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Kate Tasker
Kate Tasker
Kate is the Industry Documents Library Managing Archivist.

Tobacco Document Depository Closes, but Access Remains Open at UCSF

The UCSF Industry Documents Library (IDL) has collected documents from the tobacco industry’s Minnesota Depository and corporate websites for over twenty years. Now, that process is coming to an end.

The 2006 federal court order — which required the tobacco companies to make public all documents produced in litigation relating to smoking and health — expired on September 1, 2021. As a result, the industry’s vast warehouse of paper records has closed to the public, and the document websites maintained by Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds will soon come down.

Document Preservation

The IDL team has worked tirelessly over the past months to complete a full reconciliation of our records, comparing them with the tobacco company indices to ensure that we have collected and preserved every document which was ever made public on the industry websites.

As of September 13, 2021, the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Archive contains 92,555,544 pages in 15,022,505 documents, which offer insight into the industry’s advertising, manufacturing, marketing, scientific research and political activities for more than half a century.

A team of archivists at the Minnesota Historical Society, led by the Minnesota State Archivist, has responsibility for assessing the contents of the Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository and for collecting and preserving permanent records which document its operation since its establishment in 1995. UCSF Library staff are working to assist the Minnesota team and to digitize remaining items, including audiovisual materials and computer disks.

Impact

Ever since the first box of paper tobacco industry documents was delivered anonymously to UCSF Professor Stan Glantz in 1994, dozens of people – including faculty and student researchers, librarians, archivists, programmers, administrators, legal professionals, journalists, public health experts, non-profit directors and staff, community advocates, and legislators – have dedicated enormous effort to preserving the documents for use in public health research and policymaking.

The documents have been cited in more than 1,000 publications and have supported significant scientific and investigative research which has facilitated efforts to reduce smoking and related diseases, saving millions of lives worldwide.

Thanks

The IDL team especially recognize and thank Dr. Stanton Glantz, former University Librarian Karen Butter, and the teams they respectively led at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and the UCSF Library over two decades.

For more history and a list of the many people who have contributed to the project, please read Dr. Glantz’s blog post Tobacco Documents: The End of the Beginning.

We also thank Cheryl Healton, Robin Koval, and the staff at the Truth Initiative (previously the American Legacy Foundation) for sharing the vision of long-term document preservation and for providing the gift and endowment which will continue to sustain the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Archive for many years to come.

The Next Chapter

The closing of the Minnesota Depository and the tobacco company websites may be the end of an era, but it’s certainly not the end for the Industry Documents Library! There are many more documents to collect, such as those which may be disclosed from e-cigarette and related litigation. We are also working hard to expand our food, chemical, drug, and fossil fuel industry collections, and to build our rapidly-growing Opioid Industry Documents Archive in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University.

These initiatives are inspired and informed by the successful model of the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Archive. They will carry on our vision to advance health worldwide by providing permanent access to documents which shed light on industry practices impacting public health.

Photo by Nana Smirnova on Unsplash

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