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Filters and "Safe" Cigarettes - A Paradox

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Joined: 17 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:14 am    Post subject: Filters and "Safe" Cigarettes - A Paradox Reply with quote

Dr. Brandt,

Your book details the concerted campaign undertaken by the tobacco industry to promote a controversy over the health effects of cigarettes well after the scientific community reached a consensus on the dangers of smoking.

Despite this consensus, I can understand why the industry’s “not proven” strategy was effective for so long. I have difficulty, however, understanding how the industry was able to successfully introduce filters for a product that they claimed needed no filtering. How were they able to market filters as a safety innovation when they were adamant that all cigarettes were safe? What function did consumers believe filters were performing if not eliminating something inherently unhealthy?

In hindsight, this contradiction seems so clear that it must have cast immediate doubt on the integrity and honesty of the entire industry, But that didn’t happen. I was hoping you could comment further on why this projection of “an image of safety rather than a reality” was so successful.

On a related note, I want express my sincere thanks for what must have been a dedicated effort to write this book without the use of hyperbole. Topics like this one, which lie at the nexus of science, business and public policy, invite the use of exaggerated and unfounded conclusions. Valid and rigorous analyses are often causalities in such cases. Your book avoids such pitfalls.


Rob Sholars
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Allan Brandt

Joined: 06 Mar 2007
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Rob Sholars,

Many thanks for this post. You raise a critically important and interesting question: how could the industry insist that there was no problem with their product and at the same time aggressively market filters?

No doubt, there was a powerful contradiction in this approach. But the industry understood that filters were all about reassuring smokers who were considering cutting down or quitting. As a result, they strategically opted to embrace the contradiction. As I point out in the book, when confronted with the contradiction they would simply claim that filters satisfied "customer demand." This kept their principal legal defense of "no proof" securely in place.

My own notion is that as the harms of smoking came to be clearly revealed by science and in the public press, smokers eagerly sought some reassurance that their use of cigarettes was not so dangerous as medical science had suggested. Even though the companies knew that filters didn't do the job, consumers were eager to try products that made bold claims of "effective filtration," "just what the doctor ordered," etc. In short, filters were targeted to the anxious but addicted smoker eager to find a rationale to continue.

Although a federal district court judge recently ruled that the companies cease and desist from the use of terms like "light" and "ultra-light" the industry has appealed the decision. The companies know the value of these terms. The deception inherent in filters continues.

Thanks for writing.

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Joined: 05 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:49 am    Post subject: The controversy is still raging Reply with quote

Hey Rob,

I get the impression from your post that the controversy has now finally been settled. I don't know where you live, but I have been an activist for a long time and I still see the manufactured controversy raging all over the country. Now the industry is using bar owners and business owners to oppose and challenge smoking bans that protect people in there work places and shifting the issue from the dangers of tobacco smoke exposure to one of business profits and business owner rights. Another smoke screen for protecting cigarette profits. We need to join together and demand a national tobacco control strategy and that the U.S. ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Contact me for more info.

William Pitt
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