National Institute for Conflict Education

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

The National Institute for Conflict Education (NICE) was a proposed phantom organisation from the collective imagination of the Tobacco Institute, which doesn't ever seem to have made much impact. However it appears to have been developed enough to have chosen its front man, the celebrity-actor Hal Holbrook (who?).

This was part of the tobacco industry's ""Accommodation"" program ( you let me smoke without complaint, and I'll let you happily breathe my second-hand smoke without charge!") The Tobacco Institute treated it as part of their Conflict Resolution Program [2]

A coalition named the National institute of Conflict Education (N.I.C.E.) will be formed to demonstrate that overreaction to annoyances, particularly to smoking, is anti-social and unacceptable behavior. The primary audience for NICE messages will be smokers; the secondary audience will be members of other coalition groups.[3]

However they wanted to hide behind a coalition, and only appear as a minor member. The others listed in the coalition proposal were to be:

  • Professional and working women
  • Restaurant owners and personnel
  • Hotel operators and personnel
  • Supervisory personnel
  • Managers
  • Minority professional associations
  • National fraternities and sororities
  • American Trucking Association
  • Car clubs

    A panel of prominent academic experts in conflict resolution will be used to provide the sociological and scientific background for the spokesperson's presentation. In specific instances, the academic panel will make presentations based on their research. Research will be tailored to reflect the specific concerns of the membership of each coalition group.

The spokesperson will play a pivotal role in the media program . He will be representing the program and will have to be well versed in the messages and goals of N.I.C.E. Regardless of the spokesperson's media experience, he will be media trained specifically for this program.

[We will] Reach smokers with the message that they are already being courteous and tolerant and it is the overreaction of nonsmokers that is anti-social. One of the situations for N.I.C.E. research would be public smoking. Results that find smokers to be courteous and nonsmokers to be unreasonable

would be forwarded to smokers. [4]

Documents & Timeline

1988 May In a series of speeches, Tobacco Institute executives explained industry strategies for fighting clean indoor air laws, creating allies, mobilizing "grassroots" support and marginalizing public health authorities. The first speaker was Susan Stuntz, then 'Director of Issues Management at the Tobacco Institute. She explained how promoting ventilation as the sole solution to tobacco smoke pollution helped the Institute "ensure that smoking restrictions are no longer seen as the best solution to cleaning up the indoor air..."

Stuntz introduced an idea for a tobacco industry front group to help counteract public concern over secondhand smoke called, the "National Institute for Conflict Education," or N.I.C.E. NICE was to feature celebrity-actor Hal Holbrook as it's spokesperson, and would perform "research," the pre-determined conclusions of which would be that by pursuing smoke-free indoor air, public health advocates were over-reacting to one of "life's everyday annoyances." The research would conclude that public health advocates were "anti-social," and smokers were just getting a "bum rap."

Stuntz explained,

We believe that annoyance is one of the keys to the social acceptability question. Smokers believe that their smoke is annoying, that they are the problem, that they are the ones who are acting in an anti-social way. Our program will demonstrate that it is the overreaction to life's everyday annoyances, including anti-smokers' overreaction to smoking, that is, in fact, the anti-social behavior. Our program would establish a broad-based coalition with a celebrity spokesperson who will cite research to show smokers that obnoxious anti-smokers are the problem... To make all of this happen, we would work with other organizations to establish a National Institute for Conflict Education...known by the acronym N.I.C.E., to conduct quantitative and qualitative research to demonstrate how normal, everyday people deal with common everyday annoyances.

The organization would show that Americans as a group view smoking as but one of life's many every day annoyances...Actor Hal Holbrook has indicated that he is interested in being the spokesman for the group. He will be supported by a team of social scientists who will help interpret and communicate research findings. With Hal Holbrook in the lead, the coalition will release its research findings through advertising in national decision-maker publications, and through media tours, op-eds and feature stories. We will enlist Holbrook's help in speaking directly to smokers..."

[Stuntz cites a benefit of N.I.C.E.] "It puts a respected celebrity in our camp, to offset some of the Captain Kangaroos out there.

The speech also talks about the industry's highly successful use of labor unions, how the industry worked to undermine the Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, and says the Institute spent about $29.5 million over 18 months to implement public affairs programs like those described in the talk. [[5]

1988 June The National Institute for Conflict Education figures in an early 1988 report by the 'Public Smoking Issues' division of the TI, (Jeffrey Ross, John Lyons, and Sharon Ransome.

We have sent a letter of agreement to E.G. Marshall outlining his proposed duties as chairman of the National Institute for Conflict Education. We propose that Marshall appear in a membership recruitment video and sign any direct mail.

We commenced discussions with potential coalition members including National Restaurant Association and the American Truckers Association. We hope to have three or four coalition groups on board by the end of August.

We have met with Hamilton, Frederick & Schneiders to discuss the organization's first public opinion poll. A draft questionnaire has been drafted. We expect to finalize next month. Results will be used in advertising and promotional campaigns scheduled to commence in the fall.

We have finalized copy and design for the cigarette carton imprint based on preliminary research. We will commence promotion once the coalition's activities arefully underway.


1988 June The 'Public Smoking Issues' division of the TI, consisting of Jeffrey Ross, John Lyons, and Sharon Ransome report lists:

  • recruiting indoor air quality (ETS/ventilation) scientists.
  • Alan Kassman, a former Philip Morris scientist, has been briefed and will go through media training next month.
  • Jolanda Janczewski of ENV Services has been through media training and will be briefed by scientists and legal counsel next month.
  • They have identified six additional ETS scientist who are now reviewing the scientific literature.
  • testing the effectiveness of ACVA/HBI's advertising campaign and direct mail program. They are investigating the feasibility of broadcast ads.
  • Litigation Program

A more comprehensive time-line with staff allocations gives more details of these activities -- and little doubt of the role the Tobacco Institute played with ACVA, NEMI, Bestype, etc. Such as:

  • PROJECT: Promote ACVA via advertising and direct mail in conjunction with Gray Robertson media tours for remainder of 1988.
  • PROJECT: Continue promotion of NEMl's indoor air quality services through September, 1988. (IAQ Newsletter, NEHI Brochure & Promotional Video or Slide Show)
  • (Jeff Ross) NEMI newsletter/copy clearance.(10/13) NEMI newsletter/approval of layout (11/02) NEMI newsletter/camera ready art (11/04) [NEMI was scheduled to see and clear it only on 25 Sept. The whole operation (including a video/slide show) was controlled by the TI with the help of Ogilvy & Mather]
  • PROJECT: Promote Bestype corporate smoking assistance program. "Obtain Bestype approval of business relationship." (08/19)
  • (Sharon Ransome) Bestype seminars & ads - finalize materials. (10/05) Redirect workplace program to smokers/schedule media tours in selected markets.(10/17) Bestype general direct mail/commence promotion & distribution. (11/01) …etc.
  • PROJECT: John Fox Seminars on Workplace Smoking Legal Issues: "These dates are proposed. Logistical considerations may dictate minor adjustments in the calendar. "Raleigh/Durham, Portland Oregon, Cleveland, Seattle
* (John Lyons) John Fox seminars/report results on second seminar. (10/10) John Fox seminars/conduct third seminar (11/09) John Fox seminars/conduct fourth seminar (12/06) …etc.
  • PROJECT: They are also identifying and training news IAQ and ETS spokespersons with the help of the lawyers Covington & Burling and the Sorell Schwartz IAPAG group from Georgetown University
  • PROJECT: Launch N.I.C.E. program in mid-September, 1988. National Institute for Conflict Education (they were creating this from July 88 with help of Shook Hardy & Bacon and O&M)
  • PROJECT: Promote Tollison & Wagner book "Smoking and the State" with "media training of authors" (6/13) and publication off book review (8/15)


1988 Sep This is the Phase One plan for the new Institute, It was also involving Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), S&A (probably Savarese & Associates), Hamilton Frederick & Schneiders (H-F-S), Covington & Burling lawyers (C&B) [9]