With their backs to the wall on the background of increasingly stringent regulations, and the looming threat to remove all branding from cigarette packs, tobacco companies need all the allies they can find.
In a new stealth marketing campaign launched by a major lobbying firm who conducted similar attacks for the right reasons in the United States, the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes tend to mobilize grassroots quartet clients against moves to the introduction of the empty packaging.
Buyers of Marlboro cigarettes have been finding in their mailbox packages inviting them to visit the new campaign website, “know-more.co.uk”, which describes itself as “a community for smokers UK.”
Philip Morris, which also makes brands, including Virginia and Chesterfield for the UK market, has three different inserts in packages highlighting the tough policies to hit a nerve with smokers – a tax, the possibility of banning smoking in cars and homes, and as a simple package can feed the black cigarette market.
One insert states: “Plain packaging is the latest in a stream of proposals targeting smokers over other schemes have been proposed know-more, studying the questions, nothing more to say to the government, joining our community and performances.”
The lower left corner of the site says that it is sponsored by Philip Morris Ltd.
Checking data shows that the site is registered in the database of democracy and communication (DDC) propaganda, a major U.S. lobbying firm, which has become an expert in the field of so-called stealth lobbying associated with the creation of “Astroturf” websites and organizations to front the campaign, advocate.
His previous campaigns have included the creation of a group called the allegedly grassroots Citizens for a Safe Alexandria attack steps the Obama administration to pursue Guantanamo detainees in the U.S. state of Virginia. Others have been established on behalf of the U.S. giants and private health care in support of George W. Bush steps to privatize social security.
The founder of DDC’s Chairman and CEO is BR McConnon, a former employee of the citizens of a healthy economy, the fight against regulation of the conservative political group, the branches are reported to be the leading force in the creation of the tea party movement.
Campaign, Philip Morris, which will run for most of the month, indicates that the tobacco lobby is afraid of the impact of plain packaging on cigarette sales.
Although the proposal for the introduction of such measures have been taken to Queen’s speech because of anxiety in Downing Street and the conservative fears “nanny state” label, Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb last month called on the coalition to move forward.
The representative of Philip Morris said: “Adult smokers and tobacco retailers in the UK face some of the strictest regulations on tobacco control and to pay some of the highest taxes on cigarettes in Europe, but they are usually not aware of these rules is not, as long as they do not were accepted.
“Consumers and retailers are telling us that they would like to get information on public policy and government proposals that directly affect them, so we Know-More website to do exactly that.
“The site is devoted to issues that affect retailers and adult smokers, now and possibly in the future.”
However, anti-smoking campaigners say the emergence of such campaigns shows the level of distrust of the tobacco companies.
Martin Dockrell, director of policy at action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said: “The industry is facing the same old problem that they just can not decide – who they will find to talk for an industry that kills half of its users?
“This is the last attempt to force smokers to do the job for them. This time, they seem intent on keeping tight control over the messages.
“The industry dilemma is this: they hope to achieve more confidence with the help of organizations that look independent, but more independent representative, the smaller tobacco companies control this time they imitate internet sites as the campaign 38 Degrees, recruiting smokers.
Philip Morris is the fourth-largest tobacco company in the UK, selling around 7% of the 4.4 billion cigarettes sold each year, which means the insert will work in potentially greater than 1.5 m packets in the course of a campaign to raise awareness among their customers.
Philip Morris is not running a campaign in conjunction with the other “big four” of the tobacco companies – Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco – and is not a member of the trade organization of the Association of tobacco products.
The tobacco industry has been stepping up efforts to lobby against proposed government regulations in recent months.
The British branch of JTI Gallaher, which sells brands including Benson & Hedges, Cut Silk and Camel, ran a series of ads in national newspapers attacking government policy.
The ads hit out against anti-tobacco groups as well as plans for proposals including the introduction of plain packaging.
Groups including Ash and Cancer Research complained to the advertising watchdog that the content of the advertisements contained inaccuracies. Advertising Standards Authority has banned three ads for being misleading.