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The Truth Campaign Exposes How Big Tobacco Targets The Military And Mental Health Patients

“Business or Exploitation?” takes on a documentary-style approach to dig into some truly alarming data.

The Truth Campaign Exposes How Big Tobacco Targets The Military And Mental Health Patients

A new campaign from Truth Initiative details how big tobacco has been targeting members of the military and people with mental health issues in alarming numbers.

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According to Truth’s findings, 38% of military smokers started after enlisting, and those with mental health conditions and substance use disorders account for 40% of cigarettes smoked in the U.S. Created in collaboration with 72andSunny, Truth’s “Business or Exploitation?” campaign drills into those numbers with documentary-style videos.

“We decided to hire an external researcher to continue to dive into all these documents and interviews and really try to figure out, from a journalistic approach, who these experts were and what the story was behind some of the tactics that big tobacco employed,” says Nicole Dorrler, SVP of marketing for Truth Initiative. “And when we gathered all of that information, we felt that the climate was right to tell this story in a documentary style–[we felt that] people were craving that journalistic lens in an unbiased way that told those personal stories.”

“Business or Exploitation?” will run primarily as 60-second cutdowns with longer versions premiering at a later date. The campaign is looking to get a boost in its messaging by airing the clips during the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday. But this isn’t the first time Truth has used a major televised event to expose how big tobacco targets specific groups. The organization previously ran a campaign during the Grammys earlier this year, focusing on black communities being in the crosshairs of the tobacco industry. Actor and comedian Amanda Seales led the in-your-face style of the campaign with the angle of racial profiling.

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Truth’s current campaign “Business or Exploitation?” follows a slightly different direction, treating its subject matter more like an investigative piece. It’s all part Truth’s versatility in getting its message where it needs to be in a variety of styles to keep it fresh–whether it be a cowboy singing through his stoma, a Sesame Street knockoff collaboration with Adult Swim, or a meme-infused house party.

“We try to think through what is the most culturally relevant way to connect with our audience, and we’re constantly researching what it is they’re interested in,” Dorrler says of the the documentary approach for “Business or Exploitation?” “As a former smoker, what I look for are these nefarious practices from big tobacco, and they’ve made a real practice of targeting and exploiting people based on labels. It’s just wrong and we need to expose that.”

“For example one of the things that really hit home for me is tobacco use has a direct impact on military readiness,” Dorrler continues. “They’re putting these individuals lives on the line–these people who have raised their hands to be heroes for us. That seems un-American and for me that had a very direct impact on why I felt that story needed to be told.”

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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