embattled by a rising tide of antismoking legislation and sentiment,
is fighting back with a campaign intended to keep America sold on
Part advertising blitz and part grass-roots canvassing for
supporters of the cause, the campaign is trying to create a
nationwide network of restaurants, hotels and businesses that
welcome smokers' patronage and promise to treat them with courtesy
Called the ``Great American Welcome,'' the campaign displays a
new level of assertiveness by tobacco companies in the face of
increasing attacks by health professionals, lawmakers and
The campaign ignores scientific studies that have linked smoking
to lung cancer, heart attack and stroke.
It depicts smoking, whether in private or in public, as a matter
of personal choice, and portrays the tobacco industry as the
defender of smokers' civil rights.
``We're seeing an increasing shrillness on the part of vocal
antismokers pushing for legislative restrictions,'' said Brennan
Dawson, a spokeswoman for the Tobacco Institute, the industry trade
group that organized the campaign.
``There is an attitude in the industry that we're going to fight
back. We're going to protect our customers' rights, and our own
Anti-smoking groups have dismissed the campaign, which began 10
days ago, as a publicity-seeking effort rather than a serious
attempt to get American businesses to join smokers in forging a new
economic or political force.
``Our answer to the `Great American Welcome' is that they are
welcoming smokers to lung cancer, emphysema and cardiovascular
disease,'' said Irving Rimer, a spokesman for the American Cancer
Society. ``They know that the vast majority of smokers want to
quit, and that smokers are not a homogenous group.
"It's another desperate attempt by the cigarette industry to
offset the positive campaigns to help people give up the habit.''
The Tobacco Institute represents all the major tobacco companies
in the United States, including the Ligget Group; the R.J. Reynolds
Tobacco Co. unit of RJR Nabisco Inc., the Lorillard Inc unit of the
Loews Corp.; the tobacco units of the Philip Morris Companies and
the American Tobacco Co.
The industry in recent years has seen a proliferation of laws
restricting smoking in public places.
About 350 city and county regulations with strong limitations on
smoking have been enacted, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of
Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights, based in Berkeley, Calif.
There has also been action on the federal level. Smoking has
been banned on most domestic airline flights, after Congress
approved such a ban in April.
Besides its legislative setbacks, the tobacco industry is
contending with a steady decline of about 2 percent a year in U.S
Individual tobaco companies have for some time seen a need for a
more assertive stance. In June, Philip Morris USA announced a $5
million advertising campaign intended to demonstrate the economic
and political power of smokers.
When that campaign began, Guy L. Smith IV, Philip Morris' vice
president for corporate affairs, pointed out that 85 percent of
smokers in the United States were registered voters and warned that
they were were a potential ``swing vote'' in elections. He said the
ad campaign was ``a reaction to the public policy environment in
cities and states and in Washington.''
For the last few autumns, the tobacco industry has put on a
public relations effort intended to counter the American Cancer
Society's ``Great American Smokeout,'' an annual campaign in which
the society gets several million smokers to give up the habit for at
least one day. …