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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health
Building capacity for a tobacco-free world
July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA
Objective: This paper examines the tobacco industry's efforts to position cigarettes as a “natural” product for marketing and public relations purposes.
Methods: We searched publicly available internal tobacco industry documents to review the history of these efforts.
Results: As early as 1922, Philip Morris touted its flagship brand by advertising its “natural tobacco goodness”; “natural menthol” appeared in marketing for Alpine cigarettes in the 1960s (and the same phrase was later used to market Salems in the 1970s); in the mid-1990s, RJ Reynolds repositioned Winston as a natural, “no-additives” brand. The tobacco industry has also conducted research to evaluate how various consumer groups respond to “natural” marketing strategies, using the results to develop and more effectively market tobacco products. This research suggests that the concept of natural draws together a cluster of meanings that are as important for what they oppose as for what they represent. These include freshness/healthfulness (vs. staleness, disease or decay), authenticity and directness (vs. artifice or deceit), normalcy (vs. aberrant with social norms), purity (vs. adulteration), and grown in soil (vs. manufactured or invented). Philip Morris, in particular, has employed these meanings in its efforts to improve its company image, by, for example, linking its products with land conservation efforts in the western United States. These findings can inform tobacco control counter-marketing and industry de-legitimization strategies.