Big Chill strategy

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

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Philip Morris' Big Chill strategy was a component of its Operation Downunder project, a massive effort initiated in the late 1980s to dissuade the public from believing that secondhand tobacco smoke is harmful to health. The Big Chill component involved disseminating the following messages in the media:

1. Science has not established a health risk to non-smokers from ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke).

2. ETS is nonetheless an annoyance to some non-smokers.
3. It is therefore proper policy for businesses, restaurants and other public places to seek to provide equal accommodation of smokers and non-smokers.

4 .Governmeht intervention in this matter should only be a last resort and should place maximum responsibility on proprietors to assure smokers and non-smokers are accommodated in all public places.

The media campaign involved running a series of print ads utilizing third party spokespersons--restaurateurs, office managers, individual smokers, etc.--portraying the problem with ETS as being one of annoyance (rather than health risk) and suggesting that "people and the marketplace are better equipped to resolve the problem than the government." According to a 24-page description of the strategy faxed to PM from its PR firm Burson Marsteller, one objective was to "greatly extend the reach of the advertising campaign to all audiences to slow the decline in the social acceptability of smoking and to create a more favorable legislative and regulatory environment [for the tobacco industry]] at all levels --local, state and national." Another objective was "To position the industry as positive, enlightened, supporting its customers in an acceptable manner." The campaign was also designed to "enable the industry to reverse existing onerous laws and regulations."

The campaign was much bigger than simply running ads, however. Other components included recruiting and training a likeable celebrity personality to carry the industry's message to the media (Dick Van Patten was suggested), training a stable of third-party spokespersons to carry the industry's message nationwide, influencing community leaders to write positive letters to the editor about tobacco companies, tirggering a outpouring of mail to legislators from pro-tobacco constituents, and mobilize millions of smokers to protest in the industry's favor. [1]

The plan involved running 1/4 page ads in multiple newspapers in the top 50 markets across the U.S. to achieve a 50% household penetration nationally at a cost of $7.7 million.[2] <tdo>search_term=Big Chill</tdo>