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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tobacco Explained...The truth about the tobacco its own words


Thousands of internal tobacco industry documents released through litigation and whistleblowers reveal the most astonishing systematic corporate deceit of all time. What follows is a survey of the documents, 1,200 relevant and revealing quotes grouped under common themes.

Chapter 1 Smoking and health Publicly the industry denied and continues to deny that it is clear that smoking causes lung cancer - yet it has understood the carcinogenic nature of its product since the 1950s. It is now clear that the industry’s stance on smoking and health is determined by lawyers and public relations concerns.

Chapter 2 Nicotine and addiction Until recently the industry has denied its product is addictive. Most recently it has used a definition of addictiveness so broad that it encompasses shopping and the Internet. Internally, it has known since the 1960s that the crucial selling point of its product is the chemical dependence of its customers. Without nicotine addiction there would be no tobacco industry. Nicotine addiction destroys the industry’s PR and legal stance that smoking is a matter of choice.

Chapter 3 Marketing to children The companies deny that they target the young. The documents reveal the obvious - that the market of young smokers is of central importance to the industry. Many documents reveal the companies’ pre-occupation with teenagers and younger children - and the lengths they have gone to in order to influence smoking behaviour in this age group.

Chapter 4 Advertising The industry maintains that advertising is used only to fight for brand share and that it does not increase total consumption - academic research shows otherwise. The documents show that advertising is crucial in nurturing the motivation to smoke by creating or projecting the positive values, such as independence, machismo, glamour or intelligence, erroneously associated with the product.

Chapter 5 Cigarette design The documents show that the companies initially hoped to make safer cigarettes, but then abandoned the enterprise when it recognised that this would expose their existing products as ‘unsafe’. The industry has deliberately promoted ‘low-tar’ cigarettes knowing that they would offer false reassurance without health benefits. It has manipulated nicotine and introduced additives to change the delivery of nicotine. It recognises the cigarette as a drug delivery device.

Chapter 6 Second-hand smoke The industry is challenged by second-hand smoke in two ways. First, measures to protect non-smokers will reduce the opportunities to smoke and contribute to its social unacceptability. Second, the ‘freedom to smoke’ arguments are confounded if non-smokers are harmed. The industry has refused to accept the now overwhelming consensus regarding the harm caused by second-hand smoke - instead it has denied and obfuscated, and sought to influence debate by buying up scientists on a spectacular scale.

Chapter 7 “Emerging markets” Faced with reducing levels of smoking in the West and an insatiable need for money, the companies have moved aggressively into developing countries and Eastern Europe. The documents reveal an arrogance and fanaticism that has imperialist echoes.

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