Hacks, Flacks, and Counter-Attacks: Cigarette Advertising, Sponsored Research, and Controversies


  • Richard W. Pollay

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    1. Richard W. Pollay, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, The University of British Columbia.
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      RICHARD W. POLLAY teaches at the University of British Columbia. His teaching interests include advertising and marketing management, dealing with corporate decisions on marketing and consumer research, and advertising strategy and implementation. He and his students consult with many regional businesses every year. His recent research on cigarette advertising has covered topics like the targeting of children, the use of public relations, ethnic targeting, self-regulation, motivation research, media choices, and managerial strategies and tactics. The History of Advertising Archives, which he curates, has North America's largest collection of cigarette ads, and substantial documentation assembled as the Tobacco Industry Promotion Series (TIPS). This work has led to many publications and to serving as an expert witness in court, testifying on the character, functions, and management of cigarette advertising, public relations, and consumer expectations in the cases of Cipollone v. Liggett et al. (NJ, 1988); Attorney General of Canada v. Imperial Tobacco and R. J. Reynolds-MacDonald (Montreal 1989); and others. He also consults for the U.S. Surgeon General's Office on Smoking and Health.

Faculty of Commerce, University of British Columbia. Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2.


The tobacco industry promotes friendly “experts” and uses public relations tactics to produce uncertainty around research results that threaten it. This inhibits public policies responsive to these research findings. These tactics, long used against medical science, are now being used to counter the studies challenging to the myth that cigarette advertising is of no import. The numerous weaknesses of the industry-advanced argument are discussed, drawing particularly on the literature of consumer behavior, marketing, and advertising. The vast preponderance of evidence indicates that cigarette advertising plays a meaningful role in influencing the perceptions, attitudes, and smoking behavior of youth. Denials of these effects, without brand new and compelling evidence, are highly suspect.