Health and Morality -- Tobacco's Counter Campaign

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

This document, Health and Morality -- Tobacco's Counter Campaign, is a historical account describing the key part that the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton played on behalf of the tobacco industry in obfuscating the link between tobacco use and disease.

The 23-page document details the history of John W. Hill, the founder of Hill and Knowlton, which helped a panicked tobacco industry stave off public anxiety over the allegations in the 1950s that smoking caused lung cancer. With the deft coaching of John Hill, the industry published its 1954 "Frank Statement to the Public" and formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (forerunner of the Tobacco Institute). A quote from the document about this reads as follows:

Business Week, in an article on the state of public relations in 1960, commented: "Probably one of PR's best finger-in-the-dike jobs was during the tobacco-lung cancer scare when the tobacco industry brought in Hill and Knowlton. H&K helped set up the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, run by prominent scientists and based on the premise that 'there is no conclusive proof that cigarettes cause cancer, but that the industry has an obligation to get the full facts.' "

The document is authored by John W. Hill II, and was sent to Murray H. Bring, top Philip Morris lawyer, who made handwritten notes on it here and there, according to the header. Interestingly, though, the language used in this piece can be construed as quite damning of the industry. Here is one example: "The stakes in this ongoing public relations battle are enormous. On one side of the ledger is the health of more than 200 million teen-agers and adults. One (sic) the other side are (handwritten: the) profits, even survival, of the tobacco industry in dependence on the 55.8 million addicted smokers as of 1988." .....In an apparent negative reaction to the realization of what he had done, Hill omitted any mention of the part he played in forming the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. Indeed, when asked about this topic by a student who was writing a master's thesis on Hill's work, Hill said, "I decline to comment on this matter on the basis that this is an active, highly sensitive account."

Furthermore, to his credit, Hill later broke completely with the industry's tactic of forming front groups to protect profits: "Over time John Hill had stoutly asserted that paper groups established by a client to promote a cause under the guise of being independent should be eliminated from the public relations profession. 'The right of free speech also carries the obligation that the source of it will be open for all to see,' he wrote. 'It is not the work of public relations--let it always be emphasized--to outsmart the American public by helping management build profits.' But in fact the TIRC was essentially a front for the public relations work of the industry, created to blunt the growing threat to the cigarette makers' enormous profits."

Title Health and Morality -- Tobacco's Counter Campaign
Per. Author J.W. Hill, III
Date 19920000/E
Type Report, other
Bates 2022849007/9028
Master Bates 2022848983/9028
Collection Philip Morris Bliley set
Pages 23