Objectives To explore the history of transnational tobacco companies’ use of the term, approach to and perceived benefits of ‘harm reduction’.
Methods Analysis of internal tobacco industry documents, contemporary tobacco industry literature and 6 semistructured interviews.
Results The 2001 Institute of Medicine report on tobacco harm reduction appears to have been pivotal in shaping industry discourse. Documents suggest British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International adopted the term ‘harm reduction’ from Institute of Medicine, then proceeded to heavily emphasise the term in their corporate messaging. Documents and interviews suggest harm reduction offered the tobacco industry two main benefits: an opportunity to (re-) establish dialogue with and access to policy makers, scientists and public health groups and to secure reputational benefits via an emerging corporate social responsibility agenda.
Conclusions Transnational tobacco companies’ harm reduction discourse should be seen as opportunistic tactical adaptation to policy change rather than a genuine commitment to harm reduction. Care should be taken that this does not undermine gains hitherto secured in efforts to reduce the ability of the tobacco industry to inappropriately influence policy.
- Harm Reduction
- Non-cigarette tobacco products
- Public policy
- Tobacco industry
- Tobacco industry documents
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