A Response from Mother Earth News

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And you can quote me: "A couple of days ago I wrote an open letter to Mother Earth News, complaining about the cigarette advertising in their magazine - a magazine I had previously considered a model of leadership for "good living". To their credit, at least they gave me a response, even if it wasn't the one that I'd wanted."

Posted in Serious, August 18th, 2008


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A couple of days ago I wrote an open letter to Mother Earth News, complaining about the cigarette advertising in their magazine – a magazine I had previously considered a model of leadership for “good living”.

To their credit, at least they gave me a response, even if it wasn’t the one that I’d wanted:

“Thanks for writing.

Our many decisions regarding whether or not to accept advertising from any particular company are seldom simple. Our readers come to us for alternatives. Our advertisers, knowing this, sometimes offer “alternative? tools, therapies and appliances that I, personally, don’t see as valuable and wouldn’t, personally, purchase.

Our acid test is whether the add is, on its face, misleading offensive or exploitative. We reject advertisers on these bases regularly.

Cigarettes are harmful to people who smoke them. It states this clearly on the advertisement you mentioned. American Spirit makes only the mildest and vaguest of claims regarding how “natural? the product might be. I cannot conclude that the advertisement in misleading.

The ad is, in our opinion, not offensive. However, this is the most subjective of our judgments and the one most likely to prompt a change in our position.

That leaves the question of whether cigarettes are, by their nature, exploitative. My colleagues include people who smoke, people who used to smoke but quit and people who never smoked. I respect the people in each of these groups for their decisions. Are the smokers being exploited by tobacco companies? I can’t see how. They pick up and light each cigarette with the full knowledge of its effect. No one is physically incapable of quitting.

We respect our readers for their ability to make decisions of this kind and we have elected to run these legal advertisements for a legal product whose negative effects are (unlike many other products’) clearly described on the advertisements themselves. I believe the ads are, in this respect, superior to ads for automobiles with excessive horsepower; fatty, over-processed foods; and inefficient appliances.

Furthermore, obviously, these ads and all the other ads allow us to distribute important information to millions of people each year at an astonishingly low cost to the consumer.

Bryan Welch
Publisher and Editorial Director
Ogden Publications, Inc.
1503 SW 42nd St.
Topeka, KS 66609

12 North 12th Street
Suite 400
Minneapolis, MN 55403

785-274-4308
Fax: 785-274-4309

Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Natural Home, Motorcycle Classics, Farm Collector, Gas Engine Magazine, Steam Traction, The Herb Companion, Herbs for Health, CAPPER’S, GRIT, American Life & Traditions, Brave Hearts Magazine, Good Things To Eat Magazine, Capper’s Insurance Service and Capper’s Reader Service.

www.ogdenpubs.com”

— —

P.S. If you want to tell Mother Earth News how you feel about this, you can do so here.

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9 Comments »

  1. Historically, cigarette ads have bought a “pass” on health issues in the publications that carried them.

    Even as early as 1939, ads bought silence, which is why people in decades past never learned the full extent of tobacco’s harms. Newsweek, Time, US News & World Report, and even Mother Jones suffered enormous ad losses by committing the unpardonable sin of publishing the truth. No magazine or newspaper made that costly mistake often.

    Considering how tobacco ads typically buy silence (and even tobacco-positive articles like 1972’s “It IS Safe to Smoke”) I ask Mr. Welch if, in the 3 years since carrying these ads, any of Ogden’s magazines have published an item on, say, how ferociously addicting cigarettes are, or on how cigarettes are marketed to kids, or even on the fact that it is the _tobacco_ in cigarettes–NOT additives–that is the proven, primary addicting and health-destroying ingredient of ALL tobacco cigarettes–whether they are certified organic, blessed by the Pope or whatever tagline a tobacco company thinks will sell product.

    Considering how many people, even teens, may be getting addicted or needlessly continuing their addiction thinking this product is endorsed by Ogden, or at least found acceptable to be advertised (despite Ogden’s feeble protests to the contrary), this would seem vital knowledge for Ogden’s readers, and a responsible journal should address it. So, Mr. Welch: how have RJR’s ads helped Ogden “distribute important information [about the health risks of ‘natural’ cigarettes] to millions of people each year at an astonishingly low cost to the consumer?”

    PS: I’d gladly pay a higher cost just to have had a few more years learning from and enjoying my time with my dear uncle and father. And to have my kids not think tobacco was just fine by the despicable, money-driven standards of the Mother Earth News or Utne Reader.

    PPS: Does Mr. Welch know that the tobacco industry’s campaign against the health effects of cigarettes was a trailblazer in corporate defense, and has now provided other industries with a blueprint on how to fight scientific reality? Does he or his readers have any idea how the tobacco industry’s disinformation and political campaigns have now led to other industries’ battle against the science of Climate Change–a PR campaign which not only uses the same tried-and-true techniques, but even uses the exact same pseudoscientific shills, like Fox News’ Steven Milloy? Does he or his readers know that Reynolds was a major part of all that? These are the lovely people, with such estimable contributions to society, that he does business with?

    Comment by gene — August 2, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  2. ditto!

    Comment by ron — October 1, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  3. Yes, Bryan Welch – the ad IS offensive because the product it’s advertising is offensive! Cigarettes have no redeeming value to society, except to a sycophantic industry that, over the centuries, has thrived on slavery brainwashing, social manipulation, fake “science,? bullying and an unrelenting addiction: The tobacco industry and its snivelling denizens, including Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. As for your boast about “astonishingly low cost to the consumer? – I would rather pay more for a magazine free of cigarette ads – but I will NOT consider subscribing as long as it contains such ads.
    Cigarette ads are worse than ads for overpowered automobiles and inefficient appliances. Obnoxious and wasteful as these items are, they are not highly addictive. Better an ad for an appliance that is inefficient when used as directed, than for a product that is always toxic when used as directed.
    And your inability to see how smokers are being exploited by tobacco companies suggests that you are either getting paid a lot to sound like a fool, or that you were born yesterday. Perhaps a bit of both?

    Finally – why do the other magazines also taken over by this Ogden Publishing also now carry cigarette ads – even Utne Reader?? Could it be that OGDEN PUBLISHING is owned by a TOBACCO COMPANY? Just a thought. Worth checking out, folks!

    Comment by Lowspark — September 26, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  4. Yes, Bryan Welch – the ad IS offensive. It purveys a product now proven to have no redeeming value to society, except to a sycophantic industry that, over the centuries, has thrived on slavery (in the early years), brainwashing, social manipulation, false “science,” bullying and an unrelenting addiction….Namely the tobacco industry and its snivelling denizens, including Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. As for your boast about “astonishingly low cost to the consumer” – I would be willing to pay considerably more for a magazine free of cigarette ads – but I will NOT consider subscribing as long as it contains such ads.
    Cigarette ads are even worse than ads for overpowered automobiles and inefficient appliances. Obnoxious and wasteful as both of these items are, they are not highly addictive. Better an ad for an appliance that is inefficient when used as directed, than a product that is always toxic when If you can’t see how smokers are being exploited by tobacco companies suggests that you are either getting paid a lot to sound like a fool, or that you were born yesterday. Perhaps a bit of both?

    Finally – why do the other magazines also taken over by this Ogden Publishing also now carry cigarette ads – even Utne Reader?? Could it be that OGDEN PUBLISHING is owned by a TOBACCO COMPANY? Just a thought. Worth checking out, folks!

    Comment by Lowspark — September 22, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  5. This is so obviously rationalization and very disingenuous.

    What adds to my annoyance is that I believe they are AWARE of how obvious it is. They’re too smart not to.

    Profit motive is conveniently blinding, I suppose. Sad.

    Comment by JuletteMillien — August 19, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  6. Ummmm, it’s called “Mother Earth” news; I assume its about Mother Earth?

    Screw the people who smoke; they can make their own decision to kill themselves. This is hypocrisy towards the very name of the magazine. How about all of the tobacco companies that are snatching up land in developing countries to take advantage of cheap labor and land?

    And all of the pollutants? Cigarettes pollute their immediate environment; including second-hand smoke. Not to mention that the tobacco used in these cigarettes is probably not grown organically; hence, pesticides (pesticides that are more and more being linked to cancers and birth defects).

    I found this statement on the Pesticide Action Network: “In the U.S., tobacco is grown on more than 650,000 acres in over 20 states, primarily in the southern region of the country. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that at least 25.6 million pounds of pesticides are used on this crop each year. The list includes pesticides that are extremely acutely toxic, pesticides that may cause cancer or birth defects, and others that are potent nerve toxins. In fact, over 450 different pesticide products are registered for use on tobacco by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

    So how is a product that is so grossly pollutant of Mother Earth, being advertised in a magazine called “Mother Earth”?

    That would be like advertising Cattlemen’s Ranch in “Vegetarian Times”.

    Comment by Jess — August 19, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  7. Disingenuous rationalization, at best, of what’s obviously profit-centric or expense-meeting behavior.

    Why not just be open and above-board about that and be done?!

    Dr.Mani
    (who has dealt with the ravages of smoking induced health disasters for most of his professional life!)

    Comment by Dr.Mani — August 19, 2008 @ 12:52 am

  8. This response is such a bunch of boloni. It seems so obvious they don’t want to admit how wrong this goes with the principles of their publication, perhaps to not loose the advertiser…

    Comment by Kelly Mullaney — August 18, 2008 @ 11:51 pm

  9. This response is all well and good except for the fact that the product is INCREDIBLY ADDICTING. That kills his arguments, I’m afraid.

    Comment by Dan — August 18, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

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