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Talking Back to Big Tobacco: Letters from Across America

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Presentation on theme: "Talking Back to Big Tobacco: Letters from Across America"— Presentation transcript:

1 Talking Back to Big Tobacco: Letters from Across America

2 The reach of the tobacco industry
Tobacco companies spend a fortune mailing materials to the homes of smokers or potential smokers. They get names through sign ups for contests, at events, mailing lists, subscription lists, membership lists, etc. They send individuals a wide variety of materials aimed at keeping them smoking and keeping them smoking specific brands.

3 Coupons for reduced price cigarettes Consumer surveys
Industry Mailings Coupons for reduced price cigarettes Consumer surveys Catalogs of branded items Birthday greetings Letters to encourage smokers to protest against tobacco control regulations Event promotions featuring cigarette brands Magazines that look like regular magazines

4 Letters from America Letters featured in this slide show were found in the tobacco companies’ formerly secret documents that were made public after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and states attorneys general. The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library has all the documents that have been released—approximately 7 million documents:

5 The Public Letters From Smokers and their families
Narratives of Suffering Anger/Bitterness Shaming/Moral Pleas Mobilization

6 Bearing witness: Honoring those who wrote
Struggling smokers Bereaved spouses Grieving parents Orphaned children Embittered friends and family members

7 “Thanks, but no thanks for the “Birthday Card from Marlboro Country
“Thanks, but no thanks for the “Birthday Card from Marlboro Country.” …Why would you send a birthday card to someone hooked on something that you label ‘causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema’?”



10 Louisiana: Since you are so interested in statistics, you have one less smoker in the world. I am sure that is not very important to you; after all, I am just one person. However, it is extremely important to me…I have spent the last two months in absolute agony while trying to quit…This addiction is awful; I had no idea it was going to be this hard…I think it is unforgivable what you are doing to your fellow human beings.

11 Arkansas: I hope they would put a $5 tax on all cigarettes
Arkansas: I hope they would put a $5 tax on all cigarettes. Because I am setting here in my Living Room with not enough breath to walk to Bed Room. Results of 3 packs a day for 30 years

12 Anywhere, USA: How dare you send me this. I had cancer of the throat
Anywhere, USA: How dare you send me this. I had cancer of the throat. Voice box gone…Life is over. I wished smokes was never invented. You know cigarettes caused this cancer.



15 Oregon: I am a retired nurse and I have nothing but loathing for your company. You should all be in prison for murder.

16 New Jersey: You are a bunch of murderers!

17 California: This poor woman died of lung cancer…You should be ashamed of yourselves.

18 California: My mother died of cancer four years ago and up to the moment she went into a coma she wanted a cigarette…She may have been nothing but a customer to you but she was a huge part of my life. At least have the decency to stop forcing me to remember that she died for a profit for your company.

19 New Jersey: Please do not send anything about smoking
New Jersey: Please do not send anything about smoking. My husband…does not smoke any more. He has emphysema as a direct result of smoking. He is terminally ill. He will not get better and will eventually die from a lack of oxygen….[he] is only 57 years old…Get into another business.

20 The product that you and your associates are promoting through this sweepstakes has caused irreparable damage to my family…Never contact this household again.

21 New Mexico: Please remove the name of Ronald Castleberry from your mailing list. He passed away October 22 from pulmonary obstruction at the age of 58. He smoked from the time he was 15 years of age. Signed, his mother and his father

22 Wisconsin: I do not want any literature sent to my house
Wisconsin: I do not want any literature sent to my house. Donald died Sept 24th of emphysema, and as a first class witness I can truthfully say that is the most scary thing one must go through to see a loved one on a machine and still crying for help just to try to keep breathing. You kept them coupons coming which made it even harder for him to stop smoking…Please stop sending the literature for these killers.

23 Indiana: I just wanted you to know what your questionnaire did to my family. About a year and a half ago my mother died from cancer of the lungs…She took so many painkillers she actually hallucinated. December 31 she died in my arms. At that time she weighed 86 pounds.


25 From Pennsylvania: I got your letter (enclosed) thanking me for standing by Marlboro…In March my mother passed away from lung cancer…caused by years of smoking cigarettes. She started with lung cancer, which then spread to her liver and then went on to her brain. It was a very painful death. The last 4 weeks of her life, she was reduced to a vegetable, wearing diapers, unable to speak. My mother was not only my mother, but my very best friend! My whole world has been crushed by the loss of her. I cannot begin to describe how devastated our family is…she was only 57 years old….I’m sure the tobacco industry is only interested in making money, but it is at the expense of people’s lives. I realize you don’t force people to smoke, but…smoking is an addiction, people cannot help themselves. My mother wanted to quit so badly…When I close my eyes at night, all I can see is my mother’s face as she lay dying, and all the hell that she went through…that willl haunt our family forever. It was such a waste.

26 Tennessee: You can now remove Adrian from your advertising computer—he is dead. He smothered to death because his lungs could no longer provide his body with life giving oxygen. My father was never a “loyal” customer. He was a “nicotine addicted” customer. Those of us who knew him miss him greatly. We love him still. …Don’t ever send tobacco related advertisements to this address.

27 New Jersey: To the Makers of Marlboro: Do not send any more of your coupons or promotions to our house. Because of Marlboro cigarettes we have lost our beloved brother, son and father at 41 years of age. He suffered for 11 months with head and neck cancer. He smoked more because of your promotions; we have everything he ordered and it was a lot. He started smoking when he was about 18 years old. He left behind 2 children…he will never see his son graduate from high school or go to college. I was with him almost every night since he spent the last 3 months in the hospital. Because of your tobacco company we no longer have our Dan and the children no longer have a father. Lung cancer is not all the cigarettes cause. His sister, Katherine

28 Somewhere, USA: Today my husband, my son and myself received advertisement form letters from your company, with a survey attached. Since my husband and I do not smoke and never did we are not interested…Our son, on the other hand, used to smoke 2-3 packs…per day. From time to time he also ordered your free offers and he probably submitted our names also. Over 2-1/2 years ago, our Chuck died. He was only 28 years old. As you cannot imagine, we have suffered much heartache. This evening my husband went to bed drunk. Later I found the mail. His survey was opened….Please remove our name from your computer so that this very hurtful experience will not happen again.

29 Ohio: We quit smoking. My son died of lung cancer. He smoked Marlboro
Ohio: We quit smoking. My son died of lung cancer. He smoked Marlboro. He is now in Marlboro Country. He finally quit too.

30 Wyoming: This will acknowledge the birthday card. Unfortunately, Mr
Wyoming: This will acknowledge the birthday card ... Unfortunately, Mr. Lamb passed away on Feb 2…from smoking cigarettes. It was so kind of you to remember Mr. Lamb’s birthday; however, he will not be having any more of them, so …in the future it will not be necessary to send him the annual birthday card and discount coupon for cigarettes.

31 Arizona: My wife of 28 years has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, caused by use of your product….She is unable to go to the mailbox, much less read your self-serving propaganda.

32 From Somewhere, USA: My father died last October at the age of 50 due to lung cancer. He purchased many of your items in your “Marlboro Country Store Catalog” with his cigarette coupons…Now myself and my 16 year old sister are left fatherless…The only thing I have to say to you is that smoking does cause cancer, smoking does kill and destroy families. You don’t need to be a scientist or conduct a study to figure that out, just visit my Dad’s grave if you want proof. I’m glad you can sleep at night in the bed you probably purchased with your cigarette profits and not feel guilty about anyone’s Dad being 6 feet under due to smoking. In other words, you can take your cigarette coupons and shove them!!!

33 Michigan: Helen died of lung cancer November 27 after a horrible fight
Michigan: Helen died of lung cancer November 27 after a horrible fight. I hope you get what she had.



36 Take us OFF your disgusting mailing list
Take us OFF your disgusting mailing list. Would you like to hear from us when my father dies of the emphysema he’s suffering from?

37 Oklahoma: My husband recently died of lung cancer
Oklahoma: My husband recently died of lung cancer. I can’t believe you sent him this terrible letter. I hope smoking is banned throughout the U.S. and you are prevented from export…Dave tried to stop many, many times. Why don’t you publish this letter in your advertising? You have my permission.

38 Tennessee: My husband died of lung cancer at the age of 56 on 5/27/94
Tennessee: My husband died of lung cancer at the age of 56 on 5/27/94. Take me off your damned mailing list. Mrs. Paul, widowed at age 39 with a 15 year old son

39 Massachusetts: This correspondence disgusts me. What is your message
Massachusetts: This correspondence disgusts me. What is your message? Death at a lower price?

40 Oregon: While Margaret was a smoker, and would have been interested in winning your sweepstakes, she can’t. She died 2/28/93 of lung cancer brought on by cigarette smoking. You’ll have to find someone else to smoke her share.

41 New York: Too bad lung cancer (from cigarettes) claimed Kathe’s life— January 15, Thanks, B&H [Benson & Hedges]

42 New York: This is to let you know that you can never get to know my father any better—he died from emphysema because of smoking most of his life. My mother, who passed away four months prior to my Dad, and never smoked, had the lungs of a smoker because of living with him all her life. Don’t ever send literature like this to me again…You have my permission to use this in your advertising program.

43 Pennsylvania: Smoked Benson & Hedges for 20 years Died of lung cancer at the age of 50 on TAKE HIS NAME OFF YOUR MAILING LIST NOW!

44 Texas: I will be delighted to tell you about my daughter…She lost her life to lung cancer at the age of 40. Caused from smoking…Hope you think again before you send out such a letter. You don’t know how you hurt some one who has lost a loved one. A grieving mother


46 California: Whoever’s actually reading this, please think about what I’m saying here. I challenge you to have the humanity to give me an honest reply…Money’s fine, but it’s not worth killing people for, not even one single human being. Why don’t you just invest it someplace else? Go hang out on a cancer ward for awhile…and then think about whether or not you really want to go to work for this kind of place anymore. Would you be willing to suffocate even a single human being to death in exchange for $30,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 or however much money you bring home every year?...It’s just us, folks; it’s just us on this planet here. It’s okay to wake up now. We don’t have to lie like this anymore. Please think of some other way to spend your life.

47 Colorado: Both my parents have passed away…cigarette smoking was a major contributor….When will the greed in your industry stop? My two boys will grow up without knowing my parents…I know that we all have to work to put food on the table and pay bills. But are there no other choices? To his Legislative Representative: Please, please do whatever you can to ensure that cigarette smoking is made more difficult…I am one of the silent majority. I have never written or called any political figure or office holder on any matter ever. Does that give you any idea of my feelings on this matter?


49 “No-Mail and send we’ll take your comments seriously form letter”


51 Idaho: “We wonder how long we should put up with this national slaughter”.

52 Nightingales’ Message
A socially responsible company would not continue to market products that it admits addict and kill

53 Goals Use the letters from the public to undermine the industry’s claims of ‘social responsibility’ and ‘societal alignment’ Honor those who wrote them Use nursings credibility with the public to challenge industry credibility Engage nurses in the larger tobacco control battles

54 The Nurses’ Campaign To End Tobacco Marketing
Calls on Altria/Philip Morris and other tobacco companies to voluntarily end active marketing of tobacco Calls on companies to recognize the suffering and devastation their products cause American families

55 What You Can Do Speak out: --Write a letter to Altria/Philip Morris --Write a letter to the editor Lend a Hand: --Support strong local tobacco control policies --Campaign endorsements from organizations Spread the Word: --Public readings of letters --Displays of letters

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