Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents

Professor of Medicine

The tobacco industry is like an intelligent and aggressive ever-evolving pathogen that accounts for one-third of all cancer and nearly two-thirds of heart disease among people under 55.  To reduce this burden of disease requires understanding how the tobacco industry maintains a social and policy environment favorable to smoking. To understand a pathogen, one might study its genetic code. To understand the tobacco industry, we have a written record of its research and decision making process in the form of over 62 million pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents now available at the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. This research uses this unique resource to understand how the tobacco industry works to shape the environment, and what public health authorities and advocates can do to anticipate and counter the tobacco industry’s adaptive strategies (legal, political, scientific, propagandistic) to frustrate and subvert smoking prevention and cessation programs. The tobacco industry has a strategic advantage because its deliberations are traditionally private and proprietary while the public health community works in the open, on democratic principles.   Analysis of the tobacco industry documents partially redresses this imbalance and promotes transparent, effective policy development. When the tobacco industry has deemed its strategies successful in the past, it replicates and builds on them. Where it identifies setbacks, public health authorities can learn where to push their advantage. Exploiting this documentary evidence is invaluable, on an on-going basis, for anticipating the industry’s future strategy and for helping guide future public health strategy relevant to three specific aims:  

  1.  Describe and assess the tobacco industry’s evolving strategies to influence the conduct, interpretation, and dissemination of science and how the industry uses these strategies to oppose tobacco control policies, emphasizing emerging national and international product regulations by the US Food and Drug Administration and its counterparts in other countries.
  2. Analyze evolving tobacco industry strategies to oppose tobacco control policies at the local, state, and international level, including efforts to undermine implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
  3. Analyze tobacco marketing and advertising strategies aimed at young adults and women, with an emphasis on identifying principles that can be applied to develop more effective tobacco prevention and cessation strategies for these groups.