[FOUNTAIN]Marlboro men swagger"The newspapers say that smoking causes lung cancer."
"I know. I shudder whenever I read those stories."
"Well, I decided to quit."
"Great! You're going to quit smoking!"
"No, I'm going to quit reading newspapers."
The joke may be outdated in our society, where anti-smoking campaigns abound. Only a few days ago, the World Health Organization said that 4.9 million people in the world die annually from smoking-related diseases.
It is not well known that Philip Morris's flagship cigarette brand, Marlboro, was originally introduced as a woman's cigarette. In 1847 in London, the brand was introduced with the slogan, "Women's Favorite." The brand did not do so well. It was introduced in the American market in 1922, but sales were again just so-so.
The brand held only 0.25 percent of the American tobacco market in 1950, but it became the world's top seller in the 1970s after Leo Burnett, the advertising agency, did a "sex change operation" on the brand, transforming it into an image of male virility through its cowboy campaign.
Featuring images of strong silent cowpunchers against backdrops of the American West, the ad campaign pushed Marlboro to a 20 percent share of the global cigarette market. Now Marlboro is one of the world's most valuable brands, with a market value of $20 billion.
Wayne McLaren stands out among the "Marlboro Men" who have been featured in the ad campaign. Mr. McLaren, a stunt man, smoked one and a half packs of cigarettes daily for about 25 years, and died of lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 51. He became an anti-smoking crusader after developing the disease. Before his death, he asked the firm's annual shareholders meeting to voluntarily limit its advertising.
In Geneva, delegates from 190 countries are negotiating a Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and an advertising ban is a hot topic.
Some developed countries, including the United States, Japan and Germany, are opposed to an outright ban; Japan is the most passive in anti-smoking efforts, activists complain. About 53 percent of Japanese men smoke; in Korea, the figure is 55 percent. We have a lot of Marlboro Men here, too.
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun