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Europe’s first database of tobacco industry evidence goes online

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by Cancer Research UK | News

17 December 2003

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Up to 14,000 pages of evidence examining the inner workings of the tobacco industry will become available to everyone through an online database.

The database was constructed by Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the University of Strathclyde with funding from NHS Health Scotland.

The evidence was originally submitted for public review to the House of Commons Health Select Committee. The Committee demanded that the tobacco industry’s top five UK advertising agencies release all relevant internal documentation relating to their  advertising and marketing activities on tobacco accounts.

This evidence has formed the backbone for a number of pieces of research that highlight the workings of the tobacco industry. All of the documents will now be freely available to the public in a simple to use online database. It can be visited at

These previously confidential papers were also used to help develop Cancer Research UK’s ongoing  ‘Death Repackaged’ ad campaign. The campaign aims to highlight how brand and marketing strategies may have misled smokers about the perceived health benefits of smoking ‘light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes.

Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Tobacco Control Research, says: “This evidence is unique in Europe. It will cast a public light on the internal workings of the tobacco industry and help open its practices up to public scrutiny.”

The evidence formed the core of Professor Hastings’s report ‘Keep Smiling. No One’s Going To Die’. This showed how the main driver for the tobacco industry and their ad agencies was an enthusiastic maximising of commercial success – coupled with a failure to deal with the public health consequences of smoking.

Dr Jamie Inglis, Director of Health Information for NHS Health Scotland, says: “26,000 Scottish teenagers get hooked on cigarettes every year. The strategies used by the tobacco industry to promote their products have been hidden for far too long. We must ensure that the public understand how the tobacco industry operates.”

The web site will have a facility to incorporate further evidence as it becomes available. Marketing case studies will continue to be added. These show specific tobacco marketing strategies undertaken in the UK – highlighting industry aims and methods. They cover topics including sponsorship, the marketing of tobacco to young people and discount brands.

Chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee David Hinchcliffe MP, says: “These papers show what the tobacco industry thinks of its consumers in its own words. It’s pretty damning. Tobacco is one of the major threats to the UK’s public health – so it’s fascinating and quite chilling to see how tobacco is marketed.”

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Tobacco Control, adds: “This is another step towards lifting the veil from the tobacco industry – an ongoing target of Cancer Research UK, seen most recently with the ‘Death Repackaged’ campaign. The aim is to ensure that people have access to all the facts about tobacco products.”