Objective: To describe how the transnational tobacco industry has collaborated with local Asian tobacco monopolies and companies to promote a scientific and regulatory agenda.
Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.
Results: Transnational tobacco companies began aggressively entering the Asia market in the 1980s, and the current tobacco industry in Asia is a mix of transnational and local monopolies or private companies. Tobacco industry documents demonstrate that, in 1996, Philip Morris led an organisation of scientific representatives from different tobacco companies called the Asian Regional Tobacco Industry Science Team (ARTIST), whose membership grew to include monopolies from Korea, China, Thailand, and Taiwan and a company from Indonesia. ARTIST was initially a vehicle for PM's strategies against anticipated calls for global smoke-free areas from a World Health Organization secondhand smoke study. ARTIST evolved through 2001 into a forum to present scientific and regulatory issues faced primarily by Philip Morris and other transnational tobacco companies. Philip Morris' goal for the organisation became to reach the external scientific and public health community and regulators in Asia.
Conclusion: The Asian tobacco industry has changed from an environment of invasion by transnational tobacco companies to an environment of participation with Philip Morris' initiated activities. With this participation, tobacco control efforts in Asia face new challenges as Philip Morris promotes and integrates its scientific and regulatory agenda into the local Asian tobacco industry. As the local Asian tobacco monopolies and companies can have direct links with their governments, future implementation of effective tobacco control may be at odds with national priorities.