Less may be more in tobacco industry fight

The tobacco industry faced an onslaught of media attention this week as federal regulators informed tobacco companies that they are required to disclose changes made to their product's ingredients.

The tobacco industry faced an onslaught of media attention this week as federal regulators informed tobacco companies that they are required to disclose changes made to their product's ingredients.

The new requirements stem from the Family Smoking and Prevention Tobacco Control Act, which President Barack Obama signed in 2009. The law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products and tobacco marketing.

It's an interesting moment for both the industry and the FDA. While the food and drug industries have long been required to disclose the ingredients they use in their products, the FDA received authority to regulate tobacco products for the first time two years ago.

In addition, The Wall Street Journal published a report earlier this week looking at how Lorillard, makers of the Newport menthol cigarette brand, is using a communications campaign to fight a potential ban on menthol.

Like any other industry or brand under pressure by regulators, the company took a set of proactive steps to combat a potential ban, including launching a website called UnderstandingMenthol.com, buying up sites such as MentholKillsMinorities.com and FDAMustBanMenthol.com, working with third-party groups, and taking to social media.

Talking points focus on the potential of lost jobs for thousands of workers, the impact of a black market for menthol cigarettes, and the right to personal choice.

But, if consumers have become savvier about how companies communicate and the kind of information that is available online, a question remains of whether there are times to communicate less – or even not at all. It's an issue often at the heart of a company or an industry in crisis.

It will be informative to hear what the members of the FDA panel, which will be releasing a report in March about whether to ban menthol or restrict its advertising, have to say about the company's aggressive PR effort in the wake of public health concerns.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in