IBWA Spokesperson Shilling For Bottled Water Without Identifying Himself as Paid Employee

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the bottled water industry’s trade organization, and while we frankly expect the same from them we expect from Nestle (a willingness to do things others might find unethical), we were frankly shocked when they signed on former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria.

A tobacco industry spokesperson seemed like an odd choice for an industry intent on selling the health benefits of its products, but then again, bottled water’s facing real opposition, and it appears thatthat doubt has – once again – become the product.

Sadly, we’ve already seen the IBWA’s willingness to do what’s expedient. When the Huffington Post rain a Lisa Kaas Boyle article outlining the sales downturns suffered by an “increasingly desperate” bottled water industry, Lauria posted a long comment (2nd page of comments, scroll down) that was a perfect recitation of the industry talking points.

Yet Mr. Lauria utterly failed to identify himself as a paid spokesperson for the IBWA, nor – as of now – did he disclose his IBWA affiliation in his Huffington Post profile.

Amusingly, one respondent to his comment said flat out: “Sorry but you sound like a shill for the bottled water corporations.


It’s called stealth marketing, and most marketers find it distasteful, if not downright unethical. I’d feign outrage, but frankly, this is pretty much what I’ve come to expect.

8 thoughts on “IBWA Spokesperson Shilling For Bottled Water Without Identifying Himself as Paid Employee

  1. Hey! This is Tom Lauria from the International Bottled Water Association. (IBWA) The trade association for water bottlers has been a trusted fixture in Washington for over 50 years. As for me, I’ve worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan and then for President Hamid Karzai’s (then) new administration. I’ve worked for MCI Telecom and for the Urban Institute. I’ve have practiced media relations and public affairs for nearly 29 years and in that time I’ve won every major PR award. Yes, I did a stint for 10 years at The Tobacco Institute, primarily on retail signage programs to prevent underage sales: “We Card.” Sounds like you might not approve of age-checking young cigarette buyers but it was and is the right thing to do. During most of that time, I was already a bottled water drinker, so this time around, the tough PR assignment is personal. Bottled water is safe, healthy and convenient. Any organization that tries to prevent people from drinking water — be it bottled or tapped — is not serving the public interest.

  2. Gee, IF the post nr. 1, is official, it really shows a degree of arrogance and ignorance, in my opinion. I’d be totally surprised if the tobacco industry would keep deadweight around for ten years to only work on a “we card” campaign. Not very cost effective. And the to make that great leap in logic to assume that if one doesn’t like “bottled water” that it “sounds like” one wouldn’t approve of carding minors when trying to by cancer producing products.

    I have YET to see one article in “stopnestlewaters.org” that advocated preventing people from drinking water. TOM, you have to let your sphincter relax and get some fresh air up there to breath man, your logic circuits are faulty. Not ALL tap water is safe nor is ALL bottled water is safe. BUT, bottled water is a drain upon the economy and the environment from my perspective. The industry has a RIGHT to exist, but should have a moral obligation to be open and honest. And you obviously have the right to prostitute your special talents to the highest bidder.

    Oh, and Tom, the IBWA may be “trusted” in Washington, but you know what liars they all are they don’t you? The REST of the country does.

  3. Thanks for stopping by Mr. Lauria. And yes, you’re lying to us right now.

    First, you did in fact mouth the bottled water industry line on HuffPo without disclosing your paid position. Yes? (Simple answer). Would you do so without the six-figure income? No.

    Second, you’re lying about your position with the Tobacco Institute. You were deeply involved in the battle to obscure the hazards of second hand smoke, and yes sir – on video, you said the tobacco industry had no programs in place to target kids (a statement which we know in retrospect is utterly false).

    In fact, according to the Center for Media & Democracy you participated in “public disinformation regarding health hazards of tobacco use, the manipulation of nicotine in tobacco products and the marketing of tobacco products to children.”

    Nice stuff.

    And because I’m not paid to work on this stuff, I’m not going to go on and on with the easy stuff that anyone could dig up on the Internet.

    we’ll even overlook the accusations that you were instrumental in tamping down media coverage of human rights abuses in Afghanistan when you worked for them.

    Why do I bring up The Tobacco Institute at all? Because those subject to your PR spin should know exactly what you’re capable of.

    In this case, you’ve regularly attacked the quality of tap water, and because you apparently learned well while at the Tobacco Institute, you also regularly construct strawmen that aren’t relevant to the discussion.

    I call Nestle a predatory multinational (and print the considerable evidence that supports my position), and you suggest I’m attacking the benefits of hydration.

    Doubt is your product, and while you’re good at producing it, don’t pretend you’re doing otherwise, at least not here.

  4. Obviously, Mr. Scamman and TC haven’t a clue about previous aspects of my career. Second-hand speculation from like-minded anti-corporate activists doesn’t make it true — it only spreads the lie to other gulible souls. Too bad; there might have been a chance for some dialogue here, but from your side all I hear are degrading comments, calling me a prostitute and mentioning private body parts with no bearing whatsover on the subject at hand. Vulgarity is not a strong suit of mine; I’ll leave that to you. If you’re ever ready to be reasonable…I’ll see what I can do to make any serious comments heard.

  5. Sorry Mr. Lauria; wrapping yourself in the cloak of a victim is a somewhat ludicrous tack, especially given the reason you’re here.

    You’re here not because you want a dialogue, but because you were called out for leaving comments on the HuffPo without identifying yourself.

    That little fact remains the point of this post, and yes – it also remains beyond dispute.

    It’s amusing that you branded me an anti-corporate zealot, but of course, I’m only anti-predatory-corporation.

    Finally your interest in a dialogue is touching, but it’s hardly real. This site has been here for almost a year, and given its placement on Google searches, I daresay Nestle and IBWA know of its existence.

    In that time, there’s been zero interest in “dialogue.”

    Of course, the time for dialogue was before Nestle subpoenaed the private financial records of my friends, or before Nestle pumped a Michigan watershed dry (and fought to continue doing so), or before… well, the posts here kinda say it all.

    Similarly, your insistence that exposing the unsavory behaviors of a predatory multinational somehow counters the public interest is just one more piece of fertilizer – and yet another example that you’re all about spin and doubt – not dialogue.

    Finally, you simply can’t represent the tobacco industry for a decade – and repeatedly state the industry doesn’t market to kids (among other things) – and expect to walk away, good reputation intact.

    Victimhood – where none is apparent – truly is the last refuge, Mr. Lauria.

  6. Tom, (or whomever you really are),
    My comment was NOT made upon any knowledge of previous aspects of your career, but upon YOUR post here, pure and simple. NO major industry keeps somebody around for ten years to work on one project. Your lack of logical progression on your postings is also questionable.
    Second, I suspect that a person of Mr. Lauria’s status has better things to do than to hover over a minor web site (sorry TC) and make comments. This leads me to believe that you are probably some shill using the name of Tom Lauria, either with or without his approval, and most likely on the pay roll of Nestle NA. Just speculation here, but your two postings do not rise to the level of education expected from a person who professes to have worked for the United States government and on behalf of a foreign country.
    Next, to sell your talents to the person willing to pay for them is prostitution. You’re selling your ‘mind’ and your ‘connections’ as others would sell their bodies. Nothing wrong with that, we all have to make a living but you really shouldn’t take offense at the truth. By the way…. doesn’t the Northern Alliance make a get a lot of their income from poppy production, followed by semi-prescious gem sales? Hope your represented them well.
    Lastly Mr Lauria, my posting contained NO VULGARITY I can assure you. When you say “I’ll see what I can do to make any serious comments heard” are you insinuating that you will tell the REAL Tom Lauria what is said? To Whom will you report? Nestle already knows what I feel about bottled water (though I do still buy other Nestle products). Your last line says much about your post.

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