INFOTAB

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

INFOTAB is an acronym that stands for International Tobacco Information Center/Centre International D'Information du Tabac.

TERMS, PEOPLE, ETC.
ICOSI = International Committee on Smoking Issues.: The global coordinator of tobacco disinformation It became INFOTAB in 1978. See also Operation Berkshire.
TDC = Tobacco Document Center. This was a later manifestation of ICOSI and INFOTAB when things got too hot.
Bill Murray: CEO and Chairman Philip Morris. The main strategist for the tobacco industry.
Mary Covington: Relative of C&B founder who worked for PM. She was a daughter or grand-daughter of Covington & Burling founder who worked on tobacco disinformation projects.
Bryan Simpson: Oiginally a News Ltd Australian employee. He was recruited to head Media Council of Australia .

INFOTAB was formed by the major transnational tobacco companies in 1978, nominally to serve as a global clearinghouse for smoking-related publications, articles and legislative information. INFOTAB evolved from an original predecessor organization called International Committee on Smoking Issues and is identified in tobacco industry documents by the acronym ICOSI.

The major multinational tobacco companies formed ICOSI/INFOTAB to coordinate countermeasures against worldwide public health efforts to control smoking. The organization was established at the end of 1978 as a nonprofit association under Swiss law. The name was changed from the original name, International Committee on Smoking Issues, because because of sentiments within the industry that it "stated too aggressively and in a somewhat negative tone our objective, " and tended to "draw attention to the members." The new name was "more neutral," and focused on a "neutral center," the group's secretariat. The Secretariat office was registered in 1979 in Brussels, Belgium. The seven founding corporate members of INFOTAB were:

Why the companies formed INFOTAB

The founding companies realized that smoking restrictions were spreading quickly around the world as a result of increased public understanding of the link between smoking and disease. They were concerned that smoking restrictions were starting to "spill over" from one country, and one continent, to the next, and that something had to be done to slow or stop the trend. They also were alarmed that the international campaign against smoking was becoming increasingly well coordinated worldwide. The companies noted that their problems began in 1967, when the First World Conference on Smoking and Health was held in New York. At that meeting, and the next two subsequent meetings that followed in 1971 and 1975, the topics discussed were usually scientific in nature. However at the subsequent meetings, participants began exchanging more political information and communications strategies to fight tobacco use. The tobacco industry realized it lacked a similar international infrastructure to fight public health. [2]

Purpose of INFOTAB/How the companies used INFOTAB

According to internal tobacco company documents, INFOTAB was formed to assist the global tobacco industry in establishing an "early warning" system for anti-smoking initiatives worldwide, as a counterbalance to the World Health Organization's World Conferences on Smoking or Health. INFOTAB's goals were to "track activities of pressure groups and international consumer unions" and "to take industry programs to the grass roots and municipal levels" to help the industry to prevail over public health efforts to reduce smoking.[Taken from Philip Morris document 2501029902/9918, "The Role of INFOTAB" which can be seen at [1])

INFOTAB also served as a vehicle through which the international tobacco companies carried out projects to undermine public health efforts. A British American Tobacco document (labeled Bates No. 301150924) which introduces the INFOTAB ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] Project discusses how The Project involved the global tobacco companies working together to mount an "internationally cohesive campaign" to fight legislation regulating public smoking. The document begins,

Environmental tobacco smoke is the subject of increasing concern worldwide. To resist the legislation that may result from this concern, the industry should mount an internationally cohesive campaign.

It continues,

Infotab is generating a strategy for managing the ETS issue, to emphasize the doubts that have been expressed in the scientific debate about the alleged hazards of ETS... A common strategic line in many countries simultaneously will have a beneficial effect on the industry worldwide.

The document indicates that the global tobacco companies sought to act in concert worldwide to obscure information about the health effects of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. The distribution list for the Infotab ETS Project document includes groups representing tobacco interests ("National Manufacturers Associations", or NMAs) in Malaysia, Switzerland, France, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, Norway, Argentina, Australia, the United States, West Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom, representatives of Rothmans, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, Reentsma, Philip Morris and Shook, Hardy and Bacon (U.S. tobacco industry attorneys).[2]

To help undermine public health campaigns globally, members of INFOTAB established National Tobacco Manufacturers Associations (NMAs) in smaller countries where none had existed, to serve as functional equivalents of the Tobacco Institute in the U.S., and to work as coordinating bodies to fight legislation limiting public smoking or the distribution and marketing of tobacco products.

According to an industry document describing INFOTAB,

Our strategic objective is to help the industry around the world prevent unreasonable restrictions on its operations and help smokers preserve their freedom to choose to smoke...

By 1981, INFOTAB had a staff of twelve people. INFOTAB put an emphasis on "early warning information to help the industry anticipate potential issues and anti-smoking initiatives," so they could gear up to fight them. INFOTAB performed surveillance and investigation of public health and consumer groups.

INFOTAB consisted of "lead companies" and "associated" or affiliated members. Lead companies served as the central coordinating points in specific countries around the world, distributing polls, studies and surveys to smaller companies or allied affiliates. INFOTAB held workshops on smoking issues, and worked to take public health countermeasures to the grassroots and municipal levels. [3]

In 1990, INFOTAB issued a publication entitled, "Children & Smoking: The Balanced View" that addressed a number of claims made about tobacco by the World Health Organization. The publication stated that tobacco is not addictive, and that there were inconsistent findings whether smoking causes low birth weight, birth defects and delayed mental and physical development in infancy.[3]

Functions of INFOTAB were eventually taken over by the Tobacco Documentation Centre, established in 1994.[4]

Sourcewatch resources

External resources

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  1. Author unknown (Philip Morris collection) The Role of INFOTAB Speech, 17 pp. November 20, 1981. Bates No. 2501029902/9918
  2. Author unknown (Philip Morris collection) The Role of INFOTAB Speech, 17 pp. November 20, 1981. Bates No. 2501029902/9918
  3. INFOTAB Children & Smoking: The Balanced View Report. April 1994. 6 pp. Bates No. TI12262042/2047
  4. United States Department of Justice DOJ SUPP PART 2 - Pages 101-200.PDF Email attachment. 100 pp. March 26, 2004. Bates No. 5001054481/5001054580, at page 110