Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Article excerpt

SMOKE AND MIRRORS

Omni's lung-cancer ad campaign reflects badly on all concerned

Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld is the health editor of Parade magazine. He knows a misleading tobacco ad when he reads one. He knows the Omni cigarette marketeers are writing a medical fairy tale by claiming their smokes are soldiers in the war against cancer. He also knows he can't keep Omni from buying four-color, full-page ads in Parade to push its point of view. Cigarettes may kill people, but they do it legally. Still, medical writers cringe when Omni, a member of the Vector Tobacco Inc. family in Durham, N.C., presents itself as a puffer's health haven.

"I have no input into what kind of ads there are in the magazine," Rosenfeld said one recent morning. "Nobody at Parade looks over my shoulder. I write my health advice based on my conscience. I write about the dangers of tobacco all the time."

He promised to speak out against Omni anytime anyone asks. "I am going to pooh-pooh their claims on my television program on Fox," he said.

There is plenty to pooh-pooh.

Omni's initial ads in Parade, USA Weekend, People, Playboy, and newspapers all over the country might force advertising departments to hire fact checkers. Omni presented itself this way: "Introducing the first premium cigarette created to significantly reduce carcinogenic PAHs, nitrosamines, and catechols, which are the major causes of lung cancer in smokers."

That boast is in large print above a picture of two lovesick, healthy twentysomethings that makes irrelevant a lowercase warning acknowledging Omni's ad is all smoke and mirrors: "Reductions in carcinogens (PAHs, nitrosomines, catechols, and organics) have not been proven to result in a safer cigarette. This product produces tar, carbon monoxide, [and] other harmful by-products."

That's like running a banner headline across the top of Page One proclaiming a victory over lung cancer with a boxed statement below the fold taking it all back.

The American Medical Association (AMA) e-mailed a letter to the editor of every newspaper that carries the big-type Omni pledge of a longer, tumorless life. That is one tough job.

Omni, since it began its marketing campaign Nov. 1, said it has bought space in the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Miami Herald, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution, the Boston Herald, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News, and the Los Angeles Daily News, to name a few. …

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