Main content

2. ‘Doubt is our product'

‘We do not believe the industry should indulge in any flashy or spectacular ballyhoo’. In 1953 PR and tobacco execs draw up a playbook to fight claims that smoking causes cancer.

At a secret meeting, a plan is drawn up to fight claims that smoking causes cancer. In 1953, the tobacco industry was hit by a major storm. ‘Salesmen in the industry are frantically alarmed and the decline in tobacco stocks on the stock exchange market has caused grave concern’, claimed an internal memo. A study linking smoking to cancer was getting a lot of attention. We’ll take you to the meeting where the PR response was planned. It’s an important meeting. The strategy developed there turned out to be so effective, it would be used again and again and again.

From climate change to smoking and cancer, this is the story of how doubt has been manufactured. This 10 part series explores how powerful interests and sharp PR managers engineered doubt about the connection between smoking and cancer and how similar tactics were later used by some to make us doubt climate change.
With the help of once-secret internal memos, we take you behind boardroom doors where such strategies were drawn up and explore how the narrative changed on one of the most important stories of our time - and how the marketing of doubt has undermined our willingness to believe almost everything.

Presenter: Peter Pomerantsev
Producer: Phoebe Keane for BBC Radio 4

Available now

14 minutes

Last on

Tue 28 Jul 2020 13:45

Broadcast

  • Tue 28 Jul 2020 13:45

How the oil industry made us doubt climate change

How the oil industry made us doubt climate change

From climate change to smoking and cancer, this is the story of how to manufacture doubt.

Podcast