I Deserve To Be Heard

H/T to Junican in the comments for drawing my attention to ideservetobeheard.com.au. The website is described in the Age:

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.

About Frank Davis

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24 Responses to I Deserve To Be Heard

  1. Rich White says:

    Now this is an interesting development. Shame it’s only to protect the bottom line, it should be global and have happened ten years ago, but better late than never

    • Frank Davis says:

      it should be global and have happened ten years ago

      I agree, but maybe it couldn’t have happened 10 years ago, because there wasn’t a groundswell of angry smokers (like me, and also like you, and like most of the people on my blogroll) banging on about it in blogs and comment threads.

      I don’t know for sure, but if I was a tobacco company executive, I’d have watched these little blogs bubbling up and talking among each other with intense interest. We’re people who’re speaking for ourselves, because nobody else will. Not even the tobacco companies. And because nobody else spoke for us, we’ve been all but invisible, and all but unheard. We didn’t exist. Even Big Tobacco couldn’t see us.

      Philip Morris are doing the right thing simply by putting those pieces of card in their cigarette packs, and providing a pathway for angry smokers to express their feelings. They’re uncorking the bottle. And there’s an awful lot of anger bottled up in there. PM may be trying to ride a tiger.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    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.

    Ya,think they read some of my more than 100,000 posts around the globe thru the last years…………………..lmao!

  3. Yeah, that is a conundrum. Tobacco company wants to make money. Along with smokers getting vilified, big corps also are taking their fair share these days, not that it makes any real diff. in the ultimate division of the haves from the havenots but this is another whole issue. But I say, go for it. Give the freedom fighters their biggest voice. Hell, the Koch’s don’t hold back.

    As you know, I am a non-smoker – and I do believe there is a link between lung disease and cigarette smoking, but there is a link between eating greasy burgers and heart disease, there is a link between diet cokes and breast cancer for godsake. In spite of all that, the most important think to me than anything is a person’s right to choose. I don’t think anyone should be denied the right to choose how they are going to live, or possibly die. I see the frightening implications of a nanny state. I see it. So let big tobacco flex it’s muscles, I think that ultimately it will be very good PR.

  4. Anonymous says:

    At last they’re fighting back!! – This is great news!!

    Of course they are only doing this because plain packaging and hidden from
    view WILL AFFECT their sales and profits.

    But who cares? – It’s a legal, legitimate business and they are right to call
    on their customers for support and best of all it will send ASH and co. into
    apoplexy!!!

    If this campaign is successful I expect McDonalds will be doing something
    similar, before it’s “too late” for them. Both industries have loadsamoney
    and organisation, a very welcome development.

  5. nisakiman says:

    I came across this a few weeks ago, and emailed the site (through the ‘contact us’ link) lauding this deveopment and suggesting that something similar should be started in Europe, perhaps with a number of tobacco producers working together towards a common end.

    As I rather expected, I received no answer.

    Likewise, I registered with the ‘Forces’ site in the US, received a computer generated acknowledgement saying that my registration would be confirmed forthwith, and have heard nothing since. That was a couple of months ago.

    If there is no interest in following up contacts with potential activists in this fight against anti-tobacco, we don’t really stand a chance. There seems to be no real interest in actually doing anything to change this despicable trend, just posturing.

    I sometimes find myself thinking “what’s the point…”

  6. Winston says:

    While any path of least resistance for smokers is a positive development, long experience has demonstrated that the tobacco industry, and especially Phillip Morris, will do anything that appears to be financially expedient for them.

    Believe me, I’m the last person to jump on the anti-corporation bandwagon, but I’ve found it difficult to differentiate between Phillip Morris and the anti-tobacco establishment itself in recent years. Phillip Morris will only stick up for its tobacco customers until its impossible for them to do so. At that tipping point, they’ll spend at least ten times more effort kissing up to politicians than they will sticking up for consumers of their products.

  7. Pete says:

    I signed up – I am Australian but I don’t live there. I am not a customer of Philip Morris any more, I’m a Gauloises man.

    Like misakiman, I feel this initiative should really have been better thought out.

    It’s a start, though.

  8. Jax says:

    Yes, this is a very interesting development. Needless to say, the MSM over here haven’t touched it with a bargepole because the last thing they want is to upset their paymasters by insinuating that in fact some people aren’t happy about bans. Or maybe, because it’s only (so far) happening in Oz they simply haven’t noticed it.

    As far as the tobacco companies are concerned, I would suspect that it’s a PR exercise more than anything else. It could well be that they have noticed all the angry blogs and comments about the ban and the criticism that is often directed towards them for their total lack of even the remotest support for their customers. And of course, for all the anti-smoking movement’s batting on about pretty packets etc, they must spend damn-all on advertising any more, so they’ve probably got a fair amount of funds sloshing around which are available for this type of exercise. Isn’t it ironic how, eventually, the Righteous’s tactics always come back to bite them on the bum? If they hadn’t pushed so hard for “advertising” restrictions, the tobacco companies would now still be concentrating their efforts into fancy posters and ads in glossy magazines, rather than using their money to mobilise people whose main aim will no doubt focus more on the prevention of further restrictions and the repeal of existing ones, rather than the promotion of the tobacco companies’ own products. But, hey, Righteous – you made your bed, now you’ve got to lie on it.

    Of course, no large corporation ever does anything unless their bottom line is either going to be improved or is threatened. That is, after all, their main raison d’etre – they exist to make money, and the fact that they also provide pleasure to countless millions of people is merely a beneficial side-effect – so it could be that this exercise has sprung up in Oz precisely because the anti-smoking authorities there are now moving so far that smoking will be all but completely prohibited if they get their way, and whereas all that public-space bans achieve is to shift smoking from one kind of area into another without affecting sales (or, as we have seen in many countries, actually increasing them), the measures that they are now proposing are likely to have a detrimental effect on cigarette sales. Well, OK, then, so be it. I don’t have any objection to being used as part of the muscle to fight the anti-smoking movement if at the same time we get the benefit of tobacco companies’ funds to give us a platform to do so most effectively.

  9. harleyrider1978 says:

    Guys and gals, We are the Global Anti-prohibition movement.

  10. smokervoter says:

    There are at least three different enlightened self-interest groups at play here. The companies that produce the stuff, the consumers and the politicians who (over) regulate it. The companies should simply provide some of the working capital the consumers are lacking to defend themselves and then step aside. As is stands, any connection between a tobacco producer and a politician is the kiss of death.

    The companies, and not just PM, could set up the expensive network infrastructures and then let the consumers connect to the politicians. We’d be saying, look Mr. and Mrs. Congressman (or MP) there’s millions of us out there and we’ve been getting a raw deal for a long time now. By my math we could feasibly represent 5 million votes in the UK, or 20 million in the US for the party willing to stand up for our interests.

    The companies want profits, no crime committed there. The politicians want votes, that’s their lifeblood and it’s democracy in action. And we just want to be left alone. Call off the hound dogs.

    And thanks harleyrider for your tireless efforts. I’ve been reading your comments for years now. Same goes for Michael J. McFadden and Snow Bird.

  11. Gary K. says:

    Are the tobacco companies really worried about their USA or Aussie customers?

    Tobacco companies have only lost about 8% of their customer base in the USA since 1965.

    World wide consumption has probably made up the loss.
    International Cigarette Smoking Prevalence
    Over 15 billion cigarettes are sold worldwide daily. According to the World Health
    Organization (WHO) estimates, there are more than one billion smokers in the world.

    American Lung Assoc. Data on smoking

    Click to access Tobacco-Trend-Report.pdf

    Table 3. Number of adults that are current smokers(USA)

    1965 = 50.1 million

    1985 = 50.4 million

    2000 = 46.5 million

    2008 = 46 million

    • Gary K. says:

      For your amusement.

      In 1950 there were about 57 million smokers.

      Almost twice as many smokers were lost in the 15 years before 1965 as in the 40 years after.

      In 1965 there were about 16 million ex-smokers.

      In 1990 there were about 44 million ex-smokers.

      In 2008 there were about 48 million ex-smokers.

      About 3 times as many smokers quit in the 25 years prior to all of the bans and price increases as have quit in the 18 years of the bans and price increases.

      Smokers are hard headed people!!!

  12. Gary K. says:

    OT; but, I have been curious about this for quite a while.

    Frank, what/where/who is an/the ‘Idlex’?

  13. Junican says:

    I too was surprised that comments were limited, but then I thought that, if the site is a success, there could be tens of thousands all talking to no purpose. As it happens, I have just been over there again and clicked on LATEST NEWS. Two of the four items were newspaper articles on which one could comment. Perhaps Philip Morris’s idea is to point out these articles for ‘members’ of the PM site to comment on.

    I looked at the comments on the two articles and was amazed at the overwhelming numerical superiority of anti-smoking comments. On one of the articles (about plain packaging), of 132 comments, only 4 were against the idea. The other article (re smoking in the open air) also was very anti-smoker – the hatred was palpable.

    Being a bit of a conspiracy theorist, the thought crossed my mind that ASH (or the AU equivalent) is aware of this Philip Morris site and is deliberately targeting any article mentioned on the site. Certainly, the comments there bear no relation to our experience in the UK where opinion is predominantly against the Nanny State. Also, the ignorance of facts as regards SHS was astonishing.

    I tried a little detective work on the comments and found that on the article with 132 comments, the vast majority started to pour in at 4pm and then abruptly ceased at 7pm. Very few comments were made after that. The last comment there, a few days later, was the one which referred to their being 132 comments and only 4 which supported the author of the article.

    I am going to go back there everyday, check the LATEST NEWS and kick butt – hit them with facts and call the ‘stinkers’ rotten. I think that we should all do it. The URL for the Ausie site again is:

    https://www.ideservetobeheard.com.au/home.php

    I’m going to copy this comment to other sites, Frank – Leg Iron and co. I think we should wake the Ausies up a bit.

  14. Junican says:

    By the way, Frank, I should say that I picked up the info about the Philip Morris site from a comment made by someone somewhere. I cannot remember where, unfortunately. Someone mentioned it in a comment and it would be difficult for me to track back and find out where. That contribution must be acknowledged.

  15. Smoking Hot says:

    Junican … l think you’ll find that the newspaper comments are heavily moderated in favour of the anti-smokers. 132 comments … 4 against? … with a link to the article from the Morris website?

    Smell a rat? … well, rats really.

  16. Gary K. says:

    Hope folks have a nice Easter/Lenin’s birthday/Earthday weekend.

  17. Junican says:

    Hi, Smoking Hot. I thought that also, but I note that both your comment and mine have been published. I will watch and see what happens to the next article that appears.

  18. Brigitte says:

    I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but
    Being a bit of a conspiracy theorist, the thought crossed my mind that ASH (or the AU equivalent) is aware of this Philip Morris site and is deliberately targeting any article mentioned on the site.
    does not sound unrealistic.

    If Cadbury’s could issue a statement some months ago that ‘chocolate can be part of a healthy diet’ I see no reason why Philip Morris et al shouldn’t do the same. The beneficial aspects of nicotine cannot be denied.

  19. Pingback: Big Tobacco Wakes Up | Frank Davis

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