Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Weekly Update on Leader in Tobacco Control Movement: The Hearst Corporation

This post marks the second edition of a new weekly feature of The Rest of the Story. Each week, we will comment on the work of a leading anti-smoking organization. This week's leader: The Hearst Corporation.

According to the American Legacy Foundation, The Hearst Corporation - a corporate partner of Legacy - is a "leader" in the tobacco control movement. So let's look at the contributions that The Hearst Corporation (publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Popular Mechanics) is making to tobacco control this week.

The Rest of the Story

This month's issue of Cosmopolitan features a full-page ad for Kool cigarettes, with a beautiful green jazzy backdrop and the slogan "Be True." It contributes further to tobacco control, however, by including an 8-page insert showing attractive images of a variety of jazz musicians smoking while recording in a music studio.

And its message is clear: "It's about old world class and new world style. It's about uptown attitude mixed with downtown vibe. It's about pursuing your ambitions and staying connected to your roots. It's about being authentic and original. Kool. Be True."

Not to be beat, however, the issue also features a full-page Camel ad, with the "Pleasure to Burn" theme and a seductive pose of a woman smoking a Camel. The ad directly precedes an article on "Hot New Sex Tricks," blending in such a way to almost make the young female reader think that the Camel cigarette is itself an enticement to sex.

But Legacy's partner then goes on to do a great service to the nation's young women. It includes an entire 2-column, 1/4-page article buried back on page 326 on the effects of smoking on fertility, entitled "Steer Clear of Cigarettes." Certainly, this blurb will be effective in counteracting the pro-smoking messages of the full-page Kool and Camel ads and the 8-page Kool cigarette insert.

But don't think for a minute that the Hearst Corporation, as partner of Legacy, is shirking its responsiblities to contribute to tobacco control among the young men of America. In this month's issue of Esquire, it features a full-page Camel ad with the theme "Pleasure to Burn," and showing a young male smoking on a Camel.

And Esquire also features a 2-page Kool (Be Smooth, Be True) ad right smack in the middle of its "The Sexiest Woman Alive" mystery column (you'll have to read the magazine for the answer - I'm not giving it away).

Lest anyone accuse Legacy and its partner - Hearst - of only making contributions in the area of cigarettes and not smokeless tobacco, Popular Mechanics features a full-page Skoal ad, promoting its new Peach Blend flavor: "Catch the next big juicy flavor." For anyone who is not aware, that is "Bold juicy flavor that lasts a long time. Go ahead, take a dip."

Popular Mechanics is apparently an equal opporunity tobacco product promoter, as it also contains a full-page "Pleasure to Burn" Camel ad.

And to top off the tobacco control contributions of Legacy and its partner - Hearst Corporation - for this week, Popular Mechanics also contains a half-page ad promoting "Discount Smokes," cartons of cigarettes as low as $10.99. Plus $5.00 off your first order (but a 3-carton minimum order is required). These prices seem too good to be true.

Honestly - I think the American Legacy Foundation should be ashamed of itself for having the gall to contribute to the promotion of cigarettes to women while at the same time pretending to be a true champion for decreasing the impact of tobacco on women's health in this country through its sponsorship of the Circle of Friends campaign: "The American Legacy Foundation began the national, grassroots social movement Circle of FriendsTM in 2002 with the goal to reduce the impact smoking has on women. The campaign focuses on women because of their special place in our society as positive change agents in their families and communities."

If women have such a special place in our society as positive change agents in their families and communities, then isn't it shameful that the American Legacy Foundation has partnered with a Corporation that, this very month, is running no less than 10 full pages of advertising for Kool and Camel cigarettes? What kind of change does Legacy want women to orchestrate in their families and communities - judging by the actions of its corporate partner, it appears to be passing along the legacy of smoking Kool and Camel cigarettes.

One thing seems true: Since it is contributing to strong tobacco promotions like these, perhaps Legacy does indeed need more money to carry out its programs - since with ads like these, many more youths and young people are going to start smoking and then be in need of Legacy's services.

Let me reiterate that this post is not written to criticize Hearst for publishing these ads. Cigarettes are a legal product, it is legal for a magazine to accept tobacco ads, Hearst is not a public health organization, and I would not expect Hearst to unilaterally make a decision not to accept cigarette ads and decrease its advertising revenue.

But it does show the hypocrisy in the American Legacy Foundation's decision to partner with Hearst, publicly crediting this Corporation with being a leader in the anti-tobacco movement, all the while condemning the high youth exposure to cigarette advertising in magazines out of the other side of its mouth and supporting programs to get women who might be enticed by these cigarette ads to later quit.

This isn't leadership. This is hypocrisy at its worst.

Congratulations to The Hearst Corporation and the American Legacy Foundation for their excellent contributions to tobacco control this week through contributing to the exposure of millions of youths to cigarette advertising.

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