Project Rainbow

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

"Project Rainbow" was conceived by Philip Morris' lawyers in 1990-91 in the wake of the Rose Defrancesco Cipollone case in the United States. The Cipollone case was the first U.S. case against the tobacco industry that involved a loss for the industry. The idea behind Project Rainbow was to pass federal legislation that would confer immunity on the tobacco industry from future personal injury lawsuits in exchange for accepting severe marketing and advertising restrictions, or even a total ban, on advertising and promotion of tobacco products.

PM has long believed that increasingly severe restrictions on advertising, and even a total ban on all forms of advertising and promotion of cigarettes, was inevitable. A 1991 internal PM memo makes it clear, though, that PM would not concede to such restrictions without extracting something very valuable in return.

Clearly, if we felt it was inevitable that Congress is likely to pass an ad ban or other major restrictions on advertising in the future, then it would make sense to seek a legislative compromise now while we still have bargaining power and leverage...[From Page 3, Bates No. 2023027867]

PM believed Project Rainbow would help defuse growing criticism of the company and the tobacco industry as a whole:

II. Possible Objectives of Project Rainbow
...D. To reduce the level of criticism directed toward Philip Morris and the rest of the industry... the elimination or severe restriction of cigarette advertising would diminish one of the principal focal points of our antagonists' criticism. This could lead to a diminution of the attacks against us and of the level of hostile rhetoric... [From page 3, Bates No. 2023027867]

The memo also indicates that PM was prepared in 1991 to accept a total ban on advertising:

Bill Campbell has some concerns about agreeing to major concessions that might hamper our marketing efforts. Nevertheless, he and the other members of the working group are prepared to recommend all of the concessions set forth on the attachment, including a total ban on advertising and event promotions -- provided that any ban be phased in over a five-year period.[From Page 4, Bates No. 2023027868]

This is a particularly important document in light of Philip Morris' ongoing plan to enact Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of tobacco. The list of objectives PM laid out for Project Rainbow match almost perfectly with its current objectives for FDA regulation:

Possible Objectives of Project Rainbow

We have identified four possible objectives of Project Rainbow; they are listed below...

A. Reaffirmation of Preemption -- We believe that this is the most important objective and the only one which would justify making significant advertising and promotion concessions...

B. To forestall legislative action that would be at least as bad or worse than the concessions we are contemplating...

C. To secure a competitive advantage...

D. To reduce the level of criticism directed toward Philip Morris and the rest of the industry...

Related Sourcewatch resources

External resources


  1. Bring MH, Philip MorrisProject Rainbow Memorandum. January 24, 1991. Bates No. 2023027865/7868

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