The Ironic Reason Tobacco Companies Are Coming Back to the Airwaves
Courts ruled 11 years ago that big tobacco companies had misled the general public about the health effects of smoking—and that they should pay a price for it. That price didn’t end up being a direct fine; but tobacco firms were told to issue “corrective statements” in marketing materials—including television ads—to make up for the dubious claims they issued over decades. And the effort will finally launch this weekend with anti-smoking ad campaigns funded by industry giants like Philip Morris USA owner Altria Group and Reynolds, reports the Associated Press.
Tobacco manufacturers once had relatively free reign, with even doctors starring in commercials, on the airwaves before being banned from television and radio advertising in 1970 when President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law. (This followed the landmark 1964 U.S. Surgeon General report prominently highlighting the health dangers of smoking.)
The fact that companies that make products like Marlboro and Camel cigarettes are now paying for campaigns discouraging their use may seem like karmic irony. But some critics argue that it’s too little, too late—especially considering that the anti-smoking advertising effort is focused on more old-school media like network television and newspapers.
Those may not be the best avenues to reach the population at highest risk of becoming lifelong smokers: Young people who get hooked early. And the mere tens of millions of dollars tobacco companies will have to spend on the campaigns pale in comparison to their billions in annual sales.
This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.