Peter L. Berger

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

DISAMBIGUATION: Don't confuse this American Peter Berger, with John Peter Berger the UK critic and novelist (an associate of Bernard Levin and Auberon Waugh in the ARISE scam).

Dr. Peter L. Berger was a professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and later at Boston College. He served as a Tobacco Institute consultant. While at Boston College, Berger, (as quoted in tobacco industry newsletter "The Tobacco Observer,") described tobacco control proponents as "fanatical."[1] Berger attended Philip Morris executive meetings [2] and participated in the multinational tobacco industry's Social Costs/Social Values Project, created to refute the social costs theory of smoking and to help reverse declining social acceptability of smoking. He was a contributing author to the industry-financed book Smoking and Society, edited by another tobacco industry consultant, Robert Tollison.


Peter L. Berger, as a prominent academic social philosopher and sociologist, served as a consultant to the tobacco industry probably beginning with the industry's original 1979 Social Costs/Social Values Project (SC/SV).[5] According to a 1980 International Committee on Smoking Issues/Social Acceptability Working Party (International Committee on Smoking Issues/SAWP) progress report, Berger’s primary assignment was "to demonstrate clearly that anti-smoking activists have a special agenda which serves their own purposes, but not necessarily the majority of nonsmokers."[6]

Berger assisted the industry by developing non-health based arguments in defense of tobacco. He specifically developed the arguments that the anti-smoking movement is a class struggle of the richer, more educated groups against the poorer and less-educated groups, that public health advocates are elitists who are driven by quasi-religious, messianic urges and seek to punish non-believers (smokers) through the application of taxes and fines.[7]

1979[HIS QUOTES] '' I attended the Fourth World Conference on Smoking and Health, held in Stockholm under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (no doubt an appropriate location considering that the Scandinavian countries have the most stringent anti-smoking policies anywhere)."

1980 [Q] "I subsequently served as consultant to a study of the anti-smoking movement in Britain and the United States conducted by Professor Aaron Wildavsky of the University of California at Berkeley."

Berger possibly didn't know that Wildavsky was also working with tobacco industry who were funding and creating this event.

1981 [Q] "In 1981 I gave a presentation at the Conference on Consumer Policy at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania."

The Wharton School at the University of Pennslvania was virtually the branch office of the Tobacco Institute. By then he must have known about Wharton.

1982 March Peter Berger has prepared a statement for the tobacco industry attacking the "growing militancy of the anti-smoking movement and its attempts to control or limit smoking activity." He says he has publicly "expressed misgivings (about the motives of the anti-smoking movement) since an article, "Gilgamesh on the Washington Shuttle," published in Worldview magazine in November 1977." [1]

This year Berger also contributed a chapter to Robert Tollison’s industry-commissioned book, Smoking and Society, in which he (Berger) did disclose his affiliation with the industry. In his chapter, titled "A Sociological View of the Antismoking Phenomenon," Berger described the anti-smoking movement as a "health cult" in which doctors were the "priests" and hospitals the "sanctuaries."[Tollison, R D (editor), 1986. Smoking and Society: Lexington Books.] By 1988, Berger was listed as a participant in the tobacco industry’s ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) Consultant Project.[8]

Ideology and Activities

Bergers received grants paid through the tobacco industry's "Special Account #4", operated by lawyers, which was designed to hide any payments and block courtroom disclosure. [9]

Berger associated with:

He also appeared in a "denial" film for Philip Morris about environmental tobacco smoke[12]and reported back to the Philip Morris on the World Health Organization's 5th World Conference on Smoking and Health in Winnipeg, and he said:

" I understood my assignment to be an overall assessment of the conference, with special emphasis on institutional dynamics [ie. how well the anti-smokers were organized] and ideological themes, using my report on the Stockholm conference (1979) as a "base line."[citation needed]

He then reveals that "the conference was exhaustively monitored by industry observers..." indicating that he was personally acquainted with most of the 50 or so tobacco staff who infiltrated the main meetings and the various work-group sessions.[citation needed]

His article on smoking regulation reveals a strong conservative ideology, and he says that

"the Clinton health plan represents the most ambitious power grab yet in the short history of this rising class [which he defines as the "knowledge elite"].[2]

He viewed his task as being to psychoanalyze anti-tobacco forces and impute motives to various public health forces such as WHO, government regulators and anti-smoking groups, which were lumped together as "bureaucratic interests", and he also sees the "ideological linkage in the case of women is with feminism."[citation needed]

Questioning the motives and trying to discern some underlying psychosis of people in the anti-smoking movement gave Berger his tobacco raison d'etre [13]

He was also recruited for:

Current employment

As of September 2005 Peter Berger was a professor of sociology and theology at the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Theology at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. A description of his professional accomplishments (listed under the staff description section of Boston University’s web site) lists the institutions where Berger has taught, the books he has written and the awards he has received, but contains no mention Berger’s past affiliations with the tobacco industry, nor any of the work he has done on their behalf.[4]


Peter L. Berger
c/o Boston University
School of Theology
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215

The School of Theology's main phone number is 617-353-3050.


  1. Tobacco Institute The Tobacco Observer Volume 5 Number 2 April 1980 April, 1984. Bates No. TIMN0121130/1141
  2. Philip Morris Program M.I.T. - Philip Morris Round Table Agenda. February 5, 1981. Bates No.1000217458/7459
  3. Staff, Cultural Change Institute, accessed December 12, 2010.
  4. Staff & Contributing Editors, Review of Faith and International Affairs, accessed January 30, 2009.
  5. Pepples E Social Costs Memorandum. February 8, 1979. Bates No.2015048778/8786
  6. Social Costs/Social Values Progress Report. March 17, 1980 Report. R.J. Reynolds Bates No. 502091498/1506
  7. Berman G.Social Costs. Social Values. September 9, 1979. Bates No. 501474105/4134
  8. No author.No title. 1988. Philip Morris Bates No. 2021012405/2416
  9. No author. Dup of ID 03638775-8776 Budget/review. August 31, 1982. Bates No. 03638779/8780
  10. Berger P, Kristol I, Magnet M.the Politics of Health Panel Three "The Social Political and Economic Impact Chairman, Irving Kristol Transcript. May 21, 1991.
  11. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy AEI Research Highlights Pamphlet. February, 1997. Philip Morris Bates No. 2065244025/4031
  12. Palin B.Philip Morris Europe Training Series on Smoking Issues 1. Environmental Tobacco Smoke Shooting Script Transcript. May, 1993. 12 pp. Bates No. 2501361394/1405
  13. Berger PLThe Anti-Smoking Movement in Global Perspective Report 1991. Philip Morris Bates No. 2503001914/1927
  14. Berman G.Letter to Shook, Hardy and Bacon about ICOSI Project Letter. March 9, 1979. Bates No. 2015048749

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