The Tobacco Institute was the umbrella trade and lobbying association for the U.S. tobacco industry. As a result of the settlement of a legal action brought against the industry by the U.S. National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) that resulted in the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998, the Institute was forced to disband and its internal records were placed on a searchable website.
The purpose of the Institute was to defeat legislation unfavorable to the tobacco industry, put a positive spin on the industry, bolster the industry's credibility with legislators and the public and help maintain the controversy over "the primary issue" (the health issue).
An 8-page "Status Report and Update" from the Institute dated 1976 describes the function of the Institute with relation to its member companies [from Page 3]:
...the Institute acts as official spokesman for the industry, always reflecting official [strategy] position agreed upon by all members.
The report summarizes the disinformation campaign conducted by the Institute on behalf of the American cigarette manufacturers [from Page 6]:
In summation, then, the basic public relations strategy of American manufacturers responding to the smoking and health controversy is funneled through the Tobacco Institute and concentrates on the following techniques and practices:
(1) Publicizing scientific research funded by the industry which produces counter evidence to unfavorable findings or, at least, helps to keep the question open,
(2) Conducting public information campaigns against the claims of anti-cigarette groups and individuals...
Thus, while today the tobacco industry defends itself by holding out that "everyone knew" about the dangers of smoking, in 1976 they were employing a broad range of public relations tactics to keep citizens of the U.S. from concluding that smoking was, in fact, dangerous.
(The above document was used by the state of Oklahoma in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry in 1997.)
In 1988 Tobacco Institute President Samuel D. Chilcote, Jr., in a briefing for the Institute Chairman about progress the Institute was making against the anti-tobacco movement at that time, stated that the "primary mission [of the Tobacco Institute] is to defeat legislation." The Institute was highly effective at defeating legislation. Chilcote stated that between 1979 and 1987 the industry faced 583 bills of concern to the industry nationwide, and defeated or postponed 93% of them. 
During the $280 billion U.S. federal lawsuit against big tobacco, Georgetown University professor and former tobacco industry consultant Sorell Schwartz testified that the Tobacco Institute had pressured him and other researchers to "take a more advocative position" about such issues as secondhand smoke. In particular, "Schwartz blamed the advocacy pressure on the Tobacco Institute's public relations team, 'who felt that we were not being cooperative enough.'"
Tobacco Institute and tobacco company lawyer from 1981 to 1995 John Rupp (now a partner at the Covington & Burling law and lobbying firm) countered Schwartz's charges at the federal trial. He said "the industry sought out scientists and paid them to make an 'objective appraisal' of whether secondhand smoke was harmful to non-smokers, a move they hoped would dispel the 'extreme views' of some anti-smoking activists." He claimed that "the scientists, who came from prestigious institutions such as Georgetown University and the University of Massachusetts, did not consider themselves to be working 'on behalf' of cigarette makers even though they were being paid by the industry." But government lawyers showed documents "that described the research initiative as a 'weapon' to be used in a 'battle' with anti-smoking groups, and that part of Rupp's job was to 'horse-shed' scientists to make sure they stuck to the tobacco industry line," according to Reuters. 
In a February 1989 speech to the Executive Committee of the now-defunct Tobacco Institute, the group's Senior Vice President, Charles Powers, sought to save the industry's covert "Scientific Witness Program" from impending budget cuts. The program, he said, featured experts "who are our front line of defense in tax, public smoking and advertising hearings every day." 
Powers complained that "scientists will not buck for love" the scientific consensus on the link between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and health impacts. "It takes money," he said. "The Institute can't do it and be taken seriously. We need people who have earned reputations as serious researchers...who can review and critique articles, publish and act as peer reviewers," he said. Powers estimated that it cost an average of $40,000 and took six weeks to identify and train a single expert. 
The Tobacco Institute was parodied as the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the 1994 Christopher Buckley novel and 2006 film "Thank You For Smoking." 
Tobacco Institute Documents
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/ (Deselect the other companies to conduct a search among only Tobacco Institute documents.)
- Tobacco Institute's Own Document Archive: http://www.tobaccoinstitute.com/
- Collections of Tobacco Researchers: http://tobaccodocuments.org/
- Susan Heavey, "Professor Says Pressured to Be Tobacco Advocate," Reuters, October 28, 2004.
- Peter Kaplan, "Tobacco Lawyer Denies Deception on Secondhand Smoke," Reuters, October 27, 2004.
- Tobacco Institute STATUS REPORT AND UPDATE PUBLIC RELATIONS STRATEGY OF U.S. TOBACCO MANUFACTURERS RE SMOKING & HEALTH CONTROVERSY Report. May 1, 1976. 8 pp. Bates No. May 1, 1976
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