ICOSI Approaches to "Social Costs" Issues

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

ICOSI approaches to "Social Costs" Issues

This 5-page report, estimated date 1978, describes the global tobacco industry's urgency is implementing a campaign to undermine slow the global quit rate, reverse the decline in smoking acceptability, and counter global public health authorities' efforts to reduce tobacco use around the world.

These efforts were carried out by ICOSI (the multinational tobacco industry's International Committee on Smoking Issues), whose members included British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Gallaher, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and the German tobacco company Reentsma. The companies feared that society's newly-found focus on the economic burdens caused by tobacco, or "social costs" (higher medical costs, absenteeism, cleaning costs, etc.) would create "economic incentives [for companies] to join anti-smoking efforts." They feared this would lead to widespread, cascading efforts by businesses to decrease their operating costs by helping employees quit smoking. They feared this in turn would accelerate the decline in social acceptability of smoking, and further decrease cigarette consumption:

If enough managers become convinced that anti-smoking efforts will help their company's profitability, then SAWP [the Social Acceptability Working Party of ICOSI] can visualize an avalanche of corporate-sponsored anti-smoking programs. If so, such programs could easily dwarf the present efforts carried out by governments and public interest groups...Considering just these...major implications, SAWP believes that the industry must begin to quickly and seriously address 'social costs' issues.

The report also shows that a goal of ICOSI was to "reduce to absurdity" public health conclusions about the social costs of smoking:

Put [social cost arguments against smoking] in perspective and reduce them to absurdity - Demonstrate that overeating, coffee, sugar, lack of exercise, fats, alcohol, etc. are also alleged to generate 'social costs.' If tobacco use is subjected to attack, these other behaviors should also be indicted, taxed and otherwise discouraged.

Date 19780000
Bates TIMN0257352/7356
Collection Tobacco Institute
Pages 5
URL: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ryc72f00