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.

Volunteer Report: Working on the AIDS History Project

This is a guest post by Edith Martinez, UCSF Archives Volunteer.

Volunteering at the UCSF Archives has been a great learning experience. I have been able to help with the NHPRC grant project, Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collectionsan expansion of the AIDS History Project.

AIDS National Conference booklet, 1987. ATN records, MSS 94-28.

I have specifically been working on material from AIDS Treatment News, a biweekly newsletter started by John James in 1986 that reports on experimental and conventional treatments for HIV/AIDS and related conditions. ATN articles are based on information that James gathered from meetings, conferences, interviews, publications, and correspondence.

VIIIth International Conference on AIDS in Africa and VIIIth African Conference on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1993. ATN records, MSS 94-28.

Working on this collection I realized that it is a lot of work organizing and processing. I’ve also learned more about the history of AIDS and found some really interesting items that I thought were fascinating. John James attended many conferences and saved many of the booklets from these conferences. The booklets for the VIIIth International Conference on AIDS in Africa and the AIDS National Conference in San Francisco are just some examples. Looking through these booklets and reading about the talks and workshops listed in each, one can see how AIDS prevention and treatment has progressed and changed over the years. It’s a true learning experience, and working on this collection has really helped me better understand AIDS history and archival work.

New Donald P. Francis Digital Collection

We’re highlighting the new digital collection of Donald P. Francis, CDC epidemiologist, pediatrician, and AIDS public health advocate. The digital collection includes selections from the Francis papers (MSS 2015-01) that we recently processed with the generous support of a National Archives NHPRC grant.

Francis grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California, Berkeley. He received his MD from Northwestern University, his Doctor of Science from Harvard University, and completed training in pediatrics. In 1971 he joined the CDC, where he continued to work for the next 21 years. At the CDC, he worked on a number of projects in coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), including the Smallpox Eradication Program in Sudan and India. He was also part of the WHO team that investigated the first Ebola outbreak in 1976.

Francis began investigating HIV/AIDS after its emergence in 1981. He directed the AIDS laboratory at the CDC and worked closely with the Institut Pasteur to identify the causative virus. He called attention to the threat of AIDS among gay and straight people and warned of the inadequacy of the public health response and lack of funding. As he stated in a 1983 letter to CDC Center for Infectious Diseases Director Walter R. Dowdle, “Our past and present efforts have been and are far too small and we can’t be proud. It is time to do more. It is time to do what is right.”

In 1992, Francis joined Genentech and helped found what became the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Francis later co-founded VaxGen, which completed the world’s first Phase III trials of two candidate HIV vaccines in 2003. In 2004, Francis co-founded Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases (GSID) and he continues to consult regarding vaccines and public health.

You can view the digital collection on Calisphere. If you would like to research the Francis papers, please make an appointment with us.