The safer cigarette
15th May, 2008
What do government and industry do when something is toxic but massively profitable? Most of the time, says Devra Davis, they just invest in better class of PR…
In his book Propaganda, written in 1928, Edward Bernays, the founding father of today’s PR industry, argued that democracy depended on the successful control of public opinion: ‘The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element of democratic society. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…’.
Nowhere are clever and complex strategies to manipulate the public mind more clear than in the prolonged, failed, costly and eerily relevant campaign to produce a safer cigarette.
The story of the rise – and fall – of tobacco has been widely told in broad brushstrokes, but one of the lesser-known chapters is how the industry tried to have it both ways. At the same time as assuring the public its product was safe, many in the tobacco industry in the UK and US used the cover of ‘trade secrets’ to carry out expensive, clandestine efforts to design a less harmful cigarette.
In 1957, the notion that tobacco smoking could be considered a healthful habit – as many contemporary ads promised –...
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