The article's main findings are that:
- "Philip Morris’s support for government regulation of tobacco is part of a broader effort to address its negative public image, which has a damaging impact on the company’s stock price, political influence, and employee morale."
- "Through regulation, the company seeks to enhance its legitimacy, redefine itself as socially responsible, and alter the litigation environment."
- "Whereas health advocates frame tobacco use as a public health policy issue, Philip Morris’s regulatory efforts focus on framing tobacco use as an individual choice by informed adults to use a risky product. This framing allows Philip Morris to portray itself as a reasonable and responsible manufacturer and marketer of risky products."
The Rest of the Story
This article is important because it helps explain the reasons underlying Philip Morris' support of the FDA tobacco legislation that is currently being considered by Congress. Based on the company's reasons for supporting the legislation, Philip Morris clearly believes that passage of H.R. 1376/S. 666 would have a number of beneficial effects on its bottom line:
- improvement of its public image by supporting federal regulation, although limited regulation, of its products;
- undermining of public health efforts to de-legitimize the industry and its practices;
- improving the public image of smoking itself by enhancing the framing of tobacco use from a public health problem to an issue of individual choice;
- helping to promote a belief among the public that cigarette products are being made safer, even when there is not evidence to support such a belief; and
- helping to protect the company from significant damages in ongoing and future litigation.
- First, it would create an FDA "stamp of approval" for tobacco products, which would likely decrease the public's perception of the inherent harm of tobacco products. By officially sanctioning the products, the government would be giving the public a false perception of a level of safety.
- Second, it would create a perception that the tobacco problem has been taken care of, and no further interventions are necessary. It would become almost impossible to convince state legislators, for example, to allocate substantial funds for tobacco control once FDA is given authority to regulate the product.
- Third, it would essentially end tobacco litigation, by allowing the cigarette companies to argue (correctly) that they have already submitted to FDA regulation and so no further punitive or injunctive relief is required. If this legislation is enacted prior to the resolution of the DOJ tobacco lawsuit, it will completely decimate that lawsuit.
- Fourth, it would produce an enormous amount of goodwill for the tobacco companies by enabling them to tell the public (accurately) that they now fully comply with a comprehensive system of federal regulation of their products.
In summary, the rest of the story reveals that the proposed FDA legislation would be a huge victory for Philip Morris and an equally huge loss for the public's health: the company's public image, litigation risks, and ultimately, its bottom line would improve at the expense of a decreased appreciation of the health risks of smoking, a false sense of public security over the health risks of tobacco products, and an elmination of the possibility of justice for victims of tobacco industry products.