Background: The tobacco industry has formed regional environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) consultants programs in order to generate controversy on the issue of secondhand smoke (SHS) in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Only those countries in which the industry foresaw SHS restrictions were included. This paper describes the European and Asian components of the tobacco industry's worldwide ETS consultants program.
Methods: A systematic search was carried out of tobacco industry documents available on the Internet between October 2002 and February 2004.
Results: Beginning in 1987, Philip Morris assembled an international ETS consultants program in collaboration with other tobacco companies based on their market shares in different regions of the world. The law firm Covington & Burling contacted and hired consultants with a wide range of expertise, usually affiliated with an academic institution, in order to avoid direct contact with the industry. The objective of the program was to influence policy makers, media and the public by providing, through their consultants, 'accurate' (pro-industry) information concerning smoking regulations in public places and workplaces, indoor air quality and ventilation standards, and scientific claims regarding SHS. Consultants also conducted research related to SHS and organized and attended regional and international symposiums related to SHS without acknowledging industry funding.
Conclusions: Despite evidence that the issue of smoke-free environments was close to emerging within the general public throughout the world in the late 1980s, the tobacco industry used its well-organized network of consultants to avoid SHS regulations in most of the world.