National Smokers' Alliance Exposed

The National Smokers' Alliance (NSA) was purported to be an independent group, but was actually created and funded by Philip Morris.

Responding to the increasing number of local smokefree ordinances, the NSA was invented by Big Tobacco in 1993. ANR assembled evidence that NSA was launched by public relations giant Burson-Marsteller -- funded by an estimated $4 million in Philip Morris seed money, with help from Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and some fifty smaller tobacco industry players. Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest PR firms in the U.S., has a history of spinning bad corporate practices into positive puff pieces.

In the fall of 1998, the ANR Foundation published its ground-breaking report, The National Smokers Alliance (NSA) Exposed. This important document has proven to be an invaluable tool for advocates working on local clean indoor air ordinance campaigns. In many communities, advocates have used this publication to educate elected officials and the media about the tobacco industry's dirty tricks. On June 29, 1999, Philip Morris issued a press release announcing that it will no longer fund the National Smokers Alliance.

ANR issued the following statement:

Time for an Obituary?
Philip Morris Announces Break With NSA

Philip Morris publicly announced plans to pull the plug on its favorite offspring, the National Smokers Alliance. The announcement was made via a press release on June 29, 1999; no plans were announced for a funeral.

According to an article in the Washington Post on July 7, Philip Morris attributed their actions to the group's ethics complaint against Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Ellen Merlo, Sr. Vice President of Philip Morris said that "...the National Smokers Alliance is no longer in alignment with the values and beliefs that guide the conduct of business at Philip Morris, henceforth we will be withdrawing all of our financial support from the organization."

We surmise that Philip Morris' decision to take the NSA off life-support was caused instead by over-exposure. The ANR Foundation's ground-breaking expose, The National Smokers Alliance Exposed was distributed widely among national media and advocates, leading the press to refer to the NSA as a group created by Philip Morris, ending their front as an independent smokers group.

The NSA was born in 1993, the brain child of Philip Morris and PR giant Burson-Marsteller. The front group, and their $450,000 a year paid Executive Director, uses every trick in the book to block the enactment of local smokefree laws, especially those covering restaurants. The group runs expensive PR campaigns attacking government action on clean indoor air and the science of secondhand smoke, promotes weak signage laws, runs well-funded referenda campaigns, and, files bully lawsuits.

Is the NSA really dead? When questioned further, Philip Morris said they would maintain their current financial obligations. Who knows what that means? The NSA was recently sited in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where NSA staffer Eric Schippers was busy organizing business owners to oppose a local smokefree regulation and threatening a lawsuit.

While we are proud that we helped to unmask the NSA as the astro-turf group they are, we aren't sending funeral flowers just yet.