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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“Create a Bigger Monster:” Tobacco industry actions to neutralize three landmark Surgeon Generals’ Reports


This paper was written for The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General.  Using documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library ( it examines the tobacco industry’s response to three key Surgeon Generals’ reports that presented significant threats to its public image, sales and efficacy in litigation.  The research shows a determined industry effort to undermine the scientific evidence making up the reports, the conclusions of the reports, and the implications of the conclusions. The primary strategy was to refute, trivialize, and discredit the scientific evidence used in the reports and the processes used to reach conclusions.  The documents reviewed reveal additional tactics: an effort to claim that the Surgeon Generals’ reports are politically motivated, running paid ads that encourage people to doubt the Surgeon General’s conclusions, sending spokespersons around the country making statements in the media that conflict with the Surgeon General’s conclusions, and secretly funding independent groups whose sole purpose was to incite opposition to the Surgeon General’s conclusions. The documents show that such tactics have been centrally organized and orchestrated, and well-funded.

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