Background The tobacco industry routinely opposes tobacco control policies, often using a standard repertoire of arguments. Following proposals to introduce standardised packaging in New Zealand (NZ), British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) launched the ‘Agree–Disagree’ mass media campaign, which coincided with the NZ government's standardised packaging consultations. This study examined the logic of the arguments presented and rhetorical strategies employed in the campaign.
Methods We analysed each advertisement to identify key messages, arguments and rhetorical devices, then examined the arguments' structure and assessed their logical soundness and validity.
Results All advertisements attempted to frame BATNZ as reasonable, and each contained flawed arguments that were either unsound or based on logical fallacies. Flawed arguments included misrepresenting the intent of the proposed legislation (straw man), claiming standardised packaging would harm all NZ brands (false dilemma), warning NZ not to adopt standardised packaging because of its Australian origins (an unsound argument) or using vague premises as a basis for claiming negative outcomes (equivocation).
Conclusions BATNZ's Agree–Disagree campaign relied on unsound arguments, logical fallacies and rhetorical devices. Given the industry's frequent recourse to these tactics, we propose strategies based on our study findings that can be used to assist the tobacco control community to counter industry opposition to standardised packaging. Greater recognition of logical fallacies and rhetorical devices employed by the tobacco industry will help maintain focus on the health benefits proposed policies will deliver.
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