Hill & Knowlton

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Hill and Knowlton is a public relations company. Hill and Knowlton were commissioned by the major tobacco companies of the time in 1953 to regain public confidence in the tobacco industry following the revelation by the medical profession that smoking was damaging to health.[1]

John W, Hill, Hill and Knowlton’s president at the time, said that denying the facts would not be enough as this would clearly be borne from self-interest. Instead, demanding more science was a better tactic. He suggested that the goal of the tobacco industry should be to build and broadcast a major scientific controversy which would convey the message that the health effects of smoking were not conclusively known. One way to achieve this end was to commission more research into the causes of illness. Hill proposed the creation of a research group which would serve a public relations purpose demonstrating the tobacco industry's collective concern for the public. The Tobacco Industry Research Committee was founded. In an advert published in more than 400 newspapers across the United States, tobacco companies promised to explore the science of tobacco and to ensure consumer well-being.

Brandt claims in his paper that it was at this time that Doubt and Uncertainty became ‘the industry’s collective new mantra’. This is now a well-rehearsed tactic that persists to the present day.

Notes

  1. A. M. Brandt, Inventing conflicts of interest: A history of tobacco industry tactics, American Journal of Public Health, 2012, 102(1), 63-71