbyists supported. Now we have a nation-wide age-limit (14).
What was the result of imposing this age-limit? In 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine would publish a study showing that criminalizing teenaged smoking led to a significant increase in teenaged smoking (18). Tobacco companies enjoyed greater profits because of bigotry.
But Philip Morris was not satisfied manipulating our laws. They promptly celebrated their legislative success by sending out stickers for stores to display, reading "We Card: It's the Law," rubbing youth's noses in their supposed inferiority, daring youths to defy "the Law."
Philip Morris invaded families, mailing out booklets to parents across America, urging them to order their children not to smoke. They deliberately added tension to families, manipulating parents into pushing the inferiority myth on their own children just so Philip Morris could sell more cigarettes.
The people of Philip Morris spread the disease of bigotry so they can sell their pseudo-cure.
TV Ads in CA
Another tobacco company, Lorillard, discredited anti-smoking groups by attacking youth and making it look like the anti-smoking people were responsible. They placed ads in comic books and teenager magazines reading "Tobacco is wacco for kids," implying tobacco is just fine for older people (19). Those who missed the fine print were led to believe this insulting ageism was the work of anti-smoking groups. Lorillard may well have been inspired by what Philip Morris did in California.
In 1988, California voters passed Proposition 99, mandating the state government spend money on anti-tobacco advertising. The state did so. "The cornerstones of this [advertising] campaign," explained medical professor Stanton Glantz, a member of the ad campaign's advisory board, "were three messages: nicotine is addictive, second-hand smoke is dangerous for non-smokers, and the tobacco companies are out to get you"(8). These messages proved wildly successful, causing the number of smokers in California to drop 17% in three years (9).
Philip Morris was losing sales. So what did they do? They gave a pile of soft money to Governor Pete Wilson. Soon, Wilson had the commercials changed. He declared they could no longer warn people nicotine is addictive. In fact, they were banned from saying the word "addiction"(10). Nor could they make any strong criticism of the tobacco companies' ethics (16). Instead, they had to focus on smoking by youth, impressing on viewers that smoking is a freedom reserved for those who are mature enough and smart enough to make the decision to smoke. (See? Smoking is about being smart and being free. It's about being a first-class citizen. It's not about having your voice-box removed before the cancer spreads to the rest of your body.) This helps obscure the truth: that smoking is not a freedom but an enslavement like any other chemical dependency.
"If you look at the kind of junk that the state is now producing," said Dr. Glantz when these new ads appeared over his objection, "it looks like Philip Morris did it. [I]f you ... look at the material they are putting out on youth access, and don't sell cigarettes to kids, it looks like the Philip Morris Action on Access campaign"(20).
This campaign had precisely the effect Philip Morris wanted. As Professor Glantz would later reveal, "The data shows that when the tobacco industry succeeded in shifting the focus from the anti-industry ads to education ads aimed at youth groups, the campaign stopped working and smoking increased"(11).
When these new ads focusing on age appeared, viewers did not see the hand of Philip Morris orchestrating these commercials. All they saw was our government saying youth are inferior, discrimination is encouraged, and if youth don't like being second-class citizens, they better cough up some $ and buy cigarettes.
Turning the 50-State Lawsuit
In the late 1990's, tobacco companies faced multi-billion dollar law-suits by the attorneys general of all 50 states. While negotiating a settlement, some attorneys general proposed a "lookback" provision that would require tobacco companies to pay extra money to the states if they did not produce a decline in youth smoking. The tobacco companies, led by Philip Morris, fought this bitterly, and got the provision changed so companies would not be punished if they could convince authorities they were "trying" to reduce teen smoking. In the final agreement, the "Master Settlement Agreement" (MSA), even that provision was removed. Instead, the companies agreed to pay money for ads ostensibly designed to discourage teenagers from smoking, and if the ads happened to cause teenaged smoking to increase, the companies would not be held responsible even if it could be proven they were acting in bad faith.
The tobacco companies acted as though pay for these ads were some big sacrifice for which they should be rewarded with a trade-off. The attorneys general rewarded them indeed with a provision in the MSA that barred any state attorney general from ever again suing them on any grounds (fraud, antitrust, any grounds) (2). The attorneys general, for their part, pretended to believe the companies were making a fair trade. Attorneys general are politicians, elected in most states, and they wanted to tell voters they had achieved a great deal with their MSA. To elected officials, actual results do not matter so much as the appearance of results.
Most of the money paid in this big settlement was given to states to do with as they pleased. Many states used this money to fund health care. Others used it for general revenues, allowing these states to lower their income tax rates. But Philip Morris actively lobbied the states to spend the money in a different way. "We are actively encouraging ... states to spend tobacco settlement funds on youth smoking prevention efforts," said Philip Morris Senior Vice President Carolyn J. Levy. She also boasted Philip Morris had now set up its own Youth Smoking Prevention Department with a budget of $100 million per year (4).
In 2000, Philip Morris promptly began its obligations under the MSA by sending out 28 million free "anti-smoking" textbook covers to 43,000 schools across America (1), including elementary schools (5). The book covers showed Philip Morris's logo beside images of cool people snowboarding and having fun. They also bore the words "Don't smoke," so students would understand youth were meant to be excluded from the fun and freedom depicted on their book covers (1). Like any ad for cigarettes, these covers carried the Surgeon General's health warning, but the warning was strategically placed so that, when the cover was properly wrapped around a book, the warning wound up on the inside of the book, less visible than the Philip Morris logo with fun lifestyle images (6).
California's State Superintendent of Education, Delaine Easton, was not fooled. She issued a letter to all schools in her state urging them to reject these book covers and "take immediate action to thwart this attempt by the Philip Morris Tobacco Co. to reach kids with their message"(21). Other school officials agreed with her.
Going Beyond the Agreement
Philip Morris then voluntarily spent its own money on an ad campaign to tell youth not to smoke (22). One of these TV ads showed a girl defensively declaring, "I don't need to smoke to prove myself. My coolness is not on trial here"(3). So you see, Boys and Girls, if you ever do feel like your coolness is on trial, if you ever do want to prove yourself, it's as easy as lighting up a Philip Morris cigarette. But don't do it; after all, you're not old enough (read "good enough") to smoke.
The strategy of pushing tobacco age-limits has been so successful in the United States, Philip Morris is now doing it overseas. In 2000, the Israeli government held a meeting to decide how to reduce smoking in their country. Philip Morris sent Senior Vice President David Greenberg to urge the country's leaders to impose an age-limit (7). At last report, Israel still had no age-limit on tobacco. Philip Morris, nevertheless, chooses to print a message on its Israeli cigarette packages reading, "intended for sale to adults only." As if Israeli youth did not have enough problems with suicide bombers and other terrorists, now they're under attack by Philip Morris.
Enough. It's high time we said "fuçk you" to Philip Morris. Don't buy or consume any of their products. Not their Krap foods, not their dog-pìss beer, not any of it. They take away our dignity, let's take away their money.