U.S. tobacco companies viewed the first Gulf War as an opportunity to market cigarettes to members of the military, sometimes working with the Department of Defense to funnel free cigarettes to servicemembers and targeting them with ads and company-sponsored phone cards and welcome-home parties, Stars and Stripes reported Aug. 10.
As soon as the first Gulf War began, tobacco companies were making and distributing free cigarettes for soldiers, according to the report, “Everywhere the Soldier will Be: Wartime Tobacco Promotion in the U.S.,” an evaluation of industry documents published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
The Defense Department allowed the firms to ship 10,000 cartons of cigarettes to soldiers before halting the practice, saying it violated policy. However, the military assisted tobacco firms in other ways, such as allowing RJ Reynolds to put its logo on the covers of magazines sent free to servicemembers.
Philip Morris distributed “Marlboro Holiday Voice Cards” to soldiers away from their families. Once the war ended, company marketers expressed interest in “capitalizing on the successful military operation” and “continuing the association we started last year with the troops.” Philip Morris placed “welcome home” signs in military towns and sponsored the biggest single homecoming event after Operation Desert Storm.