Thursday, June 14, 2012

Getting Back to Business

Though my cancer has spread, it's been stable for several months and I'm feeling good. I'm ready to get back to the business of exposing Big Tobacco.

I plan to put up new posts in coming days, and I just started an Indiegogo campaign to try to take this thing to another level. Please donate if you agree with what I'm doing here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Philip Morris, DOCUMENT ID 1005133061/3062

A huge boon to Big Tobacco is that the industry transcends mere "business"—it's become a way of life. Many smokers associate key moments in their lives with cigarettes, whether it be bonding with friends over a smoke, meeting their wife while taking a butt break, or lighting up as an "escape" when things get stressful.

When you smoke, cigarettes become a part of your very identity. You become devoted to them and will defend them—and those that make them—to the death. Unfortunately, for many, that's not just rhetoric.

Apparently the Tobacco Institute (Big Tobacco's one-time lobbying agency) ran ads in newspapers in the late '60s/early '70s asking smokers to write to them if they wanted the "facts" about smoking and health. I've come across several of the letters written in response to these ads, and they all have one thing in common: devotion.

Click on the below to see one example, a letter from 1970. The writer, a 30-year smoker, talks about how important smoking with pals in the VA hospital was and how he thinks "C.S." (for Cancer Society) actually stands for "Crock of Shit."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Philip Morris, DOCUMENT ID 1005099727/9729

As the scientific evidence on the health effects of smoking was piling up in the '50s and '60s, Big Tobacco scrambled to mount a defense in the face of bad publicity. This 1962 document, "Brief Guides for Press Sessions," tells Big Tobacco execs how to cast doubt on the evidence.

In a textbook example of using faulty logic to intentionally mislead, Big Tobacco argues that cigarettes don't have negative health effects by citing statistics on Americans' improving health—improved average lifespan and higher survival rates among those suffering from respiratory disease—from 1920 to 1959, the same span that smoking has risen in popularity. More people are smoking, and we're living longer, so smoking can't be bad for you, they contend. This of course makes no sense—it would only make sense if smoking were the ONLY thing killing people. In truth, medicine was advancing so much over that time (penicillin, kidney dialysis and the polio vaccine and are just a few examples) that humans were living longer IN SPITE of the fact they were getting sick from smoking.

Also ridiculous is how the document exhibits the very attributes it alleges make the prevailing scientific evidence untrustworthy. For example, it says research linking smoking with declining health is often "insufficient and perhaps inaccurate," then makes claims such as "the rate in increase of lung cancer has been slowing" without citations or corroborating evidence.

The document states in its conclusion, "A responsibility exists to be sure that facts are not obscured by opinion and publicity-seeking." Indeed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Philip Morris, Document ID 2071039886/9888

Big Tobacco apparently subscribes to the tenet, "Keep your enemies close." As I sift through the tobacco companies' document archives, time and again I come across copies of scientific studies that show links between smoking and cancer. Ironically, Big Tobacco might be the world's largest keeper of evidence showing why we shouldn't smoke.

Today's document is one of these pieces of evidence, a copy of "planned testimony" by Dr. James Alcott (not sure who he was testifying to), a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute doc who discovered in the late '80s that asbestos had been used in cigarette filters. This copy of his testimony tells the details:

Dr. Alcott and his DFCI colleagues had three patients in 1986 with rare cases of malignant mesothelioma, typically caused by asbestos. They traced the patients' histories back to a Mass. paper-product plant the patients had all worked at back in the '50s. Turned out the company manufactured, among other things, filters for Kent cigarettes (a Lorillard product). Alcott did some digging and discovered Lorillard sold more than 15 billion cigarettes with asbestos in the filters from 1951-1956. Apparently Lorillard continued to sell the Kents even after discovering health problems brought on by the asbestos, then finally switched to fiberglass and conveniently never told anyone they had used asbestos.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lorillard, Document Identification Number 00621313

Dec. 1969 memo describing a meeting between Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Robert Finch; William Kloepfer, Jr., head of PR for the Tobacco Institute and one-time press secretary for Richard Nixon; and Jack Mills, VP of Federal Relations for the Tobacco Institute.

This one is just astounding. It illustrates how Big Tobacco not only has the ear of government regulators but has them wrapped around their proverbial finger.
The memo tells of a meeting between the head of HEW, which at the time was the leading government organization for protecting Americans’ health, and two of the chief officers for the tobacco industry’s lobbying group. The kowtowing that Finch does is stomach-churning. He’s ostensibly charged with policing the likes of Kloepfer, Mills and their Tobacco Institute, but is instead having a cozy smoke with them.

The memo is tricky to follow without knowing the context: The Senate had recently passed a measure, sponsored by Utah Sen. Frank Moss, banning cigarette advertising from television and requiring health warnings on all cigarette advertising (in an act known as the FCLAA).

As the meeting opens, Kloepfer and Mills are upset over an apparent congratulatory letter that Sec. Finch sent to Sen. Moss on his FCLAA victory. Instead of Finch properly asking them what the hell business of it was theirs, he tries to placate them by saying he never knew it had been sent. The tobacco boys then explain they know who sent the letter – Daniel Horn, the head of the Public Health Service’s Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health and the man whose research first proved a link between smoking and lung cancer – and they imply Horn is a threat to Finch because “he is a zealot and zealots can often embarrass those above them … who have broader considerations.”

Now comes the really slimy part: Kloepfer suggests any further material like this should be given to the Tobacco Institute before it’s released so they can “offer advice on the wrong premises that might be involved,” which would act as “protection” for Sec. Finch. (This sounds suspiciously like the protection you get from the schoolyard bully for a buck a day).

Instead of being insulted or even enraged, Finch just sits there and takes it. In fact, he himself starts dumping on HEW, saying how bad department employees are with spreading rumors and not informing him about developments. Then, Finch appears to imply the Tobacco Institute won’t have to worry about “zealots” like Daniel Horn because Finch would “shake up” departments as necessary.

Finch then asks about joint research that HEW and Big Tobacco are supposed to conduct together, and the tobacco boys say their side can’t sign the agreement because it includes a statement about direct causation between cigarettes and diseases. The tobacco boys suggest Finch should have that statement removed. Now, if Finch had any shred of integrity, he would’ve told them to screw. Instead, he signals he’ll consider doing so by telling them to forward along to him two drafts of the agreement, one with the causation statement and one without.

In the final travesty, Finch asks the tobacco boys what they think of Carl Baker, the head of the National Cancer Institute, and sits there taking notes while they rip into Baker.


1976 letter from the FTC to American Brands General Counsel Cyril Hetsko informing him that the FTC would pursue litigation against American Brands for violating the 1969 FCLAA.

First, a little history: American Brands doesn't exist anymore; it eventually got rid of its tobacco holdings and is now known as Fortune Brands (behind products like Titleist and Jim Beam). American Brands' tobacco arm, American Tobacco Company, was acquired by British American Tobacco and made a part of BAT's Brown & Williamson brand, which eventually merged with R.J. Reynolds. Brown & Williamson was made infamous in 1999's “The Insider,” the fact-based movie about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand.

In 1965, Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring health warnings on cigarette packs. The FCLAA was toughened in 1969. This letter illustrates how American Brands repeatedly ignored the FCLAA, an example of the industry's historical unwillingness to be truthful with the public about tobacco's health risks. I expect I'll regularly come across letters like this as I delve more into the document archives of Big Tobacco.

Philip Morris, Document ID 2044267124

1995 memo from Carl Haglund, former president of PR firm Dolphin Group, to David Laufer. Laufer has held various positions at Philip Morris, from head of communications to VP of state government affairs.

This memo is the first one I came across after doing a random search at the Philip Morris documents site. (I had just learned about the existence of the tobacco companies’ document websites about two minutes earlier. Discovering a damning document so quickly was the impetus for me to start this blog. I thought, if on my very first look at one of these sites I find something like this, what else is there to find when I really dig into it?)

It discusses with some alarm the American Cancer Society Foundation’s intent to develop a program to raise teens’ awareness about the dangers of smoking. The most damning thing here is the subtext of graft; Haglund slyly mentions Philip Morris having a “friend” on the ACSF board of trustees with whom they could meet, and how some of the trustees shouldn’t be “casting stones” because they’re involved in their own questionable endeavors.