Taking Back Our Stolen History
Thousands of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents Released through Litigation and Whistleblowers Reveal Astonishing Systematic Corporate Deceit
Thousands of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents Released through Litigation and Whistleblowers Reveal Astonishing Systematic Corporate Deceit

Thousands of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents Released through Litigation and Whistleblowers Reveal Astonishing Systematic Corporate Deceit

ASH and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund reveals their report and evidence uncovered by their joint review of over 60 tobacco industry documents – that:

  • Additives are used to make cigarettes that provide high levels of ‘free’ nicotine which increases the addictive kick of the product
  • Additives are used to enhance the taste of tobacco smoke
  • Sweeteners and chocolate are used to make cigarettes more palatable to children
  • Eugenol and menthol are added to numb the throat to mask the aggravating effects of tobacco smoke
  • Additives such as cocoa are used to dilate the airways allowing the smoke an easier and deeper passage into the lungs
  • Additives are used to mask the smell and visibility of smoke that is not breathed in by the smoker

In a report on the tobacco industry titled, ‘Truth Explained: The truth about the tobacco industry …in its own words more details are available on the released documents. Here’s a summary below:


Thousands of internal tobacco industry documents released through litigation and whistleblowers reveal the most astonishing systematic corporate deceit of all time. What follows is a survey of the documents, 1,200 relevant and revealing quotes grouped under common themes.

Chapter 1 Smoking and health Publicly the industry denied and continues to deny that it is clear that smoking causes lung cancer – yet it has understood the carcinogenic nature of its product since the 1950s. It is now clear that the industry’s stance on smoking and health is determined by lawyers and public relations concerns.

Chapter 2 Nicotine and addiction Until recently the industry has denied its product is addictive. Most recently it has used a definition of addictiveness so broad that it encompasses shopping and the Internet. Internally, it has known since the 1960s that the crucial selling point of its product is the chemical dependence of its customers. Without nicotine addiction there would be no tobacco industry. Nicotine addiction destroys the industry’s PR and legal stance that smoking is a matter of choice.

Chapter 3 Marketing to children The companies deny that they target the young. The documents reveal the obvious – that the market of young smokers is of central importance to the industry. Many documents reveal the companies’ pre-occupation with teenagers and younger children – and the lengths they have gone to in order to influence smoking behaviour in this age group.

Chapter 4 Advertising The industry maintains that advertising is used only to fight for brand share and that it does not increase total consumption – academic research shows otherwise. The documents show that advertising is crucial in nurturing the motivation to smoke by creating or projecting the positive values, such as independence, machismo, glamour or intelligence, erroneously associated with the product.

Chapter 5 Cigarette design The documents show that the companies initially hoped to make safer cigarettes, but then abandoned the enterprise when it recognised that this would expose their existing products as ‘unsafe’. The industry has deliberately promoted ‘low-tar’ cigarettes knowing that they would offer false reassurance without health benefits. It has manipulated nicotine and introduced additives to change the delivery of nicotine. It recognises the cigarette as a drug delivery device.

Chapter 6 Second-hand smoke The industry is challenged by second-hand smoke in two ways. First, measures to protect non-smokers will reduce the opportunities to smoke and contribute to its social unacceptability. Second, the ‘freedom to smoke’ arguments are confounded if non-smokers are harmed. The industry has refused to accept the now overwhelming consensus regarding the harm caused by second-hand smoke – instead it has denied and obfuscated, and sought to influence debate by buying up scientists on a spectacular scale.

Chapter 7 “Emerging markets” Faced with reducing levels of smoking in the West and an insatiable need for money, the companies have moved aggressively into developing countries and Eastern Europe. The documents reveal an arrogance and fanaticism that has imperialist echoes.

Two views of the tobacco industry

Taken together the documents challenge the tobacco industry’s cosy explanation of itself – as the supplier of a legal product used for a widely-enjoyed social habit by adults who are fully aware of the risks and choose to take them to experience the pleasures.

Instead a much darker explanation emerges: it is a predatory industry whose market dynamics demand that it recruits young people. It does this by deploying vast promotional expenditures to create, communicate and amplify a set of positive values associated with the product. Once the glamour phase subsides, nicotine addiction takes over making the customer dependent on the product and securing a profitable cash flow. Trapped by nicotine addiction, the smoker is subject to a variety of sub-lethal illnesses which culminate in a one in two probability of death through smoking-related disease. The smoker’s death means a replacement customer must be found – and the cycle begins again.

Facts and realities the tobacco industry must accept

Justification for taking strong measures against the tobacco industry must be based on facts and realities that command wide assent. Ten ‘facts and realities’ justified by the tobacco industry’s own documents, are set out below. The industry should now be required to admit these:

  1. That smoking causes many kinds of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses which are fatal for many sufferers. The industry still does not publicly accept that smoking causes lung cancer.
  2. That annual global death toll caused by smoking is 4 million. By 2030, that figure will rise to 10 million with seventy percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.
  3. That nicotine is the most important active ingredient in tobacco; that the tobacco companies are in the drug business; the drug is nicotine and that the cigarette is a drug delivery device. The industry maintains it is a simple consumer goods industry.
  4. That nicotine is physiologically and psychologically addictive, in a similar way to heroin and cocaine – rather than shopping, chocolate or the Internet. The overwhelming majority of smokers are strongly dependent on nicotine and that this is a substantial block to smokers’ quitting if they choose to. The industry still maintains that nicotine is not addictive in the sense used here.
  5. That teenagers (13-18) and children (<13) are inherently important to the tobacco market and that companies are competing for market share in these age groups. The industry maintains that its business is only focussed on adults.
  6. That advertising increases total consumption as well as promoting brand share. The industry flatly denies this.
  7. That advertising is one (of several) important and interlocking ingredients that nurture smoking behaviour among teenagers and children. The industry denies its advertising influences the smoking behaviour of children.
  8. That current formulations of low tar cigarettes create false health reassurance and offer little or no health benefit. The industry has either not publicly accepted this or argued that it never claimed any health benefits.
  9. That second-hand smoke is a real public health hazard, including causing childhood diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, cot-death and glue ear, and is a cause of lung cancer and heart disease in adults. The industry has mounted a major disinformation campaign in this area.

That the tobacco industry has the normal duty of any manufacturer to ensure that it does not market a defective product and that its products are as safe as possible.

Source: Truth Explained: The truth about the tobacco industry …in its own words

For further details and hundreds of additional extracts from tobacco industry papers visit ASH at: http://www.ash.org.uk/papers/tobexpld.html and WHO’s comprehensive Tobacco Free Initiative resources at: http://www.who.int/toh.