A Council of War

Picture of original clipping


"...a serious problem of public relations..."

Dec. 24, 1953 Hill & Knowlton memo, p.1.

In a room at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the chief executives of all but one of the major American cigarette companies held an extraordinary meeting. Fear had brought them together. The executives believed the very existence of their industry could be jeopardized by two studies that linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer.

And so that day at the Plaza, Dec.15,1953, they set out to do something about the rising concern among the smoking public. With the help of the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, they formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. The TIRC was to hammer away at the idea that there was no proof that smoking causes disease, and to reassure the American people that the cigarette makers were hiring the very best scientists to get to the bottom of this mess. Full-page ads ran in 448 newspapers announcing the TIRC (now called the Council for Tobacco Research). Forty years and tens of millions of dollars later, the council still can't seem to find any proof that smoking causes any form of illness.

Read more about the Plaza meeting in the Dec. 15, 1953 Hill & Knowlton memo, in which the tobacco executives demand a public relations campaign that "is entirely 'pro cigarette' in nature." (p.2) The Dec. 24th memo calls the link to cancer "a serious problem of public relations" (p. 1) and bemoans the fact that there is just no way to "stop people from being interested in their health." Both these memos were released by Congressman Henry Waxman.


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