Over the years, I’ve collected some glorious examples of the tobacco industry’s efforts to promote health and hose down public concern about the risks of smoking. There was Philip Morris’s effort in Australia in the 1980s to sell a sunscreen to protect us all from skin cancer. They thought it was a great idea to give it the same brand name as another of their products, Peter Jackson cigarettes, which like all cigarettes kill two in three of their long term users. Lung cancer prevention = bad; melanoma prevention = good. All got that? It was quietly and swiftly withdrawn when this little problem given some sunlight.

Then there was the time in 1999 that Philip Morris  listed itself in a corporate promotional brochure as sponsoring the Red Nose Day Foundation, Australia’s largest research charity supporting research on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Sleeping in the prone position and exposure to tobacco smoke are the two most important, known risk factors for SIDS. The glossy brochure, resplendent with photographs of the company’s products including cigarettes, identified the charity as among “recipients of support or sponsorship from Philip Morris and its operating companies in Australia”. Red Nose Day organisers had obtained, for fundraising purposes, two giant Toblerone chocolate bars from Philip Morris’s Kraft corporate arm, not realising the then connection with the tobacco parent company.

On learning that Philip Morris was using the Toblerone donation as part of its efforts to promote its corporate image, the executive director of the Foundation complained that its name and cause had been misused and announced that the money raised would be returned as unwanted to Philip Morris.

World wide Philip Morris had aggressively disputed evidence that environmental tobacco smoking is harmful. Anne Jones, director of Action on Smoking and Health (Australia) commented at the time that Philip Morris claiming to support SIDS research was “about as offensive as Slobodan Milosovic donating to Kosovar refugee relief”

Promoting “light” cigarettes

When Philip Morris owned Kraft (Kraft has had no affiliation with Philip Morris or its spinoff Altria since 2007) its tobacco division was globally busy inculcating the idea that some cigarettes were less deadly than others. “Lights” was one of the magic words they and other tobacco companies branded these cigarettes with, until regulators outlawed it as misleading and deceptive and heavily fined them for knowing this for many years. There was no evidence “lights” were less deadly than any other cancer stick.

Before the curtain fell heavily on this deceptive conduct, Philip Morris used Kraft to help its efforts. Here’s an ad showing how “light” was used to directly imply healthy. Just the trick to use to imply the same healthier claims for cigarettes.

Smoking? Well what about …?

Tobacco companies have a long history of trying to mine research and expressions of public alarm about various risks to health to foment public confusion that “everything gives you cancer these days”, so why worry about just one risk, smoking? Perhaps the most florid example of this was a 20 page A-Z dossier of health risks from 1984. This was designed to be used as a crib sheet for tobacco industry employees to spray examples around in media interviews when the troublesome issue of the dire risks of smoking arose. Here’s a sample. You can read the rest via the link.

Cell phone tower electromagnetic radiation angst

Paul Adams (pictured above) was the chief executive of British American Tobacco’s head office in London for seven years until he retired in 2011. Adams presided over one of the world’s largest tobacco companies whose products today contribute to the global total tobacco death toll of 8 million smokers a year. We can safely assume he knew an awful lot about the health impact of his company’s business across his years at BAT. But in December 1993 he was very worried about another alleged health risk: electromagnetic radiation from a proposed transmission mast in his community and sent a personal protest letter to his local district health council.

Health risks from mobile phone towers or the phones themselves have never been demonstrated across the decades. It would be highly improbable that Adams did not use a mobile phone himself. Phones don’t work without transmission towers.

WiFi and Bluetooth

And in 2019, we come to Josh Fett, British American Tobacco’s Senior Regulatory Engagement and Campaigns Manager for Asia Pacific and Middle East. Fett tweeted two telcos “trying to figure out” if it was safe to use WiFi/Bluetooth around babies in the home.

Sarah White’s (then CEO of Quit Victoria) pertinent question below to Fett unfortunately went unanswered.

WiFi began being offered by communication providers from 2002 and by 2014 was being used in 25% of houses worldwide. Bluetooth began its rapid rise in popularity from 2004, going through seven different upgrades by 2016 as its provision and use became almost standard in lots of electrical equipment.

So across this time, hundreds of millions of neonates, infants, children and adults have received up to 17 years exposure by the time Fett asked his question.

Vertical integration of smoking and death

In 2019, Philip Morris International set up a life insurance company. As a next step in its business model, this was just masterly! Sell highly addictive, lethal tobacco products to your customers and at the same time, get them to also pay you a life insurance premium. I couldn’t resist adding a few more suggestions in the tweet below. So many ways for one of the world’s largest and longest purveyors of cigarettes to get a place at health industry tables and representative groups!

You’re in the health care industry!

But I save the best for last. Below we see the UK’s Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) proudly megaphoning the message given to its 2022 conference by UK Conservative MP Adam Afriyie. Afriyie was a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping which  both received funding from UKVIA and  from November 2016 until 2020, even had UKVIA operating  as the Secretariat for the APPG for vaping. Afriyie wanted vape manufacturers and retailers to get it into their heads that they were not in the tobacco industry, not in the nicotine addiction industry but, yes, in the healthcare industry.

That would be the vaping industry whose products are now sounding all the health alarms you see in reviews like those shown here.

George Orwell would be having a field day if he was alive today.