Category:PR Companies

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The tobacco industry has a long history of working with PR companies, dating back to the fifties. It was in the early fifties that the scientific paper by Richard Doll and Professor Bradford Hill published an article in British Medical Journal that said there was a "real association between carcinoma of the lung and smoking". [1]

In response, the tobacco industry started its long campaign to create controversy about the health effects of its products. Internal documents record how the industry sought a public relations (PR) strategy to "get the industry industry out of this hole." [2]

The leading PR firm Hill & Knowlton was hired by the industry:

We have one essential job - which can be simply said: Stop public panic ... There is only one problem -- confidence, and how to establish it; public assurance and how to create it ... And, most important, how to free millions of Americans from the guilty fear that is going to arise deep in their biological depths - regardless of any pooh-poohing logic - every time they light a cigarette.[3]

By implementing innovative strategies designed to create doubt about the health impacts of smoking, Hill and Knowlton were instrumental in influencing public perception of the tobacco industry and the dangers of smoking,[4] so much so that Hill and Knowlton commented that their efforts had a powerful impact on the public:

From time to time, man-on-the-street interviews ask about the smoking question. In most every one of these, there will be a quotation that is almost an exact paraphrase of some statement issued for the tobacco accounts [tobacco industry].[5]

The industry has been working with PR companies ever since, including recently fighting the Point of Sale Display Ban; putting in Freedom of Information Requests.

Imperial's PR company is currently Bell Pottinger; Philip Morris' are APCO Associates; Gardant Communications; INHouse Communications and Transatlantic Public Affairs. British American Tobacco's is, amongst others, Hume Brophy

Notes

  1. Dr. Bradford Hill, Letter Quoted in Central Health Service Council, Standing Cancer and Radiotherapy Advisory Committee, Note by the Secretary, May 1952
  2. B. Goss, Background Material on the Cigarette Industry Client, Minutes of the Meeting, 15 December 1953
  3. Hill and Knowlton, Memo, December 1953
  4. A. M. Brandt, Inventing conflicts of interest: A history of tobacco industry tactics, 2012, 102(1), 63-71
  5. J. W. Hill, R. W. Harrow, C. Thompson, W. T. Hoyt, Smoking health and statistics: the story of the tobacco accounts, Lorillard, 1962, accessed October 2012