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.