Tobacco companies should advertise lethality of smoking, say health experts

15 October 2017:

US court order forcing tobacco giants to air ads detailing dangers of smoking from November, should be mirrored in Australia say anti-smoking advocates

Eminent public health experts have written to the Australian heads of tobacco companies calling on them to advertise the lethality of smoking, the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, and to reveal their deliberate attempts to make tobacco products more addictive.

In 2012 the US federal court ordered major tobacco companies to run advertisements in the media admitting that they deceived American consumers for decades about the dangers of smoking. That decision was upheld by the court in April, and the first of the advertisements are due to air next month in leading newspapers and in and 30- to 45-second ads on the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks. The newspaper ads will be full-page.

The advertisements will run weekly for one year and will cost Altria, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Philip Morris USA millions of dollars.

It has prompted a coalition of public health experts to write to the heads of British American Tobacco and Philip Morris in Australia calling on them to tell the truth about their tobacco products in a similar advertising campaign.

“We hope that you will share our view that Australians are entitled to the same level of information as the American public about these companies’ deceitful practices and the ways in which these companies and the tobacco industry more broadly have lied to the public and your consumers over decades,” the letter states.

“As you will be aware, some 1.8 million Australians now alive are likely to die because they smoked, in large part because of the activities over time of global tobacco companies such as yours. We therefore call on your company to make a commitment to publishing the same corrective statements in Australia and other countries as those you are publishing in the USA and to run those advertisements for the same 12-month duration and intensity as those being run in the USA.”

Signatories to the letter include CEO of the Public Health Association and president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, Michael Moore; president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Maurice Swanson; and tobacco control experts Prof Simon Chapman and Prof Mike Daube.

Guardian Australia has contacted Philip Morris International for comment.

Moore said that British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International comprise 70% of the Australian tobacco market.

“They have promoted products designed to be addictive,” he said. “And they are still targeting the young as well as low- and middle-income countries. Australian consumers, and those around the world, are entitled to the same level of information as Americans.”

Daube said despite being forced to run advertisements in the US, tobacco companies continued to fight measures aimed at reducing smoking-related harm. Philip Morris has vigorously fought against the Gillard government’s plain packaging laws since they were introduced in 2011, and was in July ordered to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its legal case against the laws failed.

“We call on this most lethal of industries to tell the truth to the Australian public about the massive toll of death and disease caused by smoking, and its record of manipulating everything from marketing to the product itself,” Daube said.

“Here, as in the US, they have lied for too long.”

Source: The Guardian