Advancement of Sound Science Center
The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, is an industry-funded lobby group and crisis management vehicle, and was created in 1993 by Phillip Morris and APCO in response to a 1992 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report which identified secondhand smoke as a Group A (i.e. confirmed) human carcinogen. TASSC's stated objectives were to: 1) discredit the EPA report; 2) fight anti-smoking legislation; 3) proactively pass legislation favorable to the tobacco industry. Philip Morris hired APCO Worldwide, a communications consultancy with expertise in crisis management, handling sensitive political issues, lobbying, media relations, coalition building, opinion research, market entry, corporate social responsibility, and online communication. [notes 1] APCO's designed strategies for TASSC aimed at establishing TASSC as "a credible source for reporters when questioning the validity of scientific studies" and to "Encourage the public to question – from the grassroots up – the validity of scientific studies".
Goals and strategies
APCO's Philip Morris: Tobacco documents include the section entitled, "Goals and objectives: The overall goals of the media plan are to: (i) raise the awareness level of the use of unsound science in public policy decision making among target audiences; (ii) educate publics on the impact of this issue; and (iii) lay the groundwork and provide an environment for a successful grassroots mobilization effort to assist (the Tobacco Company) Philip Morris with its issues nationally and in target states. The objectives of the media plan are to: 1)Establish TASSC as a credible source for reporters when questioning the validity of scientific studies. Encourage the public to question-from the grassroots up-the validity of scientific studies. Mobilize support for TASSC through alliances with other organizations and third-party allies. Develop materials, including news article reprints, that can be "merchandized" to TASSC audiences. Increase membership in and funding of TASSC. Publicize and refine TASSC messages on an ongoing basis."
TASSC's original goal was to become a "publicly known, respected and highly visible organization" within months of its creation by using an "integrated program that combines a strategic, comprehensive media relations program. The strategies instigated by APCO Worldwide specifically for Philip Morris through the Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), were highly effective and continue to be successfully used today by many organizations seeking to counter published peer-reviewed mainstream scientific research used in formulating public policies. In a series of well-planned public education campaigns, APCO Worldwide public relations firm focused on unsettling the general public's confidence in the validity of mainstream scientific research strategically targeting main stream media stories on scientific reports (for example behind claims health and environmental risks that required regulatory policies).
Its methodology is now called astroturfing through coordinated local activism, "information sharing" and the strategic creation by APCO and its associates of seeded grassroot organizations. Under APCO's advice, TASSC developed local coalitions making them appear to be indigenous grass root organizations, to influence media, legislators, and the public, and recruited scientists and researchers to support Philip Morris's position. Nonetheless, TASSC described itself as "a not-for-profit coalition advocating the use of sound science in public policy decision making." TASSC's links to the tobacco industry were minimized as part of APCO's strategy for TASSC to appear to be an independent national grassroots coalition. To conceal this relationship, TASSC broadened their focus to question other scientific topics, notable among them global warming.
Merchandized articles, targeting the lay reader although written by academics, were made available by the pro-tobacco lobby in response to current issues that captivated public attention. These articles that often cited similar articles or mass media articles on smoking, for example, could be rapidly circulated widely at local levels through their affiliated associations. The concept of merchandized news articles reprints was adopted by many groups to successfully question peer-reviewed science and professional scientific associations and institutions in areas such as environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides, and global warming is "junk science", which should be replaced by "sound science". It was operated by Steven Milloy.
TASSC was created in 1993 by the APCO Worldwide public relations firm, and was funded by tobacco company Philip Morris (now Altria) to help fight against smoking regulations. TASSC's links to the tobacco industry were minimized as part of APCO's strategy to "establish an image of a national grassroots coalition." The group has been described as an effort by tobacco companies who "wanted to cast grave doubts on government scientists' capacity to produce fair research", and who "quietly formed a coalition of industries that would challenge every aspect of government science, from its studies of global warming to auto safety."[notes 2]
Science advisors and board members
- Garrey Carruthers, former governor of New Mexico, served as chairman of TASSC from 1993 to 1998.
- Mickey Edwards, former Republican congressman, was appointed chair of TASSC's advisory board in 1995.
- Frederick Seitz, former United States National Academy of Sciences President and prominent global warming skeptic, served on the scientific advisory board, which had 8 members.
- Michael Fumento – advisory board member
- Bruce Ames – advisory board member
TASSC was parodied in the 2005 film Thank You for Smoking, in which the protagonist was a spokesperson for the "Academy of Tobacco Studies", an industry-funded lobby group dedicated to studying the effects of tobacco smoking with consistently inconclusive results.
- Many APCO executives were previously prominent government officials. APCO’s clientele consists of multi-national corporations, governments, associations and nonprofit organizations.
- Foer (2004 ) referred to top EPA officials quietly blocking "dissemination of a report in 2003 analyzing the efficacy of congressional legislation limiting the release of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. The administration quashed the report because it would have highlighted the necessity of imposing regulations it opposes."
- APCO (15 October 1993). "Revised Plan for the Public Launching of Tassc (Through 930000)". Philip Morris: Tobacco documents. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "US Environmental Protection Agency, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking (Also Known as Exposure to Secondhand Smoke or Environmental Tobacco Smoke ETS)"". Cfpub2.epa.gov.
- Elisa K. Ong; Stanton A. Glantz (November 2001). "Constructing "Sound Science" and "Good Epidemiology": Tobacco, Lawyers, and Public Relations Firms" (PDF). American Journal of Public Health 91 (11): 1749–57. doi:10.2105/AJPH.91.11.1749. PMC 1446868. PMID 11684593.
- Proposed Plan for the Public Launching of TASSC (Report). Philip Morris, Bates (2024233709/3717). September 1993.
- Bates. "Untitled Information Sheet Describing TASSC" (PDF). The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. Bates Number: 2046989061.
- George Monbiot (July 2007). Mad Science interview by Brooke Gladstone. Media, WNYC, NPR Public Media.
- Monbiot, George (September 19, 2006). "The Denial Industry". The Guardian (London). Retrieved August 11, 2010.
- Thacker, Paul D. (27 January 2006). "Smoked Out: Pundit For Hire". The New Republic (The New Republic). p. 1. Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
- Franklin Foer (12 July 2004). "Closing of the Presidential Mind". New Republic.
- "About TASSC - Advisory Board". www.tassc.org. 12 January 1998. Archived from the original on 12 January 1998. Retrieved 7 July 2007.
- Rene Romo (2013-05-02). "Carruthers led effort backed by tobacco firm". Albuquerque Journal.
- TASSC, 16 August 1995, Sound Science Coalition Names Former Congressman Mickey Edwards to Lead Advisory Committee
- "Industrial Group Plans to Battle Climate Treaty". New York Times. 26 April 1998.