Tobacco (52) Q3. What is the role of the tobacco industry? (2)

12 March, 2023

For over fifty years, the tobacco industry has created and dispersed misinformation and misleading information about the health risks posed by cigarettes to the public. They have done so through using both explicit denials of the causal link between smoking and cancer and its addictiveness, and implicit marketing tactics such as using ineffective medicinal menthol, high tech imagery, virtuous brand names and descriptors, and generating misleading data on tar and nicotine yields. Analysis of trade sources and internal US tobacco documents indicates that tobacco companies knew of inherent deceptiveness and that such marketing tactics were purposefully developed to promote misperceptions. Many of these incorrect beliefs persist as recent studies continue to show.

This misinformation is promulgated via tobacco product marketing strategies as well as the inferences that consumers make and then circulate to others in the fast-moving new media world. Misinformation about tobacco products can be explicit or implicit. Explicit misinformation is information that is factually incorrect (eg, filtered cigarettes are less dangerous) while implicit misinformation invites inferences not explicitly stated (eg, “organic tobacco” implies “a healthier cigarette”). Such misinformation can mislead the public into underestimating the dangers of overestimating the benefits of various tobacco products, and threatens to undermine U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory efforts.

Mass media campaigns, including paid counter-tobacco advertisements, should be intensified to reverse the image appeal of pro-tobacco messages, especially those that appeal to children and youths.

All levels of government should adopt tobacco-free policies in public buildings. The Department of Defense should continue its aggressive efforts to adopt tobacco-free policies in all military services.


HIFA profile: William Cotrone is a Student/CPR Instructor with One Love CPR, USA. Email: willcot98 AT