by Skip Wollenberg / AP Business Writer
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000; 12:50 a.m. EST
NEW YORK -- The organization behind the biggest U.S.
anti-smoking campaign is going to be watched by critics
and fans to see if it has lost its nerve after pulling two of its
first four commercials amid complaints the ads went too far.
The American Legacy Foundation withdrew the ads to
defuse a potentially distracting debate over whether the
ads amounted to an improper personal attack on tobacco
companies or were an arresting way to educate teens
about smoking's risks.
One of the pulled ads showed young people stacking "body
bags" on the sidewalk outside a tobacco company building,
while the other showed teens equipped with a lie detector
trying to get into a tobacco company's offices to quiz sales
executives about whether smoking was addictive.
The building was not specifically identified in either ad but
the commercials were filmed inside and outside the Philip
Morris Cos. headquarters in Manhattan.
Philip Morris, the world's biggest cigarette maker, and
some state attorneys general cried foul and the CBS
television network refused to run the two ads.
"It is obvious we pushed a number of buttons and we are
going to keep pushing buttons," Cheryl Healton, president
and chief executive of the foundation, said Tuesday.
But she said the foundation's board voted Monday to
withdraw the two ads temporarily after "concerns were
raised from a variety of sectors" and addressing the
controversy threatened to divert her from her main
mission of reducing youth smoking.
The ads are part of a $1.5 billion anti-smoking campaign
being financed with proceeds from the industry's huge
1998 settlement with the states over claims for
reimbursement for treating sick smokers.
The foundation was created to oversee the antismoking
advertising and educational efforts, and last week it began
running its first commercials developed by a team of
agencies led by Arnold Communications of Boston.
The "Body Bag" ad ran on the USA network while "Lie
Detector" ran on the cable channel Comedy Central.
"Hopefully this is a one-time incident in which the tobacco
companies demonstrate that they haven't really changed
by threatening the foundation whenever it produces hard-
hitting ads that put the tobacco industry in a bad light,"
said tobacco critic Matthew Myers, head of the Campaign
for Tobacco-Free Kids.
He said the foundation's overall campaign is still hard-
hitting but added the "critical point" will be to measure if
the foundation continues in that direction.
The other two initial ads are parodies of soft drink and
sneaker commercials, showing one of three product users
being unexpectedly vaporized. The message: "Only one
product actually kills a third of the people who use it.
Tobacco." Other ads are expected to start running soon.
"It was not worth being distracted by one or two ads with
others in the arsenal," Attorney General Christine Gregoire
of Washington, who led the states in the negotiations with
the tobacco industry and chairs the American Legacy
Foundation, said Tuesday through a spokesman.
Philip Morris, the maker of the top-selling brand Marlboro,
had said last week that it was disappointed with the "Lie
Detector" commercial and the Web site created for the
anti-smoking campaign and said it was weighing its options.
It noted that the state settlement agreement specified that
the fund wouldn't be used for personal attacks on an
individual or company, and said Tuesday it was pleased
the two ads had been withdrawn.
Attorney General Michael F. Easley of North Carolina, who
was among the state negotiators during the tobacco talks,
said last week in a letter distributed to the attorneys
general who signed the agreement there was little
question that the ads "can be fairly viewed as personally
attacking or vilifying the tobacco companies, something
that all of us who sat around the negotiating table in New
York agreed we would not do."
The CBS television network refused to run the "Lie
Detector" and "Body Bag" ads because "we feel they
crossed the line," CBS spokesman Dana McLintock
The foundation remains in negotiations with CBS and
other networks about taking its other ads, Healton said.
Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said the
company continues to consider its options on the Web
site, which is at www.thetruth.com.
source: Bill Godshall Announcement List