The Tobacco Mafia, the Fracking Mafia and the EPA

Doubt video image1


EPA taking “extreme positions not supported by science.”

If you think the above comes from the fracking industry, you are correct. If you think it came from the tobacco industry, you are also correct. The fracking industry uses the same strategies, the same players and often the same phrases used by the tobacco industry.

Fracking recycling:

“Excessive regulation,” “over-regulation,” and “unnecessary regulation,” are soundbites the under regulated fracking industry is recycling from the tobacco industry.  Although fracking was developed with government help and despite the fact frackers receive $4 billion in corporate welfare, they repeat the cigarette industry’s appeal to independent Americans by calling for “individual liberty, free enterprise and limited government.”

“It’s your right to smoke” has morphed into “it’s your right to lease your minerals.” Like secondhand smoke fracking can wreck your neighbors’ health. Worse than secondhand smoke, fracking can wreck your neighbors’ property values and serenity and leave them without clean water.

How the EPA got involved in secondhand smoke:

The tobacco industry started using the term “environmental tobacco smoke” (ETS) because it seemed less threatening than secondhand smoke. That proved to be a mistake because it allowed the EPA to get involved. When the EPA released the peer reviewed study, Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking, in December 1992, the industry launched a full attack on science.

Philip Morris hired APCO to organize the front group TASSC (The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition) in October, 1993 to help fight public health efforts to control Environmental Tobacco Smoke that occurred in the wake of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s ruling that secondhand tobacco smoke was a Group A human carcinogen.


Does front group sound familiar? 

Working with Dr. Fred Singer a space scientist and government scientific administrator, Dr. Dwight Lee an economist (Economist? Sound familiar?) Philip Morris and their front groups began to develop bogus scientific articles to defend the tobacco industry.

They also released a handbook: Bad Science: A Resource Book. Part of the messaging in the handbook was individual liberty, asserting that protecting smoking is protecting freedom. The fracking industry uses a similar false claim saying that fracking will bring us energy independence and national security while they are busy making deals to export our energy to Asia.

The Bad Science strategy:

This was the Bad Science in a nutshell: plant complainte in op-ed pieces, in letters to the editor, and in articles in mainstream journals to whom you’d supplied the “facts,” and then quote them as if they really were facts. Quote, in fact, yourself. A perfect rhetorical circle. A mass media echo chanber of your own construction.

Merchants of Doubt, page 147 [Links added by me to show that the fracking industry is following the same strategies.]

The fracking industry is trying to sell us a safe cigarette.

The goal is the same: create doubt surrounding the real science and undermine regulation to increase corporate profits.

Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the minds of the public.

Source Public health as a tobacco industry competitor.


Remember this:  Your health competes with fracking.


UPDATE: Someday this will happen to the frackers. Judge Rules Tobacco Companies Must Take Out Ads Saying They Lied About Dangers Of Smoking

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.


  1. GhostBlogger says

    “Excessive regulation,” “over-regulation,” and “unnecessary regulation,” eh? Tell that to the next of kin of BP Texas City Refinery victims, or the next of kin of the Deepwater Horizon disaster victims, or the victims of the Price UT gas production plant explosion, or the next of kin of the Carlsbad NM gas pipeline explosion & fire that killed an extended family of 12.

    Also, I heard there was a Washington DC PR firm hired to respond to the Olympic Pipeline Bellingham WA explosion & fire that killed 3 young men. The web site of the PR firm was reported to have the phrase “Hiding the reality behind the image” there.

    Image won’t do much to fix silicosis from fracking sand, or leukemia from benzine.

  2. Alan Septoff says

    Sharon –

    You’re spot on re the similarities between tobacco and fracking industries’ strategy of obstruction/denigration of real science.

    But don’t contribute to the tarring of economists generally — they are just like any other policy expert. Some are intellectually bankrupt and willing to twist the facts to suit their ends, but many (most) aren’t.

    Economists helped successfully make the case for govt protection of public goods. Which led to the adoption of programs like social security and medicare and environmental laws.

    The fact that corporations now spend millions of dollars on buying/establishing “think tanks” peopled by “economists” and “scientists” doesn’t mean we should indict all instances of the former any more than the latter.


    • says

      I’m good friends with certain economists. I’m also good friends with certain scientists and with PR people. My readers and I know the difference between sellouts and the real deal.