Peter Witonski

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

Peter Witonski was a consultant to the Tobacco Institute, Philip Morris and Philip Morris International (PMI).

Tobacco industry documents

In a blustery 1988 letter, tobacco industry consultant Peter Witonski suggests to R.J. Reynolds' Chief Executive Officer Gerald H. Long that the tobacco industry "needs to take the offensive" against public health authorities ("the anti-smoking lobby"). Witonski tells Long,

"Since the industry is not about to introduce a scientific breakthrough that will nullify the rantings of the anti-smoking lobby...the [industry's] offensive will have to be other than scientific...But there are... ways of taking the offensive; ways that will allow us to side-step science and medicine..."

Witonski urges Long to "form a pro-smokers' rights 'think tank,' consisting of leading economists, philosophers, political scientists and writers" to combat public health efforts to educate the public about smoking. He adds,

"In my previous letter I suggested we engage the anti-smoking lobby in a battle of ideas and values...that we exploit the intellectual community for allies in this struggle...In the old days, the industry employed actresses and baseball players as spokesman; today it ought to engage thinkers capable of articulating the industry's case..."[1]

Witonski's idea was, in fact, echoed in a 1994 RJR strategy document that lists tactics to be used to fight the secondhand smoke issue. Part of RJR's plan includes convening "a high-level think tank of philosophers, professors, scientific ethicists, sociologists, historians, economists, provide new ideas on the issue." [2]

A similar idea for using an "intellectual think tank" to create a war of ideas had actually been carried out in the late 1970's by the global tobacco companies, who worked in concert to recruit a stable of noted academic philosophers, sociologists, economists and political scientists to create and disseminate argumentation in favor of the industry. The plan was carried out through the International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI)'s Social Acceptability Working Party (SAWP). The industry called it the "Social Costs/Social Values Project.


Initially a consultant to the Tobacco Institute c. 1980, Witonski was an adjunct professor of public policy at Georgetown University, "a nonsmoker,", and author of a book called "The Wisdom of Conservatism". [3]

Sourcewatch resources

External resources



  1. Peter Witonski, Intel Research I Apologize, Once Again, for My Tardiness in Responding to Your Letter; But the Press of Business Has Reduced My Extra-Curricular Epistolary Endeavors to A Bare Minimum Letter. March 15, 1988. Bates No. 506629958/9960
  2. Seocndhand smoke plan Report. 4 pp. April 6, 1994. Bates No.512046746/6749
  3. W. Kloepfer, Tobacco Institute Costs of Smoking Memo. December 18, 1980. Bates No. TI06900972

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