New ads accuse Big Tobacco of targeting soldiers and people with mental illness

By William Wan

Truth Initiative, a leading tobacco-control nonprofit, has bought TV ads to run this Sunday during MTV’s Music Awards that accuse tobacco companies of purposely targeting mentally ill people and U.S. soldiers.

The ads focus on this stark but little known fact: Roughly 40 percent of cigarettes sold in the U.S. are smoked by people with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety or substance-abuse problems.

The ads also note that 38 percent of military smokers start after enlisting.

Robin Koval, chief executive of Truth Initiative, accused tobacco companies of exploiting the mentally ill and military for profit.

“As the number of smokers drops, the industry is finding it harder and harder to find those replacement smokers,” Koval said in an interview. “So the industry is targeting people based on their challenges in life, on who they are. It’s shocking and appalling.”

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