This site deals only with the corporate corruption of science, and makes no inference about the motives or activities of individuals involved.
There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.
Plaza Hotel meetings
In 1953, the Tobacco Industry set up a series of meetings at the Plaza Hotel in New York at which they conspired to counter anti-tobacco science and publicity. These meetings are generally figured as the start point for the tobacco industry's concerted corruption of science, politics and the media.
DOCUMENT TIME SEQUENCE
This outline comes from a 1683-page court document from the District of Columbia vs the tobacco companies (1999 to 2007) RICO lawsuit. It has been lightly edited to make it more readable.
See original: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/doj/FinalOpinion.pdf
Background: See what we have known about cigarettes, lung-cancer and heart disease before 1953.
By 1953 the Readers Digest and Time magazine had both published substantial articles linking cigarette smoking to lung-cancer following the research of Graham and Wynder in the USA, and Hill and Doll in the UK.
In December 1953, Paul M. Hahn, President of American, sent telegrams to the presidents of the seven other major tobacco companies and one tobacco growers organization, inviting them to meet and develop an industry response to counter the negative publicity generated by the studies linking cigarette smoking and lung cancer. The telegrams were sent to:
- Edward A.Darr, President of Reynolds;
- Benjamin F. Few, President of Liggett;
- William J. Halley, President of Lorillard;
- Timothy V. Hartnett, President of B&W;
- O.Parker McComas, President of Philip Morris;
- Joseph F. Cullman, Jr., President of Benson & Hedges;
- J.B. Hutson, President of Tobacco Associates, Inc.; and
- J. Whitney Peterson, President of United States Tobacco Co.
Executives from every tobacco company listed above, with the exception of Liggett, met in New York City at the Plaza Hotel on December 14, 1953. The executives discussed
(i) the negative publicity from the recent articles in the media,
(ii) responding to the problem by jointly engaging a public relations counsel, and
(iii) removing health themes from advertising.
They also discussed Liggett's decision not to attend the meeting because "in the course of time the whole thing would blow over." The executives also authorized the five members of the group who had their offices in New York to engage the services of Hill & Knowlton on behalf of the whole committee; to meet with John Hill at the Plaza Hotel the next day, December 15th, to discuss the negativepublicity problem; and to request that Hill & Knowlton, if it accepted the assignment, submit recommendations to the full committee at a subsequent meeting as to how to proceed.
The tobacco company executives did not meet, as they have suggested, in an altruistic response to requests from the scientific community that the industry fund research on smoking and health. Rather, they convened a strategy meeting of the highest company officials to formulate an industry-wide response (a) to the public's growing anxiety generated by the negative publicity about the direction of scientific research on cigarettes and cancer, and (b) to what they accurately understood to be a major threat to their corporations' economic future. While it is true that there was a recommendation "to do good science, independent science," The minutes of the meeting reveal that:
It was recommended that this [research] group undertake to enlist the cooperation of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Public Health Service in working out a program of scientific investigation through which the facts in the present controversy would be developed. This was considered highly advisable in that it would give to the program an aspect of independence to the program to a degree not obtainable in any other way.
At the December 14, 1953 meeting, Paul Hahn of American and Timothy Hartnett of B&W told the other company presidents that:
they had taken definite steps to remove the health themes from the advertising programs on Pall Mall and Viceroy. Darr [of Reynolds] made the point that he could not concur in sponsoring an industry-paid advertising campaign (if this is the course recommended by the public relations counsel) as long as the health theme continued to be featured by any one of the companies represented on the committee.
J. Whitney Peterson of United States Tobacco and Hartnett "expressed their agreement with Mr. Darr's views in this matter." Hill & Knowlton wanted to develop some understanding with the companies that
none is going to seek a competitive advantage by inferring to its public that its product is less risky than others. (No claims that special filters or toasting, or expert selection of tobacco, or extra length in the butt, or anything else, makes a given brand less likely to cause you-know-what ... No "Play-Safe-with-Luckies!"
At the December 15, 1953 meeting the next day, the participants were
- Paul Hahn of American,
- O. Parker McComas of Philip Morris,
- Joseph Cullman, Jr. of Benson & Hedges,
- J. Whitney Peterson of United States Tobacco,
and representatives from Hill & Knowlton, including John Hill and Bert Goss.
Hill & Knowlton was told that the industry viewed the "problem [posed by the scientific studies] as being extremely serious and worthy of drastic action." According to a Hill & Knowlton memo dated December 22, 1953, the public relations firm was asked to
develop suggestions for dealing with the public relations problem confronting the industry as a result of widely publicized assertions by a few medical research men regarding the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
In an internal planning memo, Hill & Knowlton assessed their tobacco clients' problems in the following manner:
There is only one problem — confidence, and how to establish it; public assurance, and how to create it — in a perhaps long interim when scientific doubts must remain. And, most important, how to free millions of Americans from the guilty fear that is going to arise deep in their biological depths — regardless of any pooh-poohing logic — every time they light a cigarette.
No resort to mere logic ever cured panic yet, whether on Madison Avenue, Main Street, or in a psychologist's office. And no mere recitation of arguments pro, or ignoring of arguments con, or careful balancing of the two together, is going to deal with such fear now. That, gentlemen, is the nature of the unexampled challenge to this office.
Ten days later, on December 24, 1953, Hill & Knowlton submitted a proposal regarding the tobacco industry's public relations campaign, recommending that the companies form a joint industry research committee that would sponsor independent scientific research on the health effects of smoking and announce the formation of the research committee nationwide as news and in advertisements.
Hill & Knowlton also recommended that the companies fund objective research by scientists who were independent of the tobacco industry, and that an advisory board be established composed of a group of distinguished scientists from the fields of medicine, research and education "whose integrity is beyond question."
In its proposal, Hill & Knowlton expressed its concern about the "health" claims being made in the Defendants' advertising:
[I]t is impossible to overlook the fact that some of the industry's advertising has come in for serious public criticism because of emphasis on health aspects of smoking. . . it must be recognized that some of the advertising may have created a degree of skepticism in the public mind which at the start at least could affect the believability of any public relations effort.
In fact, one of the questions posed by Hill & Knowlton to the companies was
whether the companies considere[d] that their own advertising and competitive practices have been a principal factor in creating a health problem? The companies voluntarily admitted this to be the case even before the question was asked. They have informally talked over the problem and will try to do something about it.
Four days later, on December 28, 1953, another meeting was held at the Plaza Hotel and was attended by
- Paul Hahn of American;
- Edward Darr of Reynolds;
- Herbert A. Kent, Chairman of Lorillard;
- Timothy Hartnett of B&W;
- O. Parker McComas of Philip Morris;
- Joseph Cullman of Benson & Hedges;
- J.B. Hutson, President of Tobacco Associates, Inc.;
- J. Whitney Peterson of United States Tobacco;
and three people from the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton, John Hill, Bert Goss, and Richard Darrow.
The attendees agreed on Tobacco Industry Research Committee ("TIRC") as the official name of the research committee; chose Paul Hahn as temporary chairman of the committee; agreed that the search should begin immediately for a qualified director who, together with the companies' research directors, would recommend members for the research advisory board; and reviewed and accepted the Hill & Knowlton proposal regarding the tobacco industry's public relations campaign.
The attendees also agreed on a mission statement for the new organization which stated that its
"purposes and objectives" were to aid and assist research into tobacco use and health, and particularly into the alleged relationship between the use of tobacco and lung cancer, and to make available to the public factual information on this subject.
Hill & Knowlton played a major role in creating, refining, and implementing the strategies adopted by the participants at the December meetings.
Although Liggett did subsequently participate in Enterprise activities, Liggett did not participate in the December meetings because, at the time, the company believed that "the proper procedure is to ignore the whole controversy."
A Less-than-frank statement
Following Hill & Knowlton's advice, the formation and purpose of TIRC was announced on January 4, 1954, in a full-page advertisement called "A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers" published in 448 newspapers throughout the United States. All sponsoring cigarette manufacturers and other tobacco industry entities were clearly identified.
The Frank Statement was subscribed to by the following domestic cigarette and tobacco product manufacturers, organizations of leaf tobacco growers, and tobacco warehouse associations that made up TIRC. This public statement was signed for:
- American by Paul Hahn, President;
- B&W by Timothy Hartnett, President;
- Lorillard by Herbert Kent, Chairman;
- Philip Morris by O. Parker McComas, President;
- Reynolds by Edward A. Darr, President;
- Benson & Hedges by Joseph Cullman, Jr., President;
- Bright Belt Warehouse Association by F.S. Royster, President;
- Burley Auction Warehouse Association by Albert Clay, President;
- Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association by John Jones, President;
- Larus & Brother Company, Inc. by W.T. Reed, Jr., President;
- Maryland Tobacco Growers Association by Samuel Linton, General Manager;
- Stephano Brothers, Inc. by C.S. Stephano, Director of Research;
- Tobacco Associates, Inc.by J.B. Hutson, President; and
- United States Tobacco by J. Whitney Peterson, President.
The Frank Statement set forth the industry's "open question" position that it would maintain for more than forty years — that cigarette smoking was not a proven cause of lung cancer; that cigarettes were not injurious to health; and that more research on smoking and health issues was needed.
In the Frank Statement, the participating companies accepted "an interest in people's health as a basic responsibility, paramount to every other consideration in our business" and pledged "aid and assistance to the research effort into all phases of tobacco use and health." The companies promised that they would fulfill the obligations they had undertaken in the Frank Statement by funding independent research through TIRC, free from any industry influence.
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