Influencing Science: Ghost Writing

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A ghostwriter is a someone who writes books, articles, stories, or scientific reports which are officially credited to another person. Given the history of the tobacco industry to use Third Party Techniques and of Influencing Science it comes as little surprise that the industry has used ghost writing as a technique too:

  • In the mid-eighties RJ Reynolds ran a ghost-writing programme, which included scientific research being reviewed by RJReynolds’ “panel prior to it being submitted for publication. 1
  • In the early nineties, RJ Reynolds discussed using “celebrity” ghost-writers to “target adolescent males and females” , under the umbrella of “Deciding For Yourself” adverts to warn against peer pressure. 2
  • In the mid-nineties, Mother Jones magazine enlisted eleven reporters to spend three months uncovering the tobacco industry’s current tactics. The result was a 40-page special report entitled “Tobacco Strikes Back” which documented how “The tobacco industry is engaged in a massive, largely hidden strategy to turn back a rising tide of government regulations, lawsuits, tax increases, smoking restrictions, and increased public opposition.”

According to Mother Jones‘ then editor “The scope of the tobacco industry’s project is massive … and the battle is being joined on every level — from Washington, where tobacco lobbyists are ghost writing letters for governors to send to the Food and Drug Administration, to mom & pop grocery stores, which are being enlisted as front groups to fight excise taxes and restrictions on the sale of tobacco.” 3

  • For example, a memo from February 1995 from the the Tobacco Institute recommended ghost-writing newspaper opinion articles to be signed and submitted by the Taxpayers Association, American labour unions and a group of tobacco wholesalers. 4
  • In 1997, consultants recommended ghost-writing to BAT as one tactic to try and portray the company as responsible in regards to youth smoking. 5
  • In 2000, the technique was used by Philip Morris as part of its advertising for Chesterfield cigarettes. 6

TobaccoTactics Resources


  1. W Hayes, Visit with Carol Henry Microbiological Associates, Washington, 3 January 1985
  2. K. L. Verner, Youth Non-Smoking Concept — SASSY and DIRT Magazine, 22 April, 1991
  3. Mother Jones, Mother Jones Publishes Broad Expose of Tobacco Politics – Special Issue Reveals Industry’s “Stealth” Tactics & Deep Ties to Republican Party, 17 April 1996
  4. Tom Hamburger and Greg Gordon, Tobacco industry uses other groups to get message out, Star Tribune, 21 June 1998
  5. Research International, British-American Tobacco Opinion Benchmark Study, 13th March 1997
  6. Jonathan Murphy, Chesterfield Packaging and Advertising Evaluation Report, 5 December 2000
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