Smoking and Health and the Social Acceptability of Smoking

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This 1977 R.J. Reynolds (RJR) internal presentation portrays "the international anti-smoking lobby" (public health authorities, governments and health advocacy organizations) as a global threat to the cigarette industry because the efforts "are aimed at making smokers stop smoking." It also shows RJR's denial of the link between smoking and disease, and the company's decision to take a "leadership role" in organizing the global tobacco industry to fight public health efforts to reduce smoking.

In excerpts taken from throughout the document, RJR states,

These [anti-smoking] efforts, based on scientifically unproven arguments that smoking injures health, present a very serious threat to the industry and RJR throughout the world ... The threat to the industry and to RJR is growing worldwide. Smoking is becoming less socially acceptable, smoking is becoming downscale, the incidence of smoking is declining, particularly among young adults ... For the first time the Industry is organizing worldwide to fight this threat ... It will be extremely difficult to counter this movement, but the economic consequences are enormous. We are prepared to organize and fund whatever efforts are deemed appropriate to protect the rights of the smoker and the Industry ..."

The document shows RJR was boxed into a corner by widespread public and government acceptance that smoking is harmful to health, and their inability to refute this:

The public universally BELIEVES that smoking is harmful to one's health and frequently causes disease and death. The governments of MOST western countries support this position. We cannot openly refute this position without increasing the threat to our ability to market out products ...

The document states that "Smoking cannot remain social acceptable if smokers are looked upon as 'disease spreaders.'"

The document shows that RJR was not been satisfied with allowing smokers to follow their natural inclinations to stop smoking after receiving information about tobacco's harmful effects. The safety of its customers did not matter to the company even after three of the most world's most respected health authorities (the U.K. Royal College of Physicians, the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Medical Association) declared that smoking was a health hazard causally related to lung cancer, bronchitis and coronary disease.

The document shows an embattled company -- and industry -- desperately trying to overcome the forces of human nature, as smoking started falling out of favor with society, millions of people attempted to quit smoking, and governments began acting on factual health information about tobacco use issued by respected global authorities.

Title Smoking and Health and the Social Acceptability of Smoking.
Date 19771031 (October 31, 1977)
Type REPORT;REVISION
Bates 505197141/7187
Collection R.J. Reynolds
URL: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/ifu25d00

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