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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Avoiding “Truth”: Tobacco Industry Promotion of Life Skills Training


Purpose: To understand why and how two tobacco companies have been promoting the Life Skills Training program (LST), a school-based drug prevention program recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce youth smoking. Methods: We analyzed internal tobacco industry documents available online as of October 2005. Initial searches were conducted using the keywords “life skills training,” “LST,” and “positive youth development.” Results: Tobacco industry documents reveal that since 1999, Philip Morris (PM) and Brown and Williamson (B&W) have worked to promote LST and to disseminate the LST program into schools across the country. As part of their effort, the companies hired a public relations firm to promote LST and a separate firm to evaluate the program. The evaluation conducted for the two companies did not show that LST was effective at reducing smoking after the first or second year of implementing the program. Even so, the tobacco companies continued to award grants to schools for the program. PM and B&W’s role in promoting LST is part of a public relations strategy to shift the “youth smoking paradigm” away from programs that highlight the tobacco industry’s behavior and toward programs in which the industry can be a partner. Conclusions: Individuals and organizations responsible for developing and implementing tobacco control and youth smoking prevention programs should be aware of PM and B&W’s role and motivations to encourage the wide-spread adoption of LST in schools.

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