Jean JL Boddewyn

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Jean JL Boddewyn is a Belgium-American academic who worked for the advertising industry -- and later, specifically for the tobacco industry to help them retain the right to advertise. He was a Professor of Marketing and International Business at Baruch College, City University of New York, USA, and a life-long tobacco industry consultant. For some time he also worked for tobacco through the Cash for Comments Economists Network.

While he systematically abused the public trust inherent in his position, he needed to retain the image of an independent consultant, and so he was retained by the tobacco industry through an arm's length relationship via Covington & Burling, the industry's main Washington DC law firm which laundered payments and channeled industry project requests. When used as a witness in litigation, he was generally handled by Allen Purvis of the other main tobacco law-firm, Shook Hardy & Bacon. Later, he was paid via a private Belgium bank account or through his wife's company, Bodner Inc. in New York City.

Boddewyn provided services to the Tobacco Institute both as an expert on advertising (especially on the use of advertising to recruit teenage smokers), and also on economic matters. When his mantra of "advertising has no effect on teenage smoking recruitment" wore thin through constant repetition in the USA, the industry handlers at the Tobacco Institute handed him over to Sharon Boyse the chief dissembler and strategist at British-American Tobacco in London. She used his services at journalistic media conferences in Latin America, New Zealand, South America and the Indian and South-Aast Asian regions. It was a fianancially profitable relationship since he was also on a quarterly retainer from BAT.

Academic Background

Boddewyn was a Professor of Business at Baruch College, CUNY (City University of New York), but he was not a professional economist. He specialised in the analysis of advertising and its effects on the recruitment of customers (particularly children). So he was both able to advise the cigarette companies as to how they could make smoking more attractive to teenagers, and simultaneously provide convoluted arguments to explain to Congress and the media why advertising had no effect on recruiting new smokers. Therefore, he maintained, advertising bans would serve no purpose.

[Note: implicit in this claim was the corollary that advertising had no benefits for the tobacco industry!]

Since he was willing to write on economic matters as well as on advertising, he was enlisted as a member of the Cash-for-Comments Economists Network run secretly for the Tobacco Institute by lobbyists James Savarese and economics Professor Robert Tollison through an academic/libertarian think-tank the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.

When required, Boddewyn also performed many other services for the tobacco industry -- appearing as a witness at Congressional hearings, writing op-eds, travelling the world to lecture at journalist briefings, advertising seminars, etc. In return, the tobacco industry paid him generously and boosted his reputation as the preeminent 'independent academic' expert on advertising's effects on children.

Advertising has no effect on recruiting children

Boddewyn was most useful to the tobacco industry when he was coupled with Glen Smith of the Children's Research Unit (originally based in Australia, then in London) who was paid by the industry to conduct slanted surveys of childhood smoking practices in many countries. Smith provided the data, and Boddewyn, the analysis: resulting in regular claims that tobacco advertising had no appreciable influence on the young -- which frankly defied any logic, but proved to be valuable anyway. Politicians supporting the tobacco industry were able to base their rationalisations on such spurious claims.

So the key to Boddewyn's usefulness was not in the likelihood that he could actually persuade anyone that advertising was not effective: there was the clear evidence of the enormous tobacco company expenditures which proved otherwise. His value lay in providing pro-tobacco lobbyists and legislators with an expert-supported argument they could use to explain their political inaction. Politicians in the pay of the tobacco industry could always refer to Boddewyn's political expertise in support of their own ideological claims about the need for unfettered free-markets and the legal-construction known as the right to Commercial Free Speech -- provided tobacco continued to fund their political campaigns.

It is doubtful that anyone in politics actually believe him about the ineffectiveness of advertising: they were also professionals in the persuasion business. But that wasn't the point. He provided them with the pseudo-rationale arguments they needed.

Boddewyn's value therefore largely lay in his ability to exploit his academic credentials from CUNY. In return the tobacco industry boosted his personal standing among the advertising fraternity: hailing him as the guru of advertising research. He was very clever at spouting pseudo-scientific jargon to prop up the very shaky claim that advertising only made smokers switch brands -- and played no role in initiation or increase in consumption. And he had boilerplate research material that could be quickly cobbled together to generate another report or op-ed when needed. It provided him with a comfortable and wealthy life-style, without needing much effort.

Journalists, editors and publishers also needed to justify their desire to retain the financial income from cigarette advertising against clear daily evidence that cigarettes were killing their readers. Politician needed to justify their votes in support of an industry which globally killed millions of people annually. Boddewyn was a very useful man to have on-side.

The Cash-for-Comments Economists Network

Professional tobacco lobbyist James Savarese and Public Choice economist Professor Robert Tollison of George Mason University collaborated in the 1980s and '90s to provide the tobacco industry (through the Tobacco Institute) with networks of academics in various disciplines who would be willing to write and sprout propaganda material ... provided the payments for these services were not directly tracealble back to the Institute or to any of the cigarette companies.

The idea was simply that these academic 'sleepers' would be available on a cash-for-services basis when needed to counter attempts to increase excise taxes or to ban public smoking. They were also recruited to appear as 'independent experts' at Congressional hearings and promote the industry causes while operating through the network, and therefore able to deny any direct connections with the tobacco industry. One of their most persuasive claims was ..."I am a non-smoker, and I have never worked for a tobacco company!"

The academics were always expected to wave their own and their university's credentials vigorously, and loudly proclaim their "independence' from any crass-commercial motives. And those who could boast of being 'non-smokers' were especially prized -- since, without nicotine addiction, their non-dependent-on-tobacco status was thought to be established beyond any doubt!

Jean Boddewyn was one of the more successful academics in this regard. He probably made more from tobacco than he ever did from teaching.

Note the University of California at San Francisco has made available a video clip of Boddewyn giving evidence at a House Commitee hearing on HR 4972.[2]

Documents & TimeLine

1981 June 11 The Hill & Knowlton subsidiary Campbell-Johnson has recorded press, radio and TV coverage of the tobacco industry. They noted:

"Ad experiment"
American academic JJ Boddewyn, professor of international business at the City University of New York, told an international symposium on comparison advertising in Brussels that it is time for countries such as Belgium to experiment with comparative advertising -- although such a experiment would need to be carefully controlled/
Professor Boddewyn said that it would be tempting to exclude products such as tobacco or alcohol from comparison advertising, but legislators should resist this temptation because lobby groups would spring up to extend such bans. The only exception he advocated was a ban of comparison ads primarily directed to children under 12.[3]

1983 Apr A Jean J Boddewyn press release is being drafted by the Tobacco Institute. This release is more interesting for what was being edited out, than in what remains. He had testified before the Legislative Committee of the Canadian House of Commons "with regard to the connection between cigarette advertising and the incidence of smoking by teenagers.

Although some critics of tobacco advertising contend that it is a significant influence on the decision by young people to start smoking, government statistics show a 33 percent decline in the incidence of smoking among 15-19 year-olds between 1970 and 1985 and a 27 percent decline in the incidence of smoking among 20-24 year-old during the same period.
Plainly, tobacco product advertising in Canada cannot be having the pied-piper effect on young people that its critics claim. [4]

1983 Oct The International Advertising Association (IAA) had selected Boddeyn to edit a 34-page pamphlet on Tobacco Advertising Bans and Consumption in 16 Countries. He discovered that advertising had no recruitment effect -- which, if true, would mean that the industry would die out at the same rate as its older smokers died of lung-cancer. [5]

Boddewyn appears to have transferred from being a consultant/lobbyist for the International Advertising Agency, to being a lobbyist for the tobacco industry at about this time.

1984 Oct 29 The Board of Directors meeting of INFOTAB at Phoenix heard:

Products now available to members include the CATAC kit in English, the "5 Arguments" published under IAA imprint (English and Spanish), "Results of Advertising Bans in 16 Countries" edited by Professor Boddewyn and published by the IAA (English and Spanish) [6] and "Advertising and Cigarette Consumption" by M. Waterson, UK Advertising Association, now in its 5th edition.

The original CATAC arguments have been revised and two new arguments added . The package, with each argument being printed as a separate leaflet for more convenient use in submission work, was presented and distributed at the October workshop .

INFOTAB also encouraged M .J . Waterson of the UK Advertising Association to publish as a booklet the highly successful presentation given to the Council of Europe (Health Division) and a number of other distinguished bodies. Called "Advertising, Brands and Markets", this is now available and is a sound addition to our literature.

[Note: CATAC = Committee Against Tobacco Advertising Censorship (an astroturf operation) created by London PR agency Daniel J Edelman, for the Defence of Advertising Committee (DAC) which included tobacco and advertising companies. The budget for CATAC in this year was $1 million, of which $901,000 had already been spent.]

1984 Dec 28 Boddewyn was off to celebrate New Year in Hong Kong, along with two other tobacco industry lobbyists.
Jean Boddewyn [CUNY], Paul de Win (Fed.World Advertisers) and Glen Smith (CRU) will be witnesses in Hong Kong at a Jan 8th hearing on advertising. [8]

1985 Boddwyn has been quoted in a book "Smoking and Society" Towards a More Balanced Assessment" edited by Robert Tollison (who ran the Cash-for-Comments Economists Network for the Tobacco Institute.) [9] He had been present at a conference in New York which was exclusively attended by paid tobacco industry academic consultants.
Boddewyn's words of wisdom, thought worthy of republication, were

Tobacco advertising is mainly a vehicle for tobacco companies to compete for the business of existing smokers, rather than to recruit new ones. [10]

The book (in draft form with B&W Tobacco) records his contributions:

J .J . Boddewyn examines the role of tobacco advertising in a free society . His argument addresses three basic issues.

  • First, he stresses the important but limited role of advertising in a free market system . Not only is advertising only one of many factors influencing consumer decisions, but it is probably not a very key factor . Tobacco advertising, for example, seems to be more a consequence of consumer decisions to smoke than a cause, and econometric evidence suggests that such advertising does not expand the total demand for cigarettes . Moreover, bans on advertising tend to do more harm than good, causing the spread of product innovation to be impeded.
  • Second, Boddewyn argues that government's ability to regulate tobacco advertising is, or should be, limited. Governments have limited regulatory resources, and the mass of public opinion in most Western countries today is running against the further encroachment of government regulation over the private sector . In addition, advertising is accorded limited constitutional protection in the U .S.
  • Third, Boddewyn argues that the attack on tobacco advertising has serious implications for a free society that go beyond the issue of smoking per se . For example, where does one draw the line with respect to the advertising of so-called "objectionable" products -- at tobacco, at alcohol, at tea, at coffee, at salt, at eggs, at red meat, where? The danger of such a trend is self-evident.
In sum, Boddewyn offers a strong brief for the view that tobacco advertising is not the reason that people smoke, and that restrictions on such advertising carry serious implications for the producers and consumers of other products in a free economy .

1986 July Conservative columnist George Wills declared a ban on cigarette advertising to be both constitutional and desirable. But in May 1987, Wills had changed his mind. In his column he wrote

Chastened, I am now prepared to concede that a [tobacco advertising] ban may not be prudent and probably is beside the point . . . Clearly factors other than advertising are shaping attitudes.

This reversal in attitudes is ascribed by the Washington Legal Foundation (itself a lobbyist for tobacco) as an example of common sense. However the same issue of the Tobacco Observer carried a story praising

"the work of Dr. Jean J Boddewyn of Baruch College who found the incidence of smoking among your people higher in many countries where advertising is banned or restricted than where it is not.

Boddewyn later joined forces with the Washington Legal Foundation. [11]

1989 Boddewyn was now linked up with Glen Smith and his Children's Research Unit. This Tobacco Institute document claims that the industry had already taken strict measure to address youth smoking. They maintain that in 1964 they adopted a code of practice which forbids endorsement by noted sports figures and other celebrities with appeal to youth, and in in 1969 they offered voluntarily to end commercials on radio and TV. They also stopped giving out free sample cigarettes in public places near schools.

[Note: it transpired that the most effective way to recruit teenagers to smoking, was to tell them that children shouldn't smoke -- it was purely an adult habit.]

In 1989, Jean Boddewyn, professor or marketing at Baruch College, (CUNY) edited an international survey on juvenile smoking conducted by The Children's Research Unit in London, England. He concluded "[The study] provides strong evidence that advertising plays a minuscule role in the initiation of smoking by the young … family and peer influences appear to be the determining factors in juvenile smoking initiation." [12]

[The most relevant factor in creating a desire among juveniles to smoke was the repetition by adults that children "shouldn't because it was an adult habit"]

1990 A Tobacco Institute pamphlet "… On Youth Smoking" challenges the claims that advertising encourages children to smoke.

In 1989, Jean Boddewyn, professor of marketing at Baruch College (City University of New York), edited an international survey on juvenile smoking conducted by The Children's Research Unit in London, England. He concluded, "[The study] provides strong evidence that advertising plays a minuscule role in the initiation of smoking by the and peer influences appear to be the determining factors in juvenile smoking initiation." [13]

1992 Feb 25 British-American Tobacco is picking up Boddewyn's travel costs for flights from New York to Panama City and then San Jose before returning to New York. He is taking his wife along for the ride. [Total cost to BAT for air-fares alone, $1,714] [14]

[He was attending a BAT conference in the Caribbean island of Tobago: San Jose and Panama City are both transit points for small airlines to the islands.]

1992 Mar 2 Boddewyn received a thank-you letter from Richard F Davies, one of BAT's Issues Management staff in the UK, for some photos of them together in Tobago. [15]

1992 Aug 4 Joshua S Slavitt (Manager, Issues Planning) of Philip Morris USA has sent a memo to his legal associate, Clare Purcell (Manager Legal Issues, PM Management Corp.) on the (so-called) Boddewyn Study. He has already sent her the draft, and is now sending her the Contract Request items for making the study.
Boddewyn has been contacted for $6,000 + expenses and payments for hearings.
1. He is to produce:

  • a 25-50 page report on Marlboro Brand Imagery and why it was designed, and for what marketing audience.
  • he is also to "discuss and refute claims that Marlboro marketing activities are aimed at children; discuss potential for peripheral exposure and the affects of such exposure.
  • discuss studies on this subject, especially those in medical journals
  • raise the issue of why the Surgeon-General and other health professionals obtain such a high level of credibility when discussing advertising -- a subject then know very little about,

2. He must be prepared to discuss the findings of this (pseudo) study either at hearings or other public forums. [16]

[Note: If this was intended to be anything other than fairy-floss propaganda, Slavitt wouldn't need to ask an outsider about the design and intentional of Marlboro. Philip Morris is generally held up to be one of the most sophisticated marketing organisations in the world. The reason why the Surgeon General has a higher level of credibility than marketing experts from CUNY is because he is involved in promoting the public-good, rather than lining his own pockets.]

1992 Oct 29 Boddewyn is now working for British-American Tobacco's "Issues Management" division run by Sharon Boyse. He is concerned that he hasn't received payment and expenses reimbursement from Indonesia, however he has been paid for Taiwan. [17]

1993 July 11 Letter from Jean Boddewyn to Sharon Boyse, the main dissembler and strategist at British-American Tobacco, regarding African-Asian meetings to be held in October. He wants deadline dates for his 'advanced duplications', and he needs to have some of his overhead project transparencies (previously done by Philip Morris) to be redone with the new data he will gather. [18]