The Tobacco Institute (TI) was a public relations and lobbying organization that represented the interests of the twelve companies that funded it. Over time the TI came to be perceived as a controversial organization. While the TI maintained that its mission was to increase awareness of the historic role of tobacco and its place in the national economy and to foster understanding of tobacco-related issues, tobacco industry critics charged it with using sophisticated propaganda techniques and high-powered lobbying to manipulate public opinion and public policy.
The Tobacco Institute was founded in 1958 by the major U.S. tobacco manufacturers and has an estimated annual budget of more than $20 million. It was headquartered in Washington, D.C., and had a staff of 50. The institute's publications included two annual reports, Tax Burden on Tobacco and Tobacco Industry Profile. It also published historic, economic, and topical material.
The TI was established in response to a growing public health movement in the 1950s against smoking. From its inception, the institute stressed the contribution of tobacco to the U.S. economy and the preservation of tobacco farms. It also stressed the inconclusiveness and inconsistency of antismoking findings and supported the rights of individual smokers to smoke in public places. The TI publicized the research findings of the Council for Tobacco Research, an organization funded by the tobacco companies, which disputed critics' claims that tobacco has harmful effects and addictive properties. Historically, the TI fought efforts to raise the federal cigarette tax and to label tobacco products as being hazardous to health.
For decades TI lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., proved effective. Aside from informing legislators about tobacco-related issues, the TI made significant political contributions through its political action committee. In December 1997, it sponsored an all-expense-paid trip to Arizona for members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the proposed $368 billion national tobacco settlement that would compensate states that were suing the tobacco industry for smoking-related health care costs and fund antismoking programs.
As part of the November 1998 settlement between the tobacco companies and 46 states, the former agreed to disband the institute. On January 29, 1999, the Tobacco Institute ceased operations.
Glantz, Stanton A., and Edith D. Balbach. 2000. The Tobacco War: Inside the California Battles. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Kessler, David. 2002. A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry. New York: Public Affairs.
Kluger, Richard. 1996. Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris. New York: Knopf.
Tobacco Institute Document Site. Available online at <www.tobaccoinstitute.com> (accessed February 19, 2004).