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A new report issued by a coalition of public-health organizations says that Big Tobacco is targeting women and girls with aggressive marketing campaigns that only new legislation from Congress can help address.
The “Deadly in Pink: Big Tobacco Steps Up Its Targeting of Women and Girls” report says that the two largest tobacco companies in the U.S. — Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds — have undertaken marketing campaigns that depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable. The authors cite the Philip Morris marketing campaign that featured “purse packs” of the Virginia Slims brand, and the R.J. Reynolds launch of the Camel No. 9 brand of cigarettes — the latter supported by a marketing campaign in popular women's glamour magazines that included giveaways like lip balm, cell-phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands.
“This report is a sober reminder that the tobacco industry has become more aggressive in marketing deadly products to women,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association.
The report was released on Feb. 18 by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris' parent company Altria, disagreed with the report's characterization of the Virginia Slims marketing campaign. “Our products and marketing are meant for adults who smoke,” Phelps said in an interview with HealthDay News. “In the case of Virginia Slims, that's adult women over the age of 21 who smoke.”
The report urged Congress to enact legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. “Congress must empower the FDA to regulate tobacco products to put a stop to the harmful practices of an industry that has had free reign for far too long,” said John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society.