Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Anti-Smoking Groups Blast Philip Morris for Putting Pink on Its Cigarette Packs

In a statement issued Friday by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the American Medical Association, these anti-smoking groups blasted Philip Morris for its plans to launch a new Virginia Slims "superslim" cigarette which will feature a pink cigarette package.

According to an article on Promo Magazine's web site: "'Philip Morris shows contempt for women and their health by putting a pink gloss on a product that causes lung cancer and heart disease, two of the leading killers of women,' read a joint statement issued by the American Cancer Society Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids."

"According to the statement, the pink “purse packs” will make smoking look feminine and fashionable, while the use of “slim” in the name will set up a link between smoking and weight loss—something that might appeal to young women with body-image issue." ...

"The American Legacy Foundation, the non-profit group behind the Truth antismoking campaigns, joined with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to protest the new Virginia Slims products. The new “Purse Packs,” wrapped in pink packaging and clearly designed to appeal to young women, present a serious public health issue at a time when tobacco-related diseases kill more than 178,000 in the U.S. annually, according to the two groups. “Philip Morris’ timing of this announcement is particularly outrageous,” ALF president and CEO Cheryl Healton said in the statement. “The pink ‘Purse packs’ of cigarettes—the deadliest consumer product in the world—are an insult to the women and their families who have suffered from breast cancer.”"

The Rest of the Story

It seems to me that the tobacco control movement has largely become a movement about political correctness, rather than about protecting the public's health. Philip Morris has the right to put its deadly product in whatever color packaging it wants to, as long as it is not targeting underage youths. The company certainly has a right to market its product to women. The threat to the public's health comes not from the fact that the product is not being marketed exclusively to men; the threat comes from the fact that the product is killing more than 400,000 people a year. Whether people are dying from cigarettes that are in black, white, pink, or green packages doesn't seem to be the key issue. The key issue is that the product is killing people and something needs to be done about it. Restricting the color of the packaging does not make me feel any bit better about the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives a year from tobacco-related disease.

Why are the anti-smoking groups spending so much time worrying about the color of the packages, rather than what is in the packages? It's not the color that's killing people, it's the cigarettes. By focusing on the color of the packs, the anti-smoking groups are essentially framing the problem of tobacco as one of inappropriate packaging. Is it somehow appropriate for the companies to pack their deadly products in a non-colorful box? Does that somehow make it acceptable for hundreds of thousands of people to die each year from cigarette use?

This is an act of political correctness, not true public health protection.

At the same time that these groups are attacking Philip Morris for putting pink on their packages, these same groups have signed off on a deal (the FDA legislation) that was secretly negotiated with Philip Morris (by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids), which sells out the public's health and institutionalizes tobacco use, protecting the profits of Big Tobacco under the guise of definitively addressing the tobacco epidemic.

I am very frustrated because it is all window-dressing these days in tobacco control. There is no substance any more. These groups no longer have any real integrity. On the one hand, they are attacking Philip Morris because they don't like the color of the packaging for some cigarettes. On the other hand, they are working hand-in-hand with Philip Morris to help it achieve a monopoly in the U.S. cigarette market by stifling competition and ending - definitively - the liability threat that would otherwise hang over the company.

But at least these groups are making it look good. Unfortunately, they are devoting their constituents' resources to fighting a color - not the tobacco companies. They may succeed in ending the scourge of pink cigarette packs, but with their FDA legislation, they are going to institutionalize the scourge of tobacco-related disease and death - with the government's blessing.

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