American Legacy Foundation

Author:Ed Dinger

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In 1998, 46 state attorneys general reached a settlement with tobacco companies, which included an agreement to fund a five-year, $1.5 billion, national teen antismoking campaign under the auspices of a new nonprofit corporation, the Washington, D.C.-based American Legacy Foundation. The state of Florida also used some of the money it received from the settlement to launch a local teen antismoking campaign called "Truth." It was so successful that the foundation took it national in 2000.

"Truth," created by Miami-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, was a multifaceted campaign heavily influenced by the input provided by annual youth summits and a youth review board, which provided feedback and suggestions. Rather than taking a "just say no" approach that would likely prove counterproductive, the marketers tried to channel youths' natural rebelliousness by directing it against the practices of the tobacco companies. The television commercials were confrontational and controversial, as well as a call to action. One spot, for example, showed teens delivering hundreds of stuffed body bags to the New York headquarters of Philip Morris, representing the deaths they said the company was responsible for. The campaign also marketed "Truth" like any other youth product, advertising in the type of magazines teens read, as well as touring the country in vans, showing up at beaches, skate parks, and other hangouts to give away free gear and "Infect Truth" viral kits so that youths could engage in their own guerrilla marketing efforts.

The "Truth" campaign was a highly successful campaign, playing a major role in a significant decrease in teen smoking. Although the loss of funding from tobacco companies after five years resulted in budget cuts, the campaign was able to carry on. "Truth" was also recognized by the advertising industry, which presented the campaign with a number of celebrated awards.


Although people speculated about the health risks of using tobacco, it wasn't until the twentieth century that the issue was addressed scientifically. As early as 1930 German researchers drew a statistical correlation between smoking and cancer. Despite warning about the dangers of smoking, the American Cancer Society circa World War II still relied on the disclaimer that "no definite evidence exists" to tie smoking with lung cancer. A turning point in the public debate about smoking came in 1952 when Reader's Digest published "Cancer by the Carton," an article that brought the dangers of smoking to a mass audience and led to other periodicals addressing

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the subject, as well as a decline in cigarette sales for the first time in a generation. The tobacco industry responded by forming the Tobacco Industry Research Council, little more than a public relations ploy, and also began producing "healthier" cigarettes with better filters and low-tar formulations. Sales rebounded. Then in 1964, at a time when nearly half of adult Americans smoked, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a report, Smoking and Health, which concluded that cigarette smoking was causally related to lung cancer in men, and the data for women pointed "in the same direction."

From the time of Luther's report, the tobacco industry came under siege. A year later Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, requiring that every cigarette package carry the surgeon general's warning. Cigarette consumption dropped as did the number of smokers, but the industry brought out a new generation of healthier cigarettes, which forced people to smoke more to receive their daily nicotine fix and as a result led to even greater sales. In the late 1960s the first national antitobacco ad campaign was launched and proved so effective that the tobacco industry was forced to take notice. Because antismoking advocates...

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