In a press release issued Friday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids attempts to convince the American public that Philip Morris is not a changed, responsible company as it has publicly claimed. This argument is based on the company's opposition to cigarette tax increases in a number of states: "Philip Morris' opposition to cigarette tax increases shows that the supposedly changed company is a wolf in sheep's clothing." The Campaign's basic argument is that if Philip Morris truly didn't want kids to smoke, why would it oppose cigarette tax increases?
The Rest of the Story
First of all, while I obviously agree with the Campaign's basic contention that Philip Morris has not changed in terms of its commitment to being socially responsible, what a stupid argument the Campaign makes.
Let us suppose for a minute that Philip Morris did actually change and it did not want kids to smoke. If that were the case, then it would become absolutely essential for the company to maintain adult smokers and to maintain them at existing or even higher levels of cigarette consumption. The last thing in the world the company would want is to increase cigarette taxes, which would significantly reduce adult cigarette consumption (as well as smoking among youths).
So I find the argument that it is Philip Morris' continued opposition to cigarette taxes that demonstrates its lack of interest in eliminating youth cigarette consumption to be ridiculous. Of course Philip Morris continues to want kids to smoke. But its opposition to tax increases isn't the evidence for that - its vigorous marketing of cigarettes to kids is!
But two other points are perhaps more important to consider:
First, if the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is really concerned about convincing the public that Philip Morris has not changed, then it is shooting itself in the foot by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Philip Morris in supporting FDA tobacco legislation. What could possibly convince the public that Philip Morris has changed more than to observe that a leading anti-smoking organization has now joined forces with the company to promote passage of a jointly-supported piece of legislation - one that the Campaign has suggested is a vital public health initiative that may save millions of lives?
The Campaign is doing more to legitimize Philip Morris' attempt to convince the American public that it has changed than anything the company could have possibly imagined.
Second, if the Campaign's argument that Philip Morris has not changed is true, then why in the world is the Campaign standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Philip Morris in promoting this jointly-supported piece of legislation?
If what the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says about the FDA legislation is true, then Philip Morris most certainly has changed: because this would mark the first time that the company has supported federal legislation that would truly advance the interests of the public's health. The Campaign can't have it both ways. It can't say, out of one side of its mouth, that Philip Morris has not changed, and out of the other side of its mouth, suggest that Philip Morris is now supporting legislation that would do wonders for the public's health.
If Philip Morris is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing, then why is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids working towards the achievement of the chief legislative priority for the wolf?