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New Study Exposes Truth Behind Philip Morris Name Change: Tobacco Giant Hoping to Improve Image Without Sacrificing Tobacco Profits

Infact Vows Intensified Pressure in Light of Expose in American Journal of Public Health

Mar 27, 2003 | PRNewswire In a hard-hitting study released today, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco use Philip Morris internal documents to expose the truth behind the tobacco giant's name change. Philip Morris's move to change its name to the Altria Group earlier this year has been sharply criticized as a PR maneuver meant to distance the corporation's image from its deadly practices by the national corporate accountability organization Infact and other advocacy groups. Today's study,

"Altria Means Tobacco: Philip Morris's Identity Crisis" -which appears in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health-provides extensive evidence that the name change is the height of a long-term effort to manipulate consumers and policymakers.

"The US public is very aware of Philip Morris's history of deceit, including decades spent trying to cover up the deadly, addictive nature of its tobacco products. Today's paper demonstrates clearly that the name change to Altria is yet another chapter in that history. Consumers and policymakers have rejected the tobacco giant's deadly practices, and another massive PR campaign won't change that basic fact," says Kathryn Mulvey Executive Director of Infact, which has been organizing a Boycott of Philip Morris's Kraft Foods since 1994.

As revealed in "Altria Means Tobacco: Philip Morris's Identity Crisis":

Philip Morris hoped that this latest PR maneuver would improve its image without sacrificing tobacco profits. According to the corporation's consultants, "the name change alternative offers the possibility of masking the negatives associated with the tobacco business."

The name change is part of a long-term effort to improve the corporation's public perception, which has included shifting the focus of attention away from Philip Morris (Altria) as a tobacco company, to a "consumer packaged goods company." Consultants recommended this change, as "forty percent of the general public can't even guess what a consumer packaged goods company is."

Philip Morris (Altria) fears that if its new name is automatically associated with tobacco, the effort is "doomed."
The authors of the study, Elizabeth A. Smith, PhD and Ruth Malone, PhD, both in the department of social and behavioral sciences in the UCSF School of Nursing, encourage advocates to associate Altria with tobacco in order to continue to hold the tobacco giant accountable. "Philip Morris wants people to think that it has changed so they'll accept the new identity and forget the tobacco connection," observes Smith. "But fundamentally, Altria is the same tobacco corporation Philip Morris was."

Since 1977, Infact has been exposing life-threatening abuses of transnational corporations and organizing successful grassroots campaigns to hold corporations accountable to consumers and society at large. From the Nestle Boycott of the 1970s and '80s to the GE Boycott of the 1980s and '90s to today's Boycott of Philip Morris's Kraft Foods, Infact organizes to win! For more information visit

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