Earlier as I was researching for a possible news item, I stumbled on this amazing, yet not too surprising, report.
As a fan of F1 I was rather “happy” to read the news that BAT (British American Tobacco) was returning to F1 as a sponsor. The new multi-year sponsorship with McLaren was announced at the presentation of the new 2019 McLaren F1 car. While tobacco sponsorship has been mostly outlawed for F1 — read: most left F1 as sponsors because too many nations have prohibited tobacco advertising and that caused issues in advertising ROI — Philip Morris (Marlboro) has stayed a loyal sponsor of Ferrari nevertheless. The company started last year its “WinningNow” campaign, for the first time being less recognizable a logo/slogan than the Marlboro chevron is. Everyone else has left F1.
“We’re extremely proud and excited about this new partnership, further enabling us to accelerate the pace at which we innovate and transform ourselves. It gives us a truly global platform with which to drive greater resonance of our potentially reduced risk products, including our Vype, Vuse and glo brands. Ultimately, innovation and technology will support us in creating a better tomorrow’ for our consumers worldwide.”
— Kingsley Wheaton, BAT Chief Marketing Officer
Because BAT and McLaren both refer to the company’s “reduced risk” products, i.e. its vaping brands I wanted to know whether BAT had already made any statements about possibly moving into the cannabis industry. Especially since its largest competitor Altria, parent company of Philip Morris, made a recent large investment in Canadian cannabis company Cronos. Altria has already started selling cannabis containing JUUL e-cigs in Canada even.
It seems that BAT hasn’t yet made any such move though for its ecig and vape products. No cannabis advertising in F1 when the circus lands in Canada this year.
During my research my attention was piqued by an article on the Millbank Memorial Fund: Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legislation.
The 2014 article presented an extensive research in which the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library was scanned for potential documents around big tobacco and marijuana.
The library now named Truth Tobacco Industry Documents contains all released corporate documents produced during litigations between US States and the seven major tobacco industry organizations. Thus it is a massive trove of insight in thinking and operations of Big Tobacco, its lobbying power, and how it tries to influence the Hill and states. The library was created in 2002.
For the research, the researchers scanned the whole library using the common snowball sampling technique. They searched for the terms “cannabis”, “marijuana”, “reefer”, “weed”, “spliffs”, and “blunts”.
According to their results obtained Big Tobacco has been interested in marijuana since the early 70s.
“While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in a near future... Thus with these great auspices, we should be in a position to examine:
- A potential competition,
- A possible product,
- At this time, cooperate with the government.”
— George Weissman, Philip Morris President, February 1970
Of course, the early seventies followed after Woodstock, when marijuana had its probably most popular moment in modern history.
“The starting point must be to learn how to produce quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag.”
— Charles Ellis, BAT Adviser on Technical Research, undated
Things didn’t just stop there. Philip Morris even requested a marijuana sample from the Department of Justice for research, complete with the understanding that the whole operation would stay private.“We request that there be no publicity whatsoever,” wrote a Philip Morris executive. The answer? DoJ Srug Science chief Milton Joffre promised to deliver “good quality”.
Woodstock seems to have shocked Big Tobacco more than it would possibly have publicly admitted, but highly experienced executives know how to write good letters:
“We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
—Unsigned memorandum distributed to PM top management, early 70s
The 2014 Millbank Memorial Fund closed its research with a scathing recommendation, urging policy makers to prohibit Big Tobacco entering the nascent cannabis industry, based on its abysmal track record and deceptive methods.
“Policymakers and public health advocates must be aware that the tobacco industry or comparable multinational organizations (eg, food and beverage industries) are prepared to enter the marijuana market with the intention of increasing its already widespread use. In order to prevent domination of the market by companies seeking to maximize market size and profits, policymakers should learn from their successes and failures in regulating tobacco.”
Those who want to read the whole report can access it at the Wiley Online Library.
Big Tobacco, having its filthy fingers in any “relaxing money making” product and market it can legally enter... ever since tobacco.