Tobacco companies against advertising bans

Because advertising is so critical to the continued expansion of the tobacco industry, the companies have fought attempts to restrict or ban advertising with every means at their disposal:

“A law prohibiting tobacco advertising was passed in Ecuador, but, after a mobilization of journalists from throughout Latin America and numerous international organizations, it was vetoed by the President.”

“….Additional legislation to ban tobacco advertising is pending in Costa Rica, but we believe this too will be defeated. We are now able, however, to sponsor sporting events. We have received the tacit approval of the Costa Rican government and are at present sponsoring several events.”

“….In Venezuela, we were successful in stopping a detrimental, self-regulating advertising code, and are now negotiating a new one. Our work in Senegal resulted in a new advertising decree which reversed a total advertising ban.” (Philip Morris, 1989)

The companies use their political connections to fight advertising bans:

“Through the Pan-Arab Media Association we are lobbying Tihama (the principal publishing house and ad agency in SA [Saudi Arabia]) to resist the ad ban proposal. We are using the contacts of Surrey/Morse to communicate PM messages to their SA friends and to special US government contacts based in SA.” (Philip Morris, 1985)

When faced with pressure, the companies often offer to implement half-measures and voluntary codes:

“ …by opening a dialogue followed by a few minor concessions, the industry can be saved from heavy legislation for at least two to three more years.” (Philip Morris, 1976)

“An industry code will be written [for Pakistan]…so that it can be used as both a lobbying lever and an argument against not introducing formal legislation.” (Philip Morris, 1994)

“…[C]omplete the removal of roadside cigarette hoardings [billboards] on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road and capitalise on this minimum concession as an example of voluntary self-regulation by the Industry.” (Philip Morris, 1992)

Over the past two decades, the companies have responded to increasing restrictions on tobacco advertising by engaging in “brand-stretching”:

“Opportunities should be explored by all companies so as to find non-tobacco products and other services which can be used to communicate the brand or house name, together with their essential visual identities. This is likely to be a long-term and costly operation, but the principle is nevertheless to ensure that cigarette lines can be effectively publicised when all direct forms of communication are denied.” (BAT, 1979)

BAT has contemplated exploring

“…the opportunities to cooperate with one another by beaming TV and radio advertising into a banned country.” (BAT, 1979)

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Philip Morris has planned some novel ways to advertise Marlboro:

“Marlboro Tunnel Entrance Branding: Placement of Marlboro branding at the entrance of two major tunnels with ‘Drive Safely’ statements. Tunnel’s illumination system to be provided by PM [Philip Morris] in return for the placement of previously mentioned (sic) signs.

Marlboro Pedestrian Bridge Branding: Refurbishment of 5 pedestrian bridges within the Greater Beirut area in return for which MARLBORO branded signs would be placed with ‘Walk Safely’ statements. … Marlboro ‘Promenade’ Benches: Placement of Marlboro branded benches on the most famous Beirut seaside promenade. … Marlboro Road Signs: Placement of street signs in the Greater Beirut area in the major highways leading to key/central locations. Signs to also feature Marlboro branding.”

Under the heading “Diversification Program,” the company proposes to:

“Study the introduction of the Marlboro classics clothing line to Lebanon. This comes at a time when anti-smoking campaigns and activities are increasingly implemented.” (Philip Morris, 1993)