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Tobacco industry litigation position on addiction: continued dependence on past views
  1. Jack E Henningfield1,
  2. Christine A Rose1,
  3. Mitch Zeller2
  1. 1Pinney Associates, Bethesda Maryland and The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Pinney Associates, Bethesda Maryland and Harvard University School of Public Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Jack E Henningfield
 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1400, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA; jhenning{at}


This paper reviews the tobacco industry’s litigation strategy for addressing the addiction issue through trial testimony by its experts, and opening and closing statements by its lawyers. Despite the fact that several companies now claim to accept, in varying degrees, the conclusions of the Surgeon General concerning tobacco addiction, the tobacco industry litigation strategy pertaining to addiction is essentially unchanged since that of the early 1980s when the issue emerged as crucial. The industry uses its experts and the process of cross-examination of plaintiff’s experts to imply that the addictiveness of tobacco and nicotine are more comparable to substances such as caffeine, chocolate, and even milk, than to heroin, cocaine and alcohol. Furthermore, the tobacco industry contends that the definition of addiction has now become so broadened as to include carrots and caffeine and hence that any concurrence that smoking is addictive, does not imply that cigarettes are addictive to the standards that drugs such as heroin and cocaine are addictive. Finally, the industry has continuously asserted that tobacco users assumed the risks of tobacco since they understood that quitting could be difficult when they began to use, and moreover, that the main barrier to cessation is lack of desire or motivation to quit and not physical addiction. These positions have been maintained through the 2004–2005 US Government litigation that was ongoing as the time of this writing.

  • DATTA, Tobacco Deposition and Trial Testimony Archive
  • FDA, Food and Drug Administration
  • FTC, Federal Trade Commission
  • ISO, International Standards Organization
  • WHO, World Health Organization
  • addiction
  • litigation
  • testimony

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  • * For example, this is the practice of the WHO, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Royal College of Physicians of London. It is also the practice of lead professional organisations and research centres (for example, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Canada’s Addiction Research Foundation, and the US Public Health Service’s Addiction Research Center (also called the “Intramural Research Program” of the National Institute on Drug Abuse), and scientific journals in the field (for example, Addiction, Journal of Addictive Diseases, and the recently launched Addictive Disorders and their Treatment).

  • Sponsors: National Cancer Institute, American Legacy Foundation

  • The efforts of JEH were also supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Awards Program of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. JEH has testified against the tobacco industry in litigation brought by various plaintiffs including states attorneys general and U.S. Department of Justice. JEH and MZ consult to GlaxoSmithKline on smoking control products, and JEH has a financial interest in a smoking cessation product under development. We acknowledge and greatly appreciate the efforts of Raluca Popovici with referencing and document verification.