Some time ago, this column devoted several weeks to a subject entitled “ASHES TO ASHES,” dealing with the deadly habit of using, and especially smoking, tobacco. I won’t revisit them here, but the more pertinent portions of those columns should be included in a book which I expect to publish shortly. I could not resist the temptation, however, to show how the unscrupulous and hypocritical tobacco companies maintain straight faces while they blatantly repeat their age-old lie that they are not purposely inducing our children to smoke. Though their sins are usually exposed one company at a time, everyone involved in the manufacture, sale or promotion of this deadly weed is guilty of attempted murder, at the very least.
Most recently, a time-proven crusader, Congressman Henry Waxman from California, won another of the many battles he has fought ever since he has been in the seat. He forced the release of documents to the public verifying that the tobacco companies were purposely trying to hook our children on cigarettes, to increase their market. The second largest cigarette company, R.J. Reynolds, was proven to have developed “aggressive marketing proposals to reach adolescents as young as 14 years old,” according to THE WASHINGTON POST. The distinguished newspaper referenced 81 confidential documents, including marketing surveys, reports by advertising firms, long-term planning documents and other internal memos, “all of which deal with the youth smoking market.”
The documents, which RJR weakly claimed “were taken out of context,” spanned from 1973 to 1990, and are cited by the POST as leading to the launching, in 1988, of the infamous Joe Camel cartoon advertising campaign, designed specifically to attract youngsters to the poison puffing. Pressured by federal officials and public health activists, the company withdrew the cartoon last year.
Despite the company’s denials, the files, which were released by Congressman Waxman, show a conscious and determined effort by the tobacco bigwigs to enslave future generations to the poisonous puff. Most of these were obtained by the battling Californian from law firms which had worked with California lawyer Janet Mangini on the case. In one of these, RJR’s marketing vice president (no pun intended) C.A. Tucker is quoted as suggesting that the company’s entire marketing be reoriented to focus on young people.
“They represent tomorrow’s cigarette business,” said Tucker. “As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume for at least the next 25 years.”
As former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David A. Kessler pointed out, “If you are looking for a smoking gun regarding youth smoking, you need to look no further.”
Around 1980, as lawsuits increased, a confidential memo instructed everyone to alter their language when referring to their “target market.” However, a 1982 contract with Data Resources, Inc. authorized the Atlanta-based company to develop a system to track smoking rates among people as young as 12. In 1987 RJR’s Canadian subsidiary commissioned a detailed study, called “Youth Target 1987,Ó on the smoking patterns of 15-to 24-year-olds.
“I find these documents and the actions they represent pretty disgusting,” said Waxman. “These documents show they were targeting our children … At the level of CEO and the board, they were implementing this strategy.”