A Council of War
"...a serious problem of public relations..."
Dec. 24, 1953 Hill & Knowlton memo,
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.