Marlboro makers admit cigarettes can cause cancer

David Usborne
Thursday 14 October 1999 00:00
Comments

PHILIP MORRIS, the world's largest cigarette manufacturer, has for the first time acknowledged that scientific evidence shows smoking is addictive and can cause potentially lethal diseases such as cancer.

PHILIP MORRIS, the world's largest cigarette manufacturer, has for the first time acknowledged that scientific evidence shows smoking is addictive and can cause potentially lethal diseases such as cancer.

What might seem like an admission of the obvious is also a profound about-face for the maker of brands such as Marlboro. Like its competitors, it has for years disputed scientific findings about the risks of smoking. In 1994, the heads of major cigarette manufacturers denied - before the United States Congress - that smoking was addictive.

The concession is made in a company website posted this week, which is part of a $100 million (£60 million) promotional campaign, designed to give Philip Morris a friendlier face. "For too long we have let others define who we are," said Stephen Parrish, a senior vice- president. "Now we will focus on getting our story out."

By plainly stating the health risks of smoking, the company is also trying to protect itself against future litigation from consumers who may be taking up the habit now. Philip Morris and the other big tobacco firms - including Brown & Williamson, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, and R J Reynolds - have come under sustained legal and regulatory assault in the US in recent years. The website says: "There is an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers.

"Smokers are far more likely to develop serious diseases, like lung cancer, than non-smokers". The company states that there is no "safe cigarette". It goes on to admit that "cigarette smoking is addictive, as that term is most commonly used today". Also on the site - www.philipmorris.com - the company reveals the ingredients of its cigarettes. In addition, it offers advice on how to give up smoking.

Last year, the tobacco companies settled suits launched by all 50 US states, agreeing to pay $246 billion in damages over 25 years and accepting tough new curbs on advertising.

The legal pressure on the industry has still not gone away, however. It faces several lawsuits from smokers themselves and from insurance companies. Last month, the federal government sued to recover some of the $20 billion it spends every year on health programmes related to smoking.

Philip Morris's U-turn was welcomed by David Kessler, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "It may just be a PR effort," he said yesterday. "But it has important consequences. They are saying that nicotine is an addictive product. Now they should agree to FDA regulation. What other addictive substance is not regulated by the FDA?"

Brown & Williamson went some way towards making a similar admission when it launched a website in April. On it, the firm said it believed that smokers were "taking significant health risks".

In new television advertisements, Philip Morris will try to emphasise its food divisions over its cigarette unit, notably Kraft foods and Miller breweries. Some adverts will highlight recent good deeds, such as funding protection for abused women and helping flood relief.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in