Friday, May 27, 2005

American Legacy Foundation Partner Helping Promote Smokeless Tobacco to Smokers

The American Legacy Foundation's corporate partner - Time Warner - which the Foundation describes as being a "leader in this important movement" has unveiled a new series of smokeless tobacco ads in its prime publication: TIME Magazine, which are apparently designed to try to induce smokers to add smokeless tobacco to their list of carcinogenic products which they use.

One ad (see below), which appeared in the May 16 issue of TIME, shows two young men playing pool in a smoke-free sports bar and reads: "Enjoy tobacco in a smoke-free sports bar? Believe it." A second ad in the series, which appears in this week's TIME, shows a man sitting as his office desk in a presumably smoke-free workplace and reads: "Enjoy tobacco in your office without stepping outside? Consider it done."

There is no need for alarm, however. Legacy's lead corporate partner is still promoting the conventional way to get cancer - smoking cigarettes - in ever increasing volume and appeal. The same May 16 issue of TIME contains a beautiful ad for Camel Turkish Silver cigarettes (see below).

A review of the current issues of three of Legacy's lead partner's magazines reveals the following:
  • TIME - full page Skoal ad, full page Camel ad, half-page American Spirit ad (describing American Spirit as "the world's only cigarette made with 100% organic tobacco certified under USDA standards." (if you're going to inhale carcinogens, you should certainly make sure that the tobacco you are smoking is 100% organic and officially certified by the USDA!)
  • Entertainment Weekly - full page Camel ad
  • Sports Illustrated - full page Philip Morris promotional ad
The Rest of the Story

This new smokeless tobacco ad campaign is particularly disturbing because it promises to undermine one of the main public health benefits of smoke-free workplaces and public places: decreased tobacco consumption. The campaign aims to take advantage of the spread of smoke-free policies to promote the use of smokeless tobacco among smokers who would otherwise either not smoke at all or have to take the trouble to go outside to light up.

What is even more disturbing, however, is the fact that this new campaign, along with the increasingly intensive cigarette marketing campaigns, are being delivered to the public by a company that is the lead corporate partner of the American Legacy Foundation, a presumably anti-smoking organization that has awarded the magazine subsidiary of the company for its "progress in tobacco-free publications."

Unfortunately, when you forge a corporate partnership with an organization, then you share somewhat in each other's failures as well as accomplishments. Time Warner is certainly gaining in terms of public image from its recognition as a leader in the tobacco control movement. It inherits, by virtue of the partnership, much of the goodwill that comes with being associated with an anti-smoking organization. In the same way, by virtue of its partnership with the producers of the above magazines, Legacy has become associated with the widespread promotion of smoking and smokeless tobacco use, which is clearly contrary to its overall mission.

While I do not expect the Legacy Foundation to retract its award from Time Inc., I think if it wishes to have any credibility as an anti-smoking organization, it needs to immediately discontinue its partnership with Time Warner.

Otherwise, we can blame Legacy, in part, for the devastating effects that Time Inc.'s published advertisements are having and will continue to have on promoting the use of the most toxic and deadly consumer product. Does Legacy really want to continue to be associated with that body count, just in apparent attempt to try to garner more money and support for its programs?

2 comments:

grandma blue said...

Any chance the Legacy Foundation will admit to a mistake?

Bill Godshall said...

While UST's advertisement targeting smokers doesn't convey a a public health message, it may yield personal and public health benefits to smokers and nonsmokers.

Although smokeless tobacco products are addictive and carcinogenic, they impose about 90% fewer morbidity and mortality risks to daily users, and 100% fewer morbidity and mortality risks to innocent bystanders, than do cigarettes.

Your most recent blog posting on potential reduced risk tobacco products failed to acknowledge that smokeless tobacco products are the only tobacco products that are known to be less hazardous than cigarettes.

Its the cigarette smoke that causes millions of diseases and an estimated 450,000 deaths annually among US smokers, and its the cigarette smoke that causes millions of illnesses and an estimated 53,000 deaths annually among US nonsmokers.

Cigarettes also cause fires that kill about 1,000 Americans annually, and that burn many more.

Smokers who switch to smokeless, or who substitute smokeless tobacco for many cigarettes that they would otherwise smoke, can significantly reduce their risks of disease and death, and can eliminate or reduce the tobacco smoke pollution that they would otherwise impose on others.

The only way smokers can reduce their risks by switching to smokeless tobacco, or by substituting it for cigarettes, is to first experiment with smokeless tobacco products.

By encouraging smokers to experiment with smokeless tobacco products, UST's advertisement can result in public health benefits for smokers who otherwise wouldn't quit smoking, as well as for people who those smokers would otherwise expose to tobacco smoke pollution.