Suspension of Dow Purchases

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

When Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. started marketing Nicorette gum in the early 1980s, it put out a newsletter in doctors' clinics called the Smoking Cessation Newsletter, to advertise the product. PM executives took great exception to Dow's Smoking Cessation Newsletter. Dow also started encouraging its own smoking employees to quit. PM disliked that. Dow also did a study that revealed that smoking adds an addtional $59,000 to the lifetime medical expense for smokers. More anger! Then...PM discovered that a new doctor's clinic in its home town of Richmond, Virginia was actually discouraging patients from smoking--and offering them Nicorette! That was the last straw.

It also happened that Dow Chemical was the only domestic supplier of tobacco additives like glycerin and propylene glycol, the chemicals that keep tobacco moist (humectants). To punish Dow for the unforgivable transgression of encouraging people to quit smoking cigarettes, PM ceased all of its humectant purchases from Dow, and let them know why. PM had to start buying their humectants overseas, but it was worth it to them to punish Dow.

This document shows that behind the scenes, Philip Morris is quite a bit more ruthless their TV ads reveal (PM has run expensive ad campaigns portraying itself as a kind, gentle company that gives food to the hungry, helps flood victims and supports domestic violence shelters.

Quotes from the document

Per our conversations, we ceased issuing glycerin, propylene glycol and triethylene glycol orders to Dow. They requested a meeting to discuss the situation which was held on Wednesday, May 2...

Dow was told that we were discontinuing all humectants purchases because of Dow-Merell's attack on cigarette smoking associated with the introduction of Nicorette, a nicotine-containing prescription chewing gum which reportedly aides "patients" in quitting smoking. Specific examples of Dow's objectionable campaign were cited:

1. Efforts to encourage all smokers at their Freeport Plant (source of most of our materials) to give up smoking.

2. The Dow sponsored Policy Analysis Incorporated study indicating an additional $59,000 lifetime medical expense for smokers.

3. Dow literature appearing in doctors' offices encouraging smokers to quit by using Nicorette.

4. A new Richmond doctor's clinic discouraging smoking and offering Nicorette...

Through a series of meetings over the past few years, Dow had been repeatedly advised of our displeasure over the anti-smoking nature of Dow-Merrell's Nicorette program. We had been assured that Nicorette would have a low-key introduction and would be aimed only at those smokers who had to stop for medical reasons.

...They were told...that...the document in hand ... strongly indicates that Dow Chemical is engaged in a program to motivate Philip Morris customers to stop smoking....

We indicated that the suspension of business was regrettable since Dow had been a top-notch supplier... [1]

Related Sourcewatch resources

External resources


  1. R.D.Latshaw, Philip Morris Suspension of Dow Purchases Memorandum. May 7, 1984. 2 pp. Bates No. 2023799799/9800

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