Hiding in the Shadows: Philip Morris and the Use of Third Parties to Oppose Ingredient Disclosure Regulations (2015)

Authors: Clayton Velicer and Stanton Glantz


Background: In 1996 Massachusetts proposed regulations that would require tobacco companies to disclose information about the ingredients in their products on a by-brand basis. This paper examines the strategies employed by Philip Morris to stop these regulations from being implemented.

Methods and Finding: We used previously secret tobacco industry documents and published literature to examine the activities of the tobacco companies after the regulations were proposed. Philip Morris hired a public relations firm to establish a coalition that was instructed to oppose the regulations by linking them to other industrial sectors (the slippery slope) and stating they would damage the state’s economy. Philip Morris also retained a polling firm to test the popularity of specific arguments against ingredient disclosure and developed a strategic plan for opposing similar regulations in Vermont.

Conclusion: Tobacco companies have historically used third parties to form coalitions to oppose ingredient disclosure regulations. These coalitions have had success preventing regulations from being implemented after they are initially proposed by creating the appearance of local opposition. With countries around the world currently implementing ingredient disclosure regulations in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco, governments and regulatory agencies should be aware of the political strategies that the tobacco companies have used to create the impression of popular opposition to these measures.

Read more: PLoS ONE