Global Conspiracy on ETS Science

Note On a Special Meeting of the U.K. Industry on Environmental Tobacco Smoke London,

  February 17th, 1988

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BACKGROUND NOTE: The following document, discovered and revealed by ASH-UK (Action on Smoking and Health in the United Kingdom) describes how Philip Morris has manipulated the science on secondhand smoke on a global basis to "keep the controversy alive." Many people in the media have accused tobacco control proponents of believing in a vast and purportedly unfounded conspiracy to bend the science on the issue of secondhand smoke. This document, taken with others on UK-ASH's site, prove that the 'conspiracy' does exist.


[Present at the meeting were representatives of Philip Morris, Rothman's Imperial, Gallagher, BAT and Covington and Burling, (industry attorneys)]

Philip Morris presented to the UK industry their global strategy on environmental tobacco smoke [ETS]. In every major international area (USA, Europe, Australia, Far East, South America, Central America and Spain) they are proposing, in key countries, to set up a team of scientists organized by one national coordinating scientist and American lawyers, to review scientific literature or carry out work on ETS to keep the controversy alive. They are spending vast sums of money to do so, and on the European front Covington and Burling, lawyers for the Tobacco Institute in the USA, are proposing to set up a London office from March, 1988 to coordinate these activities. The countries in Europe where they have already been working are the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia (via Sweden). A list of potential scientists who could be contacted in the UK was produced...

Because of the heavy financial burden, Philip Morris are inviting other companies to join in these activities to whatever extent individual companies deem to be appropriate....Although action on Environmental Tobacco Smoke is becoming more vital to the industry, Philip Morris strategy is perhaps questionable in some respects e.g. involvement of lawyers at such a fundamental scientific level; disadvantages in perception of what will only be perceived as as "pro-industry" group of scientists....

The Philip Morris philosphy of ETS was presented. This appeared to revolve around the selection, in all possible countries, of a group of scientists either to critically review the scientific literature on ETS to maintain the controvery, or to carry out research on ETS. In each country a group of scineitst would be carefully selected and organized by a national coordinating scientist...

David Remes presented the approach of the U.S. lawyers, and said that he believed their function to be to act as intermediaries between the consultants and industry and also to indicate 'areas of sensitivity' on ETS research....He noted that in the USA, their strategy at first had been to meet short-term 'emergencies' by presenting teams of witnesses as Witorsch, Gray Robertson. He did, however, acknowledge that this kind of roadshow would be unlikely to be acceptable in Europe....

[RE: selection of European scientists]: The consultants should, ideally, according to Philip Morris, be European scientists who have had no previous connection with tobacco companies and who have no previous record on the primary issue which might, according to Remes, lead to problems of attribution. The mechanism by which they identify their consultants is as follows: they ask a couple of scientists in each produce a list of potential consultants. The scientists are then contacted by these coordinators or by the lawyers and asked if they are interested in problems of Indoor Air Quality; tobacco is not mentioned at this stage. CV's are obtained and obvious 'anti-smokers' or those with 'unsuitable backgrounds' are filtered out. The remaining scientists are sent a literature pack containing approximately 10 hours of reading matter and including 'anti-ETS' articles. They are asked for a geniune opinion as independent consultants, and if they indicate an interest in proceeding further a Philip Morris scientists makes contact.

Philip Morris then expect the group of scientists to operate within the confines of decisions taken by PM scientists to determine the general direction of research, which apparently would then be 'filtered' by lawyers to eliminate areas of sensitivity.

Their idea is that the groups of scientists should be able to produce research or stimulate controversy in a way that public affairs people in their relevant countries would be able to make use of, or market the information....

...Not only are Philip Morris active in the US (via John Rupp of Covington and burling) and the UK and Europe (via David Remes) but other Covington and Burling lawyers have been commissioned to coordinate PM's ETS activities in the Far East, Australia, South American, Central America and Spain...

Although the industry is in great need of concerted effort and action in the ETS area, the detailed strategy of Philip Morris leaves something to be desired. The excessive involvement of external lawyers at this very basic scientific level is questionable and, in Europe at least, is likely to frighten off a number of scientists who might otherwise be prepared to talk to the industry. Also, the rather oblique initial approach may appear to be somewhat less than honest to many scientists....The idea of setting up a special group of consultants coordinated by one national coordinating scientists is also rather likely to frighten away scientists who would justifiably not wish to be associated with the industry in this rather structured way or who would not wish to be part of what will inevitably be seen to be a pro-industry group...

It must be appreciated that Philip Morris are putting vast amounts of funding into these projects: not only in directly funding large numbers of research projects all over the world, but in attempting to coordinate and pay so many scientists on an international basis to keep the ETS controversy alive. It is generally felt that this kind of activity is already giving them a marketing and public affairs advantage, especially in countries in which, until recently, they have played a rather low profile.

Anne Landman
American Lung Association of Colorado, West Region Office
Grand Junction

Title: Note on a special meeting of the UK Industry on Environmental Tobacco Smoke London, February 17th, 1988
Type of Document: Meeting minutes
Author/Note taker: Dr. Sharon Boyse
Date: February 17th, 1988
No.of Pages: 6
Site: U.K. Ash


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