How Big Tobacco “brainwashed” the public

Robert Proctor was the first historian to testify against Big Tobacco. Now, he's targeting other major industries that use misinformation to sell their harmful products.

Origin of the case for cigarette eradication

In 1999, Robert Proctor was the first historian to ever testify against the tobacco industry. Now, he thinks culture of misinformation pioneered by Big Tobacco is now widespread across every industry. In the 1990s, Proctor helped coin the term Agnotology -- the study of ignorance and how it spreads in society, something he sees as exacerbated by the technology of the 21st century. Climate change, tobacco smoking, and ethical consumption are all issues that have been tackled to degrees of success at an individual level. But Proctor wants people to make sure they still fight to hold big corporations accountable for their actions.

The man behind the history

“We live in a world of military secrecy, a world where large, powerful corporations create bodies of ignorance deliberately in order to flourish. Years ago, at Harvard, and I noticed that cigarettes were the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and the world more generally. I started realizing that the tobacco industry was deliberately creating ignorance through what I called distraction research. They were massive funding funders of research funding, worth billions of dollars worth of research into everything but cigarettes causing cancer. And actually 25 at least twenty-five Nobel laureates have taken money from big tobacco. They essentially brainwashed the public to that effect. And that's why we still have six trillion cigarette smokers worldwide every year,” Dr. Robert Proctor, Stanford University tells Brut.

Work still be done

Selling tobacco is legal to people 18 and over. But according to the federal government, the vast majority of smokers start smoking before they're 18. Legislators in Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand have worked to outlaw smoking in public buildings. A biggest success against the industry, was in Canada, where a far-reaching campaign that put graphic warning pictures on all cigarette packs, doubled the price of cigarettes and banned most tobacco advertising.