Fred Panzer

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

Fred Panzer served as Vice President of the Tobacco Institute from 1971 to 1980. Panzer wrote the now-famous memo used repeatedly in court cases against the industry titled "The Roper Proposal."

Panzer wrote the memo in 1972. In it, Panzer strove to concoct a way to prolong the "cigarette controversy" and thus turn around the "deteriorating situation" in which the tobacco industry found itself. In Mr. Panzer's words, until this time the tobacco industry had been able to rely on its "brilliantly conceived and executed strategy" which was, specifically,

...a holding strategy, consisting of--creating doubt about the health charge without actually denying it,


"...variations on the theme that, 'the case is not proved.' "

As public began to get wise to the "holding strategy", Panzer recognized this and wrote, "it is impossible to hold the public on a middle course for any length of time." Panzer saw two possible ways out of the situation: 1) concoct a way to blame the smoker for becoming ill (the tobacco industry's "Constituional Hyothesis," which essentially blames smokers' illnesses on heredity and other nebulous screw-ups which Mr. Panzer termed their "patterns of life,") or 2) Find a way to blame other things for making smokers ill, like food additives, stress, air pollution, and occupational hazards.

The tobacco industry took polls which showed that idea #2 was the one that was most believable to most people. Thus, Mr. Panzer conceived of commissioning a "study" that would concur with, and promote this hypothesis. To give the study weight and credibility, it would be designed by "prestige figures" and "hopefully published by a legitimate house." The study would then be delivered to the White House, Congress, the Cabinet, State Governors, the Senate, medical universities, etc. and then released in book form (both hard back and paper back). As a book, it would thus be easily promoted through all the legitimate avenues: talk shows, book reviews, interviews, ads, condensations in magazines, etc. Then, the key influentials and opinion leaders thus "educated," they would help convince millions to believe that indeed everything but smoking could be blamed for inducing smokers' illnesses.

As Mr. Panzer puts it, " of all, [the proposed book] would only have to be seen -- not read -- to be believed...just like the Surgeon General's report."[1]


  1. Panzer F, Tobacco Institute The Roper Proposal Memorandum. May 1, 1972. Bates No. 2024274199/4202

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