Arguments and rhetoric used by the tobacco industry

Arguments invoking "freedom" and "responsibility"

  1.   Document id: yqmw0088    Document date: 1997-04-00    Pages: 2
Document date: 1997-04-00   Type: report   Collection: Philip Morris Records  
Author: ADVOCATE  

  2.   Document id: tyjm0222    Document date: 2009-06-16    Pages: 40
Document date: 2009-06-16   Type: email   Collection: RJ Reynolds Records  


The emotionalist argument

01. The emotionalist argument used in relation to the link between smoking and lung cancer

  3.   Document id: qjfc0115 (PDF)    Document date: 1953-11-30    Pages: 1
Internal note by RN DuPuis: "objectivity with all the facts vs. emotionalism with incomplete evidence"
Document date: 1953-11-30   Type: letter   Collection: Philip Morris Records  
Author: DUPUIS,RN  

Recipient: WEISSMAN,G  
Note: Internal note of November 30, 1953 from RN DuPuis, director, Research & Development, Philip Morris, to G Weissman, vice president, Philip Morris. The note illustrates the rhetoric used to deny the causal link between smoking and lung cancer. The current results implicating smoking in the aetiology of lung cancer are motivated by "emotionalism" leading to "drawing conclusions on incomplete evidence" and of course this "extremist approach" is "published because it makes a better story", while "sober, mature and equally earnest and capable scientists have drawn the opposite conclusion after studying all the evidence."

The supreme tenet of any scientist should be objectivity, insistance on having all of the facts before passing judgment - as opposed to emotionalism and drawing conclusions on incomplete evidence.

The truth is that no one has ever proved a relationship between smoking and lung cancer.

If the extremist approach is to be published because it makes a better story or for other reasons, let us at least make it known that sober, mature and equally earnest and capable scientists have drawn the opposite conclusion after studying all the evidence.

02. The emotionalist argument used in relation to the passive smoking issue

  4.   Document id: klfb0040 (PDF)    Document date: 1976-04-01    Pages: 106
Revision and Update of "Smoking & Health Quotes Book"
Document date: 1976-04-01   Type: memo   Collection: Ness Motley Law Firm Documents  
Authors: The Tobacco Institute, Yeonwine, George  

Note: Compilation of quotations prepared by the The Tobacco Institute for its members.

Carr, D., Statement, Hearings Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, April 15-May 1, 1969, pp. 849-858.

"Unfortunately, many supposedly well informed officials in the PHS and certain voluntary health organizations have permitted their emotionalism and zeal to out-distance the actual scientific knowledge and proof. This has resulted in misleading the public into believing there is proof where none exists."

p. 851

  5.   Document id: gmln0118 (PDF)    Document date: 1975-07-03    Pages: 3
Document date: 1975-07-03   Type: bibliography   Collection: Lorillard Records  

Note: Letters in the New England Journal of Medicine 293:47-49 (July 3), 1975. The quotation is taken from the last letter, authored by Gary Huber. The letters took issue with an article published in the April 17 issue of the Journal, which was accompanied with an editorial written by Huber and entitled "Smoking and nonsmokers: what is the issue?" [jtxj0075]. One of the letters summarized the article as purporting "to show evidence that there may be insufficient reason to protect non-smokers from exposure to tobacco smoke generated by smokers." In his editorial, Huber went further and hypothesized that "the nonsmoker passively exposed to tobacco may have an adverse health response on a psychogenic basis." His letter was in reply to the other letters. It should be noted that Gary Huber research was funded by the tobacco industry (

Controversy continues to surround many issues related to smoking. When scientific data on the effects of an agent on health are incomplete, as they are on the tobacco question, reactions in many people are derived far too often from an emotional rather than an objective basis. I should like to make a plea as a partisan for objective science. Emotional arguments with a moral flavor, presented without scientifically aceeptable data, have, in my judgment, no place for solving problems as serious as this one.

In other words, results or conclusions should not be presented or interpreted with a preconceived bias of the investigator or, for that matter, of the reader. Unfortunately, for reasons I cannot fully understand, this course has far too often been followed in questions of tobacco and health. Rather, definitive answers should be obtained by careful scientific endeavors designed to test in an objective and honest manner a clearly delineated hypothesis.


...the problem goes far beyond tobacco. In a free society, we accept the right to dissent and there are established mechanisms to protect the rights of all individuals. Crucial health issues can be resolved only by impeccable science, not by overwrought emotional biases generated by a small minority who appear to be psychogenically affected by tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoking is too prevalent not to demand such scientific analyses to ascertain realistically and to clarify precisely the health effects on both the smoker and the nonsmoker.

  6.   Document id: mzwl0004 (PDF)    Document date: 1975-04-00    Pages: 271
Document date: 1975-04-00   Type: legal language   Collection: Tobacco Institute Records  
Authors: Kornegay, Horace R, Jenks, Lee C, Burke, Thomas E, Riley, Robert M, Hine, Charles H  

Recipient: Gordon, Jack  


It may be instructive to examine a few of the claims concerning public smoking in the light of scientific and medical knowledge.

Antismoking militants have made highly emotional and scientifically unsupported assertions about potential injury to nonsmokers due to exposure to tobacco smoke.

It seems incredible, but these numbers offer ample evidence that many of the politicians in this nation who fought for and won a breakdown in the barriers that divided people on the basis of race, creed and color are now helping erect new barriers to divide us on the basis of smoking and nonsmoking.

Clearly, the emotional arguments, local efforts and extensive publicity being used by the anti-smokers are producing a reaction which threatens the future of the entire tobacco industry. As the sponsor of an anti-smoking bill in Maryland stated. "The whole intention of the legislation is to make smoking less acceptable. We want to decrease the opportunities to smoke as much as possible."

  7.   Document id: psnj0118 (PDF)    Document date: 1977-00-00    Pages: 27
Document date: 1977-00-00   Type: list   Collection: Lorillard Records  


We emphasize that this is an industry-wide communication plan which requires coordinated, intensive actions on the part of all industry segments. [...] We believe the industry's responsibilities in public discussion are met in this plan.

Make a reasoned contribution to the dialogue on public health

The Problem

Environmental tobacco smoke is perceived by many people as dangerous. [...] This growing view can change nonsmokers to antismokers and lead to additional restrictive regulations and possible prohibitions against smoking.

Most industry leaders interviewed consider the claimed health aspects of public smoking as the most threatening issue facing the industry in the 1980's. Most believe it is also an area where the industry can and should communicate its views since there is no convincing evidence of harmful health effects to nonsmokers in an environment where smoking occurs.

There is widespread agreement that carefully researched and developed information on this issue can be targeted to respond to emotional and misleading statements by adversary groups.

Objective 7

Counter the position taken by anti-tobacco groups

The Problem

Public indoctrination by anti-tobacco groups continues. Popular attitudes about smoking are continuously reinforced and worsened by communications originated in the media or by consumer groups, voluntary health associations, portions of the scientific medical-educational community and business organizations.




2. Challenge misinformation by anti-smoking groups


A. Prepare carefully researched statements of facts on issues dealt with emotionally or erroneously by adversaries for publication in appropriate media.

  8.   Document id: jrcp0191 (PDF)    Document date: Undefined    Pages: 17
Environmental Tobacco Smoke : Improving the Quality of Public Debate
Document date: Undefined   Type: flow chart   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  



Non-smokers do not always object to the habit of smoking. Some, however, find it irritating, annoying, or perhaps even objectionable. They may not like the smell of lit tobacco; find it discomforting to the eyes, or nose and throat, particularly when the environment is inadequately ventilated; or simply thoroughly disapprove of the smoking habit. They may cite that ETS is an invasion of their privacy, their right to clean air and personal freedom.

Nevertheless, the main thrust of assertions against ETS is that it is a serious hazard to the health of non-smokers. Several regulatory and advisory bodies around the world have concluded that exposure to ETS poses a small risk to non-smokers in terms of the development of lung cancer in adults and short term respiratory effects in very young children. The same bodies agree, however, that there is insufficient evidence to establish that ETS is associated with any other adverse health effect, such as heart disease.

Anti-smoking activists have concluded that, where smoking may affect nonsmokers, prohibition or restrictions on smoking are justified. The argument is put with considerable emotional appeal to non-smokers: that non-smokers have the right to smoke-free air and should not be exposed to the health hazard that they claim ETS presents; that smoking should therefore be prohibited in certain public places; that segregation should apply in other cases.

The logical progression of the argument of anti-smoking activists is that smoking should be outlawed, except in the home where it is conceded that the individual should have the right to smoke, if he or she wishes.

  9.   Document id: tpyw0207 (PDF)    Document date: 1990-10-30    Pages: 1
Tobacco Industry Council Position Paper Number 3 - Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Document date: 1990-10-30   Type: note   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  
Author: MGBR  

  1. The issue of the exposure of non-smokers to tobacco smoke, known to the industry as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and , is a major cause of concern to the industry. This is because although the scientific validity of claims against ETS is non-existent the emotional impact is very strong.

  2. The anti-tobacco lobby trade on the fact that the public are largely unaware of the questionable and often contradictory nature of the studies on ETS which they quote and rely upon maximum publicity of condemnatory statements to arouse public emotion.

  10.   Document id: hglf0200 (PDF)    Document date: Undefined    Pages: 6
Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Answer to the Most Asked Questions
Document date: Undefined   Type: questionnaire   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  


QUESTION: What is environmental tobacco smoke? Is it the same as "passive smoking"?

Environmental tobacco smoke ("ETS") is the smoke that comes off the end of a burning cigarette plus the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker. Before anyone is exposed to either form of smoke, however, tremendous dilution occurs with room air. The major components of ETS are water (which is what makes ETS visible, like steam) and carbon dioxide (which is the substance people exhale with normal breathing).

The term "passive smoking" is misleading. ETS ["environmental tobacco smoke"] is not the same as the mainstream smoke inhaled by smokers. Although exhaled mainstream smoke is one of the components of ETS, the smoke begins to age -- and undergo physical and chemical changes -- immediately upon leaving the cigarette. Similarly, mainstream smoke and the smoke that comes off the end of a burning cigarette are different from both a physical and chemical perspective, in part because they are produced at different temperatures. Further, tremendous dilution occurs with room air before anyone is exposed to ETS. Finally, and in contrast to active smoking, people are exposed to ETS primarily through the nose, with its built-in filtering mechanism. It seems clear that the phrase "passive smoking" would never have been coined by the organized antismoking community, which developed and first began to use the phrase, were it not for the phrase's emotional content.

  11.   Document id: xjyn0191 (PDF)    Document date: 1988-04-13    Pages: 1
[Transcript regarding a statement made by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms about ETS]
Document date: 1988-04-13   Type: transcript   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  
Author: Helms, Jesse  


After explaining the differences between primary and "passive" smoke exposure, Helms goes on to discuss the chemical composition of ETS and reports of the US Surgeon General (1986), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (1986), and the Office of Technology Assessment (1986), and the National Academy of Sciences (1986).

He concludes by saying that "smoking, and now exposure to ETS, has become an emotional issue. It must be that because that is the only logical explanation for concluding the (sic) ETS has been even remotely linked with diseases such as lung cancer.

  12.   Document id: gllc0199 (PDF)    Document date: 1994-05-09    Pages: 4
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Document date: 1994-05-09   Type: report, scientific   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  


The phrase "passive smoking" is inappropriate. It is emotional, but is no more appropriate than if it were applied to exposure to smoke from a fire-place or from vehicle exhaust.

  13.   Document id: jkjm0036 (PDF)    Document date: Undefined    Pages: 7
Special Report Passive Smoking How Great A Hazard?
Document date: Undefined   Type: other   Collection: Tobacco Institute Records  
Authors: Huber, Gary L, Brockie, Robert E, Mahajan, Vijay K  

Note: The main author of this article, Gary Huber, was funded by the tobacco industry.
Note: According to the authors, the scientific research that provided evidence that exposure to passive smoking causes diseases was under the influence of a "social movement".

Cigarette smoking is offensive to many nonsmokers and some of these highly-diluted constituent can trigger adverse emotional responses, but do these levels of exposure really represent a legitimate hea1th hazard?

Clear answers to these questions are difficult to find. The generation, interpretation, and use of scientific and medical information about ETS has been influenced, and probably distorted, by a "social movement" to shift the emphasis on the adverse health effects of smoking in the active smoker to an implied health risk for the nonsmoker. The focus of this movement, initiated by Sir George Godber of the World Health Organization 15 years ago, was and is to emphasize that active cigarette smokers injure those around them, including their families and, especially, any infants that might be exposed involuntarily to ETS.

By fostering the perception that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for nonsmokers, active smoking has become an undesirable and an antisocial behavior. The cigarette smoker has become ever more segregated and isolated. This ETS social movement has been successful in reducing tobacco cigarette consumption, perhaps more than other measures, including mandatory health warnings, advertising bans on radio and television, and innumerable other efforts instituted by public health and medical professional organizations. But, has the ETS social movement been based on scientific truth and on reproducible data and sound scientific principles?

At times, not surprisingly, the ETS social movement and scientific objectivity have been in conflict. To start with, much of the research on ETS has been shoddy and poorly conceived. Editorial boards of scientific journals have selectively accepted or excluded contributions not always on the basis of inherent scientific merit but, in part, because of these social pressures and that, in turn, has affected and biased the data that are available for further analyses by professional organizations and governmental agencies.

  14.   Document id: qhmv0199 (PDF)    Document date: 1992-05-00    Pages: 7
Passive Smoking: How Great a Hazard?
Document date: 1992-05-00   Type: article   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  
Authors: University of Texas, Brockie, Robert E, Mahajan, Vijay K, Huber, Gary L  

Note: The main author of this article, Gary Huber, was funded by the tobacco industry.
Note: The authors state in substance that taking distance with the "science" produced by the tobacco industry or by tobacco-industry funded scientists threatens the whole edifice of science itself and ruins the credibility of scientists, which may have serious consequences when society will find itself in a situation where science is crucially needed.

Has there been a "misrepresentation of science" in the common perception of ETS today? Active tobacco smoking and environmental tobacco smoke are controversial, very emotional, and highly politicized subjects. In the quagmire of ETS forces operative in politics, emotion, and science, it has been difficult to sort out scientific fact from unsound conjecture. Unfortunately, scientific data have not always been utilized objectively by governmental agencies or regulatory bodies that have their own inherent public health or political agenda. Good science ultimately must cast on established proven scientific methods, and the full results generated by these scientific methods. When these methods are compromised, scientific integrity is lost and society pays the price. Interpretations and judgments may vary, as a function of an investigator's bias or to expedite one or another political, social or emotional objective.

Richard Lindzen, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has emphasized that problems will arise when we will need to depend on scientific judgment, and by ruining our credibility now we leave society with a resource of some importance diminished. The implementation of public policies must be based on good science, to the degree that it is available, and not on emotion or on political needs. Those who develop such policies must not stray from sound scientific investigations, based only on accepted scientific methodologies: Such has not always been the case with environmental tobacco smoke.

03. Internal instruction to deal with "emotional" audiences

  15.   Document id: trhh0205 (PDF)    Document date: 1988-06-08    Pages: 1
Communication of ETS Information
Document date: 1988-06-08   Type: memo   Collection: British American Tobacco Records  
Authors: British-American Tobacco Company Limited, Heard, AL  

Recipients: BATUKE R&D Centre, Baker, RR  
Note: Tobacco "scientists" should communciate only at scientific meetings and should not attend meetings where the question of active smoking and health might be raised by "emotional" and politically motivated audiences.

Communication of ETS Information

I believe we should make a distinction between the role of those responsible for communicating at scientific meetings and for communicating to non-specialist audiences. There are several scientists at Southampton, of whom both you and Chris Proctor are good examples, who we encourage to cover the former, i.e. specialist meetings. For the others, I see dangers in scientists, who tend to base their arguments on a purely rational approach, getting into "hot water" with potentially aggressive and often politically motivated audiences who pursue irrational and often emotional lines of debate. The other danger I see in the non-specialist fora is that if a scientist strong in ETS know-how becomes involved in discussions that drift towards mainstream smoking issues he has no knowledgs base to lean on.

For this reason the nonspecialist occasions are best handled by Millbank Departments (either Public Affairs or Corporate R&D).