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George Weissman is believed to be the "Mastermind" of Philip Morris' direction with regard to public health issues surrounding tobacco use.
Weissman was Chairman & CEO of Philip Morris, Inc. from 1979-1984. He was Vice President of Philip Morris from 1954 to 1956 and was Vice President and Assistant to the President in 1957. Weissman was Vice President of Marketing from 1958-59; Executive Vice President of Marketing in 196; Executive Vice President of Overseas operations in 1961; Executive Vice President of Philip Morris International from 1962-1966. He was President from 1967 to 1972; President and Chief Operating Officer in 1973; Vice Chairman from 1974-78; and on the Board of Directors from 1959-84.
Weissman, along with PM Executive Joseph Frederick Cullman, III decided on a negative direction for Philip Morris, believing that keeping Philip Morris in tobacco as long as possible was best means to preserve revenue income and keep profits high. Weissman understood the toll this direction took on PM.
1969 memorandum, "Industry Strategy No.1
In a 1969 internal Philip Morris memo titled "Industry Strategy No. 1", Weissman, then Chairman of Philip Morris, discussed where the industry's stance on the health issue had led them, and where it may take them in the future. (The stance was essentially that "the case is not proven" against cigarettes.) Weissman said that the company's position had been a "plus," saying "We bought time, in the past and for the future." Weissman says one negative of the stance had been the company's lost credibility in government, scientific and public circles; he lamented the "morale problem" it caused "among our own employees and prospective employees to some degree." Weissman admitted that
- ...the credibility gap has been incurred because fundamentally we have nothing positive to offer...Instead, our answers for 15 years have been 'not proven' or quoting favorable surveys which were in the minority of so-called scientific reports. But even the favorable surveys always have some element our enemies can turn against us...
Still, Weissman believed that the company shouldn't abandon its disastrous stance, but said that he was simply pointing out "the difficulties posed when a manufacturer moves against an avalanche of government and do-gooders."
Weissman pointed out that the company needed to appear responsible and credible, and portray smoking "as an adult habit."
Contrary to what the tobacco industry usually says about advertising (that the purpose of cigarette advertising is to get people to change brands rather than to get them to take up smoking), Weissman says,
"If you want to stretch a legal point, any ad we put in is an invitation for people to smoke."
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