Avoiding “Truth”: Tobacco Industry Promotion of Life Skills Training
Summary of a published paper by Lev L. Mandel, Stella Aguinaga Bialous and Stanton A. Glantz Ph.D.
The paper explains why and how two tobacco companies promoted the "Life Skills Training" program (LST), a school-based drug prevention program recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to reduce youth smoking.
For their research, the authors analyzed internal tobacco industry documents available online as of October 2005. They conducted initial searches using the keywords “life skills training,” “LST,” and “positive youth development.”
The authors found that since 1999, Philip Morris (PM) and Brown & Williamson (B&W) have worked to promote LST and to disseminate the LST program into schools across the country. As part of their effort, the companies hired a public relations firm to promote LST and a separate firm to evaluate the program. The evaluation conducted for the two companies did not show that LST was effective at reducing smoking after the first or second year of implementing the program. Despite this, the tobacco companies continued to award grants to schools for the program. PM and B&W’s role in promoting LST was found to be part of a public relations strategy to shift the “youth smoking paradigm” away from programs that highlight the tobacco industry’s behavior and toward programs in which the industry can be a partner.
The authors conclude that individuals and organizations responsible for developing and implementing tobacco control and youth smoking prevention programs should be aware of PM and B&W’s role and motivations to encourage the wide-spread adoption of LST in schools.
Lev L. Mandel M.Sc., Stella Aguinaga Bialous Dr.P.H., R.N. and Stanton A. Glantz Ph.D., Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, Journal of Adolescent Health Volume 39, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 868-879