Why killer cigarettes are still around

Why killer cigarettes are still around

In Summary
  • By late 1953, the tobacco industry faced a crisis of calamitous scope. Smoking had been positively linked to the dramatic rise of lung cancer.
  • It worked to condemn, confuse and erode the very science that now threatened to destroy its prized, highly popular and exclusive product.

The tobacco industry has been seeking since the 1950s to influence science by funding research that supports its business interests and by suppressing and criticising research that is unfavorable to its positions.

Confronted by compelling peer-reviewed scientific evidence of the harms of smoking, the tobacco industry, beginning in the 1950s, used sophisticated public relations approaches to undermine and distort the emerging science.

By late 1953, the tobacco industry faced a crisis of calamitous scope. Smoking had been positively linked to the dramatic rise of lung cancer.

Although health concerns about smoking had been raised for decades, by the early 1950s there was a powerful expansion and consolidation of scientific methods and findings that demonstrated that smoking caused lung disease as well as other serious respiratory and cardiac diseases, leading to death.

These findings appeared in major, peer-reviewed medical journals as well as throughout the general media.

As a result, the tobacco industry would unveil a new strategy, principally exceptional in the history of US industry and business. It worked to condemn, confuse and erode the very science that now threatened to destroy its prized, highly popular and exclusive product.

But this would be no simple matter. After all, in the immediate postwar years—the dawn of the nuclear age—science was in high esteem. The industry could not disparage the scientific enterprise and still maintain its public credibility, so crucial to its success.

The tobacco industry has been known to also manipulate scientific data. For instance, when the dangers of second-hand smoke started to emerge, the tobacco industry funded research to prove that second-hand smoke posed little or no harm by misclassifying study subjects in terms of their exposure to second-hand smoke.

An illustration of how the industry has managed to use science to its advantage is through the manipulation of cigarettes to increase addictiveness by loading cigarettes with chemical compounds.

Bronchodilators were added so that tobacco smoke can more easily enter the lungs. Sugars, flavors and menthol were increased to dull the harshness of smoke and make it easier to inhale. Ammonia was added so that nicotine travels to the brain faster.

Another is the industry’s ability to undermine public health information and confuse and divide the health community. This is predominantly effective when research is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In June 2021, research suggesting that e-cigarettes are a highly effective cessation tool and safer alternative for smokers made waves – before it was revealed that the study was funded by a manufacturer of vaping products.

The tobacco industry has been known to also manipulate scientific data. For instance, when the dangers of second-hand smoke started to emerge, the tobacco industry funded research to prove that second-hand smoke posed little or no harm by misclassifying study subjects in terms of their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Other tactics include how the study question is framed or changing the standards for scientific research, as well as having editorial board members of scientific journals with ties to the industry.

The implications can be far-reaching, as highlighted by a 2006 study into how the tobacco industry’s influence of science and scientists in Germany has been a factor in the country’s opposition to stricter tobacco regulation.

Source: The Star

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