Dennis L. McNeill

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

Dennis L. McNeill, Ph.D.was a cigarette marketing expert and Professor at the University of Denver in 1986. He is a former Federal Trade Commission(FTC) marketing specialist.(L. White, Merchants 1988). He has served as a Plaintiff's witness in tobacco cases.


In 1986 the FTC sent R.J. Reynolds' focus group reports and R.J. Reynolds's 3/19/85 "Of cigarettes and science" ads (re: the MR FIT trial) to McNeill for his analysis and opinion.(L. White, Merchants 1988). McNeill signed an affidavit saying that the ad was clearly targeted at smokers: "The ad attempts to convince smokers not to quit their habit."(L. White, Merchants of Death, 1988). McNeill said,

"The ad is premised on a recognition that smokers are aware that smoking is harmful to their health [thus the ad is intended for the prized customers, the well-educated upscale smokers, not the young or poor]. The ad states: 'You probably know about research that links smoking to certain diseases. Coronary heart disease is one of them.' Reynolds obviously knows smokers must continually attempt to reconcile their habit with their knowledge of its hazards. To assist them, the ad does not purport to present evidence developed by Reynolds on smoking and health. Rather, it presents, in an apparently balanced source, the MR FIT study. Moreover, to heighten the believability of the study, Reynolds relies on the Wall Street Journal's characterization of the MR FIT study [which said merely that it was one of the largest medical experiments ever attempted] and further points out that it was a lengthy, very expensive Government funded study. The balanced content and the use of independent (i.e., not generated by Reynolds) information lends credibility to the ad's overall message. Finally, the ad implies the study results were not widely publicized, apparently because those result were not consistent with scientists' long-held opinions. The last point is buttressed in the final portion of the ad, wherein Reynolds impliedly criticizes scientists for their willingness to change their view or, at the very least, for not being open-minded. Taken as a whole, the ad is a powerful attempt to convince smokers that they do not need to quit their habit." (L. White, Merchants 1988). Furthermore, Dr. McNeill maintained, the ad was effective. "Indeed, if I had been asked to design an ad whose purpose was to convince smokers of reduced health risk of their smoking. I would have selected a format and persuasive techniques much like those employed by R.J. Reynolds." (L. White, Merchants 1988).

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