Campaign to Achieve FDA Regulation of Tobacco

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

Philip Morris' Campaign to Achieve FDA Regulation of Tobacco is a major proactive effort to drive institution of government regulations on PM's terms.

This 2001 strategy memo, Campaign to Achieve FDA Regulation of Tobacco, reveals Philip Morris plans to drive the institution of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of the tobacco industry. The memo was written by John Brady of Direct Impact, a public relations company PM has retained for other campaigns such as organizing the company's "Options" program (which promoted ventilation as a solution to secondhand smoke), defeating the 1998 McCain bill to regulate the American tobacco industry, and lobbying against increased excise taxes in Vermont in 1995. The memo reveals that FDA oversight is a PM corporate goal that stands to enhance the company's image and distinguish it from other tobacco companies. In the section entitled "A Public Relations Opportunity," the memo states,

Though the nature of the FDA regulation issue does present some challenges for Philip Morris, we believe that is also opens an important opportunity for the company to enhance the Philip Morris corporate image...

The memo also points out how the pursuit of FDA regulation will help PM by complicating tobacco issues for the public (thus graying PM's traditionally black corporate hat), and giving PM a strategic public relations advantage over other tobacco companies by giving the company the appearance of being a "good corporate citizen." The memo says,

Unfortunately for the industry, the tobacco debate in recent years suffered from oversimplification, perpetuated by media coverage that depicts tobacco-related issues as 'black and white,' with tobacco companies playing the predictable role as evil corporate giant...The debate over FDA reform has the potential to complicate this portrayal in a manner that will specifically benefit Philip Morris. The simple fact that other tobacco companies will likely come out on the opposite side of the issue--against FDA regulation--provides Philip Morris a chance to distinguish itself from its competitors as a good corporate citizen. Positioned appropriately, the campaign can actually serve two purposes: achieving Philip Morris's goal of instituting regulation of the tobacco industry while also realizing significant public affairs benefits.

The memo says that the key to success lies in recruiting non-traditional allies, "...including anti-smoking activists, the health care community and other non-traditional ally groups that may be difficult for Philip Morris to access." Direct Impact proposes hiring field staff who already have relationships with health groups and advocates ("who may be less receptive to recruitment efforts conducted directly by the company") and having these operatives make "highly personalized, individual contacts with these prospective allies" to help gain the advocates' support.

Direct Impact proposes to help PM "develop better relationships with communities that have often opposed Philip Morris" and thus "improve perception of Philip Morris, as compared to other tobacco companies...[to] help promote to the broader public the image of Philip Morris as a company that is 'doing what's right' as it relates to tobacco regulation."

Date 20010322
Bates 2085235845/5847
Collection Philip Morris
Pages 3

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