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Merchants of Doubt: How high-level scientists conspired with tobacco industry execs to conceal smoking-cancer link

Big Tobacco

(NaturalNews) One of the most compelling pieces of work demonstrating the twisted collusion between highly respected scientists and top tobacco execs, Merchants of Doubt, reveals that the science was in on cigarettes long before Americans were privy to it. In fact, German scientists understood smoking caused cancer as early as the 1930s, explaining why Adolf Hitler outlawed smoking in his presence.

Authors Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway revert to 1979 when tobacco industry heads met with marketing pioneer Colin Stokes – former chairman of R.J. Reynolds, the company famous for producing the very first cigarette advertisements – to discuss their strategy for controlling the science on a product they knew was dangerous. The following is a snippet from the book:

"Science really knows little about the causes or development mechanisms of chronic degenerative diseases imputed to cigarettes," Stokes went on, "including lung cancer, emphysema, and cardiovascular disorders."

Many of the attacks against smoking were based on studies that were either "incomplete or ... relied on dubious methods or hypotheses and faulty interpretations." The new program would supply new data, new hypotheses, and new interpretations to develop "a strong body of scientific data or opinion in defense of the product."

Above all, it would supply witnesses.

'I'd walk a mile for a Camel'

By the late 1970s, scores of lawsuits had been filed claiming personal injury from smoking cigarettes, but the industry had successfully defended itself by using scientists as expert witnesses to testify that the smoking-cancer link was not unequivocal. They could do this by discussing research that focused on other "causes or development mechanisms of chronic degenerative diseases imputed to cigarettes."

The testimony would be particularly convincing if it were their own research. Experts could supply reasonable doubt, and who better to serve as an expert than an actual scientist?

The strategy had worked in the past, so there was no reason to think it would not continue to work in the future. "Due to favorable scientific testimony," Stokes boasted, "no plaintiff has ever collected a penny from any tobacco company in lawsuits claiming that smoking causes lung cancer or cardiovascular illness—even though one hundred and seventeen such cases have been brought since 1954."

In later years, this would change, but in 1979 it was still true. No one had collected a penny from the tobacco industry, even though scientists had been certain of the tobacco-cancer link since the 1950s (and many had been convinced before that).

Cigarette tar causes fatal cancer in mice

December 15, 1953, was a fateful day. A few months earlier, researchers at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York City had demonstrated that cigarette tar painted on the skin of mice caused fatal cancers. This work had attracted an enormous amount of press attention: the New York Times and Life magazine had both covered it, and Reader's Digest—the most widely read publication in the world—ran a piece entitled "Cancer by the Carton."

Perhaps the journalists and editors were impressed by the scientific paper's dramatic concluding sentences: "Such studies, in view of the corollary clinical data relating smoking to various types of cancer, appear urgent. They may not only result in furthering our knowledge of carcinogens, but in promoting some practical aspects of cancer prevention."

These findings shouldn't have been a surprise. German scientists had shown in the 1930s that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer, and the Nazi government had run major antismoking campaigns; Adolf Hitler forbade smoking in his presence.

American tobacco execs suppressed work of German scientists who proved smoking caused cancer

However, the German scientific work was tainted by its Nazi associations, and to some extent ignored, if not actually suppressed, after the war; it had taken some time to be rediscovered and independently confirmed.

Now, however, American researchers—not Nazis—were calling the matter "urgent," and the news media were reporting it. "Cancer by the carton" was not a slogan the tobacco industry would embrace.

The tobacco industry was thrown into panic. One industry memo noted that their salesmen were "frantically alarmed." So industry executives made a fateful decision, one that would later become the basis on which a federal judge would find the industry guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud—a massive and ongoing fraud to deceive the American public about the health effects of smoking.

The decision was to hire a public relations firm to challenge the scientific evidence that smoking could kill you.

To read more of this fascinating book, be sure to pick up your copy here.



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