Building up echo chambers and framing messages: comparison of tobacco industry´s think tank activities
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Cancer Society of Finland, Strategy, Finland
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A71
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Think tanks are a part of the tobacco industry´s third party strategy. They help in building up the so-called 'echo chamber' described in industry documents. Think tanks are used to influence both media and public opinion. Industry-supported think tanks blur people's opinions with science. This is a challenge for policy makers, media and journalism. With its historical roots in the US, think tank advocacy is source of misinformation. In many countries, third party strategies are frequently used as Article 5.3 of the FCTC puts light on direct pressure from the industry.

Intervention or response:
The aim was to identify existing and new schemes typical of the tobacco industry, with a special focus on how the tobacco industry tactic of discrediting science evolves. This was done by comparing the rhetoric used published reports and publicity operations in three cases in Europe in 2017.

Results and lessons learnt:
The long-term goal of the tobacco industry is to influence public opinion. Basic rhetorical stratagems include criticism of regulation, strong support for freedom of choice, and the separation of state from free market economy mechanisms. In Europe, there seems to be an ongoing attack against civil society aimed at strengthening anti-science attitudes.
The media does not adequately report linkages to the tobacco industry.
It is important to inform science journalists on how to identify how tobacco industry-supported think tanks operate. They should be better aware of industry tactics.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Tobacco control experts must maintain a critical perspective towards industry tactics in the media. It is important to collaborate with journalists of specific interest in research, scientific methods and medical topics. More coverage is needed of industry ties to think tanks, as the public and journalists are not aware of these connections.

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