Tobacco Industry Manipulated Ads
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- August 28, 2002 -- Tobacco companies used their close financial ties with drug companies to manipulate the marketing of smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and gum, according to a University of California study (Journal American Medical Association, Vol. 288 No. 6, August 14, 2000; Bhavna Shamasunder and Lisa Bero). Based on internal industry documents, the report charges that tobacco companies helped tone down or eliminate ads containing anti-smoking messages.
Philip Morris Pressured the Manufacturer of Nicorette Gum
Dow Chemical supplies chemicals to Philip Morris that allow tobacco to retain its moisture. A Dow subsidiary released Nicorette gum in 1980, and published "The Smoking Cessation Newsletter," designed to encourage physicians to advise patients to quit smoking.
Pressure from Philip Morris caused Dow to cancel the newsletter, as well as other articles and extensive educational materials, the study said. The chemical company also dropped its sponsorship of the National Interagency Council on Smoking and Health, a public health alliance that includes the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
The researchers quoted notes from a meeting between Dow and Philip Morris:
"[Dow] said it has been carefully screening advertising and promotional materials to eliminate any inflammatory anti-tobacco industry statements. ...Examples were cited where ad agencies pushed anti-smoking themes and [Dow] vetoed the ideas."
Philip Morris Meets with Maker of Habitrol Nicotine Patch
CIBA-Geigy, a manufacturer of the Habitrol Nicotine patch, supplies Philip Morris with pesticides for tobacco production. Habitrol was first introduced with a "Smokebusters" campaign and a counseling help line.
Both the campaign and the help line were canceled after meetings between CIBA-Geigy and Philip Morris, according to documents presented in the report. "Ground rules" for Habitrol advertising included dropping anti-smoking themes and avoiding "positions that would take away the freedom of choice of smokers."
A Holding Company for Tobacco and Drug Companies
Procordia AB was a holding company that owned companies that developed the technology for Nicorette gum and nicotine inhalers (a smoking reduction device). Procordia also owned companies that produce tobacco products, including chewing tobacco. The researchers saw a potential for abuse in this arrangement. By sharing technology among its drug and tobacco holdings, Procordia could create an addiction through tobacco sales and then treat it through sales of smoking cessation products.
Disclosing Financial Ties
The report's authors recommend public disclosure of financial ties between tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and expect that further analysis of internal tobacco documents will turn up more connections between these companies. They also believe that physicians and health professionals should question pharmaceutical companies about bowing to tobacco industry pressure.
The study was based on documents obtained through a 1998 federal court tobacco lawsuit settlement (the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement). It was financed by the California Tobacco-Related Diseases Research Program, which was created under Proposition 99, the 1998 voter initiative that raised cigarette taxes to pay for smoking cessation programs.