Philip Morris' Science 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.

This document reveals internal tobacco industry strategies for altering the public's conclusion that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) harms nonsmokers. It appears to have been written by someone inside the Philip Morris tobacco company. The paper begins with a backgrounder pitting "the antis" against the industry, saying that "our arguments for courtesy and tolerance are weakened by the ETS health claims which intensify the militancy of non-smokers and the hostility of the media."

The paper describes eight tactics for changing public opinion on the ETS issue. The list is introduced with recognition of the fact that preeminent national (and even world) health authorities have concluded that ETS is harmful to the health of nonsmokers:

Any strategy must begin with the fact that the Surgeon General and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) -- the preeminent health and scientific authorities in the U.S. if not the world -- have concluded ETS is harmful to the health of non-smokers.

It states the industry has "little public credibility and virtually none when compared to these authorities" and that in order "to have any hope of breaking the scientific conclusion on this issue," they should "pursue several aggressive programs simultaneously."

The "aggressive programs" included discrediting the influential [[Takeshi Hirayama |Hirayama]] study (a key study that influenced the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that secondhand smoke was harmful), and baiting the media with a "left-wing conspiracy theory" that would take the industry out of the villain role and insert the government as the villain:

Right now the industry is clearly the villain in the public mind and the Health Establishment, the good guys (white coats in white hats). If we take a page from left-wing conspiracy-theorists, we could fashion an argument that the Reagan administration, as part of its pro-business, anti-labor activity, has created a smoke-screen to conceal its neglect of occupational illness and injury. Scientists who question the conclusion that workers are most at risk because of their (or their colleagues) personal lifestyles are ostracized and intimidated by government funding agencies.

The writer appears to relish this idea, stating, "The media love cover ups" and also points out that "A Republican pro-business conspiracy also becomes very useful when lobbying Democratic legislators on this issue."

Another strategy was to offer a series of "big dollar awards" to scientists and other professionals through their journals or associations "for the best methodological critique of using weak science to make policy." The paper states this would help the industry "to put more favorable research in the publication stream."

The writer estimates the cost to the industry of these strategies in aggregate would be "in the $1-2 million range, including outside firms."

The document was found in the area of Thomas J. Borelli in a file called "Corporate Affairs." The original contains underlining and the document contains marginalia.[1]


  1. Philip Morris, presumed author Science Action Plan Estimated date 1989. Bates No. 2021159478/9480

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