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Shameful science: four decades of the German tobacco industry's hidden research on smoking and health
  1. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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    The following presents the “best of the best” of annotations of over 600 tobacco industry documents that tell a nearly 40 year story of the smoking and health research programme sponsored by the members of the Association of Cigarette Industries of Germany (the “Verband”). Its members include the German and Austrian cigarette manufacturers as well as the transnational firms of Philip Morris (PM), RJ Reynolds (RJR), and British American Tobacco (BAT).

    The documents are part of some 33 million pages released as a result of legal agreements in the USA between state attorney generals and the American based tobacco companies. Virtually all are available on Internet websites. While nearly all the annotated documents come from PM and RJR and are in English, a large cache of BAT documents on the Verband are held at the BAT depository in Guildford, UK, including a group of German language documents. These are yet to be reviewed. Nonetheless, what is presented adequately highlights the astonishing story of corrupted science in the service of a deeply flawed product. The selected quotations will astonish even those who have become inured to what has already been discovered.

    Beyond the petty squabbles and unpleasant characters, the story can be boiled down to a few essential themes.

    The company scientists had to struggle with the accumulating and on-rushing evidence that theirs was one of the foulest products (in the environmental sense) sold to be taken into human bodies. That struggle was seldom openly or honestly fought.

    Even as some of the scientists hoped, in vain, to create the “safer cigarette”, company lawyers were focused entirely on avoiding litigation, and avoiding loss when sued. An army of public relations experts, front organisations, and corrupted consultants served the lawyers, not the truth—the companies, not the public.

    German tobacco scientists, led by …

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    • The material presented in this article is drawn from documents found on industry websites and in the Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository (unless otherwise noted), and represents in narrative form a selection from over 600 annotated documents posted to the restricted email list Globalink in September 1999 and April 2000. The article has been published on the web previously