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Scientific Witness Teams


Truth Squads and Scientific Witness Teams essentially comprised the same 'scientific' experts, but they were sometimes sent on different missions.
  • Truth Squads were junketed around the country (or internationally) on carefully constructed and conducted media tours with the purpose of influencing the general public through media appearances (set up usually by an employed local PR organisation).
  • Scientific Witness Teams were employed at formal hearings, such as at Congressional Inquiries, law cases, and the like. The members were often required to give one-to-one interviews with key politicians to calm their nerves and assure them that smoking was safe.


These teams of scientists were generally put together on an Ad Hoc basis from a team of twenty-or-thirty tame science-for-sale experts.

For instance the air-quality measurement company, ACVA [later known as HBI] run by Gray Robertson, Peter Binney, and Simon Turner was a popular Scientific Witness Team since it was able to calm the fears of politicians and corporate executives that passive smoking in the workplace was not healthy — and they didn't need to worry about passive smoke in government buildings, airports, etc.. These 'experts' never found much of a problem in any of the building they measured ... for which the tobacco industry was eternally (and financially) grateful.

Another SWT was constructed around Larry Holcomb, who specialised in aircraft cabin air quality when he wasn't giving advice on behalf of the tobacco industry on other public venues.

Dr David Weeks (an MD from University of Oregon Medical School) and Jack Peterson (another indoor air quality 'expert') sometimes worked a double-act. John Fox, (a legal workplace-smoking expert) tended to work alone doing one-man media tours, as did many of the other more-academic tobacco-funded scientists like Carl Seltzer.

The Indoor Air Pollution Advisory Group — the prototype for the European and Asian Whitecoats organisation ARIA and ARTIST — which was run from Georgetown University by Sorrel Schwartz and Nancy Balter (using the Center for Environmental Health and Human Toxicology as cover) — also acted as a Scientific Witness Team. Members of IAPAG turned up in all sorts of exotic location whenever public smoking was under threat from legislation, or tobacco companies were being sued for the premature death of some of its customers. IAPAG also maintained a major legal-medical database for the industry.

1989 Mar 16: A team of scientific witness is urgently needed. ACVA representatives and ETS scientists are being asked to testify before the Committe on Health Care, followed by one-on-one meetings with legislators.
    Simon Turner, and David Weeks will be in attendence with these one-on-ones.
    Those sent the memo are:
    • Simon Turner, Peter Binnie, Gray Robertson (all of ACVA ... later HBI)
    • John Rupp (Covington & Burling), Matt Jacobs and Rich Marcus (Lawyers and lobbyists)
    • Listed SWT members are Josh Douglas, Larry Holcomb, David Weeks, Jack Peterson, Allen Kassman
    • IAPAG contact (SWT group at Georgetown University) is Jan Cook

1993 Dec: Associated with Georgetown database. On ETSLIT (passive smoking literature) database update list. Distributed by Loreen McAlpin
    "Copies of selected key papers are sent to the SWT: Jack Peterson, Lawrence Halfen, Walter Decker"