A famous 1972 Lorillard Tobacco Co. document very frankly lays out the tobacco industry's "holding strategy," the strategy the tobacco industry applied to guide itself successfully through decades of litigation, politics and public relations. The memo was written by Fred Panzer, the Tobacco Institute's Vice President of Public Relations. The strategy was one of of "creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it."
For nearly twenty years, this industry has employed a single strategy to defend itself on three major fronts -- litigation, politics and public opinion. While the strategy was brilliantly conceived and executed over the years in helping us win important battles, it is only fair to say that it is not--nor was it intended to be--a vehicle for victory. On the contrary, it has always been a holding strategy, consisting of "creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it," advocating the public's right to smoke, without actually urging them to take up the practice, encouraging objective scientific research as the only way to resolve the question of health hazard On the litigation front for which the strategy was designed, it has been successful. While we have not lost a liability case, this is not because juries have rejected the anti-smoking arguments. On the political front, the strategy has helped make an orderly retreat.
Panzer sought a way to prolong the "cigarette controversy" and thus turn around the "deteriorating situation" in which the tobacco industry found itself.
The jig was about up on their "holding strategy" by 1972, as the public grew less accepting of the Institute's claim that the case against cigarettes was not proven. (As Mr. Panzer puts it, "it is impossible to hold the public on a middle course for any length of time.") Panzer saw two possible ways out of the situation: 1) concoct a way to blame the smoker for becoming ill (the tobacco industry's "Constitutional Hypothesis," which essentially blames smokers' illnesses on heredity and other nebulous screw-ups which Mr. Panzer termed their "patterns of life,") or 2) Find a way to blame other things for making smokers ill, like food additives, stress, air pollution, and occupational hazards.
The tobacco industry took polls which showed that idea #2 was the one that was most believable to most people. Thus, Mr. Panzer advocated commissioning a "study" that would concur with, and promote this hypothesis. To give the study weight and credibility, it would be designed by "prestige figures" and "hopefully published by a legitimate house." It would then be delivered to the White House, Congress, the Cabinet, State Governors, the Senate, medical universities, etc. and then released in book form (both hard back and paperback). As a book, it would thus be easily promoted through all the legitimate media avenues, like talk shows, book reviews, interviews, ads, condensations in magazines, etc. Then, the key influentials and opinion leaders thus "educated," they would help buffalo millions of people into believing that, in fact, everything but smoking could be blamed for inducing smokers' illnesses.
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