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Push or be punished: tobacco industry documents reveal aggression against businesses that discourage tobacco use


OBJECTIVE To learn how the tobacco industry reacted to businesses' voluntarily enacting policies to discourage tobacco use and minimise exposure of employees and patrons to secondhand smoke.

DATA SOURCES Internal tobacco industry documents discovered among those posted on the internet. Approximately 24 million documents have been posted as of this writing. Information in this article was culled from among these documents, which have been made public as a unique requirement of the state of Minnesota's settlement with the industry.

STUDY SELECTION Those documents were used that offered insight into, and which gave a perspective on, the industry's attitudes and reactions toward other businesses as they adopted tobacco-free policies.

CONCLUSIONS In the wake of widespread acceptance that tobacco use causes illness and death, many individual businesses (and even entire industries) took positive steps to eliminate employees', customers', and facilities' exposure to tobacco smoke. Steps were also taken to discourage tobacco use among employees. Internal tobacco industry documents show that the industry reacted with aggression, and in some cases with retribution, against businesses that voluntarily adopted policies to discourage tobacco use. The intent of these actions appears to be to reverse these policies, with a broader goal of neutralising large scale public and private trends that reflect the decreasing social acceptability of tobacco use.

  • tobacco industry
  • tobacco-free policies
  • aggression

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