The Truth behind Big Tobacco’s ‘Ethical Marketing’ claims.

Wednesday 15 August 2001


Immediate :  Wednesday 15 August 2001


The Truth behind Big Tobacco’s claims to “Ethical Marketing”


ASH today dismissed reports that the world’s three biggest tobacco companies are drawing up plans to restrict advertising and marketing as as nothing more than a cynical and predictable PR ploy.


British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International have published a new report,“International Tobacco Products Marketing Standards” containing a set of guidelines which claim to be aimed at ensuring tobacco advertising does not target young people. This move follows an advertising campaign from the same three companies on MTV earlier this year, claiming to be trying to persuade teenagers not to smoke. In fact, the real reason that the companies are publicising activities like this is to persuade Governments not to take strong measures to control tobacco advertising – a tactic which internal industry documents show they have been using for many years. An internal Philip Morris memo from 1991 says that the “ultimate means for determining the success” of industry-funded youth anti-smoking initiatives would be:


1) A reduction in legislation introduced and passed restricting or banning our sales and marketing activities; 2) Passage of legislation favourable to the industry; 3) greater support from business, parent, and teacher groups.” [1]


The memo did not mention a reduction in youth smoking being a success criterion.


John Connolly, Public Affairs Manager at ASH, said:


“This would be funny if it wasn’t so cynical. It’s no coincidence that these plans are being prepared at the same time as Governments around the world are talking about banning tobacco advertising. This is the tobacco industry getting together to say to Governments, ‘we’ve changed. We know we did bad things in the past, but you can trust us now’.


“All the evidence from internal tobacco industry documents suggests companies have conceived and publicised youth prevention programmes to forestall serious regulation and garner better PR. It’s just not in their interest to do anything meaningful to stop young people smoking.”





[1] Philip Morris memo from Joshua J. Slavitt, “TI Youth Initiative,” 12 February 1991. A scanned version of this document is available at


[2] An ASH report on this issue, “Danger, PR in the Playground”, is available on the ASH website.





John Connolly (ASH) 020 77395902 (Office) or 07702 817477 (Mobile)

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