The Tobacco Industry and the Medical Profession:
The Historical Record and Legacy
A collaborative project with the American Legacy Foundation
The past and present relationship between the tobacco industry
and the medical profession is a relatively unexplored topic
by historians of medicine. On the one hand, some physicians
and medical organizations have cooperated with the tobacco
industry in research, public relations, and litigation.
On the other hand, some parts of the medical profession
have cooperated with public health scientists and organizations
in research and health education on the health consequences
of smoking. Moreover, these relationships have changed over
time. The nature and dynamics of medicine’s contributions
on both sides of the battle are not well understood, leaving
a considerable gap in our understanding of both the industry
and the profession.
The proposed project focuses on four interrelated fields of inquiry: 1) the
dynamics of tobacco industry influence and the vulnerabilities
of medical organizations and practitioners to this influence;
2) the forces within medicine that inspired research on
the health consequences of tobacco use and physician engagement
in the public campaigns against smoking; 3) the components
of medical professionalism that enhanced or hindered physician
civic engagement with tobacco control; and 4) the potential
role of physicians as agents of social change and policy
development in the contemporary field of tobacco control.
Examination of these major issues will illuminate the past
and present relationship between the tobacco industry and
the medical profession.