Anti-Smoking Ad Makes Network Debut
NEW YORK (AP) - An anti-smoking commercial showing body bags being stacked outside a tobacco company office building is running on NBC's Summer Olympics telecast after being rejected by all four major American networks earlier this year.
The commercial was developed by the American Legacy Foundation, an organization created and financed as part of the tobacco industry's 1998 agreement to pay $206 billion over 25 years to settle lawsuits by 46 U.S. states over the costs of treating sick smokers.
The foundation is mounting the largest anti-smoking campaign ever, spending an estimated $150 million a year on ads alone.
It has committed about $15 million to buying time on the Olympics telecasts that started last week and run through Oct. 2 on NBC and cable networks MSNBC and CNBC.
The foundation tried to place it and another commercial in which young people tried to question tobacco executives about their marketing tactics on the NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox broadcast networks in February.
The ads don't identify the locale, but they were filmed at the New York headquarters of Philip Morris Cos., the parent of the biggest U.S. cigarette company.
Cheryl Healton, president of the foundation, said all four of the networks rejected the two ads which drew criticism from Philip Morris and several state attorneys general. The settlement agreement had said the money provided for anti-smoking ads would not be used to personally attack or vilify companies or individuals.
The foundation withdrew the ads temporarily as a result of the complaints but resumed using them after its board discussed it, Healton said.
``Body Bags,'' which was designed to illustrate the consequences of smoking, has been carried for months on the MTV cable network and on local TV stations, she said.
It shows 1,200 body bags stuffed with paper being stacked outside a tobacco office building to illustrate how many people die each day from tobacco use.
NBC spokeswoman Maria Battaglia said the network decided to run the ad because some elements of it were changed from what NBC was originally shown, the overall campaign appears to be effective and the ad itself has been running elsewhere without negative feedback.
``So far we have had no negative reaction to it and don't foresee any,'' she said.
Brendan McCormick, a Philip Morris spokesman, declined to comment about the anti-smoking ads being run during the Olympics.
But he said, ``We don't believe some of what they have done has been consistent with the spirit'' of the settlement agreement.