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Mission Misinformation: How It Is Done

The industry is known to misinform the public and the government with half-truths and lies over the years. 

One of the better known deceptions is the use of descriptors such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ which have been known to mislead smokers into thinking that such light, mild, and low tar cigarettes are less harmful to health than regular cigarettes. Scientific evidence has proven that there is no health benefit to smoking light, mild, and low tar cigarettes and that smoking such cigarettes carries the same risk of lung cancer, heart attacks and other tobacco-caused disease as regular cigarettes.


In Malaysia it has been observed that in the months leading up to the annual National Budget announcement, the tobacco industry would increase press coverage on tobacco smuggling activities in the country and may conduct a ‘tour’ for journalists to showcase its activities for tobacco farmers. This appears to be an attempt to dissuade the government from increasing tobacco tax.


In 2006 in the Philippines, despite not meeting the compliance deadline set by law, PMPMI issued a sworn statement that they had not committed any violation of RA 9211’s health warning provision when in fact, the legal mandate and deadline for compliance is clear under the law. In supporting its argument, PMPMI used a personal (neither legal nor official) opinion given by the Secretary of Health in an ambush phone patch interview as evidence in their favour.8


The following year, after a lower court ruled in their favour, Fortune Tobacco issued numerous misleading press statements regarding the interpretation of RA 9211’s outdoor advertising ban provisions, based on a decision that is not final. PTI also issued statements that they are complying with the law. Then in 2008, PMPMI sent official statements to the media announcing that they are complying with the law with regard to their sponsorship of the Eraserheads concert and that it does not involve a violation of the mass media advertising ban.   PMPMI later withdrew sponsorship after the Department of Health threatened legal prosecution.

In 2008, in relation to a proposed health warning bill in Congress that would ban misleading descriptors such as “light” and “mild” as required under Article 11 of the FCTC, JTI placed newspaper advertisements telling the public that “mild” and “low tar” are not necessarily safer than regular cigarettes. 

In Vietnam, the industry disinformed about the smuggling in the country.