Saturday, October 14, 2006


The Smoke Ring

Caleb Crain takes up last week's post on Philip Morris and runs with the ball:

I thought I would see if I could find this particular document in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.... I'm guessing that Monbiot was referring to the "Proposed Plan for the Public Launching of the TASSC [The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition]," dated 30 September 1993, which on page 2 deprecates a launching through "top media markets" and prefers an approach that "Avoids cynical reporters from major media" in order to arrange for "less reviewing/challenging of TASSC messages."

The fee for a 20-city launch was $60,000, as you may read on page 8 of the memo, though Philip Morris was given the option of economizing: a 10-city launch would only cost $35,000. As the letterhead reveals, the PR firm that created TASSC for Philip Morris was APCO Associates. They seem to be in business still; according to their website, it is part of their "Culture and Values" to "Tell the truth." No doubt.

There are many more goodies on this over at his site. Monbiot's book is apparently the first to show Philip Morris's efforts preceding Exxon's, and it's a revelation that's had curiously little play in the US yet. But there are a couple curious previous stories that crop up. From a December 2005 NY Times book review of The Republican War on Science:
"Doubt is our product," declared a 1969 Brown & Williamson memo spelling out the strategy, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public." After the E.P.A. released a report on the dangers of secondhand smoke in 1992, the Tobacco Institute berated the agency for preferring "political correctness over sound science." Within a year Philip Morris helped to create a group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (Tassc), which challenged the risks not only of secondhand smoke but also of pesticides, dioxin and other industrial chemicals. (The executive director of Tassc in the late 1990's was Steven Milloy, who now "debunks" global warming and other environmental threats in the column "Junk Science.") Newt Gingrich and other Republicans soon started invoking "sound science" and "junk science" while criticizing government regulations.
The New Republic subsequently found a bounteously overflowing cornucopia of financial conflicts of interest for Milloy and his work as a "journalist." So you'd think Fox might stop using him.

But indeed they still do.

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