“Using Information to Shape Perception”: Tobacco Industry Documents Study of the Evolution of Corporate Affairs in the Miller Brewing Company
The Miller Brewing Company (MBC) was wholly owned by Phillip Morris (PM), between 1970 and 2002. Tobacco industry document studies identify alliances between the alcohol and tobacco industries to counter U.S. policies in the 1980s and 1990s. This investigation sought to study in-depth inter-relationships between MBC and PM, with a particular focus on alcohol policy issues. This study used the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library to trace the evolution of corporate affairs and related alcohol policy-orientated functions within and between MBC and PM.
MBC was structured and led by PM senior executives from soon after takeover in 1970. Corporate Affairs sought to influence public perceptions of alcohol to align them with business interests. Alcohol education was specifically designed to prevent the adoption of policies inimical to those interests (e.g., raising excise taxes). Strategic consideration of alcohol policy issues was integrated within company-wide thinking, which sought to apply lessons from tobacco to alcohol and vice versa. PM directly led key alcohol industry organisations nationally and globally, which have successfully delayed the adoption and implementation of known effective policy measures in the U.S. and worldwide.
PM has been a key architect of the alcohol industry’s political strategies. This study builds on earlier work on alcohol companies in the tobacco documents and offers historical data on how tobacco companies have used commercial involvement in other sectors to influence wider public health policy. The world is only beginning to appreciate how multi-sectoral companies internally develop political strategies across product categories. Global health and national governmental policy-making need to be better protected from business interests that fundamentally conflict with public health goals.