Insurer Cigna Censured Tobacco News
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Cigna, one of the nation's largest health insurers, eliminated negative references to smoking in a newsletter it produced for employees of tobacco giant Philip Morris, Cigna confirmed Thursday.
The purpose was to shield Philip Morris employees from information they would consider offensive, officials of the tobacco company and Cigna HealthCare said. The censorship continued until last year.
The censoring became public as documents were released as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit filed against cigarette makers by dozens of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis first reported the censoring in Thursday's editions.
The documents showed that between 1996 and 1999 the two companies shared information about the content of upcoming health articles, and that Cigna agreed to drop or edit pieces that Philip Morris found objectionable, the Star Tribune reported.
``We worked with Cigna to take out some of the references in the newsletters that we thought could be offensive or annoying to our employees,'' Philip Morris spokeswoman Mary Carnovale said.
Cigna, the country's third-largest health insurer, was paid by Philip Morris to produce a special edition of its quarterly Well-Being newsletter for Philip Morris, which includes Kraft Foods and Miller Beer. Its edited newsletters were distributed only to Philip Morris and Kraft employees that elected to be insured by Cigna.
``Philip Morris was paying for a product that is specific to them and in that regard we have to listen to their requests,'' Cigna spokesman Howard Drescher said.
According to the documents, the two companies discussed how to handle references to smoking in articles on ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma, heart disease, pregnancy, addiction, healthy lifestyles and even safe behavior around gas-powered lawn mowers.
``The health effects of smoking are obviously very well known; this was done really in response to the employee concerns,'' Carnovale said. ``Many who have worked here many, many years took those references very personally.''