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Merchants of Doubt. Tobacco industry: Public Relations or Propaganda?. Public relations ( PR ) . is a field concerned with maintaining public image for businesses, non-profit organizations or high-profile people, such as celebrities and politicians.
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Merchants of Doubt Tobacco industry: Public Relations or Propaganda?
Public relations (PR) • is a field concerned with maintaining public image for businesses, non-profit organizations or high-profile people, such as celebrities and politicians. • the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics
Propaganda a mode of discourse intended to persuade, to manipulate, and to indoctrinate its audience into accepting policies that they might not otherwise support.
Propaganda Propaganda is a discourse that legitimates certain interests and polices while providing a one-sided, simplified, and distorted, but not necessarily totally untrue, view of events or people.
The Fight over Secondhand Smoke • By the mid-1980s, nearly every American knew that smoking caused cancer and other illnesses • However, the tobacco industry successfully promoted and sustained doubt. • When the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) took steps to limit indoor smoking, the Tobacco Institute set out to challenge the EPA.
Secondhand smoke • The Industry knew of the dangers of secondhand smoking by the early 1970s • The industry own research had found that sidestream smoke contains more toxic chemicals than mainstream smoke • The states were moving actively against tobacco. • By 1979 all states (except Nevada and Kentucky) had some antismoking legislation
Research • A landmark study: National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo (impact on women whose husbands smoke). • Also, a study in New England Journal of Medicine (impact of smokers on co-workers) • Publicly the industry criticized the studies • Privately they agreed with the studies
The response of the tobacco industry • Philip Morris’ vice-president in 1993: • “All of us whose livelihoods depend upon tobacco sales must band together into u unified force • The bottom line is: if smokers can’t smoke at work, in stores, restaurants, they are going to smoke less”
The first response: increased advertisement • Presenting cigarettes as a symbol of strength, manhood, courage
From L.A. Times, May 1994 • Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. spent more than $950,000 between 1979 to 1983 to feature its cigarette brands in more than 20 movies--including payments of at least $300,000 to action film star Sylvester Stallone. • The payments took the form of checks, cash and merchandise--including jewelry and automobiles for such stars as Paul Newman, Sean Connery and Stallone
Disinformation campaign • The Center for Tobacco Research set up a “special projects” office to deal with secondhand smoke: • The development of opposing scientific evidence • Expert witnesses • Industry sponsored conferences to challenge the emerging scientific consensus
Concealing the source • Several projects were run as law firms • to conceal their identity and • to shield these efforts from scrutiny using attorney-client privilege
Attacking regulations from many different sides • Restrictions on smoking in the workplace seen as employment discrimination • Increased taxation of tobacco products seen as frivolous taxation in general, “tax and spend” attitude, “big government” • Generally restrictions on smoking seen as “Nanny government,” overprotective.
In 1991 Philip Morris outlined four objectives specifically related to secondhand smoke • Fight bans on smoking in workplaces • Maintain smoking areas in transportation facilities (e.g., airports) • Promote the idea of ‘accommodation’—that smokers had the right to be accommodated • Maintain the controversy about tobacco smoke in public and scientific forums.
The EPA Report in Dec 1992: Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking • The report attributed 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 150,000 to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children per year to secondhand smoke • Thousands of cases of aggravated asthma • Tobacco was considered a class A carcinogen • But overall the report was cautious: many other effects of secondhand smoke were left for further research
The EPA Report: the tobacco industry attack • Tobacco industry attacked the report and other studies by questioning their • methodology, • consistency • evidence, and • statistical significance
Scientists for Hire • The Tobacco Industry hired a number of well know scientists willing to fight science • One of them, Fred Singer, established Science and Environment Policy Project to defend tobacco industry
The use of Public Relations Firms • APCO worldwide • In the early 1990s, APCO worked closely with tobacco industry to • develop ‘scientific’ articles to defend secondhand smoke and • promote the idea that the EPA work was “junk science”
“Bad Science: A Resource Book” • 200-page book published by tobacco industry • Pretended to be scientific work fighting bad science • It propagated the idea that science is manipulated by government agencies for political purposes
“Bad Science: A Resource Book” • It claimed that: • Too often science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda • No agency is more guilty of adjusting science to support preconceived public policy prescriptions than the EPA • Like many studies before it, EPA’s recent report concerning environmental tobacco smoke allows political objectives to guide scientific research
Overall… • In pluralistic societies, all social, economic, and political forces ‘fight’ for their rights, recognition, and interests • Sometimes the fight is honest • Sometimes is not • Citizens need to be aware of the methods used in political propaganda, advertisement, and in public relations