Corporate Watchdog Says Major Shift in Philip Morris's Public Relations Is a Response to Public Pressure
Philip Morris's recent acknowledgment that tobacco is harmful and addictive, while a welcome reversal of decades of deception, is a response to public pressure and exposure of internal documents that make it impossible for the corporation to continue to d
``Philip Morris's announcement would be significant if it applied globally, and was accompanied by plans to stop addicting new customers, bear financial responsibility to care for those people who are already addicted, and quit interfering in public policy in the US and around the world. For example, Philip Morris could drop its lawsuit blocking FDA regulation of the tobacco industry, and ad campaigns like the Marlboro Man that appeal to young people,'' says INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey.
INFACT studies of internal Philip Morris documents show the announcement, accompanied by statements and TV commercials that began airing this week represent a major shift in the corporation's public relations strategy. ``Until now, Philip Morris has maintained a deliberate strategy of distancing its Kraft Foods from its tobacco business, even though the corporation has long leveraged its food business to advance policies favorable to tobacco. This move to promote Kraft alongside the Philip Morris name could backfire, just as it did with RJR Nabisco. It was Nabisco's name that got dragged down by its association with the deadly tobacco industry,'' states Mulvey. INFACT removed Nabisco as a target of its Tobacco Industry Boycott in June of this year after its separation from R.J. Reynolds was complete. Philip Morris's Kraft Foods is now the primary target of INFACT's Boycott.
A 1993 Philip Morris document referring to INFACT's Campaign says, ``The bad news is that this has the potential to go beyond the tobacco products and into our other operating divisions . . . namely food and beer products. That's one area where the Philip Morris corporate name has kept many people away from our other companies' products.'' In fact, in 1994 Philip Morris seriously considered spinning off its Kraft Foods division, in part due to the launch of INFACT's Boycott. Momentum of the Kraft Boycott is increasing dramatically, with new institutional endorsers signing on every week, which could also be a factor in Philip Morris's decision to promote the philanthropy of Kraft and Miller. ``The $100 million ad campaign is an increased cost of doing business in order to create good will for Philip Morris,'' says Kathryn Mulvey.
Tim Smith, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, says, ``Philip Morris's new $100 million advertising campaign aimed at reconstructing its image is a classic case of a leopard trying to change its spots. Constant repetition of the statement that Philip Morris employees are good people trying to do good things can hardly obscure the fact that Philip Morris's profits depend on promoting cigarettes from the US to China, and hooking people on a lethal product.''
Founded in 1977, INFACT's purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses of transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. INFACT is known for its successful Nestle and GE Boycotts, and has been targeting the tobacco industry since 1993. For more information about INFACT, you may visit our web site at www.infact.org.