How Hill & Knowlton Pioneered Unsound Science

Cigarette package (Image from PBS)In the 1950s, with the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer becoming well established, the tobacco industry was in crisis. Its PR strategy, devised by the firm Hill & Knowlton, was "entangling itself in the manipulation of fundamental scientific processes," as Allan Brandt describes in his new book, "The Cigarette Century." It was Hill & Knowlton's John Hill who "hit on the idea of creating an industry-sponsored research entity. Ultimately, he concluded, the best public relations approach was for the industry to become a major sponsor of medical research." This approach "implied that existing studies were inadequate or flawed," and made the tobacco industry "seem a committed participant in the scientific enterprise rather than a detractor." In 1953, tobacco companies jointly released a Hill & Knowlton-drafted memo that stated, "We always have and always will cooperate closely with those whose task it is to safeguard the public health." The industry also created the "Tobacco Industry Research Committee."