Big Tobacco Spied on Health Groups

The Fleishman Hillard PR firm secretly tape-recorded the sessions of an anti-tobacco group as part of an effort in the 1990s by the tobacco industry to get materials about public health groups under false pretenses, according to a report in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The Burson-Marsteller PR firm also participated in the spy operation for long-time client Philip Morris, while the Benchmark Research Group conducted a "major intelligence report" for R.J. Reynolds. Other tobacco PR strategies included publicly minimizing the effects of boycotts, painting health advocates as "extreme," identifying and exploiting disagreements, and planning to "redirect the funding" of tobacco control organizations to other purposes.