This excellent read in The Atlantic examines how the tobacco industry continues to dispute scientific consensus, mainly by using supposedly objective scientists as mouthpieces. Many parallels can be made to the food industry and how it has done the same (i.e.: artificial trans fats, daily added sugar limits).
- “The tobacco industry wrote the playbook for the rest of the industries,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Whether it’s the chemical industry, whether its climate change … You see it in industry after industry.” Now, it’s hiring consultants who took its techniques and pushed them further in other industries, relying on their experience to contest the scientific consensus on the dangers of low-tar cigarettes.”
- “In December 1952, a brief article in Readers Digest sent shock waves by summing up research linking smoking to an epidemic of lung cancer. A year later Time reported that mice painted with tobacco tar developed tumors. A medical researcher told the magazine that it was now “beyond any doubt” that cigarettes cause cancer. Panic ensued at the tobacco companies. On December 14, 1953, the CEOs of the six largest cigarette makers met secretly at New York’s Plaza Hotel to discuss a strategy for countering the bad publicity. What developed over time was a joint strategy to twist science and mislead the public about the dangers of smoking.”
- “The industry announced that it was forming a research committee to look into the matter. It hired independent scientists such as cancer researcher Clarence Cook Little to do interviews, insisting that there was no proof that cigarettes cause cancer.”
- “In reality, scientific evidence that cigarettes cause cancer was becoming overwhelming. In 1964, the Surgeon General seemed to put an end to any controversy when he released the report of an independent advisory committee that had considered more than 7,000 published articles. The Surgeon General’s warning had a profound effect on the public, prompting many smokers to quit. But the tobacco companies and their scientists would continue to deny that cigarettes cause cancer for another 35 years.”
- “Peter Valberg of Gradient Corp. was Philip Morris’s star witness in a Boston class-action lawsuit that went to trial last November after dragging on for 17 years. He has impressive credentials, having been a faculty member at the Harvard School of Public Health for 24 years and served as a consultant to the EPA and the Justice Department. Valberg has testified that he had help with his research from another principal scientist at Gradient, Julie Goodman. Valberg presented a slideshow with data showing that Marlboro Lights delivered less tar to smokers. It made sense, he concluded, that the cigarettes also reduced the risk of disease.”
- “There was another aspect of the study that Valberg did not mention. Researchers also tracked nicotine levels of Marlboro Red smokers who did not switch. Known as the “control group,” these smokers were akin to patients given sugar pills, or placebos, in a drug trial. In a clinical trial, a control group allows researchers to see if a new drug is any better than a placebo. In this experiment, it enabled researchers to see if switching to Marlboro Lights was any better than not switching. In fact, switching was no better. Nicotine levels fell for all smokers.”
- “These people are not scientists,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, “They are public-relations people who happen to have degrees in science. These are people who make their living producing results that their clients want. And that’s not science.”