Historians have played an important role in recent tobacco litigation, helping the industry with its defence of “common knowledge” and “open controversy”. Historians re-narrate the past, creating an account for judges and juries that makes it appear that “everyone has always known” that cigarettes are harmful, meaning that smokers have only themselves to blame for their illnesses. Medical historians are also employed to argue that “honest doubts” persisted in the medical community long past the 1950s, justifying as responsible the industry’s longstanding claim of “no proof” of hazards. The industry’s experts emphasise the “good science” supported by the industry, and ignore the industry’s role in spreading doubts about the reality of tobacco hazards.
- TRIC, Tobacco Industry Research Council
- open controversy
- medical history
- expert witnesses
- tobacco litigation
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Sponsors: National Cancer Institute, American Legacy Foundation
Competing interests: The author has worked as an expert witness for plaintiffs in tobacco litigation.