Tobacco Industry Shenanigans, Advertising Methods & Litigation Issues

Senior Partner Gil Purcell Gives Presentation on the Status of Tobacco Litigation to Members of the NorCal American Lung Association

September 1, 2009 — On Monday, August 17, board members from the Northern California offices of the American Lung Association (ALA) came to Brayton Purcell as part of their summer retreat for a presentation on the tobacco industry. The presentation included current litigation issues and advertising tactics. As senior partner and presenter Gil Purcell stated early in his presentation, the goal was to share information and educate members of the ALA about the existing problems with tobacco and challenges tobacco litigation faces in the courts.

Timeliness–the Challenge Facing Tobacco Litigation

One of the overriding challenges facing tobacco litigation is defining an “injury” and how it relates to a potential case’s statute of limitations. Mr. Purcell explained the procedural defense used by the tobacco industry and the current challenge before the courts to decide what qualifies as a tobacco injury.

“What is Truth to One is False to Another”

To combat a rising wave of concern over the safety and negative health effects of cigarette use, in 1954 the Tobacco Industry Research Committee issued “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers” calling into question the theory that smoking is linked to lung cancer in humans. The “Frank Statement” kicked off the tobacco industries misinformation and no-limits advertising tactics. Throughout Mr. Purcell’s presentation, examples of tobacco advertising were displayed–examples of the reach that tobacco once had into our lives.

Defining a New Audience, Ensuring Long Term Growth

Internal company documents showed a calculated interest in appealing to and recruiting new smokers before they were of age to smoke. Methods used by the tobacco industry included distributing misinformation, advertising in television shows geared towards young viewers and utilizing social icons to promote the acceptance of smoking.

The deceit aimed towards youth was not limited to advertisements–tobacco companies showed no restraint in their desire to recruit new smokers. Mr. Purcell showed a 1963 letter from R.J. Reynolds addressing questions asked by a fourth-grade class about the safety of tobacco, which claimed, “…medical science has been unable to establish that smoking has a direct causal link with any human disease.”

Information Session Leads to Renewed Sense of Urgency

A common theme encapsulated Mr. Purcell’s presentation, through carefully planned and executed legal maneuvers, the tobacco industry has been able to continue to sell a dangerous product to the public with no responsibility to the people that they knowingly injure. Through the work of Brayton Purcell and the American Lung Association, the public will have advocates fighting to bring them the truth about the tobacco industry and their dangerous products.