In 1985, Americans smoked fewer cigarettes per capita than at any time since 1944, during the second World War. Now, the tobacco industry, in a compulsive drive to broaden the market for its cancer-causing products in the face of sharply dropping domestic sales, apparently has targeted two new audiences for increased persuasion appeals — teenagers in America and citizens of the Third World.
1. J. Reynolds, and other tobacco companies, placed advertisements in publications such as TEEN and high school newspapers which urged young people not to smoke. The basic message of the ads is that smoking, like drinking, voting, driving, and sex is an adults-only activity — not exactly what Madison Avenue motivational researchers would call a non-appeal. The obvious message for young people is: “Remember, smoking is for adults. We tobacco companies don’t want you kids to smoke unless you want to seem like adults.” Not one of the ads described or discussed or mentioned the known hazards of cigarette smoking.
Meanwhile, U.S. tobacco companies also discovered the Third World market. Estimates are that three times as many cigarettes are smoked in the world’s poorest countries than in its richest; 50% of all Third World men smoke compared with 34% of men in the U.S.; and the incidence of lung cancer has risen so drastically that it rivals traditional killers like malnutrition and infectious diseases.
The World Health Organization expects the startling surge in lung cancer to reach epidemic proportions within the next decade, blaming the “ruthless marketing techniques” of transnational companies in selling cancer-causing cigarettes to marginally healthy people.
Dr. John H. Holbrook, one of two biomedical editors for the U.S Surgeon General, noting the $ 2 billion spent annually on tobacco advertising, criticized the newspapers and magazines which buckle under to tobacco advertisers’ pressures not to run articles on the health hazards of smoking.
Nonetheless, in early 1986, it was announced that Philip Morris the largest cigarette manufacturer, is launching an aggressive public relations campaign to champion smokers rights and to arrest the decline in cigarette consumption. The company reportedly plans to show that tobacco companies are maligned by the media and that smoking should be portrayed as a civil-rights issue rather than a health issue.
Meanwhile doctors report more than a third of a million Americans die annually from tobacco-related illness and state that smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death and disability in the United States.
NEW YORK STATE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 7/85, “The World Cigarette Pandemic, Part II, edited by Alan Blum, M.D.; SCIENCE FOR THE PEOPLE, 7/85, “Exporting Lung Cancer,” by Jane Maxwell; FYI — A WEATHER EYE, American Cancer Society, California Division, 12/85 & 2/86, edited by George Saunders and Shirley Anderson.