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Talking Tobacco

Interpersonal, Organizational, and Mediated Messages

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Stuart L. Esrock, Kandi L. Walker and Joy L. Hart

Despite the widely recognized toll of tobacco and increasing action to curb tobacco use (e.g., increased excise taxes, smoking bans), smoking continues. Numerous messages about tobacco, smoking, and health circulate throughout society, but in spite of the prevalence of such messages and the importance of how they are constructed and interpreted, too little communication research has been dedicated to understanding and assessing tobacco-related messages. Talking Tobacco addresses the shortcoming. Featuring the work of top communication scholars, the volume advances theoretical knowledge, reviews state-of-the-art research, and shares new findings and insights on a variety of tobacco-related areas ranging from tobacco control efforts to corporate representations.
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6 Blowing Smoke: The Flawed Process of the Tobacco Industry’s “Junk Science” Discourse Edward Panetta, Ryan Galloway, and Donald L. Rubin

Extract

Asubstantial body of media stories (Mishra, 1998; Phelps, 1998; “RJR Destroyed,” 1998) as well as public health scholarship (Bero, 2003; Ong & Glantz, 2001; Samet & Burke, 2001; Yach & Bialous, 2001) over the past decade has examined the extensive corpus of internal tobacco industry documents disclosed to the public as a result of civil litigation. A significant portion of that inquiry has discovered a pattern of public statements on the part of the tobacco industry to deny government regulation of smoking as a significant health concern. Analyses of tobacco industry documents demonstrate well-orchestrated, multifaceted campaigns to discredit scientific findings adverse to industry interests (Ong & Glantz, 2001).

Each successive Surgeon General report warning of health risks from smoking was greeted by a barrage of press releases attempting to refute the conclusions (Mishra, 1998). The argumentative claims of the tobacco industry were developed in response to the discourse of health promotion specialists embedded in the changing social climate in the United States; for example, a climate that condemned smoking for impinging on the rights of nonsmokers to avoid secondhand smoke (Stokes & Rubin, 2010). Despite the fact that the tobacco controversy has persisted for several decades, the industry’s responses to antismoking campaigns have in many senses remained quite static (Bero, 2005). Tobacco companies have ← 81 | 82 → engaged in a largely repetitive strategy of fallacious arguments designed to obscure scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of cigarette smoking. Scientific arguments have been derided on almost every level, with indictments of...

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