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Big Tobacco: Past or Present?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A new series on Field Reports, in which we contrast tobacco news from decades ago with current tobacco news—demonstrating just how little Big Tobacco’s playbook has changed.

QUESTION: Which quotes are from the past, and which is from the present?

Quote 1:
“Spokesmen for cigarette producers testified… that people already are aware of the alleged dangers of tobacco, and can make an informed choice whether or not to quit…the Tobacco Institute’s executive chairman, called the proposal for new labeling laws a ‘thinly veiled effort further to harass and ultimately eliminate an important American industry.’”

Quote 2:
“. . . Should the steering wheel of every car contain the image of a terrible traffic accident? Remember, the FDA’s suggested tobacco labels represent possible effects of smoking, not automatic ones. A pro-tobacco user could point to the case of Jeanne Calment as another possible effect [of smoking]; Calment died…at the age of 122, and only quit smoking at age 117. Perhaps tobacco companies should put her picture on their packages!”

Quote 3:
“Both Horace Konergay and William Dwyer, president and vice-president of the [Tobacco] institute, portrayed [Welfare Secretary] Califano—once a three-pack-a-day smoker—as a zealot out to convert the nation to his new anti-smoking views. ‘America beware if Joe Califano ever gives up drinking or other pleasure pursuits—even the most intimate,’ Mr. Dwyer said at a news conference.”

Scroll to the bottom of the page for the answer!

ANSWER: Quote #1 is from a March 13, 1982 article describing tobacco companies’ objection to the text-based pack warnings currently in use. Quote# 2 is from a November 23, 2011 op-ed opposing graphic pack warnings in the United States. Quote # 3 is from a January 10, 1979 article describing tobacco executives’ attack on the government’s report on smoking’s harmful health effects. The tobacco industry hasn’t changed their tune too much: you can see the same public scare tactics in 1979 as 2011’s “nanny state” campaign against Australia’s visionary plain-packaging bill. In the United States, they are fighting graphic pack warnings today with the same themes they fought text-based pack warnings in the 1980’s: claiming that current warnings are sufficient and that tobacco has been ‘singled out’. These tactics didn’t stop regulation thirty years ago—but tobacco companies haven’t given them up; the current fight for graphic pack warnings in the United States may end up before the Supreme Court.

Stay tuned to Field Reports for more posts on Big Tobacco: Past or Present?

Stephen Hamill
Associate Director, Communications and Advocacy
World Lung Foundation

World Lung Foundation
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