Tobacco industry use of corporate social responsibility tactics as a sword and a shield on secondhand smoke issues

J Law Med Ethics. 2009 Winter;37(4):819-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2009.00453.x.


The tobacco industry has used corporate social responsibility tactics to improve its corporate image with the public, press, and regulators who increasingly have grown to view it as a merchant of death. There is, however, an intractable problem that corporate social responsibility efforts can mask but not resolve: the tobacco industry's products are lethal when used as directed, and no amount of corporate social responsibility activity can reconcile that fundamental contradiction with ethical corporate citizenship. This study's focus is to better understand the tobacco industry's corporate social responsibility efforts and to assess whether there has been any substantive change in the way it does business with regard to the issue of exposure to secondhand smoke. The results show that the industry has made no substantial changes and in fact has continued with business as usual. Although many of the tobacco companies' tactics traditionally had been defensive, they strove for a way to change to a more offensive strategy. Almost without exception, however, their desire to appear to be good corporate citizens clashed with their aversion to further regulation and jeopardizing their legal position, perhaps an irreconcilable conflict. Despite the switch to offense, in 2006 a federal judge found the companies guilty of racketeering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Research
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Public Policy
  • Public Relations*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Tobacco Industry / ethics
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control*
  • United States


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution