Philip Morris Changes Name But Not Tactics
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joel Spivak, Tel: 202-296-5469
WASHINGTON (March 5, 2002) -- A dangerous killer who targets kids is on the loose, and he's got a new disguise.
That's the premise of an animated "e-movie" that spoofs Philip Morris' proposed corporate name change to The Altria Group. The tobacco giant's shareholders will vote on the name change at their annual meeting April 25. Billed as "the movie Philip Morris doesn't want you to see," the short animation was released today by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It can be viewed at www.PhilipMorrisCantHide.org
The animation is about a Marlboro Man character who is wanted for the deaths of millions. Desperate, he undergoes back-alley cosmetic surgery transforming him into an innocent-looking (although scarred) young girl name "Altria." But old habits persist, and the transformed Marlboro man just can't help continuing to peddle cigarettes to kids.
At the end of the animation, viewers are given the opportunity to take action in order to hold Philip Morris and the rest of the tobacco industry accountable for their harmful manufacturing and marketing practices, including their targeting of children. Through a companion web site, www.DontPardonBigTobacco.org, viewers can send a fax to President Bush urging him to fully fund and aggressively pursue the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which is scheduled for trial next year. More than 30,000 Americans have already contacted the President through the web site since it was launched in June. The lawsuit seeks to stop harmful industry practices and recover ill-gotten gains by the industry.
"This animation is humorous, but it has a serious message. Despite a massive PR campaign to convince people otherwise, Philip Morris refuses to change its harmful business practices and does not deserve to be let off the hook for decades of deception and wrongdoing," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Philip Morris proposed changing its name after its $250 million-plus corporate image advertising campaign, which touts its charitable contributions, failed to change the company's negative image and the association of the Philip Morris name with deadly and addictive tobacco products. In January, Philip Morris ranked second to last, just above tiremaker Bridgestone/Firestone, in the third annual survey of corporate reputations conducted by The Reputation Institute and Harris Interactive.
In addition to the animation, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released a list of wrongdoings that Philip Morris is hoping to whitewash with its name change. The list includes:
More kids smoke Philip Morris' Marlboro than all other brands combined (54.8 percent of youth smokers report Marlboro as their usual brand, according to the federal government's 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse).
Philip Morris issued a report in the Czech Republic last year that sought to head off tobacco regulations by arguing that early smoking deaths have a positive effect because they save the government money.
Last holiday season, Philip Morris introduced a new cigarette, which it called "A special blend for a special season," but that was quickly dubbed "cancer for Christmas."
Philip Morris, along with the other tobacco companies, increased its marketing expenditures to record levels in 1999, the first year after promising as part of the 1998 state tobacco settlement to stop marketing to kids (source: Federal Trade Commission). Much of the increase was in venues effective at reaching kids, such as youth-oriented magazines and convenience stores (Philip Morris subsequently agreed to stop advertising in youth-oriented magazines, but only after several studies exposed its increased magazine advertising after the settlement and state attorneys general threatened to sue the company).
Philip Morris' aggressive and effective marketing of its Virginia Slims brand to women has contributed to an increase in smoking-related disease and death among women. Lung cancer today is the leading cancer killer of women, surpassing breast cancer.
Along with the chief executives of other tobacco companies, Philip Morris's CEO in 1994 testified under oath before Congress that cigarettes are not addictive and do not cause cancer.
While denying publicly that it targets youth customers, Philip Morris' own internal documents reveal a long history of researching youth smoking patterns and attitudes and targeting youth as customers.
Philip Morris has been one of the biggest political contributors to elected officials in its aggressive efforts to block public health measures aimed at reducing tobacco use and the death and disease that results.
As it seeks to expand its international markets, Philip Morris has engaged in youth-oriented marketing practices overseas that are not permitted in the U.S. One report detailed the hiring of underaged Marlboro girls who offered free cigarettes to other youth (The New York Times, 8/24/02).
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people every year. About 90 percent of current smokers took up the habit at or before age 18. Every day, 5,000 kids try their first cigarette. Another 2,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
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