We don't know what the tobacco industry has prepared in response to ABC News' punishing report whose title says it all: "Never Say Die: How the Cigarette Companies Keep On Winning." But we can imagine that it's not going to be friendly.
It's hard to recall another hour of network news television this year more thoroughly condemning of a whole industry. Although this report could have gone much further to include the ways in which tobacco companies have managed to escape and/or win lawsuits pressed by smokers, it nevertheless leaves these companies with no ground to stand on. This portrait of tobacco companies as enemies of the American people is unmistakable, unforgiving and solid, gutsy journalism.
Jennings delivers a three-part attack. The first salvo is against the ways cigarettes are marketed to adolescents, focusing on the familiar Joe Camel ad campaign. Former R.J. Reynolds market researcher Diane Burrows tells Jennings that she doesn't view cool old Joe as a cartoon character, but "a person who exhibits a certain way of looking at life." Kind of like, we guess, the Marlboro men were great guys who exhibited a certain way of roping horses.
Corporate subterfuge is smoked out by Camel salespeople who tell Jennings that they were told to target stores near high schools; one of them also tells Jennings, with rare candor, that she could market cigarettes to 13-year-olds. Of course, as Food and Drug Administration head David Kessler reminds, one of three of these teen customers will later die from a smoking-related disease.