Operation Apodixis was a 1996 Philip Morris (PM) plan to implement a "youth program" to insulate the company from attacks by public health advocates, boost the company's record low credibility and "blunt the FDA effort to regulate tobacco." The creator of the idea, Smith Worldwide, was run by Guy L. Smith, IV, who worked for Philip Morris for many years.
A proposal for Operation Apodixis states,
- The credibility of the tobacco industry and the executives who run it has reached an all-time low ... Traditional industry allies are abandoning the ship. The industry is becoming more and more isolated ...:
To help this situation, Smith proposed PM initiate a youth anti-smoking program through credible conduits. Smith proposed that PM "establish and fund, through major social organizations (e.g. the nation's private hospitals, large black churches...community health and civic organizations)... anti-smoking programs for children ..."
Smith further proposed that PM have no input into the content of the program or selection of the organizations to conduct the programs. This would enable PM to "challenge the anti-smoking forces to 'audit' the anti-smoking classes and report to the news media what they find."
Smith explained how the youth program would force positive publicity for the tobacco industry while curtailing criticism from public health advocates:
Operation Apodixis will provide the company with a highly believable program, largely above reproach ... Operation Apodixis will force grudging compliments from editorial writers and columnists and sullen acquiescence from the anti-smoking forces ... Each time an Operation Apodixis program opens in a new community, a new opportunity will present itself for publicity and promotion for the industry ... [There] will be little that the anti-smoking forces can say except possibly mumbling something about 'it's not enough.'
The strategic rationale for the program included "Keeping the anti-smoking forces off balance" and ". . .blunt[ing] the FDA effort to regulate tobacco by demonstrating that the industry can be self-regulatory. And that is a powerful, credible argument to members of Congress and state legislatures."
The idea was to inhibit public health progress against tobacco while at the same time making the company appear responsible and self-regulating.
It appears that Operation Apodixis was in fact carried out, and that the strategy proved so effective that PM expanded upon it greatly following its initial implementation. In 1999 PM funded the National 4H Club to implement a youth program exactly like Operation Apodixis. The program is called "Health Rocks." On par with the Apodixis plan, the "Health Rocks" web site states that "All aspects of the program, including its curriculum, implementation and evaluation, are independent from the initiative’s funder, Philip Morris U.S.A." In addition, PM touts "Health Rocks," and many other PM-funded youth programs on its web site: http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/policies_practices/ysp/grant_programs/nonschool_hour_program.asp
In the time since Operation Apodixis was introduced, many state 4-H clubs have opposed using the PM-funded program. The California 4H club stated, "...Health Rocks! has been developed by the National 4-H Council with funding from Philip Morris USA as part of that corporation's recent youth smoking prevention initiative...[T]obacco prevention advocates and other public health professionals...view the initiative as a politically motivated strategy that benefits the corporation in several ways and gives the appearance of corporate responsibility, while being ultimately detrimental to the public health goal of reducing youth tobacco use." (From California 4H web site at 
Related Sourcewatch resources
- Tobacco industry marketing aimed at youth
- Tobacco Industry Youth Smoking Prevention Programs
- Proposal for an industry youth program
- Tobacco Institute Youth Smoking Prevention Program Discussion Paper
- Anne Landman, Pam Ling, Stanton Glantz Tobacco Industry Youth Smoking Prevention Programs: Protecting the Industry and Hurting Tobacco Control American Journal of Public Health. 2002 June; 92(6): 917–930
- Operation Apodixis TobaccoDocuments.org, summary of document by Anne Landman
- Smith Worldwide,Operation Apodixis, 1996 estimated date, Philip Morris collection, Bates No.2048303695