TOBACCO giant Philip Morris has launched a website calling on smokers to unite and flex their political muscle over tough federal government regulations.
The online campaign comes as the tobacco industry ramps up opposition to a government plan for cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging from next year.
Philip Morris’s new website – ideservetobeheard.com.au – claims smokers are under constant attack from a ”nanny state” determined to raise taxes and ban smoking in public spaces, such as beaches and city malls.
I think this is a very interesting development. I’ve often wondered why tobacco companies don’t call on their customers for support, and put together a tobacco smokers’ club of some sort. After all, tobacco companies could reach every single smoker in the world, simply by including a slip of paper in every cigarette pack, telling smokers how to join it.
And this is pretty much exactly what Philip Morris have now done in Australia.
The web address is on cards inserted inside tobacco products manufactured by Philip Morris.
And they seem to have succeeded in attracting contributions from quite a few angry Australian smokers. Smokers who’ve probably never heard of Forces or F2C or any of the angry smokers’ blogs all round the world.
The website offers visitors the option to tell their story, email their MP, or spread the word. I imagine that Philip Morris will only publish stories which suit their purpose, which is presumably to build and direct a grassroot smokers’ pressure group. They’ll have, after all, every contributor’s name and email address, and so only they will be able to contact them.
I think that if this website gets a few smokers to speak up and voice their anger, then it’s a constructive development. It’s essentially doing what the multiplying smokers’ blogs and forums have been doing for years in their small way. Maybe Philip Morris has been noticing that there are an awful lot of angry smokers around these days, and has decided that it can tap into that resentment.
To the extent that Philip Morris can reach smokers (and it can) and get them to speak up, that’s a good thing. But ultimately the interests of Philip Morris and its customers aren’t identical. Philip Morris wants to sell cigarettes. Angry smokers, however, are sick of being demonised and excluded. These different aims are quite likely to clash at some point.
Another danger is that when Philip Morris teams up with its customers, they can more easily be described as pawns of Big Tobacco. But, that said, smokers are now as much demonised as the tobacco companies ever were. So they’re damned if they team up with them, and they’re damned if they don’t.
These reservations aside, all in all it’s a welcome development. If Philip Morris can galvanise a
few lot more smokers to express their anger and resentment, then maybe a few lot more smokers will begin to realise that their voices can be heard, and that something can be done, and go on to greater things. After all, it’s not as if they have to restrict themselves to Philip Morris’ website.
And they do deserve to be heard.
P.S. OT, but I’ve just found out that tireless campaigner Dave Atherton has started his own blog. Do take a look.
P.P.S. Back on LiveJournal I used to be restricted to just 30 links in my blogroll, and it soon overflowed. I’m now looking to add blogs and forums that I couldn’t fit in. And there are plenty of them. Suggestions are welcome.