The Tobacco Wars


1980 Lois Lane lights up

SupermanPhilip Morris pioneers another form of brainwashing, this one involving subliminal advertising.

For a reported payment of $42,000, the company purchases 22 exposures of the Marlboro logo in the 1980 movie Superman II, which is aimed largely at the youth market.

Lois Lane, a newspaper reporter and role model for teenage girls, has a Marlboro pack on her desk and is shown puffing merrily away. At one point in the film, a character is tossed into a van with a large Marlboro sign on its side, and in the climactic scene the superhero battles foes amid a maze of Marlboro billboards before zooming off in triumph, leaving in his wake a solitary taxi with a Marloro sign on top.

1980s You’ve gone the wrong way, baby!

Philip Morris’ colorful ads at sporting events evade the TV broadcasting ban and purchase easy access to young people without appearing to target them. ABC’s sports program director, Lydia Stephans, says of Philip Morris’ access to millions of potential customers through its sponsorship of the televised Virginia Slims tennis circuit, “I think it’s clever. They’ve found a loophole.”

Philip Morris also prances so gracefully through the visual and performing arts that the Wall Street Journal anoints it “the art world’s favorite company.” Philip Morris Chairman George Weissman remarks, “We hope people will come away with favorable impressions of the companythat we are cultured human beings like everyone else, not a bunch of barbarians.”

Philip Morris selects groups in dire need of financial support who can’t afford to be fussy about their benefactors. “To tell you the truth, I’m not that interested,” Alison Dineen, of the Women’s Research and Educational Institute, responds when asked if she suffers any qualms about accepting tobacco money. Notes Caren Brooks Hopkins, of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a prime recipient of Philip Morris largesse, “There are so many people who do absolutely nothing for the arts. Let’s go after them.”

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