A Longitudinal Assessment of Corrective Advertising Mandated in United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.

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Journal of Business Ethics

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Due to the ethical breaches of tobacco companies over a 50-year period, a U.S. Court ruled in United States v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. that major U.S. tobacco companies had misled consumers and the government about tobacco’s addictiveness, effects of environmental (secondhand) smoke, marketing targeted at adolescents, and deceptive practices related to harmfulness of smoking. We address the actions of the tobacco companies based on the consumer’s right to be informed and values for ethical corporate behavior, and we draw from psychological theories and the smoking literature to develop our conceptual framework and test the effectiveness of the ensuing corrective advertising campaign mandated in the Court decision. We use a quota sample of 470 smokers and non-smoker participants in a longitudinal study to test the impact of the corrective advertising campaign on key antismoking beliefs from the campaign. Results reveal that the corrective ad campaign has not been successful in affecting smokers’ or non-smokers’ antismoking beliefs. However, differences are found between smokers’ and non-smokers’ beliefs about the adverse health effects of smoking, effects of secondhand smoke, and tobacco company deceptiveness, with these beliefs being stronger for non-smokers. Smokers’ weaker beliefs about the effects of secondhand smoke are viewed as particularly problematic, given the established health risks. We address the implications of the ethical breaches and the corrective advertising attempt to address the deception identified by the Court.


Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 171, No. 4 (July 2021): 747-770. DOI.