Confidential Memorandum from Ernest Pepples to Horace Kornegay, February, 1979

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Cost-benefit analyses of smoking first performed in the late 1970s became known as the "social cost issue." Such studies put the tobacco industry in a precarious position. If they weren't careful, they would find themselves arguing (for example) that it is not 90,000 people who occupy hospital beds because of cigarettes but some figure less than 90,000. In order to deal with the social costs issue, the tobacco industry sought to devise arguments that set forth a positive value for smoking. This memo, written by Ernest Pepples, counsel for the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, discusses some of these ideas. Pepples highlights a poor example of how to deal with the social costs issue: a "lugubrious" study that concluded that smokers actually save society money because they die sooner, saving "the geriatrics and nursing home costs of old age."

Industry executives were aware of such pitfalls in arguing against the "social cost theory," so they undertook to find ways to avoid the topic. One strategy was to move the argument onto another plain entirely and demonstrate how smoking benefits society. According to author Pepples, smoking

"--Marks out time --Marks out space --Provides entree --Relieves conflict --Permits sharing," and,

It is also believed that in a social situation smoking can help create a shield against a real or potential aggressor. For example, in a business negotiation cigarette smoking helps to create a barrier against the negotiator across the table...

Pepples casts about for arguments that portray health advocates as mentally unbalanced, citing a Rutgers sociology professor who "has written a delightful 'anti-anti-smoker' magazine article in which he discusses the religious sociology of the fumoaphobia syndrome. He thinks today's smoker is akin to the Jew in Nazi Germany..." On page 6 of the document Pepples claims that

"The anti-smokers seem to belong to that group of people who feel that 'modern' is bad...They want to stop the world and get off the chaotic freeways and return to the cowpaths of our pastoral beginnings...." while "The Third World wants to take up smoking as a badge of modernity."

Pepples asks, "....How relevant is it to count absenteeism or to count cigarette burns on desks and couches as a counterweight to the important social function of an alternate lifestyle?"

Title: Social Costs
Per. Author: Ernest Pepples, Brown & Williamson
Date: 19790208 (February 8, 1979)
Type: Memorandum, budget, review, list
Bates No. 03678680/8689
Collection: Lorillard
Pages: 10