Boca Raton Action Plan

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

The Boca Raton Action Plan was a comprehensive Philip Morris strategy starting circa 1988 for an elaborate, multi-faceted campaign to thwart public health authorities' efforts to reduce smoking and other threats facing the tobacco companies globally. The plan identified threats to PM's interests in countries around the world and mobilized significant financial and creative resources to confront these threats in a highly coordinated manner.

The idea behind the plan was an extension of the Operation Downunder program that had emerged a few years earlier from a brainstorming session organised by the then Vice Chairman of Philip Morris, Bill Murray. The first Boca Raton Action Plan was a similar program run this time by Murray's associate, friend and successor, Geoff Bible. It proved to be highly successful (in company terms) and it led to fairly regular annual planning sessions of the same kind.

One of the main features of the Boca Raton Plan was to seriously concentrate their attack on the World Health Organisation (WHO) which had begun prosecuting an anti-smoking agenda around the world as an important part of their global health initiatives, especially in the less developed countries, which were then becoming new target markets for the main American, British and European tobacco corporations.

PM's Action Plans (Doc Index)
Operation Downunder
Boca Raton Action Plan

It is important to realise that these action plans (from Operation Downunder, on) were not simply directed at the American market. They were organised by executives at Philip Morris who now had a global view of the industry, and saw the company as the de facto leader of an international tobacco industry with internationally shared problems. The genesis of the Boca Raton meeting was in a couple of conferences of the Philip Morris Board, with Rupert Murdoch and the staff of News Limited in attendance.


The Boca Raton Action Plan was instigated by Geoffrey C. Bible, then the President of Philip Morris International. In November, 1988 Bible convened a meeting of top executives, primarily from Philip Morris Corporate Affairs departments, in Boca Raton, Florida, to develop a master plan for attacking, among other problems, the World Health Organization's (WHO) tobacco control programs. The Plan also called for "reorienting" the WHO's priorities towards areas that would exert less pressure on tobacco companies.

Bible wrote a December 1988 memorandum called the "Boca Raton Action Plan" which detailed the company's strategy to thwart WHO's tobacco control initiatives. According to the memo:

This organization [WHO] has extraordinary influence on government and consumers and we must find a way to diffuse this and reorient their activities to their prescribed mandate. In addition, we need to think through how we could use our food companies, size, technology, and capability with governments by helping them with their food problems and give us a more balanced profile with the government than we now have against WHO’s powerful influence.

Philip Morris pursued a number of activities to "reorient" WHO, including using its subsidiary food companies and other non-tobacco entities, tobacco industry organizations, business groups and other supposedly independent surrogates. These organizations worked to influence WHO directly, as well as to pressure the WHO through the media, national governments and international organizations, including other United Nations agencies.[1]

Documents & Timelines

1988 Nov Boca Raton Action plan under Geoff Bible's supervision. It ran for about a year with two monthly status reports from Jan 31 1989 to Sept 30 1989 and a final summary on Oct 30 1989

1988 Nov /E One of the best of Bible's comments on progress.

1988 Nov 29 to Dec 3 Agenda of the proposed public issues meeting run by Geoffrey Bible of Philip Morris at Boca Raton, Florida over 4.5 days. Those invited to the Boca Raton conference were:

  • Corporate Affairs tactical staff based at the New York headquarters, but with members from all regions including Brussels and Neuchatel.
  • Disinformation staff of both the domestic USA and European Science & Technology groups [later grouped together as Worldwide Scientific Affairs, or WSA],
  • Members of the Worldwide Regulatory Affairs (WRA) staff, [in-house lawyers and political lobbyists]
  • a few trusted outside consultants who had services to offer.
    • Trevor King, INFOTAB in the UK [observer; but INFOTAB also participated}
    • Paul Dietrich , Institute for International Health & Development [IIHD] , Catholic University, Wash. DC
    • Clive Turner , Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC) in the UK [observer]
    • Don Hoel , Shook Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City
    • Stephen Aiello , Burson-Marsteller, New York
    • James Lindheim , Burson-Marsteller, London
    • David A Morse , Jones Day Reavis & Pogue [actually IIHD, Libertad, AECA, etc]
    • Wayne V Reid , International Confederation of Sports , UK
    • John Rupp , lawyer with Covington & Burling, Washington DC
    • Auberon Waugh , newspaper columnist, UK [Murdoch lackey, Libertad lobbyist]
    • Stephen Parrish , Shook Hardy & Bacon, Lausanne, Switzerland [about to transfer to Philip Morris USA]

[Note: Paul Dietrich and David Morse were partners who worked with Andrew Whist and the PMI Corporate Affairs in establishing and operating many front groups including AECA, NYSIA, Libertad, and IIHD. With the IIHD, the Catholic University in Washington and the Knights of Malta just provided them with a front.
Wayne Reid was Andrew Whist's long-term Australian lobbyist who was used to retain tobacco-sports sponsorship. He had been a clandestine recruit many years before as head of Australian Lawn Tennis; now he ran a sports-sponsorship business.
Auberon Waugh (and his close friend Bernard Levin ) were paid by the tobacco industry to promote the highly effective "anti-Nanny-State idea" through their columns, and also via the faux-Libertad organisation via tours to various countries, along with other media 'curmudgeon-contrarians'. This was partly a News Corporation Ltd. operation to retain tobacco advertising in the Murdoch media.
Note that even with this core group of disinformation tacticians, it was still necessary to retain the fiction that Paul Dietrich (for instance) was with the IIHD. Clearly there was a strict "Need to Known only ..." rule about such astroturf operations.

1988 Nov 29 - Dec 3 Meeting Schedule

1988 Dec Probably the first version of Bible's discussion paper as presented at the Corporate Affairs conference. It has timings for jobs to be done before the end of 1988. [1]

1988 Dec 13 Geoff Bible advises Corporate Affairs offices around the world [and ccd Bill Murray] that:

I have now finalized the listing of the various topics we discussed at the Corporate Affairs Conference in Boca Raton and have agreed the responsibilities, timing, etc I am anxious that we meet all deadlines and I therefore urge you to give the attached your full and prompt attention .

1988 Dec 13 This appears to be Geoff Bible's Action plan for the Corporate Affairs Conference at Boca Raton. Corporate Affairs from Europe, with most from the New York office -- Whist, Webb, Burrell, Harris, Nelson etc. This is now the center of the PM misinformation group. Zelkowitz is given the primary responibility for an International Smokers Survey to "help us shape our communications program." Bible poses the question:

Do we want basic answers to help us shape our program or do we want "marketable research"? We want both but one survey cannot achieve this . My sense is to conduct the basic research first for our internal purposes and then decide it we want to go further . ACTION: To redefine the survey questionnaire to achieve exactly our aims.

This is the plan (above is better quality) This is the list of participants

1989 See good outline 1989 2021595753

1989 Jan Bible wanted bi-weekly reports on progress on 26 points

1989 Jan 19 [dated incorrectly] The reminder about the "First report." Dollisson is at the Asian office but working on Boca Raton Action Plan Cynthia von Maerestetten is coordinating. Geoff Bible wants reports on the progress on all 26 of his action points in by Jan 31 1989. Those actively working on Boca Raton Action Plan are Burrell, Wendy NY Dollisson, John Asia Francis, Phil Australia Gaisch, Helmut EEC Harris, Don NY Horst, Michael EEC Moreno, F NY Nelson, J NY Newman, Fred NY Parrish, Steve EEC Pollak, Lee NY Pottorff, Mary NY Robinson, Bernie EEMA Rodriguez, C Iberia Winokur, Matt Asia Their superiors are: Beane, N Richmond Buss, M NY (probably Buzzi) Holzman, A NY Webb, William NY Whist, Andrew NY The coordinator, Cynthia von Maerstetten, works under Andrew Whist in Corporate Affairs

1989 Jan 31 The first of the Boca Raton Action Plan's two-monthly status reports.

The Plan was remarkable in its scope, encompassing 26 wide-ranging and ambitious goals, to which Philip Morris dedicated its top executives, scientists, attorneys and consultants. It was organized internationally, coordinating all of the company’s regional offices and using both tobacco industry organizations and front groups to accomplish an impressive list of achievements.

1989 Jan 31 Boca Raton The best of the reports ++++++++++++++++ - 2500103969

1989 Mar 31 / E The second two-monthly status report.

1989 May 31 / E The third two-monthly status report.

1989 Jul 31 / E The fourth two-monthly status report.

The reports refer to numerous detailed appendices, which were originally attached to the reports, but which are rarely included in the electronic versions of the reports available at the Minnesota Document Depository or posted on Philip Morris’ document website. With considerable effort, the committee of experts was able to locate many of the attachments but several crucial documents could not be located. Other tobacco company documents were used to fill in these gaps when possible

1989 Jul 31 - For Period Ending Interim BRIEFING [2] 15 pages in order.

1989 Sep 30 The fifth and last of the Boca Raton Action Plan's two-monthly status reports (not counting the Oct 29 Summary)

1989 Oct 9 Michael Horst's progress report on the Boca Raton Action Plan for the EEC Region includes notes on:

• Healthy Buildings Seminars: PM EEC has reached an agreement with the Hiross ventilation company to organize an indoor air quality seminar in Paris, France in the first quarter of 1990. The seminar will be officially sponsored by Hiross alone and will feature an IAQ film currently being developed for PM via Burson Marsteller.

  • Airline Bans: The most recent effort in this direction was a European tour by Dr Larry Holcomb which covered Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy in September. The tour was particularly successful in Italy.

Another program we are running in connection with the airline issue is the sponsorship of the World Congress of the International Flight Attendants' Association (IFAA) in Brussels on October 23-25th. A discussion panel is being organized by Burson-Marsteller on the last day of the conference. Subjects to be treated are airline smoking restrictions in general, examination and consideration of air quality data in aircraft, parallels between sick building syndrome and aircraft cabin quality, and ventilation issues.

Three scientists, ( L Holcomb, G. Robertson and C. Caliendi will be presenting the issue to a group of ten journalists from various European countries.

1989 Oct 9 Mike Horst's Boca Raton Progress Report details European activities and successes. See ++++

1989 Oct 16 Frank Farnel [European 'Issues Manager'] reports back to PM International about progress in the Boca Raton Action (Corporate Affairs) Plan [he uses the standard headings].

  Dr Tapani Piha, who has been directing the Finnish National Board of Health's Department addressing tobacco issues, has been appointed as Scientific Tobacco Campaign Leader (effective August 1, 1989) in the WHO Regional Office in Copenhagen . On November 3-4 in Montreal under the sponsorship of McGill University a conference is being organized entitled International Symposium on Environmental Tobacco Smoke. About 60 scientists are expected from around the world including 25 from Europe. Participants from EEMA include Drs. Malmfors & Werko (Sweden), Voss (Denmark), Baettig & Atteslander (Switzerland), and Salaoos (Finland). In April of 1990 in Lisbon a seminar is being organized by C&B on the subject of Indoor Air in Warm Climates under the sponsorship of the New University of Lisbon, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and the Asian Occupational Health Society. We are working with C&B to identify those who will be invited to this seminar.

In June of 1990 in the UK a seminar is planned on the topic of Setting Standards for Indoor Air Quality under the sponsorship of BOHS and CIBCI (an architects and building engineers society). This is designed to be a European conference and one presentation will focus on the results of the Swiss ACVA and LINK studies.

Among the list of activities is a heading: Healthy Buildings Seminars: PM International, PM Europe and Covington & Burling ...

are working with the HIROSS ventilation company and Healthy Buildings Limited (a UK company owned by C-G Pettersson. C-G Pettersson was one of the principal architects of the Healthy Buildings '88 Symposium in Stockholm) to expand the list of available sponsors for IAQ conferences.

Under the sub-head Scandinavia/Finland it reports that "In a related development TCO [The Swedish white collar labor union] hosted an IAQ conference and ...

published three newspaper supplements which featured articles by Bo Mikaelsson [WhiteCoat tobacco scientist with EGIL group], C-G Pettersson and Gray Robertson. The Swedish NMA sponsored workplace smoking attitude study (Eureka) was also featured. These supplements had a circulation in excess of one million readers. C-G Pettersson, a PM consultant, made a major presentation in June on air quality and ventilation to the Swedish National Building Board . In March Mr. Pettersson also addressed the Norwegian Builders' Association annual conference in Oslo, and this speech was publicized by BM [Burson-Marsteller].

He also lists a number of seminars that are being organised (Montreal Uni, Lisbon Warm Climates, and London BOHS) and mentions that the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) in partnership with CIBCI (an architects and building engineers association) will sponsor this conference on :Standards for Indoor Air Quality" which is

designed to be European conference and one presentation will focus on the results of the Swiss ACVA and LINK studies.

Also at the International Flight Attendants Association annual meeting in Brussels (Oct 23-25) ...

in a plenary session there will be a panel discussion on IFAQ [In-Flight Air Quality] featuring Drs Charles Caliendi, Larry Holcomb and Gray Robertson. On Oct 25 in the evening C&B [tobacco lawyers] and BM [tobacco PR] are organizing an IFAQ media briefing featuring these experts.

In Scandinavian Restaurants he reports that ...

In January Philip Morris persuaded the Swedish NMA [the equivalent of the Tobacco Institute] to sponsor ACVA IAQ studies of 20 leading restaurants in the three largest cities. In March, PM arranged for ACVA's Peter Binnie to brief the Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Association on this study. The Association then used this study as part of their presentation in March to the Magnusson Commission. [Parliamentay inquiry into problems of smoking and health]

There were numerous meetings here Boca Raton

1989 Oct 29 Boca Raton Action Plan Summary Report. This is one of the most detailed of the early report [The one to use] It is the final summary document

1989 Oct 29 Boca Raton Action Plan Summary Report Details the successes. Best copy

1989 Oct 30 (from Dec 3 1988) SUMMARY REPORT 2503005015 pages out of order.

1989 Nov 29 to Dec 3 Public Issues Meeting at Boca Raton Auberdon Waugh spoke on "Nanny State"

2000 Oct 18Ted Sanders sends Philip Morri a report on the WHO Report which has just been released, and is critical of Philip Morris.

C. The Boca Raton Action Plan

The report describes the Boca Raton Action Plan as "Philip Morris' master plan for 1989" and as being "instigated by Geoffrey Bible." The report continues by stating that this action plan was "a comprehensive strategy for an elaborate, multi-faceted campaign to undermine tobacco control initiatives and other threats facing the tobacco companies throughout the world ." This plan involved relatively little contribution from the scientists within Philip Morris; however, the report does note a few citations from scientists' memos relating to this plan.

The report claims (p . 66) that the "roots of the Boca Raton Plan can be found in earlier Philip Morris documents." The sole document cited was a July 8, 1983, memo from Helmut Gaisch. A citation from this document states that, "[A] continuing effort to be made for contacting individual scientists or officials in order to learn about their intentions, to modify their opinions, to precede their interventions with national government agencies, and to activate other defensive industry responses through NMAs."

The report goes on to state that, "[T]hroughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Gaisch and Marcovitch (and sometimes Helmut Reif) met with scientists and health officials who were either affiliated with WHO or used in tobacco company strategies against WHO. These included Gaston Vettorazzi (see Chapter VIII), Giuseppe LoJacono (see Chapter IX), Heathwick Ntaba (see Chapter V) and others. Philip Morris representatives regularly attended WHO-sponsored scientific meetings during this period. These tobacco company affiliated scientists were sometimes invited by WHO to attend the meetings, and would report back to FTR afterwards . It is unclear whether these company agents concealed their Philip Morris ties, although references to confidentiality and the use of initials rather than names in some documents may be indications that they did ." It should be noted that the above passage cites eight different monthly report highlights written by Helmut Gaisch .

On page 72 a memo written by Helmut Gaisch on January 30, 1989, entitled "Boca Raton Follow-Up" is discussed at some length. The following quotations are reproduced in the report : "These are my ideas on the possible use of CORESTA in a general lobbying effort aimed at dissuading WHO from continuing with their broad-based health advocacy programmes.

"It is . . .quite conceivable to add a political programme to the present CORESTA activities . . . . For this, persons have to be chosen who have, besides their technological background, the necessary skills for political work . A possible strategy would be to concentrate on national politicians in order to strengthen their position when defending tobacco as a cash crop . Individual countries and the FAO should be encouraged to challenge the use of individual funds by the WHO on health advocacy programmes which are aimed at changing the behavior of the populations rather than to improve the general health and economic status of the populations concerned ."


Related Sourewatch resources

External resources

For more detailed information on the Boca Raton Action Plan, see Tobacco Company Strategies to Undermine Tobacco Control Activities at the World Health Organization Report. July 2000. 258 pp. Bates No. 2078184652/4909


  1. Bible GC, Philip Morris Corporate Affairs Conference / Action Plan Memorandum. December 13, 1988. Bates No. 2021596422/6432
  2. Insert Bates No.2023547120 into Search field.

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