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Ellen Merlo was a long-time Vice President of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs department.
Born October 30, 1940, Merlo completed Memorial High School in West Newark, New Jersey and then attended two years at Catherine Gibbs secretarial school. Prior to working for PM, she lived in Los Angeles and worked for Motor Trend magazine (1966-69). Prior to working at Philip Morris she also worked for Revlon and the advertising firm Young & Rubicam. Merlo started her employment at PM in 1969, and over the years worked her way up to Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, reporting to Steven C. Parrish, Senior Vice President of External Affairs. In that position (according to a 2000 court deposition) she made a salary in the vicinity of half a million dollars per year. 
Activities at Philip Morris
In her positions with Philip Morris Corporate Affairs, Merlo assisted in the implementation of a host of internal PM programs designed to delay and obstruct public health efforts to reduce tobacco use and eliminate the public's exposure to secondhand smoke, including PM's Accommodation Program, enacting preemptive laws (laws that favor PM by removing the rights of localities to enact public smoking restrictions), implementing PM "Youth Smoking Prevention" programs, corporate tort reform efforts.
Ellen Merlo's internal Philip Morris documents
In 1994 Merlo wrote a memo describing one tactic PM used to abuse state legislative processes. The memo specifically describes strategies PM used to combat local smoking restrictions and increased cigarette taxes in California (Proposition 99). One strategy Merlo discussed was to "create a flurry of legislative activity to confound the antis [public health advocates] by introducing various bills and measures to put them on the defensive..." The passage indicates PM would work to tie up entire state legislatures with essentially meaningless bills aimed solely at antagonizing and wasting the resources of public health advocates (the "anti's"). It also divulges PM's ability to have legislation introduced seemingly at will, showing how the company wields far more power than citizens. This memo was circulated to executives at the highest levels of PM. 
Ellen Merlo understood the threat that the youth smoking issue posed to PM, specifically how it could bring more regulation upon the industry (something the company worked to prevent). In a 1995 internal email titled JJM SPEECH, Merlo instructed a speechwriter who was preparing a talk for PM CEO James J. Morgan about the youth smoking issue. She directed that Morgan's talk be altered to make it appear that PM was introducing youth smoking prevention programs because it was "the right thing to do." Merlo wrote:
- ....You must put a [para]graph in that this [introducing youth smoking prevention programs] is the right thing to do because it is what the industry believes in. You have too much emphasis on what the antis [public health authorities] say. This is what we should do and why...why it is right. Then get into the restrictions already out there. If we don't seize the initiative the government and the antis will take it away from us... 
Morgan's final speech stated,
- The bottom line to all this is, I repeat, if we don't do something fast to project that sense of industry responsibility regarding the youth access issue, we are going to be looking at severe marketing restrictions in a very short time. Those restrictions will pave the way for equally severe legislation or regulation on where adults are allowed to smoke. We need to do something to demonstrate industry agreement, concern and action on the youth-access issue....
--Joseph J. Morgan, president and CEO of PM in 1995, in a draft speech to "PM invitational" 
The email and Morgan's final speech indicate the self-serving aspects of PM's youth programs. In her 2000 court deposition, Merlo continued to insist however that PM simply does not want children to smoke, never indicating that the company's youth smoking prevention programs were actually legislation prevention programs. 
A short, 1994 memo written by Ellen Merlo (then Senior Vice President of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs) shows how the cigarette company abuses state legislative processes. The memo describes strategies PM used to combat local smoking restrictions and increased cigarette taxes (Proposition 99) in California in 1994. One strategy was to "create a flurry of legislative activity to confound the antis by introducing various bills and measures to put them on the defensive..." The memo indicates that Philip Morris would tie up entire state legislatures with essentially meaningless bills aimed solely at antagonizing public health advocates (the "anti's"). It also indicates the company's ability to introduce legislation at will, showing how the company wields far more power than citizens. This memo was circulated to executives at the highest levels of Philip Morris.
As late as 1999, Merlo continued to advance the tobacco industry's line when asked whether smoking is harmful, despite the fact that since 1964 the U.S. Surgeon General has annually published reports that clearly indicate the many ways in which smoking and secondhand smoke are harmful. In a January 20, 1999 trial deposition (Engle vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.), Merlo stated that PM's position was that smoking "has not been scientifically proven that cigarette smoking causes cancer, heart disease and other diseases." 
Despite the industry's waning credibility and increased exposure of tactics it has employed to obstruct public health, Merlo has served a tireless public and courtroom defender of PM and the tobacco industry in general. A search of current PM emails indicates she still worked for PM as of September 2005. A video of Ellen Merlo defending PM and responding to a New England Journal of Medicine article about cigarette advertising can be seen here.
Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/
- Huffington Post Ellen Merlo Campaign Contributions, accessed June 4, 2009
- Ellen Merlo, Philip Morris California Initiative, memorandum, Bates Number 2022839335, January 12, 1994
- Ellen Merlo, "JJM Speech", Bates Number 2044046016, February 9, 1995. [Italicized emphasis added.]
- Joseph J. Morgan, "JJM TO PM Invitational: Importance of Youth Issue", October 2, 1995.
- "Deposition of Ellen Merlo", Bates Number merloe020100, February 1, 2000.
- Merlo E, Philip Morri California Initiative Memo. January 12, 1994. Bates No. 2022839335
- "Trial testimony of Ellen Merlo", Bates Number MERLOE012099PM, January 20, 1999.
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