Cigarette Secrets

Funny things pop up when you start sifting through thousands of pages of tobacco documents.

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So another load of tobacco documents comes out of the closet. Philip Morris recently put online thousands pages of cigarette-related papers. A few of the documents have made headlines, mostly because they show, yet again, that cigarette companies were marketing their smokes to children. But what else do you find when you start poking around the scads of other documents? The MoJo Wire snooped around and found plenty of diamonds in the rough, generally less outright appalling than the news-making documents, but funnier:


Kids Luv Kamels
An undated Philip Morris survey of elementary- and middle-school children. Of those surveyed, 4% had tried a cigarette and 90% thought cigarette smoking was “gross” rather than cool. But asked to circle the things they noticed in cigarette ads, here’s what they chose:

  • 94% Camels
  • 63% Cowboys
  • 33% Cartoon characters (They used to have cartoon characters in cigarette ads? Apparently so.)
“We wonder whether such [hyperactive] children may not eventually become cigarette smokers in their teenage years as they discover the advantage of self-stimulation via nicotine…. It would be good to show that smoking is an advantage to at least one subgroup of the population.”
Proof of research done “[t]o test our hypothesis that hyperactive children are more likely to become cigarette smokers than nonhyperactives.”
And then this statement…”The tobacco industry’s position has always been that smoking is an adult custom.”


Quashing the Quitters
Results from a 1970 Philip Morris survey distributed in Greenfield, Iowa, where townspeople were staging a mass quit-smoking campaign in conjunction with the movie, Cold Turkey. Philip Morris, apparently threatened by the notion of a whole town spontaneously snubbing out tobacco, decided to study the townspeople. They had “local teenagers, most of whom were Girl Scouts,” distribute the questionnaires, as they were “seldom turned away from a door as strangers might have been.” The report shows, among other findings, statistics on the nervous habits that ex-smokers had acquired since quitting, such as “foot jiggling” (33.5 percent), “match chewing” (22.4 percent), and “knuckle cracking” (14.2 percent).
Frightened by data that suggested smokers may actually be using low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes to help themselves quit smoking, the author of this study questions the economical wisdom of selling them:

“…the nicotine deliveries of these products may be low enough to constitute a partial weaning of the smoker…. If the industry’s introduction of acceptable low-nicotine products does make it easier for dedicated smokers to quit, then the wisdom of introduction is open to debate.”


G-Rated Smokes

Tobacco companies pay very generous amounts of money to movie companies in exchange for a prominent display of their brand of cigarette in smoking scenes. And they get their money’s worth. According to The Wall Street Journal, Independence Day had a total of 28 smoking scenes, and A Time to Kill had 30 such scenes. UCSF researchers report that a walloping 80% of male leads on the big screen lit up in movies released between 1991 and 1996.

But did you know that Philip Morris and other tobacco companies actually paid for product placement in some of the more popular children’s movies of recent times, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Superman, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Our personal favorite? The Muppet Movie, of course.

Take a look at this comprehensive list of movies and see if you can spot your favorite.

How much money would you say Hollywood plugs like these are worth: $500,000? $50 million? How about $200 million? That’s the amount that Brown & Williamson heard Philip Morris was supposed to pay to the makers of Apocalypse Now for product placement of the Marlboro cigarettes in that film alone. An outragous fee, right? B&W execs agreed, they thought the movie was only worth $100 million.


Be Their Guest

The tobacco companies haven’t made it easy to go scavenging through their formerly confidential files. Interspersed with actual internal company reports, where the real smoking guns lie, are advertisements, press releases and clippings, and other irrelevant documents that clog up your searches. All the documents have been scanned in, which means that if you have anything less than a kick-ass computer and a really fast Internet connection, it’s going to take a while to actually view the pages. Once you get the pages up on your screen, it’s another challenge to read the blurry print. All this makes us wonder: Is this technological illiteracy on Philip Morris’ part, or an intentional undermining of the release of information? Either way, we think they should fire their Web developers.

On most Web browsers, you can click on the right button of your mouse and select “View Image” or “Open Image” to get a slightly magnified view of a page at a time. To view the next page, click on “Back” and you’ll return to the demagnified view of the whole document.

If you still wanna poke around, and you’ve got a few years to kill, the best way to explore the documents is to use the searchable database. You can enter keywords such as “teen,” “young,” and “children” to see the dirt they’ve got on young smokers. To avoid the noise and get directly to the company’s internal reports, where the tobacco control advocates’ real ammunition lies, try simply typing in the keywords “report” or “memorandum.” It worked for us.

And if you want something a little more uplifting, you can also see the CEO of Philip Morris getting grilled in front of a jury by Minnesota state attorneys earlier this month. These documents, posted on a private citizen’s Web site, are considerably more user-friendly.


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