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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 14:09 GMT
Tobacco industry accused of foul practice
Tobacco companies' tactics are being questioned
Tobacco companies' tactics are being questioned
A paper published in a leading medical journal has accused the tobacco industry of using PR experts to undermine the work of anti-tobacco campaigners.

Published in the journal Tobacco Control, and based on internal industry documents, it suggests tobacco companies have been gathering intelligence and strategic advice to damage tobacco control efforts, including the current international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Further negotiations on the framework, which will provide legally binding guidelines for international governance on tobacco control, are to take place at the World Health Organisation in Geneva later this month.

The paper, by Stacy Carter, of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney in Australia focuses on the use of one particular company, Washington DC based Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin (MBD), by the tobacco industry.


Our main responsibility in life is guide companies in how to deal with issues affecting their corporate public policy

Ronald Duchin, president MBD
Ms Carter accuses MBD of infiltrating and advising on environmental groups and non-governmental organisations, working against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), preparing notes for character assassinations of leading anti-tobacco figures, and undermining global tobacco control initiatives.

Tobacco giants which have been clients of MBD include Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds.

But Ronald Duchin, president of MBD refuted the accusations.

Guidance

Ms Carter said that although many organisations tried to further their cause through the use of public relations and "skilful tactics" but she wrote: "The difference is in the distinctly unscientific realm of morality and conscience.

"MBD are clearly pragmatic about reaching their "issue management" objectives and unconcerned about the impact they have on disempowered others."

Ronald Duchin told BBC News Online: "We are not a PR company, we are an issues management firm."

"Our main responsibility in life is guide companies in how to deal with issues affecting their corporate public policy."

He categorically denied infiltrating groups. "We have monitored, but not infiltrated in any circumstances."

But he did admit the firm provided helped companies put their side of the argument in negotiations such as the FCTC.

He added that the company was doing "nothing immoral" by advising companies selling a legal product.

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