Editor’s note: In this blog, I will occasionally summarize lesser-known but highly important tobacco industry documents that should be part of the public record, and the public consciousness. Following is one such article. — A.L.
In a twisted 1997 memo, Seth Moskowitz of R.J. Reynolds’ (RJR) Public Relations department recounts a brainstorming session held to address problems facing the tobacco industry at the time, particularly a lack of credibility and an onslaught of lawsuits being filed against the industry by state Attorneys General seeking to recoup the costs of treating sick smokers.
The memo begins by discussing the need to “humanize” the tobacco industry by putting kind and helpful face on the company (RJR). Moskowitz complains that the public perceives the industry to be “a group of two-faced, conscience-less killers who trade lives for dollars. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says, “but the public doesn’t know this.”
The discussion quickly turns to ideas for turning public opinion against the AG’s lawsuits. One plan was to instigate a wave of frivolous, ridiculous lawsuits against a number of other industries. For example, Moskowitz proposes using a study to “indicate that drinking citrus juice carries an increased risk of lung cancer.” Moskowitz muses,
“What if we worked with the state AGs or legislators in some tobacco states (NC, VA), and with a business or citizens group in Florida to sue the citrus producers in Florida and California for reimbursement of state medical expenses paid to treat illnesses ’caused’ by the consumption of citrus products? Under current Florida law, this could be done entirely using a statistical model. All we need to do is plug in a few statistics and suddenly we can calculate the dollar amount Florida has paid out in medical expenses to treat orange juice-related cancers. Could also mount a highly emotional PR campaign against citrus growers for harming children (stunting their growth). We could choose other states and industries and do the same thing (Minnesota and dairy products? California and wine consumption? Beef and any number of states.) A series of Medicaid reimbursement-type suits simultaneously launched against a number of industries in a number of states would get major coverage and drive home how ridiculous the recent AG attacks on the tobacco industry are.”
Immediately following this self-serving idea to cause havoc in other industries, Moskowitz flips back to seeking ways to “humanize” the industry. One idea was to use an ad campaign to highlight the good works RJR employees do in their private lives, like helping school children and carrying the torch for the Olympics.
Moskowitz currently still works for Reynolds American as Director of Communications for Reynolds’ subsidiary, the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.
See the memo here.