Date: Mon, Jun 11, 2001 7:37 PM
Subject: Cigarette and SmokeLess Tobacco Reports
June 11, 2001
I would like to respond for the many people and organizations in Kansas who make use of the information provided by the Federal Trade Commission on the sales, advertising and promotions of tobacco companies in the United States. I am submitting my comments in terms of questions I received. I am sure that my comments reflect those of many of the members of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition.
1. Who uses the cigarette and smokeless tobacco reports? For what purposes do they use them?
In Kansas, more than 11,000 children start smoking every year, and more than 4,000 adults die each year from tobacco-related diseases.
Our legislature has not allocated sufficient funding from the tobacco lawsuit settlement to provide for the level of comprehensive tobacco control programming that the Centers for Disease Control recommends for our state. Thus it is very important for us the FTC continue to provide the information that shows that Kansas is subjected to more than $50 million in promotional and other advertising from tobacco companies interested in gaining new customers (almost always our children in Kansas) and in keeping 21 % of our adults addicted to a product that the tobacco companies now admit is dangerous.
At this point our legislature has allocated only $500,000 in tobacco prevention and cessation funding. We are coupling this with a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant of about $1 million over a three-year period and an American Legacy Foundation grant for youth empowerment that might measure up to $1.5 million over three years.
We have been using the FTC data to show the impact on Kansas--both from a sheer total perspective and to show policy makers the need to be able to counter these vast industry expenditures through programs generated from a public health perspective.
2. What are the costs to the industries to provide the FTC with the data included in the cigarette and smokeless tobacco reports?
This question becomes absolutely irrelevant when it is measured against the fact that tobacco use has no redeeming factors for the person who uses it, especially when we consider that one out of two long-term users die from tobacco-related diseases.
We must also remember that tobacco companies are still considered prime industries for stock market investments because of the return they provide. Surely, the amount of money they claim is being used to produce this report is inconsequential. These companies on their own will continue to produce this information for their own internal marketing and budgeting purposes. Possible reformatting and submitting data already collected should not be regarded as an impossibly difficult or expensive task for these companies.
3. Should the FTC continue to collect and publish data regarding cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales, advertising and promotion? Why or why not?
The collection and publishing of this data is important to the American consumer, because it traces the lengths that tobacco companies go to in order to increase their marketing sway over children who do not have a clue as to the addictiveness of the products being promoted through signs, coupons, lowered price promotions, counter top displays, specials, magazine ads, etc.
The totals that tobacco companies spend on promotions coupled with the promotions that are marketed is the data that can show youth how they are being specifically targeted by the tobacco companies. It forms the basis for the proof that tobacco companies are aimed directly at children, no matter what their "good citizen ads" say.
If Philip Morris was really interested in "making a difference," their employees would not be involved in producing and marketing a product that is guaranteed to kill when used as directed.
4. What data or other information contained in the reports are useful and should be continued in any future reports? Why? What data or other information in previous reports are of little or no use, and could be omitted in future reports? Why?
I have looked at the full report and unless I am missing something, it only shows cumulative information concerning all tobacco companies combined. I would like to see the relative promotional expenditures of each company for promotional efforts in conjunction with the amount of total sales credited to each company. In other words, I would like to see a chart that show the relative positioning of Philip Morris sales and promotional expenditures in comparison with what RJ Reynolds, Brown and Williamson, etc. are doing.
5. Is there information about cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales,advertising and promotion that has not been included in the reports, but that would be of use? If so, what additional information would be of use, and why would it be useful?
See answer to number 4.
6. If the FTC decides to continue issuing reports, how frequently should they be issued (e.g., annually, biennially)? Why?
I think that a yearly presentation is important in order to show the importance of looking at this matter as a public health issue. Having a report formulated every two years would decrease the sense of urgency--this is a public health matter when we consider that more than 430,000 people die each year from tobacco related illnesses. Surely such a death toll from a "legal" but lethal product should provide a good rationale into how much tobacco companies are expending in their efforts to seduce another generation of smoker while maintaining or killing a significant part of the current generation.
7. What other information should the FTC consider in deciding whether to continue reporting on the sales and advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products? If the FTC decides to issue future reports, what formats would be useful?
I think that some comparisons between what the states and the federal government are doing to reduce tobacco use would be helpful in presenting the whole tobacco use position. I think that the total amount of expenditures by state and federal governments (perhaps supplemented by private foundation grants for tobacco control projects) should be contrasted with the amount that tobacco companies are expending. This could also be charted along with the youth and adult prevalence rates that can be provided by the Centers for Disease Control. In fact all of these items could be charted now with existing data to show the trends.
Shouldn't tobacco use go down as tobacco company expenditures go down? And yet we see tobacco company marketing expenditures going up.
In conclusion, I would like to attach as additional proof of need for this FTC report a letter to the editor from the Topeka Capital-Journal on June 10, 2000. The letter shows why it is important to identify the marketing expenditures of the tobacco companies. Philip Morris uses funding to try and establish itself as a "good corporate citizen" when it is actually promulgating its name any place it can and trying to establish cigarette use as a normal adult behavior. However, it's major motivation is always to promote name recognition and to ensure a continuing market of young smokers, many of whom experimented with tobacco use until they unknowingly became addicted to a product that would and could sicken and kill them.
Is not our government here to protect people from products that are designed to harm them? The only living creatures who consume tobacco are tobacco worms and people--and people have to be taught how to consume it. The tobacco companies aid and abet that use of tobacco company--and they do it through their promotions and advertising.
Please do not decrease one of the strongest weapons in the tobacco control advocates armory--the use of data on sales and expenditures of the tobacco companies.
Opinions The Topeka Capital-Journal
Last modified at 12:05 a.m. on Sunday, June 10, 2001
Letters to the Editor
A tobacco trick
Please join me in strenuously objecting to the current television ad campaign by the Philip Morris Tobacco Co. This ad wants you to believe Philip Morris is discouraging youth from smoking by backing the "we card" campaign. In fact, the ad is a not-so-subtle portrayal of their deadly product as something that kids want and that adults deny them. Look at their faces and body language as the card is pointed out to them. Is there any more powerful sales pitch to adolescents than to show that their peers want and use tobacco, that they will seek to buy tobacco even though it is illegal, that they are dismayed when unfairly denied their wants by an adult? This ad should be immediately withdrawn by all responsible media.
-- DONAVON RUTLEDGE, Topeka
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