Tobacco Industry Sponsorship of the Olympics: A Dive into the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents

This post highlights just a few of the over 14 million tobacco industry documents contained in the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, a division of the UCSF Archives.

Could a sporting event like the Olympics ever equate with smoking? The games summon images of stamina, health, fortitude and strength, and for decades, the tobacco industry worked diligently to affiliate themselves with this major sporting event. Olympic games draw millions of eyes and the promotion and marketing opportunities were gold for the tobacco companies.

In 1936, RJ Reynolds’ Camel brand used Olympic speed skater Kit Klein to advertise the purported health effects of smoking on digestion:

Since 1988, each Olympic Games has adopted a tobacco-free policy but the tobacco industry has continued to create indirect associations in an effort to be connected with not only Olympic ideals but the worldwide platform the Games provide.

The Olympics as a powerful promotional tool: A 1980s memo in our British American Tobacco (BAT) records indicates executives considered the Olympics second only to Formula One motor racing as an effective sports-based “marketing platform.”  Into the 1990s, BAT affiliate UZBAT proudly proclaimed BAT sponsorship of Lina Cheryazova, 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist in freestyle skiing; and a 1992 memo between BAT and Singapore Tobacco Company, Korea, notes proposed Olympic team sponsorship in Thailand is illegal but ‘primary’ sponsors have been used as cover in the past.

The tobacco companies were so heavily invested in advertising and marketing around sporting events they could not risk censure from athletes. In a 1988 statement by Greg Louganis regarding tobacco sponsorship, the Olympian confessed, “I had become a slave to a tobacco company…Philip Morris representatives made it very clear that if I continued to speak out nationally [about tobacco and health], my career at, and association, with Mission Viejo [Realty Group, a PM subsidiary] would be over.”

The 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, Atlanta, Georgia:
Documents in our Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds collections demonstrate that despite the almost decade long tobacco-free policy of the Olympic Games, the companies were still planning promotions and marketing events. A 1996 Philip Morris memo shows the tobacco giant crafted a contract to place a Benson & Hedges ad on the back cover of the Ultimate Games Guide, a souvenir program of the 1996 Olympic Basketball games in Atlanta. Similarly, a 1995 RJ Reynolds email discusses a new tobacco company whose products could be introduced at the Games with catchy brands like Torch and Gold Medal, even going so far as to posit an “official cigarette of the 1996 Olympics.”

The “accommodation” of Olympic visitors who smoke was a hot topic in 1996 and one that allowed the companies to roll in promotional and marketing activities.  “Accommodation programs” were the tobacco industry’s way of holding off smoking bans by partnering with hospitality agencies (hotels and restaurants) to promote “choice”, “preference” and often the “solution” of improved ventilation in order to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers in public areas.

You can view these documents and millions more at the UCSF Industry Documents Library, where we collect and make available internal corporate documents produced by industries that distort science in an effort to influence policies meant to protect public health.

World AIDS Day: Digitizing The Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic   

On World AIDS Day we’re checking in on our NEH grant project to digitize large portions of our AIDS History Project collections.  For more information on the scope of the project see our previous post here. These collections illustrate for us the wide ranging impacts that AIDS has had on the Bay Area, and this project will allow us to share the stories of people with AIDS, the community groups galvanized to support them, and the researchers doggedly pursuing treatments and a cure here at UCSF.

Archivists at UCSF, San Francisco Public Library and the GLBT Historical Society have been reviewing collections, packing them up, and routing them through UCSF to the digitization lab at UC Merced.

Heather Wagner has been busily testing procedures, training students and coordinating workflows to move collection materials through digitization station. Papers, posters, diaries and other materials are run through high-speed sheet feed scanners, shot from overhead or on a cradle with a DSLR and carefully arranged lighting, or scanned on a flatbed scanner.

Scanning a poster from UCSF’s AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection at UC Merced.

We’ve digitized examples of materials requiring all these methods, look for full collections online at Calisphere.org in the coming weeks. here’s some examples from UCSF’s collections:

Bobbi Campbell was a nurse on staff at UCSF and was diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma in 1981.His diary is a vivid account of his personal life and activism as the “KS Poster Boy”. MSS 96-33 Bobbi Campbell Diary, page 39

 

A fundraising predecessor to today’s AIDS/Lifecycle . The Shanti Project provided one-on-one emotional and peer support for patients. “AIDS Bike-a-thon … Cycle for Shanti”, MSS 2000-31 AIDS History Project Ephemera Collecion

ACT-UP San Francisco Four Days in Washington DC, 1988. ACT-UP San Francisco Records, MSS 98-47

Archives Open Houses

October is coming to a close, and with it our Archives Month festivities, but we still have two open houses in the next week for those who would like to come and check out our reading room and some of our materials:

On Saturday, October 28th, we are participating in the San Francisco Archives Crawl, and our reading room will be open from noon until 5pm. On display will be materials from our collections that document counterculture and protest movements, including records from the UCSF Black Caucus, AIDS History Project materials, and selections from the Tobacco Control Archives.

On Monday, October 30th, we will be holding our 2nd annual Halloween Open House from noon until 3pm, where we will showcase some of our “spooky” holdings. This event is being held in conjunction with the Library Maker’s Lab Halloween event, and we will have a button maker available on the 5th floor for those who would like to create Halloween-themed buttons and magnets based upon materials in our collections.

One of the objects on display for our Halloween Open House is our 1883 edition of the Heinrich Hoffmann children’s book, Der Struwwelpeter (or Shockheaded Peter). The book itself is well-known for its collection of rhyming allegories about the dangers of children misbehaving, such as our title character pictured below, who is named Peter and has some shockingly bad grooming habits.

Bound with our copy of Der Struwwelpeter is an adaption of the same work from 1882 by an Obstetrical-Gynecological society that was evidently distributed at a society dinner. Frighteningly, whoever decided to do the adaption chose to focus on childhood disease, instead of misbehavior, and illustrate each disease with it’s own drawing. Even the “normal child” pictured below is a bit unsettling!