I came aross a story titled “Big Tobacco Spends Record $12 Million to Deceive Oregon Voters” and my jaw dropped. As a curious PR student, I made my way to read on and could not believe what was reported about two tobacco companies.
It seems tobacco companies in the state of Iowa are getting desperate as election time rolls around and voters are faced with an initiative that would increase the state cigarette tax and fund children’s health care and education. Spending $1.1 million just this week alone, the Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies have raised the bar on campaigning. Philip Morris is responsible for $7 million spent on campaigning this year, while R.J. Reynolds is responsible for about $4.9 million. These companies have spent nearly four times the $3.3 million that those pushing for the initiative have spent.
I realize tobacco companies are out to make money and stay in business, just like any other company. What I don’t understand is how companies in this market can intentionally attempt to deceive consumers and voters. I mean, do they even try to look good in the media?! This is effective PR 101.
The initiative in question is titled Ballot Measure 50, the Healthy Kids Oregon initiative, which would increase the state cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack and fund children’s health coverage and tobacco education prevention programs.
Sure, these companies are at a disadvantage when it comes to the public because everyone knows tobacco can kill you. This fact does not give these companies the right to intentionally lie, cheat and steal in order to get to the top and make a few bucks. Media reports concerning the use of advertising by the industry have revealed many deceptive tactics. Tobacco companies are accused of sending out mass-mailings to the public, while trying to make them appear as if a first-grade teacher had sent them. Who does that?
They are also accused of using false or deceptive claims in television advertising and creating a public action group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check, which rejects the Ballot Measure 50 initiative. Again, why do this when you know the truth is going to eventually be uncovered?
Companies need to realize that the all-mighty dollar should not run the country. People, especially children, need to be exposed to truthful advertising and believe that what they hear or see is the truth. Tobacco companis already have a disadvantage in the advertising and public relations worlds, but someone needs to tell them these accusations and reports do not help change those public perceptions.
Shame on you tobacco companies. Whoever told you bad PR is better than no PR is a moron.