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.