Prize-winning Essays on Freedom of Speech, Censorship & Advertising Bans was published in 1987 by tobacco conglomerate, Philip Morris under the banner of its magazine, Philip Morris Magazine. The 54 essays– the winners– were among over 4000 submissions to an advertisement that appeared in the September 1986 issues of “major magazines and newspapers throughout the country.”
The headline for the ad was “Is Liberty Worth Writing For? Our Founders Thought So. And We Think So Too.”
Beginning in the early ’60s and gaining stream through the ’70 the move was on to ban tobacco advertising. Legislation banning advertising on radio and television was passed, and signed into law, in late 1970 but did not go into effect until January 1, 1971 so that tobacco companies could have one last advertising countdown on 12/31/70.
If you are interested in the history of the relationship between big government masquerading as big daddy and big business, the history of big tobacco is a great case study. (By the way, if you are disinclined to like Haley Barbour and Trent Lott– two old codgers who need to jest get ’em a big old fishin’ boat and sail off into the sunset so we never have to hear from them again (take Thad, too please)– recall their role in the big tobacco legislation/lawsuits. And then heave ho in that chum bucket.)
Anywhoo… The advertisement for essays was itself controversial.
Anti-smoking forces fought back with an essay contest of their own. A group called Doctors Ought to Care, or DOC, said it would award a $1,000 first prize to the law student who could come up with the best essay on the question of whether tobacco company executives should be criminally liable for deaths and injuries caused by smoking.
The contest drew six entries, said Dr. Alan Blum of Houston, who heads the group. None of them was judged good enough to win, he said, adding, ”We’re going to try again.”
[Editorial aside– those were the days, right? None of the six were judged good enough to win and collectively they didn’t even get a trophy for participating. Too bad,]
So. That is the skinny on American Voices except to say that Philip Morris donated a copy of the book to every library in the land.
On the one hand we have big tobacco paying 54 winners a grand total of $81,000 in prize money to do its public relations; on the other we have a book about the First Amendment being freely distributed to every library in the land.
But, hey. It was a free(er) country back then. Remember?