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THE POWER OF TOBACCO A THE RIGHT TO KILL It seems inconceivable and totally irrational that someone can market a product that addicts and kills yet merchandise it virtually free from governmental regulation and control Worse still is that the targets for smoking have been children under the age of 18 The assault on callow youth is unprecedented in the uses of most sophisticated and manipulative advertising campaigns ever launched In a century marked by extreme we have come to associate distorted sloganeering with totalitarian societies not with democratic ones Yet even the most democratic of nations is not immune from misinformation machinery labeled innocuously as though serving the common good public relations PR These agencies are in the business of selling something The PR industry traces its roots to Edward Bernays a nephew of Sigmund Freud In the early 1920s he conceived PR as a scientific technique for opinion-molding the engineering of consent 1 He forthrightly stated If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it The tobacco industry adopted Bernays methods hook line and sinker In fact they went much beyond this guru of PR whose stated intent was The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses Why has it taken so long for the public to awaken to the true character of an industry which is merchandising death The various means by which tobacco gained its enormous success need to be understood if its growing outreach in developing countries is to be effectively combated The issue is not of exclusive concern to emerging tobacco markets the industry is hardly on its knees even in the United States though now widely regarded as an unmitigated social scourge The tobacco industry continues to speak with the arrogance of power In testimony before Congress in February 1998
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