Thanks to the Tobacco documents we’ve learned how tobacco companies have secretly funded astroturf organizations like junkscience.com, secretly paid for think tanks to run political campaigns for them, and even created their own astroturf scientific journal. The latest pile of astoturf to be uncovered is detailed in a new paper by Anne Landman, Daniel Cortese and Stanton Glantz:
‘The multinational tobacco companies responded to arguments about the social costs of smoking and hazards of secondhand smoke by quietly implementing the Social Costs/Social Values project (1979-1989), which relied upon the knowledge and authoritative power of social scientists to construct an alternate cultural repertoire of smoking. Social scientists created and disseminated non-health based, pro-tobacco arguments without fully acknowledging their relationship with the industry. After the US Surgeon General concluded that nicotine was addictive in 1988, the industry responded by forming “Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment” (c.1988-1999), whose members toured the world promoting the health benefits of the use of legal substances, including tobacco, for stress relief and relaxation, without acknowledging the industry’s role. …
Strategies included creating favorable surveys and opinions, infusing them into the lay press and media through press releases, articles and conferences, publishing, promoting and disseminating books, commissioning and placing favorable book reviews, providing media training for book authors and organizing media tours. These programs allowed the tobacco industry to affect public and academic discourse on the social acceptability of smoking’.
The paper is subscription only, so I’ve put some extracts below the fold.
The Social Costs/Social Values Project
ICOSI created a subcommittee, the Social Acceptability Working Party (SAWP), to develop measures to combat the social cost and passive smoking issues. SAWP’s initial chairman was RJR’s VP of Public Affairs, who also served on the TI Communications Committee. George Berman, a former PM employee who started a consulting firm, helped organize and direct SAWP (Senkus). In 1979 Berman, along with the industry law firm Jacob & Medinger, RJR VP and Assistant to Chairman of the Board, and Brown and Williamson’s Senior VP and General Counsel developed ICOSI’s global strategy (Pepples, 1979a). ICOSI members adopted the plan in 1979 ((ICOSI), (Update of Projects), (Pepples), (Social Costs/Social Values) and Special Account No. 1) to secretly recruit and fund a group of prominent academic sociologists, philosophers, economists, anthropologists and political scientists to develop arguments promoting the benefits of smoking, refute arguments about the social costs of smoking, and emphasize the negative effects the companies believed smoking bans had on society.
SAWP members had already identified and approached social science academics (Berman) who were sympathetic to industry positions and agreed to participate (Pepples): Richard Wagner (professor of Economics at George Mason University), Robert Tollison (former economic consultant to the US Treasury Department and professor of Economics at Texas A&M and later George Mason University), Robert Nozick (professor of Philosophy at Harvard University), Sherwin Feinhandler (sociologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School specializing in cultural anthropology of tobacco, alcohol and drug research), Peter Berger (professor of Sociology at Rutgers and later at Boston College), Aaron Wildavsky (Chairman of Political Science Department and Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley), Edward Harris (a political scientist at South Connecticut State University), and Martin Gruber (finance expert at New York University). These people helped extend SAWP’s reach into academia to recruit more consultants ((Goals of SC/SV) and Special Account No. 1) for the new SC/SV program.
A February 1980 SAWP progress report on the SC/SV project states that the academics would be commissioned to conduct “cross-cultural research” to “emphasize the social importance of smoking” (Goals of SC/SV), find ways to reverse the research describing the social costs of smoking, and “support the view that smoking is ‘normal’ behavior, a view that many social scientists would defend if given the information to do so”. Other activities included participating in academic conferences nominally sponsored by third (non-tobacco) parties and organized in ways that would minimize evidence of industry backing (Marcotullio).
They also produced books on the benefits of smoking:
A preliminary promotion plan for Smoking and Society prepared by PM Management Corporation (Cory) kept tobacco companies out of sight: “Most of the PR [for the book] should come from the publisher (the most credible third party).” PM proposed especially promoting psychologist Hans Eysenck’s claim in the book that “Genetic factors, not smoking, may make smokers susceptible to smoking related diseases — a concrete alternative to the tired defense that the smoking-health link ‘isn’t proven’” (Cory, 1986a). PM also suggested emphasizing anthropologist Sherwin Feinhandler’s claim that “Smoking plays positive social roles in the normal give-and-take of getting along with others” because Feinhandler provided “something positive to say about smoking that doesn’t raise the health issue”. The book would be promoted as “a resource for journalists, scholars and policy people — a mother lode of the most respectable information on the ‘other sides’ of smoking issues” to librarians and “professors who might touch on this issue in courses in political science, economics, anthropology, philosophy and other fields represented by the book’s contributors,” with free copies provided to journalists and social scientists stressing the “positive social roles of smoking [and] anti-smokers’ welfare-statism”. Press releases sent to economists would stress the novel argument of “anti-smokers’ transfer of wealth to themselves”.
In 1988 Tollison and his George Mason University colleague, economist Richard Wagner, published Smoking and the State: Social Costs, Rent Seeking and Public Policy concluding that clean indoor air laws impose significant economic costs upon society and that government efforts to regulate public smoking were coercive, arbitrary intrusions into private life. The preface stated that there was a “continuing controversy within the scientific community about the effect of smoking on the health of smokers and nonsmokers,” even though the US Surgeon General had by then issued 19 reports linking smoking with disease. A single line in the preface says the book was produced under a grant from the TI.
Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment (ARISE)
In direct response to the US Surgeon General’s 1988 report concluding nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, in 1988 Rothmans Tobacco (of the UK) and PM clandestinely assembled group called Associates for Research in Substances of Enjoyment (ARISE), an international group of sociologists, psychologists, ethicists and scientists to separate nicotine from other addictive drugs in the public’s mind (ARISE93a) and (Pritchard)). According to a press release prepared by PM Media Relations but issued by ARISE, ARISE presented itself as an esteemed group of “apolitical” experts who commented “independently” on the topic of how substance use enhances quality of life (Daragan). According to a 1993 PM report, ARISE conducted studies on “different aspects of puritanical trends infringing on consumers use of and access to … everyday pleasures” (ARISE93b) and a 1994 activity report described its objectives as helping tobacco companies “position tobacco as one of the products associated with pleasure” and “expand the ‘politically corrupt science’ concept” (ARISE94).
The spokesperson and lead organizer of ARISE was David Warburton, Director of the Human Pharmacology Group at the University of Reading in the UK. Warburton was selected for his industry-friendly views on nicotine and addiction and his longstanding relationship with UK tobacco companies. Rothmans Tobacco had long supported Warburton’s research, which consistently reinforced the claims that nicotine enhances performance and is not addictive (Boyse and Wesnes and Warburton). Other ARISE associates included Digby Anderson (Social Affairs Unit in London), Christie Davies (sociologist from the University of Reading), Sherwin Feinhandler, (anthropologist from Harvard University who was also involved in the industry’s original SC/SV project), John Luik (philosopher who previously worked as a professor of Ethics at Brock University, Canada), Frank van Dun (Professor of Philosophy of Law from the Universities of Ghent, Belgium and Linmburg, Maastricht, Netherlands), and a number of other psychologists from the UK, Switzerland, US, and Australia (ARISE96b). …
Through ARISE, the sponsoring tobacco companies generated news articles around the world that ridiculed and derided public health goals around smoking and reassured people about the relative safety and benefits of smoking. A media progress report on ARISE activities covering September 1993-March 1994 contains 292 pages of press clippings, transcripts, articles, tapes and other media coverage ARISE generated in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United States (ARISE94a). A 1996 presentation prepared by the ARISE secretariat for the tobacco companies reported that from 1994 to 1995 ARISE generated 646 press articles, 178 radio reports and 72 TV broadcasts in 17 countries, reporting that the coverage contained “minimal criticism of ARISE” (ARISE96a).
Hat tip: Harry Clarke.