Its Web ads claim “everybody wants to be free.” It’s Truth, an organization whose “main goal is to alert everyone to the lies and hidden practices of the cigarette companies, while giving people the tools to have a voice in changing that.”
Its print ads urge people to rip cigarette advertising out of magazines.
Its TV ads say tobacco gives black men 52 percent more lung cancer than white men.
It’s Truth, an organization whose “main goal is to alert everyone to the lies and hidden practices of the cigarette companies, while giving people the tools to have a voice in changing that.”
Odds are you’ve bumped into the Truth brigade—on television, on the radio, on the Web, in magazines—working relentlessly to infect everyone with the truth about tobacco.
Truth points to ugly statistics, such as:
Seventy-five percent of teenage smokers have parents who smoke.
Roughly 3,000 children start smoking each day.
Eighty-six percent of teenage smokers use the three brands that advertise the most.
“In the U.S., tobacco companies can’t legally advertise on television, on the radio or in certain magazines,” according to thetruth.com. “Yet in spite of that, the tobacco industry finds a way to spend more than $8 billion a year advertising their product. That’s billion with a ‘B.’ $22 million worth of tobacco communication bombards us every day.”
Truth is funded by the American Legacy Foundation, an organization founded in 1998 after the Master Settlement Agreement between 46 U.S. states, 5 U.S. territories and the tobacco industry.
The MSA “resolved lawsuits filed by the attorneys general [in 46 states] against the tobacco industry and provided the states funding intended for tobacco prevention and control,” according to ALF’s Web site. “The agreement required tobacco companies to take down all billboard advertising and advertising in sports arenas, to stop using cartoon characters to sell cigarettes and to make many of their internal documents available to the public.”
TheTruth.com is a veritable library of edgy material designed to expose tobacco company shenanigans. The site offers recent ad campaigns, tobacco studies, news articles, tobacco executives’ contact information and—perhaps most interesting of all—snippets from tobacco company memos.
For example, an R.J. Reynolds memo from 1973 said: “Comic strip type copy might get a much higher readership among younger people than any other type of copy.”
Truth, however, has recently drawn the ire of big tobacco. In a letter dated Jan. 18, 2002, Lorillard Tobacco Company put ALF on notice.
“It has become abundantly clear that ALF’s ‘truth’ campaign is not about conveying the truth about tobacco products to the American public, so much as vilifying and personally attacking tobacco companies and their employees,” the letter read.
“The message of the ‘truth’ campaign has consistently strayed far afield from the facts concerning tobacco products and their effect on users,” it continued. “Rather than focus on the products themselves, in large part the message of the ‘truth’ campaign is that the participating manufacturers and their executives are dishonest, deceitful, callous, malicious, or otherwise unscrupulous.”
ALF responded with a press release on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
“Lorillard’s threats are unwarranted and outrageous,” said Dr. Cheryl Healton, Legacy president and CEO, in the release. “In my view, they’re a smokescreen to hide the company’s real goal, which is to crush the truth campaign because it’s working to stop kids from smoking.”
Healton also rebutted Lorillard’s charges regarding personal attacks.
“The truth campaign has not engaged in personal attacks or vilification of Lorillard or anyone else,” she said. “Anyone who has seen truth ads knows they educate young people about the addictiveness, health effects, and social costs of tobacco, which is exactly what the MSA says they must do.”
Expect a long and bitter battle because of what’s at stake: health on one hand, and money on the other.
In the end, Truth’s Web site says it best:
“The truth campaign has gotten a lot of hype about the controversial nature of some of our ads. No doubt they are direct and aggressive. But we feel like we have an important message to tell and we want to focus on getting that message out.”
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.