gettyimages 481537924 Truth CEO: Tobacco companies have targeted the military for decades

A soldier smokes a cigarette beside humvees as he takes part in a military drill in Yavoriv polygon, Lviv district, western Ukraine. (YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images)

By Eric Dehm

The Truth initiative has been around for well over a decade and their ads have certainly made a big impression, whether you like them or not. Either way, you’ve noticed them and their orange logo and there’s a pretty good chance that you can recall details of their ads.

Truth has taken a unique approach to bringing attention to what they say is big tobacco’s ruthless targeting of various communities, with a particular focus on young people. Their latest campaign shifts that focus to a different audience, the military and veteran community. Here, take a look:

So why the shift in target audience? There’s a long history of connections between the tobacco industry and the military, Truth CEO Robin Koval said during an appearance on Connecting Vets’ “The Morning Briefing” broadcast. She says while Truth has mainly focused on making the youth demographic aware that they are targets of the tobacco companies, their overall goal is to inform everyone who has been in their crosshairs.

“It’s no surprise that 38% of people who smoke in the military start after enlisting,” Koval said. “It’s because the tobacco industry for years and years made cigarettes really cheap on bases and ran lots of promotions for free cigarettes.”

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2017) – Ciggy Butts educates Lt. Jacqueline Ogi outside Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s Wellness Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville/Released).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg according to Koval. She says documents from tobacco companies show that the armed forces were seen as “easy targets,” “classic downscale smokers,” and even “part of the wrong crowd.” These are not terms that we in the veteran community happy to hear, but Truth says they have the proof to show that it’s how the tobacco companies view us.

Attitudes towards smoking in the military have changed since the era when a pack of smokes was included in a serviceman’s rations. In the 60-plus years since that era came to a close “smoke decks” have gotten smaller and farther from facilities and anti-smoking initiatives and tobacco cessation programs have been put into place and highlighted by the military alongside rules and restrictions meant to deter smoking.

Still, there are plenty of smokers serving in the military though so Truth hopes that this new campaign, as a supplement to what the military is doing, can reduce that number and increase the lifespan of veterans.

To hear the full interview with Koval, click play below to stream now, to listen later click on the share button and select download to save to your computer or mobile device.

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