Tobacco's Freedom of Silence

Friday, March 16, 2012


A few weeks ago a federal judge struck down the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts at imposing graphic anti-smoking photos on cigarette packages.  The judge found that the photos violated a rare form of protected speech - the right to not say anything at all.  Chicago Tribune columnist and editorial writer Steve Chapman talks to Bob about freedom of speech and freedom of silence.


White Rabbits - Heavy Metal

Comments [2]

Y. Brody Ph.D.

Your guest is woefully misinformed about the degree and effectiveness of tobacco marketing to children today. The Surgeon General's report released this month--and just discussed, explicitly, in the previous segment of your program--concludes in no uncertain terms that tobacco marketing to kids remains widespread and is very effective. Should we take the guest's conclusions as seriously as the Surgeon General's? You know, he said, she said? Balanced reporting? By not challenging the newspaper columnist on his differences with the Surgeon General, listeners are left with the dangerous impression that the deliberate pushing of cigarette smoking on kids by the industry is no longer an issue.

Here are a few facts the columnist left out:

•In 2012, magazines popular with adolescents are full of attractive tobacco ads.

•If a young person reaches 18 without starting to smoke, she almost certainly never will. Tobacco execs are well aware of this research and have known who their target audience is for decades--one leaked corporate memo a while back called teens "the base of our business."

•Despite that 1998 agreement the columnist mentioned, the largest tobacco corporations are still finding effective ways to reach children and adolescents, ie. the replacement consumers for the multitudes of smokers who die each year. Industry marketing expenditures have almost doubled since 1998 to $10 billion/year, or $27 million/day. What percentage of that do you think is directed at young people?

In my opinion, this is the last apologist for the tobacco industry we probably need to hear on the program. But if you do bring one back on, will you please be more determined to get at the truth in your interview?

Here is a summary of that Surgeon General's report:

And a related Reuters article:

Also recommended is Chapter 10 in Harvard psychologist Susan Linn's book, Consuming Kids, which provides an in-depth look at tobacco and alcohol marketing:

Mar. 22 2012 10:58 PM
Dan Romer from Philadelphia

Heard your interview with the reporter from Chicago regarding the new warning labels that FDA has proposed for cigarette packs. One very important distinction that was not made is that the law requiring the labels has been judged constitutional in a federal court. What is not so clear is whether the FDA's implementation of the law is constitutional. Needless to say, this is a big distinction. Judge Leon's recent ruling hinges much more on the latter issue than the former. In addition, the argument that big tobacco does not reach smokers with messages is definitely not the case. It uses direct mail and coupons to reach anyone over the age of 17 whom they know to be a smoker. In addition, convenience stores, gas stations, and other locations where cigarettes are sold feature many marketing messages directed to smokers. So, the messages are not on mass media where everyone can see them. I think it would help listeners to understand these issues rather than to brush over them as briskly as you did.

Mar. 18 2012 01:16 PM

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