George Seldes on Tobacco

Congress Debates Tobacco 3 Months; Press Omits News

(No. 394) Vol. XVII. No. 4

April 26. 1948

THROUGHOUT February, March and April Congress fought over the inclusion of almost a billion dollars for tobacco in the Marshall Plan.

Some protested, others favored it, and one member told how the South was coerced into voting the total ERP under threat of tobacco being omitted.

The newspapers, which with the magazines profit to the tune of $50,000,000 a year from cigaret ads (Philip Morris, one of the smaller firms, announced a $7,000,000 ad budget April 15), generally suppressed all the news of this event. However, it stirred up considerable interest when IN FACT first printed the facts March 22.


For the benefit of many readers and public welfare institutions which have written IN FACT regarding the tobacco item, here is the Congressional Record documentation of the facts:

Feb 2, p A593, 2 billion pounds mentioned; Feb 9, p 1200, State of Kentucky, statement; Feb 16, Rep Murray of Wisc first gave value at $911,100,000; Mar 5, p 2343, Rep Jenner stated value is $900,000,000 for duration of Marshall Plan, or $200,000,000 first 12 months; Mar 12, p 2776, figure given as 242,000 metric tons; Mar 30, pp 3860-1, protests by Rep Rees; Mar 31, full tobacco plan by Rep Flannagan; April 7, page 4284, Rep Johnston of S C exposed the threat to Southerners to omit tobacco unless they voted the whole ERP bill.

Congressional Protests

in addition to the news previously reported in IN FACT, following are some highlights of the debate: In the Senate Mr Jenner of Indiana protested sending $200,000,000 worth of tobacco. Sen Malone of Nevada corrected him, saying the total was more than $900,000,000. Mr. Jenner: "I like cigarets. I smoke cigarets, but I should like to have the Senator tell me what $900,000,00 of tobacco has to do with the rebuilding of the economy of western Europe to with stand the onslaught of communism?"

Mar 12 Sen Barkley defended the Item because "tobacco pays into the Treasury of the U S $1,200,000,000 a year in taxes -- 5 times as much as the amount the tobacco costs."

In the House March 30 Rep Rees of Kansas asked: "But why spend the tax money for tobacco instead of spending it for food?" He got no answer. Later on he said:

"I just want to understand why we should use relief money to relieve the tobacco situation. I understand the gentleman (Folger) to say that the tobacco growers will be in a terrible fix if we do not take this surplus tobacco off their hands."

On Mar 31 Rep Flannagan made a long speech for tobacco, stating that "money Is regarded as the universal incentive" but since money in Europe cannot buy everything today, "other incentives are necessary, and tobacco is unexcelled for this purpose." He quoted someone saying that coffee and tobacco were contributors to the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of "the more abundant life."

Tobacco vs Communism

In conclusion, Rep Flannagan told the House of Representatives that tobacco will also help in stopping communism.

"The ERP," he declared (p 3981), "is designed and intended not only to rebuild the economy of western Europe but to combat the extension of any ideology intended to enslave people through false propaganda. Aid to European countries on a purely subsistence basis will not frustrate the designs of those who would destroy all democracies.... It appears desirable from the political viewpoint to include some of the things that will give the people of Europe what they most desire.... Tobacco is something they want.... Adequate supplies of tobacco ... will aid in eliminating or retarding the spread of ideologies antagonistic to democracy and to world peace.'

State Dept On Tobacco

May 17, 1948 p. 3

ALTHOUGH newspapers throughout the U S suppressed the fact that Congress for over 3 months debated putting $911,100,000 for tobacco into the Marshall Plan (exclusively reported by IN FACT March 22, Apr 26) the conspiracy of silence is being broken.

Erwin News, serving Ohio papers, sent out the following:

"Washington -- If Mrs E JT Haight of Medina is still wondering how American wine and tobacco can stop communism in Europe, perhaps she now has an answer.

"Thursday the State Dept sent a detailed letter to Rep Walter B Huber of Akron emphasizing the importance of these items in the European economy. Rep Huber had sent the State Dept Mrs Haight's query on why 142,000,000 gallons of wine and a billion dollars in tobacco was included in the ERP.

"Chas E Bohlen, counsellor of the State Dept, explained that tobacco helps stabilize the currency in European countries; it provides an outlet for surplus funds; it makes Europeans work harder to provide extra money to purchase tobacco.

"The State Dept insisted, however, that only 299 million dollars in tobacco was slated for Europe. The American wine is not slated for European highballs, but is a staple in most countries under ERP, Bohlen added."

Letter to The Times

Although America's leading paper, NYTimes, suppressed the tobacco debate February, March and April, it nodded in its olympian manner May 5, permitting someone to write a letter on the subject, which it printed. Head was: "Protests Tobacco Allocation in ERP." The Times' million readers might be puzzled why a letter can protest news which never appeared.

Second most important paper, NYHerald Tribune on Apr 21 printed a small AP item from Washington saying "Fifty cent tobacco this year" was predicted by Rep Cooley of NC. ERP had saved the South!

The same AP item announced that $110,200,000 was the amount to be spent for tobacco the first year.

But Columnist W P Simms May 4 complaining that not enough money was being allocated for newsprint, reported that "approximately $250,000,000 was set aside for tobacco." He wants newsprint, because "Our story isn't getting itself told." Simms writes for the Scripps-Howard chain.

May 31, 1948 p. 2-3

Tobacco Story (Conc.)

HERE is a headline: ,THE STARVING ASK FOR BREAD AND ARE GIVEN TOBACCO." The reader will not find it in any one of America's 1750 newspapers. It is from the Congressional Record, May 10, p A3006. The headline precedes a statement by Rep Daniel Reed of NY who stated:

"Mr Speaker, it is proposed under the Marshall Plan to give away some $265,000,000 worth of tobacco the first year, and a total of a billion dollars worth in the 4-year period.

"Does it make sense to use the fertilizer, the manpower, and the land raising a crop that is to be given away, rather than exerting our energies, to producing crops to feed the people?"

The tobacco story, fully reported in IN FACT, thus runs from March to May, and is suppressed in about 98% of the U S press because the tobacco interests are among the biggest advertisers.

Turks Profest

On May 7, the Times carried a small dispatch from Istanbul reporting that Turkish tobacco traders and planters had accused General Clay, U S Military Governor of Germany, of having "obstructed" the sale of Turkish tobacco to Germany. They also charged the U S with "economic imperialism" and said Gen Clay's action was "to protect American Virginia tobacco." The story said that negotiations for the sale of 5,511,000 tons of Turkish tobacco to the Germans had been broken off by Clay because "Germany does not need Oriental tobacco."

Suppressed News

The entire Scripps-Howard Chain of 19 papers suppressed the tobacco story, just as it suppresses news of importance every day. May 1 it published almost a column headed "Salesmen Mob Washington to Cut in on ERP." This item dealt with little business. The U S press suppressed IN FACT's Apr 26 story of how coffee, canned goods, liquor, flour lobbies and the tobacco interests had chiseled into the Marshall Plan for billions. The press protects big business in all such matters.

AP Softens New Warning Linking Cancer to Cigarets

(No. 408) Vol. XVII, No. 18

August 2. 1948

A NEW medical warning linking lung cancer to cigarette smoking was issued July 15, but only a watered down version of it reached newspaper readers because the Associated Press, which sent out the story, followed it with a bulletin to editors them to kill the entire article because it was "controversial." A substitute story, sent an hour and a half later, was considerably weaker than the original report, but even this edited version was suppressed by most papers. In NYC, for example, only one of the nine main papers, the NY World Telegram, mentioned the item. The Telegram used the corrected version.

The. new warning was issued by Dr Alton Ochsner, a professor of surgery at Tulane Univ, who addressed the Rocky Mountain Cancer Conference in Denver.

"I've found in the past 20 years that the incidence of cancer of the lung has soared upward in a line parallel with that of the cigarette sales chart," he said. "There is no conclusive proof that smoking causes cancer of the lung. But I'll tell you this. I don't smoke. I'm afraid to."

Hits Cigaret Ads

The original story, carrying the byline of AP correspondent Elliott Chaze, was sent from Denver at 6:25 pm. It began:

"The cigarette companies won't like this, but a man who ought to know thinks a lot of citizens are digging their graves with their lungs.

"Dr. Alton Ochsner, professor of surgery at Tulane Univ, takes a dim view of the cheery four-color cigarette advertisements."

The article then quoted Dr Ochsner's findings as quoted above, and continued:

"(Ochsner) said that a research group in Argentina had found that tobacco contains a 'tar' which will cause cancer. He said this tar, when applied to the skins of animals, was a strong enough irritant to turn the trick. He made it plain, however, that he was not certain this tar had the same effect on the lungs."

The story then quoted him as saying that although h lung cancer occurs primarily in males, it Is increasing among women, and, he added

, "As you know, women are beginning to smoke more and more heavily."

Dr Ochsner said that in cases where the cancer had not spread its roots beyond the lung tissue, 42% of the patients were alive five years after surgery, but that no patient lived as long as three years after refusing such surgery. The story concluded:

"So, take a deep drag off that cigarette, brother. And think it over."

AP Kills Original Story

One hour after the story was filed, AP sent the following note to editors:





Denver -- Eliminate Cigarette Cancer Story (A64KX) Moved 625PCS Today. (Controversial). A sub is upcoming.


The story which followed 90 minutes later eliminated the references to citizens "digging their graves with their lungs," to the "dim view of cigarette advertising," to the "increase in cancer among women" and to women smoking more and more. heavily, to the incidence of death, and the concluding line to "think it over." Also deleted was the by-line of the correspondent who had written the initial story.


THIS weekly tries to give credit to newspapers which perform a public service. It cannot keep its editorial eye on each of the 1750 daily papers in the U S, but with the help of readers in every State, it keeps its eye on many. From Gideon Seymour, vice president and executive editor of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, comes a batch of tear sheets containing editorials and columns discussing one of the usually "verboten" subjects -- tobacco and its effect on health, as well as tobacco and its raid on the Marshall Plan. This weekly has read the material, agrees that it does an honest presentation, and is glad to credit the two papers with their performance.

Suppressed News, Daily

31 January 3, 1949 p. 3 P-3

FOR almost 9 years this weekly has pointed out that every day in the year there is news which is suppressed by all but a few of the 1,750 American dailies: the complaints, hearings and fraud orders against advertisers. These Fed Trade Comm items are important to the health and pocketbooks of the whole American people.

Latest FTC press releases and (official numbered) cases:

Hearing: 5316, Wander Co, charge: false adv for Ovaltine; 5031, Zonite Products Co, charge "false adv in connection with the sale of Forhan's toothpaste". Complaint 3886, AC Spark Plug Co; charge, discrimination in price, payment of rebates, etc. Hearing, Dec 7, American Tobacco Co, charge, "misrepresentation in the sale of Lucky Strike cigarets". Complaint 5364, "Aquella", charged with "false and misleading" claims for waterproofing paint -- this product got a big free article

Readers Digest. Complaint dismissed: Park & Tilford, charged with "false and misleading representations" for Tintex dye; practices discontinued.

1% Honor Roll

Only surprise in past 8 years is sudden appearance of some FTC items in NY World Telegram: AC Spark Plug Nov 30 and Lucky Strike item Dec 7. Of nation's 1,750 papers, however, at least 99% still suppress news re advertisers every day.

The Minneapolis Star and Tribune continue to run warnings against the use of tobacco -- one of the less than 1% of the U S press which does. "Tobacco kills more people today than hard liquor", writes Medicus; "Smoking. is an active factor in the cause of cancer of the lung."

We have reported the names of other newspapers which did not suppress the news of medical conventions at which scientific data on the use of tobacco and heart disease and cancer were presented. However, we still have no list of newspapers reporting FTC orders and cases of false advertising by brand named cigarets.

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