Karen Daragan

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

Karen Daragan was manager of Public/Media Relations for Philip Morris USA Corporate Affairs from 1993-94. She later worked with Carolyn J. Levy in Philip Morris's "youth smoking prevention" department. Daragan assisted with mobilizing "grassroots" contituencies to help PM defeat and delay smoke-free legislation. She helped implement PM's Accommodation Program to help assure smoking remained permitted in restaurants and keep cities and towns from passing smoking bans any stricter than relatively weak state laws.

In 2010, she was working as a "corporate reputation officer" in the greater New York Area. In her LinkedIn profile, she openly touts her past with Philip Morris.[1]


Daragan started with Philip Morris USA in March 1988 as Communications Assistant. She subsequently held a variety of positions in grassroots political mobilization and media affairs management.

In 1993 and 1994 Ms. Daragan was the Manager of Media Relations for Philip Morris U.S.A. Daragan was a spokeswoman for Philip Morris Companies, Inc. in 1994.(Dow Jones, 5-13-94) She was the Manager of Media Affairs for Philip Morris USA and she gave a deposition that was 223 pages on 3/15/1995 for the Philip Morris v. ABC case.(PMI's Revised Initial Disclosure, June 27, 1996) Karen Daragan worked with Philip Morris Corporate Affairs.(PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996)

PM's "Ninja Program"

In a 1991 outline, Karen Daragan (then Administrator of Media Affairs for Philip Morris USA) described PM's "Ninja Program," in which PM recruited individual smokers to act as seemingly independent media spokespeople to oppose smoking restrictions and cigarette taxes. Daragan described the rationale for the program this way:

Smokers can respond better than we can to these zealots' positions on smoking restrictions and excessive taxation. Basically, we can get them [smokers] to deliver our messages for us and it works beautifully because they don't represent big bad tobacco co[mpany], have more credibility [and] can relate to the public better and talk about issues that are affecting them rather than have us talk for them like we did in the past. But they can also go a step beyond. They can...get the antis [public health advocates] reacting to them which puts the antis on the defensive for a change.

Daragan called PM's Ninja Program "a proactive media relations tool for us," and described how PM's method of recruiting smokers as spokespeople differs from those of other cigarette companies:

We don't manage smokers rights clubs and organize meetings like our competitors do. What we do is go out and find the most articulate and devoted activists. We call them our ninjas. We feed them with our most powerful information and arguments, media train them and then have our public relations agency go out and pitch stories and set up interviews for them..."

Daragan continued, describing how PM finds their ninjas: "Right now we have about 30 trained media ninjas across the country...We find them through correspondence with PM, through phone surveys and written surveys among the 12 million people on our database, through word of mouth, LTE's, and visible activists among the already existing smokers rights clubs across the states."

PM's "ninjas" were instructed to carry specific, corporate-defined messages to the media: accommodation, civil liberties, fairness and self-determination.[1]

By 2003, Daragan had been appointed Vice President of Strategy and Social Responsibility for Altria Corporate Services, Inc. (the parent company of Philip Morris).

Related SourceWatch resources


  1. Karen Daragan Linked In Professional profile. Web site, accessed March 21, 2010

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