December 13, 2017

According to several industry experts, big tobacco companies designed their court-mandated “corrective statements”—ads explaining the real dangers of smoking—to go unnoticed. That’s exactly why one Minnesota nonprofit set out to “correct” them.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation (MSFG) launched a detailed campaign yesterday—complete with videos for social and a full website,—to “rectify the omissions” in the corrective statements, which will be distributed throughout the year by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Altria and its Philip Morris USA subsidiary.

The tobacco companies were first ordered by a federal judge in 2006 to release these statements—which consist of laundry lists of facts on the dangers of smoking, recited with no imagery or hint of emotion—on prime-time television and in print newspapers. After decades of fighting the order, organizations like the Truth Initiative point out that these traditional ads are outdated and miss the American generations who consume most everything on digital and social platforms.

However, due to efforts by the nonprofit’s co-chair ClearWay Minnesota and its new agency of record (Haberman), these young consumers will now get a chance to see big tobacco’s message after all—and, with some slight tweaks, the grave dangers of smoking are much clearer.

“While Big Tobacco was court-ordered to tell the truth, they fought for years to get out of having to use certain phrases that would’ve made clear the depth of their deception,” said Emalie Wichmann, Haberman creative director. “So we further corrected Big Tobacco’s corrective statements.”

In the Haberman-created spots for both digital and print, the original corrective statements are reimagined with some bold edits like “A Federal Court has ordered us to tell the truth about the health effects of smoking, which proves we deliberately deceived Americans.” The tobacco industry’s original version was far blander: “A Federal Court has ordered Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Philip Morris USA to make this statement about the health effects of smoking.”

Other corrections hold the big tobacco industry accountable for communicating deceptive messaging to American consumers for over 50 years, like downplaying the risks of smoking and not disclosing that cigarettes are designed to be highly addictive. One of Clearway’s fixes to the ads states “For decades, we’ve denied the truth,” alluding to the legal battles tobacco companies waged for over 10 years to block the corrective statements.

While big tobacco’s ads will run periodically on prime-time TV and in national newspapers until Nov. 2018, MSFG said it will continue to distribute its own version through spring of 2019, particularly on social media.

On Nov. 1, ClearWay chose Haberman to be its AOR after a competitive review. The independent full-service agency will oversee all of ClearWay’s marketing strategy and advertising, including creative; media planning and buying; public relations; digital; social and content.

Haberman will initially focus on promoting Quitplan Services, ClearWay’s smoking cessation offering, and sustaining its “Stop the Start” campaign to keep youth and young adults away from tobacco.

ClearWay’s campaigns primarily run in Minnesota, but Haberman noted in a press release that they have also appeared in 30 other states and five countries.


I encourage anybody interested to pick up the link at the top of this piece and review the funny/sad/tongue-in-cheek review of how “big tobacco” sold us all out.   Am so grateful that Vape’s have taken off in such a big way.  Vapes are not “safe”, but where tobacco can contain up to 700 mainly toxic additives, Vape oil can contain as few as 7.   The method of delivery is identical, so users get their “nicotine hit” as quickly with a vape as they do with a cigarette.

Technology can cause either evolutionary change–gradually or disruptive change–suddenly. The Vape seems to be poised to make a disruptive change that could cause great harm and over time destroy “big tobacco”.

It’s about time!

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink