The tobacco industry is particularly significant for those seeking to understand modern public relations techniques and the operations of specific companies for two reasons. Firstly, as a global industry that came under sustained criticism from the mid-twentieth century onwards, it pioneered many big-budget campaigns that fueled the growth and evolution of the public relations industry. Secondly, as a result of legal actions against the major tobacco companies, there are now over 40 million pages of internal company documents publicly available on searchable websites that provide a fascinating insight into the inner workings of past and still running campaigns.
- 1 Tobacco industry strategies/arguments to deflect legislation
- 2 The Tobacco Industry's Secondhand Science
- 3 Case studies
- 4 Resources
- 5 Other SourceWatch resources
- 6 External links
Tobacco industry strategies/arguments to deflect legislation
The tobacco industry pioneered strategies to take the focus off of the health, safety and environmental hazards posed by detrimental products, and shift attention onto topics considered more favorable to the industry. Many of the argumentation strategies developed by the tobacco industry have since been adopted and widely utilized by other industry groups, for example the Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents plastic bag manufacturers trying to fight bans on plastic grocery bags, and the Direct Marketing Association, which formed the front group Mail Moves America to fight legislated "do not mail" lists which would allow consumers to stop the flow of junk mail coming to their homes. The basic argumentation strategies are listed below:
1) Shift the focus of the debate away from the health, safety and/or the environmental damage caused by a product and onto the economic contribution that the detrimental product makes to the country;
2) Argue that legislation against the detrimental product is unnecessary, and that personal responsibility and industry self-regulation are preferable to legislation;
3) Argue that advertising is a necessary conduit through which important information is delivered to consumers;
4) Argue that businesses would be seriously disadvantaged by legislation regulating the damaging product;
5) Draw analogies between the detrimental product and less hazardous or bothersome products that require no warnings or pose no threats;
6) Propose or introduce weak legislation or regulation that would yield no measurable impact on production or sales of the product, but that would create an appearance that something is being done to ameliorate the problems the detrimental product causes;
7) Pretend to take internal action to ameliorate problems caused by the detrimental product by developing internal programs, funding coalitions, "independent" research, etc.;
8) Fund research through "credible" third parties showing the detrimental product is not dangerous or problematic, or is less dangerous or problematic than thought;
9) File legal challenges against any laws or regulations of the product that do pass.
The Tobacco Industry's Secondhand Science
A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that the tobacco industry "recruited and managed an international network of more than 80 scientific and medical experts in Europe, Asia and elsewhere in a bid to avoid regulations on secondhand smoke."
In 1991 alone, the industry spent $3.3 million (2.8 m Euros) on the program, according to company documents. The program's goal was "to influence policy makers, media and the public" by having industry consultants attend conferences, present papers and lobby, all while hiding or obscuring the tobacco industry's role. The program began in 1987. By 1991, "every member of the organising committee of an international conference on indoor air quality in Bangkok ... was a tobacco industry consultant." And, "as of early 2004, no document has been located indicating that the program has been terminated." 
- How Tobacco and PR Grew Up Together
- Three out of Four Flacks Agree: No Ifs About Butts
- Burson-Marsteller and the National Smokers Alliance
- PR Week Offers Free Advice to Philip Morris
- Tobacco's Secondhand Science of Smoke-Filled Rooms
- State Affairs Company attacks public interest groups
- Contributions Watch
- The U.S. Government's racketeering case against Big Tobacco
- Tobacco Industry Marketing Aimed At Ethnic Groups
- Assunta M, Chapman S, University of Sydney School of Public Health A mire of highly subjective and ineffective voluntary guidelines: tobacco industry efforts to thwart tobacco control in Malaysia Tobacco Control 2004;13:ii43-ii50
- Americans for Nonsmokers Rights What to Expect from the Tobacco Industry Report. May, 2006
- Americans for Nonsmokers Rights Tobacco Industry Sound Bites and Responses Report. August, 2004
- Norris J, University of California San Francisco News Office New Tobacco Industry Strategy is to Appear Anti-Tobacco, Study b UCSF Health Policy Researchers Concludes News release. January 8, 1998
Other SourceWatch resources
- British American Tobacco
- Philip Morris
- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
- Imperial Tobacco
- Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation
- Rothmans Tobacco
- American Tobacco
Tobacco Industry Lobby Groups
- Tobacco Manufacturers Association
- National Smokers Alliance
- Tobacco Institute
- Center for Indoor Air Research
- FOREST (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, United Kingdom)
Other Tobacco Related Articles
- The U.S. Government's racketeering case against Big Tobacco
- Devil's Weed
- Secondhand smoke
- Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108) 2007 (Philip Morris-backed legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration to partially control tobacco, introduced February 15, 2007)
Researching The Tobacco Industry
- How to research front groups
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library Online archive containing approximately 40 million pages of previously-secret internal tobacco industry documents
- British American Tobacco Documents Archive Online archive of approximately 7 million pages of previously-secret British American Tobacco (BAT) company documents
- UCSF Tobacco Industry Videos Collection Contains audiotapes and videotapes related to the advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific research of tobacco products as well as materials gathered and produced by tobacco control advocates.
- Tony Paterson, "German health experts 'paid by tobacco firms'", The Independent, June 7, 2005.
- Jamie Doward and Lea Teuscher, "Tobacco firms' subtle tactics lure smokers to their brand: Philip Morris and other cigarette giants take to subliminal style messages after cigarette advertising is banned," The Observer (UK), September 25, 2005.
- Richard W Pollay, "Propaganda, Puffing and the Public Interest", Public Relations Review, Volume XVI, Number 3, Fall 1990.
- Roger Dobson, "Study shows how tobacco firms recruited scientists covertly", British Medical Journal, British Mediacl Journal, Volume 332, February 13, 2006, page 321. (Sub req'd)
- Andrew Martin, "Wall Street Finds a Lot to Like About Tobacco," New York Times, January 31, 2007.
- Roger Harris, "Some Tobacco Facts and Myths,".