Tobacco industry surveillance

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

The tobacco industry performs surveillance on public health advocacy groups and individuals as countermeasure to find information they can potentially use against them.

A 1993 email from Philip Morris Issues Manager Joshua Slavitt reveals PM clandestinely investigating Colorado tobacco control groups and individuals, searching for information they can exploit to help discredit them. Working through a surrogate public relations agency, Slavitt gave strict orders to hide PM's involvement in these activities. Slavitt instructed the Denver Public Relations firm of Russell, Karsh and Hagan (the contractor doing the investigating) to "be careful that nothing on [RKH employee] Lindsay's materials references her firm, or contains any other references to PM -- if there is a cover note, shred it. Please remember not to use a PM return address, or anything which indicates that he info emanated from us--PM postal stamp, etc."

Quotes taken directly from the document:

I talked with Lindsay Steyer at Russell, Karsh and Hagen (sp?) and gave her your name. She will collect all of the state agencies, universities and organizations involved in anti-tobacco activities in Colorado and forward them to you. If you need to talk with her she can be reached at 303/370-8088 (if you can't reach her and have her leave a message do not leave any indication as to why you are calling).

I emphasized to her that she should "throw in the kitchen sink" as we never know what Stuart might turn up on even an obscure organization or individual.

Once you receive this information from Lindsay, please forward it to Stuart Rabinowetz so that he can commence checking federal agency financial support for these groups.

Please also forward a copy to Jim Bennett, be careful to ensure that nothing on Linsday's materials references her firm, or contains any other references to PM--if there is a cover note, shred it. Please remember not to use a PM return address, or any thing which indicates that the info emanated from us--PM postal stamp, etc.

When Stuart's report comes back please ensure that a copy goes to PM and that a blind copy goes to Jim.

Thank you for your assistance.[1]

A 1985 Philip Morris report found in the area of Cathy Lynn Ellis, Ph.D., indicates that PM's top management contemplated using smear tactics to deter the most effective public health advocates. A quote from the document targets John F. Banzhaf, III, J, the director of the public health advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health, US and the attorney who successfully applied the Fairness Doctrine to get the first anti-smoking ads on TV in the late 1960s. The report states:

Possibly, too, we can discredit our critics. John Banzhaf for example, is alleged to be involved in the porno industry. Can't we use this somehow? If we start to dig around, we will certainly find anomalies which we can exploit..."

Another idea contained in the report was to commission the writing of a book on the "anti-[tobacco] industry industry" to show the public how much money tobacco control advocates are making off their pursuits.[2]

SourceWatch resources

External resources


  1. Joshua Slavitt, Philip Morris Coalition for a SmokeFree Colorado Email May 27, 1993. 1 page. Bates No. 2073248268A
  2. Philip Morris TRF Perspective of PM International on Smoking and Health Issues Report. March 29, 1985. 9 pp. Bates No. 2060563949/3957