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Philip Morris’s Project Sunrise: weakening tobacco control by working with it


Objective: To analyse the implications of Philip Morris USA’s (PM’s) overtures toward tobacco control and other public health organisations, 1995–2006.

Data sources: Internal PM documents made available through multi-state US attorneys general lawsuits and other cases, and newspaper sources.

Methods: Documents were retrieved from several industry documents websites and analysed using a case study approach.

Results: PM’s Project Sunrise, initiated in 1995 and proposed to continue through 2006, was a long-term plan to address tobacco industry delegitimisation and ensure the social acceptability of smoking and of the company itself. Project Sunrise laid out an explicit divide-and-conquer strategy against the tobacco control movement, proposing the establishment of relationships with PM-identified “moderate” tobacco control individuals and organisations and the marginalisation of others. PM planned to use “carefully orchestrated efforts” to exploit existing differences of opinion within tobacco control, weakening its opponents by working with them. PM also planned to thwart tobacco industry delegitimisation by repositioning itself as “responsible”. We present evidence that these plans were implemented.

Conclusion: Sunrise exposes differences within the tobacco control movement that should be further discussed. The goal should not be consensus, but a better understanding of tensions within the movement. As the successes of the last 25 years embolden advocates to think beyond passage of the next clean indoor air policy or funding of the next cessation programme, movement philosophical differences may become more important. If tobacco control advocates are not ready to address them, Project Sunrise suggests that Philip Morris is ready to exploit them.

  • ASSIST, American Stop Smoking Intervention Study
  • CALA, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
  • CTFK, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
  • FDA, Food and Drug Administration
  • MBD, Mongoven, Biscoe, and Duchin
  • PM, Philip Morris USA
  • tobacco industry documents
  • corporate social responsibility
  • Philip Morris
  • tobacco control movement
  • delegitimisation
  • advocacy
  • tobacco control policy

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