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Are the court-ordered TV ads for cigarettes part of a Big Tobacco conspiracy?

News that the Big Tobacco companies are now running TV and print advertisements regarding the dangers of smoking is causing both confusion and concern within the vaping community.  As of November 26, the viewing pleasures of millions of Americans are now being interrupted by deceptively creative TV commercials making claims that smoking kills 480,000 people in the United States annually along with other supposedly critical statements of smoking.

At first glance, the advertisements appear to demonize smoking, which theoretically, could be viewed as a positive confirmation of vaping as an effective tool for tobacco harm reduction. So, why are Big Tobacco companies running these controversial ads in the first place? Strangely, these TV commercials were court-ordered by the U.S. government.

More fuel for the Big Tobacco Conspiracy debate?

To be clear, the new TV ads with the seemingly negative messages about the dangers of smoking are not voluntary.  They are the result of a 1999 court case where Big Tobacco companies were found guilty of civil racketeering charges and of essentially lying to the American people for decades about the health risks of combustible tobacco products. 

Instead of sending tobacco company executives to prison or demanding that they pay exorbitant financial penalties, the judge order these “corrective statements” in the form of TV and print ads.  These commercials will run on each of the three major networks five times per week for an entire year.  Similarly-worded advertisements will also appear in some 45 major mainstream media newspapers once per month for five months in total.


Now, many might be thinking that this is good news.  Finally, Big Tobacco is being help publicly accountable for their actions.  But as many marketing experts will tell you, successful advertising is so much more than bold words and brash statements.  Successful advertising is all about images, pictures, and video, usually involving pretty people using the company products. 

If the goal of the federal government is to warn American youth of the dangers of smoking, TV and newspaper ads are probably the lease effective ways to do it.  Newspaper circulation is on a rapid decline, and even in generations past, what percentage of American teens were ever known to read the local newspaper on a regular basis?

Meanwhile, in today’s age of easily-surfable television where viewers can skip past commercial interruptions with the click of a button, how many teens will actually see these “corrective statements” from Big Tobacco? 

Perhaps even more odd is that the tobacco companies can choose the individual markets in which these advertisements appear.  This oversight in the judge’s ruling essentially means that Big Tobacco can choose to run the TV commercials or run the newspaper ads in regions of the country with the lowest cigarette sales or media subscribers.

Somehow, Big Tobacco managed to lose a billion-dollar lawsuit, never pay any fines, never go to jail, and still be allowed to create TV and print advertisements disguised in the form of negatively-worded corrective statements.  And perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the release of these negative ad campaigns coincides with the worldwide marketing efforts of Big Tobacco’s latest product - Heat-not-Burn technologies.  Tobacco executives must be laughing all the way to the bank.


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