13 June 2000

A Virginia Slims ad carrying the slogan Find your voice was swiftly amended after it was criticised during a class-action suit filed by Florida residents with smoking-related illnesses. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Stanley M. Rosenblatt, suggested that the slogan could be offensive to smokers with throat cancer.

The ad was changed immediately after Philip Morris’s head of US tobacco operations, Michael E. Szymanczyk, had testified at the hearing and found himself on the receiving end of pointed questions about the slogan. "He [the attorney] made a good point," conceded Mr. Szymanczyk, adding that using the slogan in the first place "was my mistake."

During Szymanczyk’s deposition, he was also questioned about the slogan, Don't let the goody-two-shoes get you down, used in some Virginia Slims ads. Attorney Rosenblatt suggested it encouraged people to disregard cigarette health warnings. "We don't want controversial advertising," protested Szymanczyk. "I don't want people to look at our advertising and say that we're trying to do wrong."

Philip Morris, together with four other tobacco companies (R.J. Reynolds, British American Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco and Liggett Group) are opposing a punitive-damage action, arguing that they should not be punished further as they have amended their behavior.

News source: Wall Street Journal