Project Mayfly

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

Project Mayfly was an ambitious plan organized plan by the transnational tobacco companies of British American Tobacco (BAT), Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Tobacco, Gallaher, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and the German tobacco company Reentsma in 1980 to "influence, modify or change public opinion to the industry, smokers and smoking, to create a more favourable climate [for smoking and the industry], however directly or indirectly." [1]

Some objectives of Project Mayfly were to:

  • "Protect smokers and their behavior
  • Separate smokers and non-smokers from anti-smokers
  • Discredit the anti's."

The plan sought to promote the "social benefits of smoking," "expose anti-smoking groups" and portray "smoking as normal behavior."

Project Mayfly's wide-ranging plans included influencing politicians and the media through multiple channels, surveillance of public health groups, organizing and publicizing tightly controlled scientific symposia, running advertising campaigns focusing on individual freedoms, development of an "Allies Project" to recruit a wide range of non-tobacco parties to speak on behalf of the tobacco industry. It also included recruiting National [Tobacco] Manufacturers' Associations (NMAs) worldwide, "who would bear the major costs of implementation work."

Provisional ideas included a "fair play" competition for press and media, smokers' short stories that would highlight smoking as a social benefit, cartoon campaigns, "awards for personalities displaying an active role on tolerance and courtesy issues," and "image campaigns" highlighting freedom of choice by individuals.

A confidential 1980 report on Project Mayfly contains an organizational chart showing the member-companies of the International Committee on Smoking Issues (ICOSI) who organized Project Mayfly: British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris, Reentsma (German tobacco industry), R.J. Reynolds and Rothmans International. [2] A subcommittee of ICOSI called the Social Acceptability Working Party (SAWP) organized Project Mayfly.

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