They sacrifice a lot to keep us safe and TBH it’s rare to find a not-so-nice word about them. Until you check Big Tobacco’s totally public, pretty damning industry documents, of course. Big Tobacco described members of the US military as “less educated,” “part of the wrong crowd,” and as having “limited job prospects” in its internal industry documents. That’s an interesting take on some of the nation’s bravest heroes. And sort of surprising to hear from Big Tobacco, which has been *obsessed* with getting the military’s attention pretty much since World War I.
Big Tobacco has targeted members of the US military for decades, creating and maintaining a culture of smoking in the military.
Decades. And even as recent as the 90s, during Desert Storm, Big Tobacco sent free cigarettes overseas to troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Until the Department of Defense nixed that.
So Big Tobacco got creative and started targeting the military with a more subtle approach. After free cigs were a no-go, they sent troops Marlboro racing team caps, playing cards, sunglasses, audio cassettes (okay a cassette is this thing people used to use to listen to music in the 80s and 90s... you know what, nevermind), and cup cozies.
Big Tobacco sponsored, organized, and paid for thousands of service members to receive tapes with video recordings of their families back home sending sweet messages for the holidays. Seems like a super f*king nice gesture, right? Until you hear what Big Tobacco sited as their motivation for the program. “Positive publicity and goodwill associated with Marlboro,” and “awareness and visibility of Marlboro among young adult smokers.” Each tape came with a holiday card that looked quiiittee similar to Marlboro’s Marlboro County ads. Happy holidays!
Today, 38% of US military smokers start after enlisting.
And despite declining smoking rates in civilians, smoking prevalence in the military is continuously on the up. Plus, the DoD spends a ton of money on tobacco-related medical care and lost productivity each year -- more than $1.6 billion.
The U.S. military has our backs. Have theirs by calling out Big Tobacco’s targeting. Get on board.