Influencing Science

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Funding research, including universities
To create doubt about evidence of the health effects of tobacco use.

WHO Definitions of Tobacco Industry Tactics for resisting effective tobacco control, 2009.


The Tobacco Industry has a long history of influencing the scientific debate on smoking and health. Tens of thousands of internal industry documents, released through litigation, reveal that the industry knew for decades that its products caused cancer and were highly addictive and yet it refused to acknowledge this publicly.

Influencing the scientific debate has been a deliberate industry strategy (See Hill & Knowlton and/or Tobacco Industry Research Committee). The tobacco industry has several related goals:

  • to influence the research agenda
  • to create doubt about evidence, by publicly denying the relationship between smoking and cancer and the addictiveness of nicotine
  • to divert the issue away from the causal link between smoking and cancer to a variety of diversionary issues such as hereditary disease; healthy cigarettes; or indoor climate.

Ultimately, influencing science aims to change the knowledge upon which decision makers set policy. And by creating uncertainty around the smoking and health debate, it simultaneously attempts to reduce public support for regulatory action.

Over time, the ways to influence science have become more sophisticated. Numerous different tactics with a wide variety of tools are used:

  • Preventing research

Some tactics are not just aimed at influencing science, but conveniently have other concurrent goals. A recent example was Philip Morris filing Freedom of Information Requests to get hold of the raw material of Stirling University's research into youth smoking habits. This action served several purposes. It cost the Stirling Management School a lot of energy, time and money to deal with the requests, and the industry tried to get access to research that was used to decide on new regulation. The attack against Stirling University also evolved into a Smear Campaign by pro-tobacco bloggers against one of its scientists, Linda Bauld.