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Tobacco industry documents: treasure trove or quagmire?
  1. Ruth E Malonea,
  2. Edith D Balbachb
  1. aInstitute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine, Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA, bCommunity Health Program, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Ruth E Malone, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Health Policy, Institute for Health Policy Studies, Box 0936, Laurel Heights Campus, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA; rmalone{at}

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The release of over 27 million pages of internal tobacco industry documents as a result of discovery processes in The State of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota versus Philip Morriset al and other legal cases has provided tobacco control researchers and advocates with unprecedented opportunities to understand more about the inner workings of the industry. Documents are available for public viewing at the Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository, which opened in Minneapolis in 1998, at the Guildford Document Depository in Guildford, England, and on the world wide web, accessible through and other sites. In addition, through websites, users can get access to documents produced under the state litigation in Washington, Mississippi, Florida, and Texas, and selections from the British American Tobacco documents housed at Guildford, UK. (see “other tobacco documents resources”, below).

Though the vast majority of documents are from the Minnesota case, which resulted in the release of documents from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, American Tobacco, Lorillard, the Tobacco Institute, Brown and Williamson, and the Council on Tobacco Research, collections continue to become available in conjunction with other legal cases. Given the enormous numbers of documents that are available, the collections may prove to be either a treasure trove of information valuable for tobacco control research and advocacy, or a quagmire of quantity into which researchers sink in despair. In this article, we discuss differences between searching for documents at the depository and on various online sites and suggest some practical strategies that may help researchers be more productive while using these collections.

Documents at the Minnesota depository

The depository is located in Minneapolis in a business park near the University of Minnesota. The number of computer terminals available for public searching is limited, so it is usually necessary to make reservations in advance of a visit to ensure …

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